All 30 MLB Teams' Blueprint to an 'A' Grade This Offseason
Free agency officially kicks off on November 5, so on the eve of the MLB offseason officially starting, let's dive into what each team needs to do between now and spring training in order to have a successful offseason.
Whether it's making a run at a marquee free agent to fill a glaring need, adding a few mid-level pieces to fill out the roster or doing some in-house work by extending someone or dealing a soon-to-be free agent, there is no shortage of options teams face in the winter.
So here is a look at what all 30 MLB teams need to do this offseason to earn an "A" grade as they begin reworking their rosters for the 2014 season.
1. Add a power bat at third base or in left field.
Despite the fact that they finished the season a disappointing 81-81, the Diamondbacks really don't have much in the way of holes to shore up this offseason. One area they can improve is in their protection of slugger Paul Goldschmidt.
As GM Kevin Towers told Fox Sports, they would like more power in their lineup. Third-base prospect Matt Davidson is an in-house option who could provide some pop, but the team could also look to add a left fielder or third baseman with Martin Prado shifting to left.
2. Upgrade the bullpen.
The Diamondbacks bullpen was far from a strength in 2013, as its 3.52 ERA ranked 15th in the MLB and it was just 38-of-67 combined on save chances.
Overpaid and underperforming veterans Heath Bell ($9 million) and J.J. Putz ($7 million) are both signed through 2014, but it is Brad Ziegler (13 SV, 2.22 ERA) who figures to be their closer as of now. Adding another proven veteran arm to the back of the 'pen, whether it's a closer or setup man, looks to be a priority.
3. Sign a backup catcher.
While not quite as pressing a need as the first two items on this list, the Diamondbacks will need to find a backup for Miguel Montero with Wil Nieves departing in free agency.
Signing someone like John Buck who can provide some pop off the bench as well as give Montero the occasional day off would be a nice secondary move.
1. Extend at least one core piece.
The Braves have built up a terrific core of homegrown talent over the past few years, with Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Jason Heyward, Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Craig Kimbrel all key pieces to the team's success.
Looking to the future, the Braves would be wise to start opening the lines of communication with those guys about extensions, and if they can extend at least one of those guys this offseason, it would be a success. Freeman would look like the most likely candidate after an MVP-caliber season.
2. Make a change at second base.
This one is easier said than done, as Dan Uggla is still due $26 million over the next two years, but after the slugger hit just .179 and struck out 171 times in 448 at-bats this past season, something needs to be done.
Elliot Johnson will be back, and prospect Tommy La Stella could be an internal option as well, but if the team can somehow find a way to cut ties with Uggla, it would be a solid move regardless of who winds up taking the reigns.
3. Add a veteran starter.
With Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm and Freddy Garcia all headed for free agency, the Braves' rotation for next year figures to be Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran at the top, and then Brandon Beachy as long as he's healthy.
Alex Wood was solid in the rotation, and the team has a handful of other young arms who could get a shot at cracking the rotation, but adding some experience to that young group looks like a need. Bringing back Hudson is a real possibility.
1. Re-sign Nate McLouth, but only if the price is right.
Though he slumped in the second half, Nate McLouth has been a valuable piece of the puzzle for the Orioles since being plucked from the scrapheap midway through the 2012 season. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal last offseason, and if he can be brought back with a moderate raise, it would be a solid deal.
If he becomes too expensive, though, the team does have Henry Urrutia capable of stepping into a bigger role, and a potentially healthy Nolan Reimold as well.
2. Figure out second base.
Oft-injured Brian Roberts is a free agent, and while the team could look to bring him back on a low-cost deal, it will need some insurance, as the 36-year-old has played just 192 games total the past four years.
Prospect Jonathan Schoop is expected to step in at some time, but the team could also make a run at veteran Mark Ellis. Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggested that Ellis could be a fit after his $5.75 million option was declined by the Dodgers.
3. Add a starting pitcher.
The Orioles look to have four solid starting pitching options for next year locked into rotation spots, with All-Star Chris Tillman fronting a staff that should also feature Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. Prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are still very much a part of the team's future plans, but neither is a sure thing to hold down a spot on Opening Day.
Re-signing deadline acquisition Scott Feldman is an option, and the team will likely kick the tires on a number of second-tier guys. Either way, adding a veteran arm to fill out the staff looks like a must.
4. Sign a DH.
The DH position produced just a .234/.289/.415 line for the Orioles last season, and with last year's most-productive option at that spot in Danny Valencia likely slotted at third base until Manny Machado returns, production could be an issue once again.
Someone like Kendrys Morales would be a big pickup for the offense, but even if the Orioles opt against spending big at the position, they should still be able to upgrade over last year's situation.
Boston Red Sox
1. Re-sign Mike Napoli.
After originally agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal last season, Mike Napoli failed a physical and wound up signing a one-year, $5 million deal that ended up earning him $13 million with incentives.
He finished second on the team in home runs (23) and RBI (92) and played a vital role in the team's success this season. Bringing him back on the three-year deal he missed out on last year seems like a fair move.
2. Don't pay more than $100 million to retain Jacoby Ellsbury.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN (insider required), the Red Sox have made two previous extension offers to Jacoby Ellsbury. The first came after his fantastic 2011 season and was just short of $100 million, while the second came last offseason and was in the neighborhood of the five-year, $75.25 million deal that B.J. Upton got.
Viewed by most as the No. 2 free agent on the market, Ellsbury will likely get a sizable contract. While it would be nice if the Red Sox could retrain him, they shouldn't go beyond what they offered him back in 2011 to do it.
3. Do what it takes to sign Brian McCann, keep him out of New York.
If the Red Sox are unable to re-sign Jacoby Ellsbury, they would be best served turning their attention to catcher Brian McCann, who will be one of the most hotly pursued players on the market.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Rangers and Angels are all likely to be in play for the backstop, with others potentially in the mix as well. Signing with an AL team and serving as a DH over the back end of his contract seems like the most likely move, and he'd be an upgrade over Jarrod Saltalamacchia even after the latter's solid 2013 campaign.
1. Sign another reclamation starter to potentially flip at the deadline.
Last offseason, the Cubs added four starting pitchers in free agency, and they managed to flip Scott Feldman at the deadline when he turned in a solid bounce-back season.
The first four spots in their rotation look to be occupied by Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta, but the fifth spot is still up in the air. Signing someone like Josh Johnson, Gavin Floyd, Roy Halladay or Phil Hughes to a one-year deal and flipping him if he exceeds expectations would be a solid move.
2. Sign a bullpen arm for the short and long term.
With another losing season likely on the horizon, the Cubs' focus this offseason will once again be to plug some holes with low-cost options they can potentially flip at the deadline, with an eye on making a play toward contention in 2015.
One area in which they may look to add someone to help in the short and long term is the bullpen. Blake Parker and James Russell are solid arms, but the team could use a veteran to close games this coming season and anchor the 'pen moving forward.
3. Add a right-handed-hitting platoon partner for Nate Schierholtz.
Last offseason, the Cubs signed Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston to platoon in right field, and while Schierholtz will be back, they will likely look for a right-handed option to pair with him once again.
Cuban defector Jorge Soler will be the long-term answer in right field and could be ready to step in sooner rather than later, so signing someone to a one-year deal that they could potentially shop in July seems like the most likely answer.
Chicago White Sox
1. Trade either Gordon Beckham or Alexei Ramirez.
As it is in most years, the free-agent market is incredibly thin on middle infield talent. Robinson Cano, Omar Infante and Mark Ellis highlight the second base crop, while Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta are the only viable starters at shortstop.
As a result, the White Sox hold two attractive trade chips in Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, and should look to deal at least one of them this offseason with Marcus Semien seemingly ready to step into a larger role.
2. Sign a veteran catcher.
Spending to bring aboard either Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia may not make sense for a team in the midst of a rebuild, but with a young pitching staff, adding a veteran catcher of some sort looks like a must.
Tyler Flowers was a flop in his first chance at everyday playing time, and Josh Phegley was equally anemic at the plate after a solid season in Triple-A. Even if it's someone like Carlos Ruiz or Dioner Navarro, bringing on a veteran to split time behind the dish should help the young staff.
3. Don't overpay for Curtis Granderson.
According to Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times, the White Sox are expected to make a run at free-agent center fielder Curtis Granderson this offseason.
The Chicago native would no doubt be an upgrade over Alejandro De Aza, who could slide into a fourth outfielder role, but on a team not built to win now, the addition doesn't make all that much sense. If the price is right, he would be a nice addition, but there's no reason to get in a bidding war with someone else for his services.
1. Let Shin-Soo Choo walk, sign an insurance policy for Billy Hamilton.
The Reds got exactly what they needed out of Shin-Soo Choo this past season, as his .423 on-base percentage made him the perfect table-setter atop their lineup. It would be great to bring him back, but he may well be headed for a $100 million deal.
Speedster Billy Hamilton should get every chance to step into the starting center field job, and while the team won't need to go after someone like Jacoby Ellsbury, signing a veteran insurance policy like Rajai Davis or Franklin Gutierrez would be a wise move.
2. Don't let the Brandon Phillips situation become a distraction.
According to a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Reds will shop All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips this offseason and fully intend on moving him.
A down year in 2013 combined with his penchant for being a distraction in the clubhouse makes the news far from surprising. The 32-year-old is due $50 million over the next four years, and whatever winds up happening on the trade front, the Reds have to make sure that this situation doesn't drag over into the regular season and that it's behind them come spring training.
3. Add a left-handed reliever.
Sean Marshall in a setup role and Aroldis Chapman closing games gives the Reds two very good left-handed relievers, but with Manny Parra set to hit free agency, they could use another southpaw in the 'pen.
While re-signing Parra is certainly an option and may make the most sense from a salary standpoint as well, there are certainly other options on the market.
1. Sign a proven closer.
With the release of incumbent closer Chris Perez following a terrible end to the 2013 season, the Indians find themselves in the market for a closer this offseason.
Rookie Cody Allen (77 G, 2.43 ERA, 11.3 K/9) could certainly be an option in that role, but adding a proven veteran like Grant Balfour or Brian Wilson would allow the team to leave him in a setup role and make the bullpen better as a whole.
2. Re-sign Scott Kazmir.
It looks to be a long shot at best that the Indians will be able to re-sign Ubaldo Jimenez, but they should be able to make a play to keep their other free-agent starter, Scott Kazmir.
Toiling in the independent league in 2012, Kazmir got a chance from the Indians and went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 9.2 K/9 over 29 starts. He was 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA in the second half and is still just 29 years old. Danny Salazar is ready to step into one rotation spot, but the Indians can't afford to lose Jimenez and Kazmir.
3. Sign a first baseman or right fielder.
The Indians offense is essentially set heading into next season, with the only real question mark being right fielder, where Drew Stubbs hit .233/.305/.360 over 430 at-bats as the primary starter.
Ryan Raburn had a fantastic season off the bench and has at least earned platoon at-bats against left-handed pitching, but relying on him to be the starter may be asking too much. Instead, look for Cleveland to sign a right fielder to platoon with him or a first baseman that would allow it to slide Nick Swisher to right field.
1. Sign at least two proven relievers.
The Rockies bullpen ranked last in the NL with a 4.26 ERA last season, and while that was due in part to the fact that it was overworked with an NL-high 555.2 innings of work, an overall lack of talent didn't help either.
Rex Brothers looks like the closer moving forward, and Wilton Lopez, Josh Outman and Matt Belisle will likely be back in key roles, but the team needs to aggressively pursue at least a couple solid relievers this offseason.
2. Sign a second-tier starting pitcher.
The trio of Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood looks solid atop the Rockies staff, and top prospect Eddie Butler is close, but the Rockies should still look to sign at least one starter this offseason.
Someone in the Roberto Hernandez, Jason Hammel and Chad Gaudin range would make sense financially and give the team a solid No. 4 starter option.
3. Sign Nelson Cruz.
This one is far more specific than most of my specifications for an "A" offseason, but this just looks to be too good of a fit to pass up.
With Todd Helton retired, the Rockies would like to slide Michael Cuddyer in to play first base, leaving right field as the only real hole they have to plug offensively. Cruz will likely have to settle for less money after his PED suspension, and he could be an absolute beast in Coors Field given his plus power.
1. Pull the trigger on a Max Scherzer trade, but only for top value.
According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, the Tigers could shop AL Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer this offseason. The Scott Boras client is a free agent at the end of 2014, and an extension seems unlikely at this point, as he'll at least test the open market.
The Tigers are still in win-now mode, so trading him just for the sake of trading him is silly. However, if someone comes along with a terrific package of young talent, the Tigers should not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal.
2. Re-sign Omar Infante.
He may not be the sexiest name on the free-agent market, but Omar Infante has filled what was a huge hole for the Tigers at second base since coming over from the Marlins at the deadline in 2012, and they would be wise to bring him back.
Though he played just 118 games, Infante had a solid all-around year with a .318/.345/.450 line over 453 at-bats. Something in the neighborhood of the three-year, $20 million deal that Marco Scutaro got from the Giants last offseason would likely do it.
3. Spend on relief pitching.
With Joaquin Benoit ready to hit the open market and the team opting to decline its option on Jose Veras, there are plenty of question marks surrounding the Tigers bullpen for 2014.
Drew Smyly and Bruce Rondon figure to play a major role, but for a team looking to legitimately contend for a title, it will need not only to look for a proven closer, but also to add at least a couple other veteran arms to the mix.
1. Extend Jason Castro.
The Astros won't be major players in free agency once again this season, as their major additions will come from the farm system, but they could look to lock up a key piece of the puzzle with an extension for Jason Castro this offseason.
The No. 10 pick in the 2008 draft, Castro made the All-Star team in his first full season in the majors, hitting .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. He's arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, so at least buying out his arbitration years and perhaps one year of free agency would make sense.
2. Sign a veteran starter.
The Astros' only free agent, and the only player left on their roster making over $1 million by the end of the season, was veteran Erik Bedard.
With him on the way out the door, the team's current projected rotation is an incredibly young one, and while it won't spend any significant amount of money trying to upgrade its rotation, bringing on a veteran on a one-year, $1 million deal could help the young staff.
Kansas City Royals
1. Let Ervin Santana walk, sign a veteran to a one-year deal.
The Royals took a chance on Ervin Santana last offseason, and he rewarded them with a terrific bounce-back season, but now he's headed for a major payday as one of the top free-agent starters on the market.
Looking for another rebound candidate, perhaps Dan Haren or Phil Hughes, may be the Royals' best approach to replacing Santana in the rotation. With young starters Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer ready to make an impact, there's no reason to open the wallet for Santana.
2. Sign Marlon Byrd.
There are a few right field options that would be an upgrade over the Royals' projected platoon of David Lough and Justin Maxwell, with Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz and Marlon Byrd heading up the list of free-agent candidates.
Of that group, the veteran Byrd would likely be willing to sign a short-term deal, should come cheaper than the other two and would be invaluable in the role of clubhouse leader. Some regression is to be expected from his out-of-nowhere 2013 numbers, but he'd still be an upgrade.
3. Re-sign Bruce Chen.
Bruce Chen was 35-37 with a 4.63 ERA in 242 games (112 starts) over 10 big-league season when he joined the Royals in 2009. In his five seasons with the team, he's gone 45-39 with a 4.32 ERA, re-inventing himself as a crafty left-hander and serving as a solid swingman.
He was 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA in 34 games (15 starts) last season and made $4.5 million. Bringing him back to use in a similar role for a similar salary seems like a no-brainer move.
Los Angeles Angels
1. Don't spend a dime until the starting rotation is addressed.
The Angels have made a splash the past two offseasons on the offensive side of things, signing Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. While their disappointing production hurt in 2013, it was the starting rotation that played the biggest role in the team's struggles.
Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are solid atop the staff, and Garrett Richards has earned a spot, but if the Angels hope to legitimately contend, they will need to bring aboard two more legitimate starters—not reclamation projects like Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson last offseason.
2. Add a veteran reliever.
The Angels' bullpen was not much better than their rotation in 2013, as their 4.12 ERA was 26th in the MLB and they relied heavily on unheralded arms like Michael Kohn and Dane De La Rosa.
Those two, along with Sean Burnett and Ernesto Frieri, give the team some options, but adding another veteran to the mix to slot in the setup role would be money well spent.
3. Gauge the market on Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar.
Given their payroll obligations and interest in contending now, the Angels may not want to pull the trigger on moving either of their middle infielders this offseason, but gauging their value may not be a bad idea.
If they fall out of things again in 2014, one or both of Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar could be on the move at the deadline, and laying the groundwork for a potential deal now would be good forward thinking.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1. Extend Clayton Kershaw.
Whether or not it's a $300 million deal like the one they reportedly offered him during the season, according to Buster Olney of ESPN, the Dodgers need to do whatever it takes to get Clayton Kershaw locked up this offseason.
2. Re-sign Juan Uribe, Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell.
It may not be the most exciting trio of players, but it would be money well spent for the Dodgers to bring all three of these guys back.
Unless they can pull off a deal for someone like Aramis Ramirez or Chase Headley, there is not a better third base option out there than Uribe. Wilson and Howell were two of the team's most reliable arms down the stretch and would conceivably be a solid setup duo for Kenley Jansen if brought back.
3. Explore options to fill No. 4 starter spot.
Re-signing Ricky Nolasco is certainly an option this offseason, as he pitched well after joining the Dodgers despite a late-season fall-off and him making just one start in the postseason.
However, if the ownership group is willing to continue its free-spending ways, there are certainly better options out there. Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, top free agents Ervin Santana and Matt Garza and trade candidate David Price could all be options under the right circumstances, so the team should not be too quick to simply bring back Nolasco.
1. Begin extension talks with Giancarlo Stanton.
Few players have been brought up as frequently in trade rumors over the past year as Giancarlo Stanton, but he remains in Miami to this point and is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason.
The Marlins clearly view him as a building block since they haven't moved him yet, and if they can reach an extension to buy out his remaining arbitration years and some free agency, it would be a good move for the club.
2. Look for some tradeable veteran stopgaps.
Last offseason, the Marlins added Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre on bargain-basement deals to fill out their starting lineup. While that was a good move from a financial standpoint, those two wound up being untradeable at the deadline.
They'll likely look for similar players this offseason to fill out their lineup, but spending a bit more on someone who could actually have some trade value come July may not be a bad move.
1. Re-sign Corey Hart for a hometown discount.
Offseason knee surgery and then a second surgery on the other knee ended up costing Corey Hart the entire 2013 season, as he missed out on what could have been a big payday had he proven healthy.
He'll likely have to settle for a one-year deal, and according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he'd be willing to take a pay cut over the $10 million he made in 2013 to stay in Milwaukee.
2. Trade Rickie Weeks.
Moving Weeks seems like a long shot at this point, but if the Brewers eat most of his $11 million salary, they may be able to find a taker.
He hit just .209/.306/.357 last season and will almost certainly have his $11.5 million option declined for next year. That, combined with the emergence of Scooter Gennett (.324/.356/.479 in 213 AB), makes Weeks obsolete in Milwaukee.
1. Spend more on starting pitching.
The Twins added Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley in free agency last offseason in an effort to improve their starting rotation, and the result was an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA from their starters.
They have some intriguing arms, led by Samuel Deduno, but they will need to sign at least a couple arms again this offseason. Spending more this time around on proven, front-line arms rather than rebound candidates may be the right approach.
2. Re-sign Justin Morneau.
Chris Colabello was a great story in 2013, finally catching on with an MLB team after seven seasons in the independent league, but he is not a viable everyday option at first base. Neither, it appears, is Chris Parmelee.
There are some options on the free-agent market, but a reunion with longtime Twins first baseman Justin Morneau may be the team's best option. A fan favorite, Morneau is still a plus run producer and would likely sign for relatively cheap to return to Minnesota.
New York Mets
1. Sign Shin-Soo Choo.
The Mets appear to be major players for one of the top outfield bats on the market this offseason, and according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, it is Shin-Soo Choo atop the team's wish list.
If that is the case, given the amount of payroll room the team has to work with and the glaring need for outfield help, the team needs to land its man for the offseason to be a success.
2. Acquire a shortstop.
Veterans Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta may not be the best fits for a young team, but the Mets will need to address the shortstop position this offseason.
Ruben Tejada could get another look, but beyond him, they don't have much to work with. There will be options on the trade market, and Diamondbacks prospect Chris Owings could be a fit if the Mets can piece together a package that interests Arizona.
3. Sign a veteran starter to a one-year deal.
With Matt Harvey shelved following Tommy John surgery, it will be the trio of Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese atop the Mets rotation. From there, the final two rotation spots are a question mark.
Internal options like Jenrry Mejia, Carlos Torres and top prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard could all get a look. However, signing a rebound-candidate veteran to a one-year deal to at least get the Mets to midseason is probably the smartest route to go.
New York Yankees
1. Re-sign Robinson Cano.
The Yankees and Robinson Cano were miles apart on their original figures this offseason, with Cano looking for a ridiculous 10-year, $305 million deal according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
There is no way he gets that much, but a $25 million annual salary may very well be where things land. At this point, the Yankees need to do whatever it takes to make sure Cano is back in 2014 and beyond.
2. Sign Masahiro Tanaka and either Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran.
According to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, the Yankees are ready to spend big this offseason and could hand out in the neighborhood of $300 million in new contracts.
Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has to be viewed as their top target, as there is a clear need for pitching in the Bronx and Tanaka profiles as the top arm on the market if he is in fact posted. After that, they are also interested in Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, and if they can get Tanaka and one of those two veteran hitters, it would be a successful offseason spending spree.
3. Re-sign Boone Logan, add another vetearn reliever.
He's not as high-profile as the names listed above, but bringing back Boone Logan is a must for the Yankees, as he has been one of the best left-handed relievers in the game over the past few seasons.
David Robertson figures to get the first crack at closing games with Mariano Rivera gone, and adding a veteran relievers to fill his setup spot would help stabilize the bullpen.
4. Sign someone who can play shortstop and third base.
With Alex Rodriguez potentially suspended for a good chunk of 2014 and Derek Jeter a health concern given his age, adding someone capable of backing both of those guys up would be a good insurance policy.
Jhonny Peralta would be the best option, but the Yankees may not have money left to spend on him when all is said and done. Even if it's someone like Willie Bloomquist or Nick Punto, depth will be key here even with Eduardo Nunez still in the picture.
1. Re-sign Bartolo Colon, trade Brett Anderson.
The A's biggest offseason decision is what to do with 18-game winner Bartolo Colon, who is a free agent and will undoubtedly earn a raise over the $3 million he made in 2013.
With Sonny Gray, A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker, Brett Anderson, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone all vying for starting spots it would appear as though the team could let Colon walk. However, his veteran presence atop the staff is worth more than just the numbers he put up. Trading Anderson seems like one option for sorting out the logjam, and he could net a solid return on potential alone.
2. Sign a veteran setup man.
Grant Balfour is almost certainly to be pitching elsewhere in 2014, but the A's have some in-house options to fill the closer role, most notably Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle.
The A's won't want to spend big on a closer, so slotting Cook in the ninth-inning role and signing a setup man to fill the void he leaves in the eighth inning seems like the best approach. Brandon Lyon or LaTroy Hawkins could both make sense on one-year deals.
1. Re-sign Carlos Ruiz.
Carlos Ruiz has been the Phillies' primary catcher since the 2007 season, and though his offense took a step back in 2013 after a breakout 2012, he may still be the team's best option behind the plate.
Already left-handed heavy, the Phillies likely won't go after Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and without any other real in-house options, bringing back Ruiz on a two-year deal makes a lot of sense.
2. Sign a right fielder with power.
The Phillies will again have Domonic Brown in left field and Ben Revere in center field this coming season, but right field is up in the air. Darin Ruf and John Mayberry are two in-house options, but signing a right-handed hitter with some power to field the position would fill a need.
Nelson Cruz could be a fit if they are looking to spend; otherwise, second-tier options like Michael Morse or Chris Young looking to bounce back could be a more cost-effective solution.
3. Add another veteran starter.
Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee will be back atop the Phillies' rotation next year, while Ethan Martin and Jonathan Pettibone will likely both get another look as well, but expect the Phillies to look for a mid-level veteran starter to add to that mix.
1. Sign a first baseman.
After getting by with a platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Garrett Jones for most of the season, the Pirates acquired Justin Morneau from the Twins in August and plugged him in as their everyday first baseman.
The first base market is relatively thin, but there are options. James Loney, Corey Hart, Michael Morse and perhaps even Morneau on a new deal would all be viable solutions, albeit with varying levels of risk.
2. Avoid signing a right fielder, keep the spot open for Gregory Polanco.
Right field could also be viewed as an area of need for the Pirates, as they also addressed that spot in August with the acquisition of Marlon Byrd, but they do have in-house options there.
Jose Tabata is capable of being a league-average option over everyday at-bats while holding down the fort until top prospect Gregory Polanco is ready. The 22-year-old reached Triple-A last season and could be ready by midseason. Andrew Lambo (.922 OPS, 32 HR in minors) is also an option after getting a cup of coffee last year.
3. Sign a platoon partner for Jordy Mercer at shortstop.
Thanks to his superior offense and solid glove, Jordy Mercer took the starting shortstop job from Clint Barmes last season. The two still split time, though, as Mercer hit .285/.336/.435 over 333 at-bats and Barmes hit .211/.249/.309 in 304 at-bats.
Mercer has earned a shot at the starting job, but relying on him for 600 at-bats may be a little much. Re-signing Barmes or bringing in a similar player like Brendan Ryan seems like a good move.
San Diego Padres
1. Trade or extend Chase Headley.
The Padres missed their chance to trade Chase Headley when his value was sky-high following the 2012 season, but there is still a big market for the third baseman.
With Headley a free agent at the end of the season, the Padres need to decide before spring training if they want to extend him, and if the answer is no, he needs to be moved. Holding onto him and losing him for nothing at the end of the season is unacceptable for a rebuilding team like San Diego.
2. Sign a mid-level starting pitcher.
The emergence of Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross atop the rotation and the July pickup of bounce-back candidate Ian Kennedy gives the Padres three solid starting pitching options.
They have plenty of in-house options to fill the final two spots, but none is even close to a sure thing to be a solid starter all season, and adding a mid-level veteran starter would help shore things up.
3. Extend Luke Gregerson, sign a veteran reliever.
A strength of the team for several years, the Padres bullpen needs some retooling this offseason. Closer Huston Street will be back, as will setup man Luke Gregerson, but there are questions beyond those two.
Gregerson is a free agent at the end of the year, and extending him makes sense. Signing a veteran arm or two to bridge the gap to that duo is certainly part of the offseason shopping list, though.
San Francisco Giants
1. Sign a top free-agent starter.
The key to the Giants winning two titles in three years was their dominant pitching staff, and that simply was not there in 2013, as Madison Bumgarner was a stud, but the rest of the rotation suffered through varying levels of struggle.
With Barry Zito gone in free agency, the team has at least one rotation spot to fill, and spending big to add someone like Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza or even Masahiro Tanaka should be the main priority of the Giants' offseason.
2. Re-sign Javier Lopez.
One of the best left-handed relievers in the game, Javier Lopez posted a 1.83 ERA and 1.068 WHIP in 69 appearances last season, and he's one of the top setup men on the market this offseason.
There are other options the Giants could explore if Lopez signs elsewhere, like Mike Gonzalez and Boone Logan, but bringing the 36-year-old back seems like the Giants' safest option for solidifying their bullpen.
3. Sign a platoon partner for Gregor Blanco.
If the Giants don't sign a top free-agent starting pitcher, they could wind up spending big on left field and going after one of the top outfielders on the market.
Assuming they do spend on pitching, though, they will still need to sign someone to split time with Gregor Blanco in left, as he is a plus defender and has decent on-base skills but is far from an everyday option from a production standpoint.
1. Sign one of the top outfielders.
With a clear hole in center field and a need to upgrade the offensive attack, expect the Mariners to wind up signing one of the big three outfielders of Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo or Curtis Granderson.
Ellsbury would be the best fit as a table-setter atop the lineup and plus defensive center fielder, while Granderson could likely be had for a shorter and cheaper deal. One way or another, the team needs to walk away with one of those guys penciled in as its center fielder, though, for the offseason to be a success.
2. Spend on the bullpen.
With a 4.58 ERA, the Mariners' bullpen ranked 29th in the MLB last season, and seeing as their starting rotation will likely feature a pair of rookies in James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, protecting leads will be important for a bullpen that could be taxed.
Danny Farquhar had a nice rookie season, while Charlie Furbush and Carter Capps figure to be key pieces once again. The team needs to add some experienced arms, though, especially with Oliver Perez departing in free agency, and dolling out a trio of major league deals to relievers may be in the works before the offseason is over.
St. Louis Cardinals
1. Re-sign Carlos Beltran.
The biggest decision the Cardinals will have to make this offseason, and they have a number of them, is whether or not to bring back Carlos Beltran.
The 36-year-old hit .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in his second season with the Cardinals, and he still looks to have plenty left in the tank. The Cardinals could get by without him, as Matt Adams or Oscar Taveras could move into an everyday job, but for an organization built on depth, bringing him back on a two-year deal makes sense.
2. Acquire a shortstop.
While I don't think Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew are really a fit for the Cardinals, trading for a young shortstop like Chris Owings of the Diamondbacks or one of the Rangers' two shortstops may well be an option.
David Freese and Matt Adams are both extra pieces at this point that could be used in a deal alongside some of the team's young starting pitching talent to complete a deal. The Cardinals don't want to mortgage their future by any means, but Pete Kozma can't be the Opening Day shortstop.
3. Trade David Freese.
Whether it's for a shortstop or otherwise, the team needs to move David Freese this offseason. He made $3.15 million in 2013 and should make roughly that again this season, so his salary won't get in the way of a potential deal.
With Kolten Wong ready to take over at second base and Matt Carpenter more than capable of sliding into the everyday third base job, Freese no longer factors into the team's future plans.
4. Re-sign Chris Carpenter or hire him as a coach.
It remains to be seen if Chris Carpenter will pitch again in the majors, but if he does, it needs to be with the Cardinals. At this point, he means so much to their young pitching staff as a mentor and teacher that should he decide to retire, the team would be wise to hire him as a coach immediately.
Tampa Bay Rays
1. Only move David Price for top value.
Chances are that before the 2014 MLB season is over, David Price will be playing for someone else, as even Price is preparing to be moved according to Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune.
The big left-hander is under team control through 2015, so an extra year of control at this point only adds to his value. However, if the Rays aren't blown away by a trade offer, they would be best-served holding onto him until the July trade deadline and shopping him again.
2. Sign a catcher.
The Rays have gone with Jose Molina as their primary catcher the past two seasons, platooning him with the offensively superior Jose Lobaton down the stretch this past season.
They're not likely to go after any of the top names, but signing someone like Carlos Ruiz or John Buck to platoon with Lobaton should be enough to get by once again.
3. Let James Loney walk, sign another reclamation project at first.
The Rays have quickly developed a reputation as a great place to get your career back on track on a one-year deal, especially if you're a first baseman. Casey Kotchman, Carlos Pena and James Loney have occupied the position the past three years, and Kotchman and Loney both far exceeded their contracts.
The Rays will no doubt let someone else pay Loney this offseason and search for their next low-cost answer at the position. Michael Morse and Mark Reynolds are two intriguing options, while Lyle Overbay should fit the low-cost profile.
4. Sign a low-cost option to potentially close.
The Rays struck gold with their signing of Fernando Rodney in 2012, but he was not nearly as dominant in 2013 and has likely priced himself out of Tampa Bay regardless.
Guys like Grant Balfour and Joe Nathan won't be on the Rays' radar, as they'll no doubt again go bargain-hunting for saves. Francisco Rodriguez may be a cheaper option capable of starring, while veterans like Kevin Gregg and LaTroy Hawkins have ninth-inning experience as well.
1. Figure out the infield logjam.
With Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, the Rangers have three middle infielders capable of starting almost anywhere vying for two positions. They managed to shuffle things around throughout the 2013 season, but finding a permanent solution to this issue is a priority.
Kinsler and Andrus are both locked up long-term, and while the best solution seems to be shifting Kinsler to first base or left field, that has yet to happen. A trade is certainly an option as well, as the team likely does not want to use one of those three as its DH this season, but one way or another. the Rangers need to sort things out.
2. Re-sign Nelson Cruz.
The Rangers already have a replacement for Nelson Cruz in right field with their August acquisition of Alex Rios, but they could still look to bring him back.
Cruz has been one of the most prolific power hitters in the game over the past few years, and provided his production doesn't drop off post-PED suspension, his bat could make a good Rangers offense great. Re-signing him to DH seems like the best option, as he's subpar defensively, and his suspension may actually make him an easier sign.
3. Re-sign A.J. Pierzynski.
Though they are expected to be in the running for Brian McCann, chances are the Rangers won't be willing to pay quite as much as someone like the Yankees. As a result, bringing back A.J. Pierzynski on another short-term deal looks like their best option.
Top prospect Jorge Alfaro is the future behind the plate for the Rangers, but he's still at least a couple years off, so expect Pierzynski to be used as a bridge to him.
4. Make a splash to acquire a starter if the opportunity presents itself.
The Rangers have a terrific one-two punch atop their rotation in Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and Martin Perez looks like a solid No. 3 option. They have plenty of options to fill out the staff from there, including a healthy Matt Harrison, but adding another impact arm could push them over the top.
Whether it's a trade for someone like David Price or another foray into the Japanese market and the signing of Masahiro Tanaka, the Rangers could put themselves among the AL favorites once again with a splash acquisition in the rotation.
Toronto Blue Jays
1. Acquire/sign a starting catcher.
A terrible season from incumbent catcher J.P. Arencibia (.194/.227/.365 in 474 AB) and last season's trade of Travis d'Arnaud leaves the Blue Jays in need of an upgrade behind the plate this offseason.
Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will likely both be out of their price range, but they could explore a trade for someone like Wilson Ramos, as Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com suggests, or look to mid-level veterans like A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro.
2. Add another starting pitcher.
The Blue Jays' rotation was a huge disappointment this past season, as their starters posted the second-worst ERA in the majors at 4.81, and offseason additions R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson both fell well short of expectations.
Dickey and Mark Buehrle figure to front the staff once again, while Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, Chad Jenkins and Tommy John returnees Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson are all in the running for rotation spots. Even with so many options, though, look for the Blue Jays to add at least one veteran arm they can count on to slot alongside Buehrle and Dickey.
1. Sign another veteran starter to a one-year deal.
The top of the Nationals' rotation is set in stone, with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann back to form one of the best trios in all of baseball. Behind them, the team has gone with Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren the past two years on one-year deals.
The Nationals could very well opt to go with some combination of Ross Detwiler, Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Ross Ohlendorf to fill the final two spots in the rotation, but bringing in another veteran on a low-risk, one-year deal would help add some depth.
2. Sign a left-handed reliever.
The Nationals really don't have many areas of need this offseason, but finding a plus option from the left side to use out of the bullpen in the late innings could help.
Fernando Abad (39 G, 3.35 ERA, 7.6 K/9) and Ian Krol (32 G, 3.95 ERA, 7.2 K/9) were the primary southpaws in the 'pen this past season, and while they both pitched fairly well, adding someone like Mike Gonzalez or Javier Lopez could really bolster the back end of the bullpen.