MLB Offseason: Best-Case Scenarios for All 30 Teams This Winter
Let's imagine, however, what the best-case scenarios are for Levine and all baseball executives in the league with several months still remaining in the offseason.
In the Yankees' case, for example, it involves signing Cano along with other reputable free agents. Meanwhile, small-market teams are more concerned with finalizing contract extensions with top contributors or getting a competitive edge via trade.
Reality, of course, will only allow a player to wind up with one team, but in this article, we're letting that slide so that front offices can do what they desire (so long as their moves are financially reasonable and supported by industry rumors).
Read on for some of the best-case scenarios for all 30 MLB teams this offseason.
The following slides were engineered after taking these completed transactions into consideration:
- The Los Angeles Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero and Dan Haren
- The San Francisco Giants extended Tim Lincecum, signed Tim Hudson, re-signed Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong
- The Chicago White Sox signed Jose Dariel Abreu
- The New York Yankees re-signed Derek Jeter, signed Brian McCann and Brendan Ryan
- The Tampa Bay Rays extended David DeJesus, re-signed Jose Molina
- The Texas Rangers re-signed Geovany Soto, traded Ian Kinsler to the Detroit Tigers for Prince Fielder and cash, extended Martin Perez
- The Philadelphia Phillies signed Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz
- The Oakland Athletics signed Nick Punto
- The Colorado Rockies signed LaTroy Hawkins
- The Los Angeles Angels traded Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the St. Louis Cardinals for David Freese and Fernando Salas, signed Joe Smith
- The Milwaukee Brewers traded Burke Badenhop to the Boston Red Sox for Luis Ortega
- The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta
- The Cleveland Indians signed David Murphy
- The San Diego Padres signed Josh Johnson
- The New York Mets signed Chris Young
- The Cincinnati Reds signed Skip Schumaker
- The Minnesota Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes
- The Detroit Tigers signed Joe Nathan
Trade for Jeff Samardzija
The Arizona Diamondbacks wanted Samardzija prior to the 2013 non-waiver trade deadline, but the Chicago Cubs weren't motivated to move him. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that only a star-studded package of prospects could have gotten a deal done in July.
But four-plus months later, there's still no long-term contract extension in place for Shark, and the Cubs appear to be more realistic with their trade demands.
ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that talks between Chicago and Arizona are expected to resume this winter. A major league source confirms that the D-Backs are among the three likeliest landing spots for Samardzija, per David Kaplan of CSN Chicago, and that the odds of him being dealt prior to Opening Day 2014 sit at about "99 percent."
The right-hander's swing-and-miss ability would clearly bolster an Arizona rotation that ranked 13th in the National League in strikeout rate last season.
Sign Rajai Davis
After wrecking his hip during the summer, Cody Ross told The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro in late August that he was aiming to return by spring training.
That rough timetable has since been tossed away, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. The injury is likely to keep him sidelined through at least the first month of the regular season.
That is all the more reason for the D-Backs to pursue Rajai Davis.
As we mentioned previously, the veteran outfielder finds himself in a weak bargaining position, and his name has seldom appeared in offseason rumors.
Although not a well-rounded player, the 33-year-old suits Arizona because of his high-volume base-stealing and productivity against left-handed pitching.
Trade Away Dan Uggla
Uggla obviously hasn't aged gracefully.
The Atlanta Braves acquired the slugger following an outstanding age-30 season. He has since steadily declined in terms of batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored and plate appearances. Uggla reached rock bottom last October, as the Braves decided to keep him off their NLDS roster.
As Bleacher Report's Gavin Andrews points out, Atlanta would be better off with an in-house alternative at second base, such as Ramiro Pena or Tommy La Stella, or by trading for somebody younger.
One thing is certain: The fanbase would respond positively to a change.
Extend Craig Kimbrel
Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors has developed the industry's most reliable model for predicting the salaries of arbitration-eligible players.
Kimbrel broke it with his ridiculousness.
The Alabama native has obliterated the individual records set by modern relievers through their first four MLB seasons, with a 1.39 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 15.08 K/9 in 227.1 IP. Moreover, he showed no signs of slowing down in 2013 (1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 13.16 K/9 in 67.0 IP).
The Braves will regret going year by year with Kimbrel and letting him file for free agency after the 2016 campaign. They ought to lock him up now.
Sign Matt Garza
The Baltimore Orioles drained their farm system a bit this past year to acquire veteran pitching reinforcements. Among them, however, only Bud Norris remains under their control entering the 2014 season.
Buster Olney details how existing contracts and projected arbitration raises will make this "a winter of extremely difficult decisions" for the O's (ESPN Insider subscription required).
Alas, they won't sniff the playoffs without a significant addition to the rotation. The 30-year-old Matt Garza certainly fits that role, and signing him wouldn't cost them a future top draft pick.
Baltimore could back-load Garza's long-term contract. Cutting ties with closer Jim Johnson should enable the team to squeeze the consistent right-hander within its payroll constraints.
Re-Sign Nate McLouth
McLouth is in line for a two-year deal in free agency after slashing .261/.333/.409 with Baltimore in 2012 and '13 with decent defense in left field and superb baserunning. Unsurprisingly, The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reports that the O's want him back.
They're holding out hope that he accepts a discounted contract to remain in a comfortable situation.
Boston Red Sox
Re-Sign Mike Napoli
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports expects the Boston Red Sox to avoid long-term commitments this offseason. That could mean turning away Napoli if he's adamant about a three-year contract.
Thus far, the Red Sox have only offered a one-year deal to the first baseman, according to the Boston Herald's Jen Royle.
The odds of Napoli settling for that are slim, but the front office hasn't given up hope yet.
Trade for Matt Kemp
Acquiring the MVP-caliber-yet-injury-prone outfielder would make sense for the Red Sox, so long as the Los Angeles Dodgers paid a substantial portion of the $129.5 million remaining on his contract. Kemp could patrol center field next season, then shift to left the following summer when Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready for everyday duty.
Nick Cafardo reports that Boston has inquired about Kemp's availability under the assumption that Jacoby Ellsbury will sign elsewhere.
The Red Sox won't be overly upset with Ellsbury's departure because they'll receive a compensatory draft pick in return.
Sign A.J. Pierzynski
Pierzynski is not going to match Jarrod Saltalamacchia's power production, but his remarkable durability and modest contract expectations make him a tempting alternative.
He has caught at least 110 games in each of the past 13 seasons.
Boston could platoon Pierzynski with the right-handed-hitting David Ross.
Extend Jeff Samardzija
Shark has led the Cubs rotation in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts during each of the past two seasons. Needless to say, the club's chances of contending would be severely diminished if he's traded.
Sign Edward Mujica
Late-inning relief roles seem to be in flux, as Kevin Gregg has entered free agency and Kyuji Fujikawa is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
For what it's worth, Mujica owns a perfect 0.00 earned run average and .071 batting average against in nine career appearances at Wrigley Field.
*Guess who has the worst walk rate in that span: former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.
Chicago White Sox
Sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia
MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports that Tyler Flowers' future with the Chicago White Sox is still undetermined.
Even if he is retained, his past production doesn't validate anything more than a reserve role. CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes adds that Josh Phegley also failed to distinguish himself behind the plate in 2013.
Hayes believes that Jarrod Saltalamacchia suits the Sox because he's a dramatic upgrade over either member of that duo and is young enough—turns 29 in May—to warrant a long-term deal.
Convince Paul Konerko to Retire
There's no doubt that Chicago appreciates Konerko's decade-and-a-half of service as a first baseman/designated hitter, during which time he has amassed 427 home runs and more than 9,000 plate appearances.
However, club owner Jerry Reinsdorf's remark suggesting that there's a roster spot waiting for him seems less genuine.
In October, the White Sox committed six years and $68 million to Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu so that he could be the right-handed-hitting defensive liability in the heart of the lineup. Abreu is replacing Konerko in that role, not agreeing to a timeshare.
This situation would be less awkward for all involved if the longtime captain opted to retire rather than pursue work at age 38.
Re-Sign Shin-Soo Choo
The Cincinnati Reds finished third in the National League in runs scored largely due to Choo's individual excellence atop the lineup.
Speedster Billy Hamilton brought electricity to Reds baseball down the stretch, but that was generally as a reserve. That's probably the best role for Hamilton in 2014, too, as they could utilize him as an everyday leadoff guy the following summer.
In the meantime, Cincinnati dreams of starting Choo in center for one more year and then shifting him to the less demanding duties of left field.
General manager Walt Jocketty is determined to re-sign the 31-year-old free agent, yet is not convinced that the club can afford him.
Trade Away Brandon Phillips
The key to affording Choo is letting go of another high-earning player, specifically Phillips.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal already insists that he's "a goner" this winter with four years and $50 million still left on his contract.
The tricky part will be persuading a trade partner to absorb most of that remaining guarantee, despite the fact that his hitting deteriorated toward the end of 2013.
Trade for Chase Headley
Despite all of the pitchers who are likely to leave the Cleveland Indians in free agency, they still have the potential to construct a roster that's capable of winning immediately.
The first step would be bolstering the infield by securing Headley as an upgrade over the Lonnie Chisenhall/Mike Aviles platoon. No more of this "Carlos Santana at the hot corner" baloney.
The Indians payroll would hardly budge if, along with a couple of solid prospects, the San Diego Padres accepted the final year of Asdrubal Cabrera's contract ($10 million).
Sign Joe Saunders
The veteran lefty doesn't excite us the same way that Scott Kazmir or Ubaldo Jimenez could, but he'll be cheaper and more reliable. Dating back to 2008, he has averaged nearly 193 innings per season.
The Tribe's young arms can fill out the back end of the rotation, but nobody besides Justin Masterson has come close to starting for an entire major league season.
Joe Saunders would make Terry Francona's job much easier.
Sign Joba Chamberlain
Cleveland couldn't afford to retain its late-inning combination of Joe Smith and Chris Perez. The club must now buy low on underachieving, talented arms and hope for the best.
Joba Chamberlain has hardly any leverage coming off the most disastrous year of his career. Signing him would only require a modest deal, and as a 28-year-old with great velocity who'll be another year removed from Tommy John surgery, the upside is tremendous.
Just instruct the grounds crew to keep the gnats away from him.
Sign Justin Morneau
Justin Morneau isn't the same guy who we remember being named American League MVP and competing in the Home Run Derby.
Nonetheless, Troy Renck of The Denver Post dubs the veteran first baseman as the Colorado Rockies' "primary target" on the free-agent market. They value his veteran leadership and production against right-handed pitching.
Trade Away Dexter Fowler
Last season, Fowler took a tumble in each of the triple-slash categories and failed to accumulate 500 plate appearances for the first time since 2008.
Fortunately for the Rockies, the lack of reasonably priced center fielders in free agency has compelled many teams to turn their attention toward the switch-hitting 27-year-old. He's set to earn $7.35 million next season before going through the arbitration process one final time in 2015.
Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi confirms that Fowler is "available in the right deal" and that the Seattle Mariners could be his landing spot.
Extend Max Scherzer
It's going to require big bucks to lock up Scherzer, a Scott Boras client, because he's just one year away from free agency and coming off an American League Cy Young Award-winning season.
Thankfully, dumping most of Prince Fielder's contract in a trade created payroll flexibility for the Detroit Tigers. General manager Dave Dombrowski acknowledges that the Fielder-Ian Kinsler blockbuster makes the Scherzer contract "perhaps more possible" (h/t Josh Slagter of MLive.com). This Doug Fister exchange should further increase the likelihood:
#Tigers have acquired LHP Robbie Ray, LHP Ian Krol and utility player Steve Lombardozzi from Nationals in exchange for Doug Fister.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) December 3, 2013
Jered Weaver's five-year, $85 million deal might be mentioned in extension talks. Ultimately, though, pleasing Boras should take something closer to Matt Cain's $112.5 million pact, which was also spread over five years.
Sign Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury is also represented by Boras and seeking a nine-figure payday this winter.
Switching center fielders from Austin Jackson to Ellsbury is not necessarily a massive upgrade, but it should nonetheless make the Tigers better for the next couple years (before the latter begins declining).
Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that the club is open to moving Jackson if an impact free agent is attainable.
Extend Jason Castro
Here's Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow raving about his starting catcher, via Brian McTaggart and MLB.com:
I’m not surprised that there would be interest in Jason. He’s clearly one of our most valuable players. I’m never going to say someone is untouchable. But we fully expect Jason to be on our club for a long time to come. He’s reaching his peak. He was our All-Star last year. He’s a team leader.
No extension talks have taken place yet, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, but buying out Jose Altuve's arbitration years last summer showed that the Astros would reward their core players.
Sign Jesse Crain
For at least one more offseason, Houston's free-agent targets will be comprised of buy-low candidates who can accept short-term deals with modest base salaries. These are individuals who can either have a meaningful impact in the clubhouse or significant trade value by midseason.
Crain ought to be their 2014 version of Jose Veras—a veteran reliever who will be coveted by contenders in July to fill a late-inning role.
Kansas City Royals
Sign Carlos Beltran
The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton calls Beltran the top target on the Kansas City Royals' revised wish list.
He began his career with the organization and continues producing with the bat in the twilight of his career. Dutton adds that unlike several other Beltran suitors, the Royals have considered making a three-year offer.
K.C. ranked 11th in the AL in runs scored this past year. Adding the veteran switch-hitter would surely lead to improvement in the category.
Trade Away Billy Butler
Committing $32 million to right-hander Jason Vargas and then signing Beltran for even more money would deplete the Royals of the necessary funds to pursue more pitching in free agency.
At that point, they would seek to strengthen the staff via trade, and a career .298 hitter like Butler should generate widespread interest.
An ideal return would include a controllable starter with major league experience and at least one promising prospect.
Los Angeles Angels
Sign Matt Garza
The Los Angeles Angels farm system is depressingly barren. Their challenge is to add enough starting pitching depth to contend without compromising their ability to produce young talent for the future.
Garza appears to be the best fit due to his consistency (seven straight seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA), Southern California roots and no connection to a compensatory draft pick.
Trade Away Erick Aybar
Subsequently, the Angels would have to get creative to accommodate a huge contract. They are already pushing up close to the luxury-tax threshold.
Gonzalez considers second baseman Howie Kendrick to be the most probable departure.
However, double-play partner Erick Aybar could net an even greater return, considering the scarcity of available shortstops and the fact that he's under contract through 2016.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Extend Clayton Kershaw
The Los Angeles Dodgers were seemingly on the same page with Kershaw and his representatives earlier this year, but then the 25-year-old got tired of answering media questions about the negotiations.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw's contract expectations have presumably gone up following the best season of his already-spectacular career (1.83 ERA, 232 K in 236.0 IP).
The superstar southpaw is headed for his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
Current Dodgers like Yasiel Puig and Hyun-jin Ryu have proven what enormous impacts international free agents can have.
L.A.'s payroll is over-stuffed already, but whatever the team bids for Tanaka's negotiating rights wouldn't count toward the luxury tax.
The possibility of the right-handed starter becoming a free agent was once in serious doubt. Thankfully, David Waldstein of The New York Times suggests that a resolution is on its way.
Extend Hanley Ramirez
Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes reports that the Dodgers have been working toward a lucrative long-term deal with Hanley Ramirez. He's headed for free agency in 2014 and there aren't any notable internal replacements.
Ramirez missed close to half the season due to injury, but contributed a dominant .345/.402/.638 batting line and 20 home runs when on the field.
Trade Away Carl Crawford
Ken Rosenthal tells us that general manager Ned Colletti is open to moving any of his three veteran outfielders: Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp or Crawford.
The latter, ideally, would find a new home. At age 32, Crawford is the oldest of the trio and the one with the least power and defensive versatility.
Extend Giancarlo Stanton
Miami Marlins general manager Dan Jennings tried to end all of the Stanton trade speculation with one declarative statement: "Mr. Stanton is NOT Available. He will be in RF at Marlins Park on Opening Day. We are building around him."
Stanton has led the club in home runs each of the past three seasons.
Sign Mike Napoli
With or without Stanton, the Marlins sorely need power-hitting acquisitions coming off a season of offensive ineptitude.
Napoli is likely more expensive than their other options, but according to Ken Rosenthal, that hasn't deterred Miami from holding internal discussions about him. Napoli also happens to be a native of South Florida.
Trade Away Logan Morrison
Relocating Morrison would create space for Napoli.
With no dialogue taking place between the Fish and their 26-year-old first baseman, Chris Cotillo expects him to be traded.
Re-Sign Corey Hart
The Milwaukee Brewers first basemen—primarily Juan Francisco and Yuniesky Betancourt—combined for a .206/.259/.370 batting line in 2013. That's just nauseating.
A mostly healthy version of Corey Hart, even if he's coming off two knee surgeries, would ensure substantially better production from that traditional power position. He has spent his entire professional career in the Brewers organization and has averaged nearly 24 home runs since 2007.
Sign Scott Kazmir
Ten different pitchers made at least five starts for the Brewers last season, which speaks volumes about the mess at the back end of their rotation.
There's also a bizarre lack of left-handedness. Tom Gorzelanny was the only southpaw in that group of 10.
Kazmir occasionally dominated for the Cleveland Indians after disappearing from the public eye for a couple seasons, but his modest innings total (158.0 IP in 2013) and injury history (eight career DL stints) should keep his asking price reasonable. (Update: Kazmir has signed a two-year deal with the Oakland A's.)
Trade Away Rickie Weeks
The alternative to a Weeks trade is an outright release, and Milwaukee would have to absorb his entire $11 million salary in that scenario.
Scooter Gennett thrived upon earning the regular second baseman job. It wouldn't be fair to sit him back on the bench after a couple months of feasting on major league pitching.
So the goal for this front office is to get something—anything—for a 31-year-old former All-Star who just endured a sub-replacement-level, injury-shortened campaign.
Sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The Twins certainly need catching help after moving Joe Mauer to first base.
With A.J. Pierzynski no longer an option, they're zeroing in on Salty:
Industry sense: #MNTwins & Marlins need to make finals offers to Salty in next day. 3/$24M could get but belief: MN has to best Miami offer.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) December 3, 2013
Re-Sign Mike Pelfrey
Bronson Arroyo is the more trustworthy rotation option, but Mike Pelfrey has just as much potential and a much lower price tag.
According to Neal, the Twins have made a two-year, $10 million offer to him. The right-hander posted an underwhelming 5.19 ERA in 2013, but the peripheral numbers suggest that he can resemble a No. 3 starter with enough luck and defensive help.
New York Mets
Sign Curtis Granderson
Chris Young's one-year, $7.25 million deal could become a great bargain for the New York Mets.
With that said, he alone won't revamp their sluggish offense.
The Mets' behavior so far this offseason suggests that they won't make a multi-year commitment to anybody with Curtis Granderson's resume, but his power-hitting ability can make Citi Field look like a little league ballpark. Envisioning that should tempt the front office.
Sign Stephen Drew
Recent reports are that the Mets are backing away from Rafael Furcal, who isn't 100 percent healthy following Tommy John surgery. He's widely regarded as the second-best shortstop on the open market.
Stephen Drew is the only other who's a surefire starter.
Signing him makes more sense for them than trading away high-ceiling prospects for a player with comparable abilities.
New York Yankees
Re-Sign Robinson Cano
By investing in Brian McCann, the New York Yankees proved that they wouldn't let their offseason hinge on the Cano negotiations, but it's still crucial that they close what Jon Heyman estimates is a $100 million gap.
Even if it takes until 2014, as John Harper of the New York Daily News hears it might, the Yankees prefer to keep their franchise player for the foreseeable future.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
The goal of squeezing beneath the $189 luxury-tax threshold has been more than a year in the making. Achieving it while constructing a competitive roster will force the front office to get creative.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Yankees plan to splurge on Tanaka, who they trust more than any domestic free-agent starter.
There are gaping holes in New York's rotation following the retirement of Andy Pettitte and the departure of Phil Hughes. The 25-year-old Tanaka has the potential to fill one for the rest of the decade.
Sign Carlos Beltran
As a player who bats predominantly from the left side, Beltran should excel with Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post has been told that the club is ready to make an overly generous two-year offer to the 36-year-old outfielder.
Sign Nelson Cruz
Jon Heyman reports that Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has been fond of Nelson Cruz since he was a minor league player. Of course, that alone won't motivate him to meet the slugger's four-year, $75 million asking price.
O.co Coliseum has been a house of horrors for Cruz in 50 career games, but his signing, at the least, would mean that he doesn't return to the rival Texas Rangers.
Re-Sign Bartolo Colon
When the offseason began, many baseball executives were reluctant to pursue Bartolo Colon because of his age and PED usage.
That's what the A's needed to hear.
Coming off one of the best seasons of his entire career, the numbers alone suggest that Colon should be too expensive for Oakland's taste. However, the lack of competition makes it more likely that the club can retain a valuable clubhouse influence.
Sign Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo told ESPN's Jim Bowden earlier in the offseason that the Philadelphia Phillies had reached out to him. Since then, the Phillies have only inked free-agent position players (Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz), so they presumably remain in the hunt for this durable right-hander.
The fragility of Philly's bullpen was exposed in 2013, and pitchers at the back end of the rotation failed to provide adequate length.
That's not a concern with Arroyo, as he has averaged about 208 innings per year over the past five seasons.
Sign Joaquin Benoit
Just to ensure that shaky relief work doesn't doom the Phillies for the foreseeable future, they could bring in Benoit on a multi-year deal to solidify the bridge to Jonathan Papelbon.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly expects price to be the only obstacle.
Re-Sign A.J. Burnett
Burnett loves the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he expects to be paid like a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher. The Bucs want him back for a fraction of that asking price.
This dilemma prompted MLB.com's Tom Singer to suggest a partial-season arrangement, whereby the veteran right-hander would join his favorite team around the midway point of the 2014 season. Pittsburgh would generously compensate him for the few months that he spends on the roster.
Hey, it's better than nothing.
Trade for Chase Headley
It's a high-risk move, considering Headley's 2013 regression, but it is one that could make the Pirates NL Central favorites.
Pedro Alvarez could shift to first base where his size wouldn't be such a liability.
This team has ample prospect depth in its farm system to satisfy the San Diego Padres.
San Diego Padres
Extend Chase Headley
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the San Diego Padres haven't made much progress in their on-and-off extension talks with Headley. They're finally flirting with the possibility of moving him by agreeing to listen to trade offers.
However, that doesn't mean that the gap between Headley's asking price and San Diego's preference is irreconcilable. Perhaps one side will cave during the next few months.
Headley could sorely use the long-term security following a year of regression, while Padres executives are probably still salivating at the sight of his dominant 2012 stats.
Trade for Jason Castro
General manager Josh Byrnes assures U-T San Diego's Bill Center that the Padres "will have done something" via trade prior to the conclusion of the MLB winter meetings. Center anticipates the acquisition being a left-handed batter or a lefty reliever.
Coming off a breakout season, Castro (.276/.350/.485, 18 HR in 2013) would satisfy the former need. Jon Heyman believes that the 26-year-old could be expendable as he gains arbitration eligibility because of the presence of highly regarded prospect Max Stassi in Houston's farm system.
The Padres could certainly use Castro behind the plate as Yasmani Grandal recovers from surgery on his right anterior cruciate ligament. Eventually, the club would have to decide whether Grandal or Nick Hundley is better suited to serve as second-string catcher.
San Francisco Giants
Extend Brandon Belt
The flashy home run totals haven't been there for Belt, but don't think that the San Francisco Giants are unappreciative. When considering his on-base skills and defensive value, the 25-year-old has quietly emerged as a top-five first baseman in the National League.
That's why CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly believes that the front office could approach him with a contract extension before the 2014 season gets underway.
Sign Erik Bedard
Newly re-signed Ryan Vogelsong can hardly be guaranteed a rotation spot after posting a 5.73 earned run average in 19 starts last season.
The Giants ideally want a low-risk, high-reward free agent to challenge him in spring training and one who is willing to accept a bullpen role if Vogelsong bounces back.
Bedard fits that description heading into his age-35 season. His swing-and-miss ability hasn't deteriorated yet, and AT&T Park suits his fly-ball tendencies.
Trade for Billy Butler
A best-case scenario for the Kansas City Royals would also help the Seattle Mariners.
If K.C. was in a position to trade Butler, the M's would reportedly relinquish the young pitching necessary to complete a deal. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal hears that Seattle still covets the productive designated hitter.
Butler is set to earn $8 million in 2014, and there's a $12.5 million club option for the following season. Even that $20.5 million total is substantially less than it would cost to re-sign Kendrys Morales for that same period.
Sign Ubaldo Jimenez
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted: "One of the three most prominent free-agent starting pitchers--Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza--seems bound to wind up w/Seattle."
SB Nation's Scott Weber argues that Jimenez is the best fit from that trio because of his superior strikeout ability. Although the mid-90s fastball is no longer part of his repertoire, "Jimenez may have finally found out how to pitch without his overwhelming velocity."
Moreover, due to Jimenez's inconsistencies, he's expected to command slightly less than Santana or Garza in terms of average annual value.
St. Louis Cardinals
Extend Matt Carpenter
Carpenter exceeded all expectations in his first full MLB season, leading the Senior Circuit in hits and runs scored en route to finishing fourth in the NL MVP race.
The St. Louis Cardinals don't need to hurry to lock him into a long-term deal, as he doesn't gain arbitration eligibility for another year.
But Carpenter's asking price could become exorbitant if he comes close to duplicating that effort in 2014.
Trade for Greg Holland
Edward Mujica was a dumpster fire during his final handful of appearances, but let's not forget that the right-hander carried the Cardinals bullpen when roles were scrambled earlier in the summer. As much as this organization trusts its young arms, they aren't best suited to fill that void internally.
The Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton reports that although the Royals aren't eager to shop closer Greg Holland, they'll consider offers with an open mind.
His 2013 numbers weren't far off Koji Uehara's and Craig Kimbrel's: 1.21 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 13.84 K/9, .169 BAA in 67.0 IP.
Tampa Bay Rays
Trade Away David Price
Price reverted to his Cy Young Award-caliber form upon recovering from a triceps injury, so his trade value has peaked.
As painful as it'll be to part with his rare talent and exuberant personality, the package that Tampa Bay receives in return should pay dividends quickly.
Trade for Mark Trumbo
Power hitting is prohibitively expensive to find in free agency. Even as first baseman James Loney enjoyed a great rebound season for the Rays in 2013, he didn't deliver much pop from a traditional slugger's position.
With the Los Angeles Angels being desperate for pitching depth, perhaps this team can work out a deal for Trumbo, one of the sport's few perennial 30-homer threats.
Sign Ryan Madson
Whether it was Joaquin Benoit in 2010 or Fernando Rodney in 2012, the Rays have a knack for stuffing their bullpen with great redemption stories.
This offseason, they can buy low on Madson, who hasn't pitched in the past two years following Tommy John surgery. Before going under the knife, however, he was a steady late-inning star for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Trade for David Price
Midseason pickups of Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza didn't do much good for the Texas Rangers the past two summers.
Price, however, is a different player entirely.
The 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner performed at a similarly elite level during the latter portion of this past season. He's only 28 and under club control for another two years.
Even if Tampa Bay's asking price was Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez plus a top prospect, the Rangers wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
Sign Shin-Soo Choo
Prince Fielder bolsters Texas' lineup, but he doesn't single-handedly remedy all of last year's issues, according to general manager Jon Daniels, via T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
We'd still like to add to the offense. That's probably still our top goal, our top objective, but we're open to improving the club any way we can. That could be with an obvious name that everybody is talking about, or it could be in the area of adding depth, filling out the club and giving Wash [manager Ron Washington] some options.
"The Rangers' biggest offensive problem in 2013 wasn't power," ESPN's David Schoenfield explains. "Rather, it was getting on base against right-handed pitching."
And no available player can help more in that department than Choo. He slashed .317/.457/.554 with the platoon advantage in 2013.
Toronto Blue Jays
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
The Toronto Blue Jays rotation gets very messy behind R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow, and even that top three isn't especially intimidating.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos told the National Post's John Lott that he had serious interest in Yu Darvish, so there's no reason to believe that he'd shy away from another international free agent with comparable potential.
Perhaps most importantly, getting Tanaka ensures that the New York Yankees, an AL East rival, do not.
Trade Away J.P. Arencibia
Sportsnet's Shi Davidi heard during the GM meetings that Toronto was "actively seeking help" behind the plate.
The club's latest move falls right in line with that report. From Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal: "Sources: #BlueJays in agreement with free-agent catcher on Dioner Navarro on two-year deal, pending physical."
Navarro had excellent offensive numbers in 2013, albeit as the Chicago Cubs' backup catcher. Anticipating that he'll seize the starting job with the Blue Jays, Davidi comments that his arrival marks the end of J.P. Arencibia's tenure with Toronto.
Arencibia slashed only .194/.227/.365 last summer. With home games being played at the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, that translates to a horrifying 59 OPS+.
Nonetheless, Anthopoulos can expect to flip him for a decent young player considering Arencibia's 20-homer potential.
Sign Robinson Cano
James Wagner of The Washington Post writes that the Washington Nationals infield is probably set, "but there certainly would be some logic to the Nationals joining the fray" for Cano. He explains that the club has enough resources to overpay him and could temporarily slide current second baseman Anthony Rendon into a reserve role.
A couple of Washington's biggest offensive stars, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, have concerning injury histories. Cano, meanwhile, has been freakishly durable throughout the past seven seasons.
This match is unlikely yet plausible, and it is highly desirable from the Nats perspective.
Extend Jordan Zimmermann
Although Scott Boras client Stephen Strasburg will probably decline to participate in any serious extension talks, Zimmermann is an equally impressive candidate to lead this team's rotation for years to come.
Perhaps not from a pure stuff perspective, but the right-hander's results over the past three seasons—3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5 CG in 570.1 IP—irrefutably demonstrate that he's been the No. 1 guy.
According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, general manager Mike Rizzo admits that he's made overtures to Zimmermann's camp about a long-term deal.
Ely is a national MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a sportscaster for 90.5 WVUM in Miami. He wants to make sweet, social love with all of you on Twitter.