All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Needs, Targets Coming out of the Winter Meetings
The MLB winter meetings were lacking in major transactions, but all 30 teams returned home with a better understanding of their roster needs and which players are capable of addressing them.
Rest assured, front office staffs intend to continue exploring free agency and the trade market in preparation for the 2014 season.
There's still enough time remaining in the offseason to think ambitiously. Multiple teams still have their sights set on Shin-Soo Choo, Masahiro Tanaka, David Price and others with franchise-changing talent.
With two months to go until spring training gets underway, here's a look at who's being targeted by each club.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Front-Line Starting Pitcher
The Arizona Diamondbacks have sought a top-of-the-rotation starter since last summer. Their depth is fine, but it's difficult to take them seriously as a championship contender when only one rotation member, Patrick Corbin, shows All-Star-caliber potential.
Mark Trumbo brings Arizona much-needed power. However, sacrificing Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs in the process leaves the club less qualified to trade for an influential pitcher.
Ideal Target: Masahiro Tanaka
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has the scoop:
Sources: #DBacks' No. 1 target is Tanaka. Continue to explore trades, free agents as they await decision on whether Tanaka will be posted.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2013
Tanaka wouldn't cost the D-Backs any other top young players. Actually, his arrival could indirectly gain them a few if Trevor Cahill is put on the market.
Atlanta Braves: Controllable Starting Pitching
The Atlanta Braves didn't put up much of a fight to retain Tim Hudson, and there haven't been any rumblings about a new deal for Paul Maholm.
Free agency doesn't appear to be a likely route for Atlanta's major player acquisitions. The club's money is mostly tied up in an enormous class of arbitration-eligible players.
Nonetheless, another experienced arm must be found to preserve the Braves' status as NL East favorites.
Ideal Target: Jeff Samardzija
David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution considers Shark the best front-line pitcher that they could acquire without letting go of any untouchable prospects.
Last season, he ranked among the National League's top 10 in both strikeouts and innings pitched.
He'd actually be the oldest member of a projected rotation that includes Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran.
Baltimore Orioles: Innings-Eater
The biggest understatement of the MLB offseason comes from ESPN's Buster Olney, who tweets that there's "more to be done" for the Baltimore Orioles.
Although they still have voids in left field, at second base and at the back end of the bullpen, bolstering the starting rotation is the top priority. The No. 5 spot is totally up for grabs, and Chris Tillman is the only member of the top four who consistently pitches deep into games.
Baltimore needs somebody who's durable and efficient to protect the bullpen from overuse.
Ideal Target: Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo has topped 200 innings in eight of the past nine seasons, and he has 14 complete games in that span. Even with his 37th birthday approaching, the veteran right-hander is an outstanding strike-thrower who will trust the terrific Orioles defense to makes plays behind him.
There's an absence of big-market teams bidding for him, so Arroyo's contract shouldn't be too outrageous.
Boston Red Sox: Center Field
Deep as the Boston Red Sox organization is, it's absurd to think that a championship-caliber level of performance can be maintained without addressing the void created by Jacoby Ellsbury's departure.
If the 2014 season were to begin immediately, prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. would be thrust into an everyday role.
Also, Daniel Nava would see semi-regular playing time. Although he's coming off a productive year (.303/.385/.445, 12 HR), underwhelming stats from his previous major league seasons suggest that he could regress back to reality.
Ideal Target: Matt Kemp
From the Los Angeles Dodgers' perspective, "the time is simply not right to move Kemp," as Ken Rosenthal explains. His trade value has plummeted following an injury-plagued 2013 campaign, so the club would have to consume tens of million of dollars of his remaining contract, and even that wouldn't guarantee the return of premium young talent.
But he makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox, who showed legitimate interest in trading for the star athlete earlier this winter.
Kemp could serve as Boston's primary center fielder this coming season, receiving ample days off to ensure that his ankle and shoulder return to full strength. Then, he could shift to left field in 2015, a position better suited for his defensive skills.
Chicago Cubs: Late-Inning Relief
The Chicago Cubs bullpen has routinely been hampered by wildness. Thankfully, two of the main culprits, Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol, are out of the picture.
The front office won't spend huge bucks on an upgrade considering that playoff contention is still awhile away, but there should be a strikeout artist with decent command who fits into the team's rebuilding budget.
Ideal Target: Jose Veras
Although the screws came loose in September and October, Veras still finished 2013 with a career-best 3.02 earned run average and 2.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It was also the third consecutive season in which he topped 60 innings pitched.
He has the credentials to compete for Chicago's closer's gig and the track record to reassure management that he won't be wasting its money.
MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports mutual interest between Veras and the Houston Astros. Otherwise, the list of suitors appears to be pretty thin.
Chicago White Sox: Catcher
Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley were a horrible catching tandem for the Chicago White Sox in 2013. Neither showed a shred of plate discipline, nor enough defensive skill to compensate for their uselessness in the lineup.
Free-agent targets like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski have since found homes elsewhere.
Ideal Target: Kurt Suzuki
The 30-year-old Suzuki is going to provide respectable defense and put a ton of balls in play.
His reduced power numbers over the past two summers will keep the asking price reasonable.
Cincinnati Reds: Stopgap Center Fielder
The days of Billy Hamilton perennially pacing the National League in stolen bases aren't far away. He could emerge as a legendary leadoff man by 2015.
However, an exhilarating debut last September shouldn't earn him a starting job for the Cincinnati Reds this coming season.
Hamilton, a natural shortstop, still has a lot to learn about outfield defense, and he surely won't maintain a .368/.429/.474 batting line if given substantial playing time.
Ideal Target: Brett Gardner
Cincy specifically requested Gardner in a potential trade involving Brandon Phillips, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The New York Yankees rejected the offer.
Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility, Gardner has established himself as an elite fielder and high-volume base-stealer. He also boasts a .352 career on-base percentage.
The Reds will inevitably try tweaking this trade idea to get this dynamic stopgap.
Cleveland Indians: Late-Inning Relief
So much for that whole "Bullpen Mafia" thing.
The Cleveland Indians released closer Chris Perez and lost in the bidding for Joe Smith, his most trustworthy setup man.
Projected members of the 2014 rotation like Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar show promise, but they haven't proven themselves capable of lasting into the later innings. So finding relievers to handle high-leverage situations ought to be a top priority.
Ideal Target: Joaquin Benoit
The Tribe certainly aren't alone in their pursuit of Benoit, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports identifies the San Diego Padres as a team with equal interest.
Keeping the veteran right-hander in the AL Central will require a hefty multi-year offer.
Colorado Rockies: Infield Depth
As Troy Renck of the Denver Post sums up, it's been a busy few weeks for the Colorado Rockies.
Major league additions include LaTroy Hawkins, Justin Morneau, Brett Anderson and Boone Logan (pending physical).
Since Opening Day 2013, the Rockies have released Chris Nelson, traded Eric Young and sent Todd Helton into retirement. Needless to say, their roster has grown a bit thin.
Ideal Target: Mark Reynolds
The free-agent corner infielder could platoon with Morneau at first and serve as insurance in case slick-fielding Nolan Arenado regresses at the plate in his sophomore season.
In the thin atmosphere of Coors Field, Reynolds could regain the 30-homer power from earlier in his career.
Detroit Tigers: Left Field
There was an expectation entering this offseason that top Detroit Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos would roam left field on a regular basis in 2014.
Well, the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler blockbuster altered those plans. The Tigers have since announced that Miguel Cabrera will move across the diamond to first base, while Castellanos will start at the hot corner, per Jason Beck of MLB.com.
Detroit signed Rajai Davis at the winter meetings, but the speedy platoon player certainly isn't cut out for everyday duty. He has only one career season with at least a 100 OPS+.
Ideal Target: Shin-Soo Choo
The Tigers want somebody atop the batting order who possesses excellent on-base skills, and Choo certainly satisfies that criterion. His lifetime .389 on-base percentage is top 10 among active players (sixth when you consider that Todd Helton retired, and Lance Berkman and Manny Ramirez probably won't play in the majors again).
With Fox Sports' Jon Morosi tweeting that the Texas Rangers object to a super-long-term contract, Detroit is still a legitimate dark-horse suitor.
Houston Astros: Bullpen
Last year's Houston Astros received minus-5.4 fWAR from their relievers.
That's the worst ever witnessed in MLB's modern era (since 1901).
Chad Qualls is going to help the Astros, but they need more. A lot more.
Ideal Target: John Axford
Axford finished 2013 in relatively strong fashion with the St. Louis Cardinals. He tallied 20 strikeouts in 16 innings with them during the regular season and playoffs.
His velocity has held steady since those outstanding performances as a closer in 2010 and 2011.
At the very least, Axford can be trusted to stay healthy. He has averaged about 75 appearances over the past three seasons.
Kansas City Royals: Second Base
The Kansas City Royals had zero continuity at second base in 2013. Four different players received at least 20 starts at the position, none of whom were especially effective.
At the winter meetings, manager Ned Yost spoke glowingly about Emilio Bonifacio, according to Dick Kaegel of MLB.com. He's the presumed starter if nobody else is acquired from outside the organization.
However, the Dominican speedster is probably best utilized as a versatile reserve.
Ideal Target: Omar Infante
#Royals continue to do extensive background work on Infante.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2013
That doesn't mean Kansas City will consent to his alleged four-year, $40 million asking price, but ESPN New York's Wallace Matthew makes it sound as if the New York Yankees won't either.
Trade options like Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla carry even larger salaries.
Los Angeles Angels: Starting Pitching
The Los Angeles Angels have received rave reviews from Bleacher Report's lead writers for their acquisitions of Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Both will eventually settle into rotation spots.
But they shouldn't be expected to carry L.A. into contention immediately.
The pitching staff is still lacking in experience.
Ideal Target: Matt Garza
Garza didn't pitch especially well against the Halos last summer, but his consistency from season to season—annual sub-4.00 ERA from 2007-2013—must have them intrigued.
With a barren farm system, this team cannot afford to sign any of the free-agent starters who are tied to draft-pick compensation.
Luckily, Garza switched uniforms midway through his walk year. That made him ineligible to receive a qualifying offer.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Third Base
Although Hanley Ramirez has some experience at the hot corner, Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti indicated that he wouldn't move back there in 2014, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
That leaves the NL West champs with few options.
They want a veteran at the position who can handle the bat while using his defensive range to compensate for Ramirez's lateral limitations.
Ideal Target: Juan Uribe
There's some mutual interest between Uribe and the Dodgers. ESPN Deportes' Enrique Rojas tweets that the standing offer guarantees one year with a 2015 option.
Count Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles among the insiders who believes Uribe will re-sign.
Miami Marlins: Third Base
The Miami Marlins have completely redesigned their infield this offseason.
Additions of Rafael Furcal and Garrett Jones don't necessarily serve as upgrades, but any change at the hot corner would certainly help the Fish avoid another 100-loss campaign.
Thanks largely to Placido Polanco and Ed Lucas, Miami third basemen batted .248/.315/.300 in 2013, homering only three times. Even with home games at run-suppressing Marlins Park, that's nauseating.
Ideal Target: Juan Uribe
Ken Rosenthal indicates that the Marlins showed interest in Uribe during the early stages of the winter meetings. That buzz has since died down.
Anyway, he's easily the top free agent remaining at his position.
If the 34-year-old can provide anything close to what he did for the Los Angeles Dodgers this past summer, then Miami's lineup would shake the stigma of being baseball's worst.
Milwaukee Brewers: First Base
The Milwaukee Brewers' lack of rotation depth was largely responsible for their 2013 struggles, but the abysmal contributions from their first basemen shouldn't be overlooked. The fact that Juan Francisco and Yuniesky Betancourt received the majority of their starts at the position says it all.
There was optimism that Corey Hart would remedy the issue by re-signing.
Alas, he has moved on to the Seattle Mariners as a free agent
Ideal Target: Ike Davis
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets that free agent James Loney still expects a three-year commitment.
Meanwhile, Ike Davis is under team control for that same period. Unlike Loney, he has the above-average power of a prototypical first baseman, and the New York Mets have conveniently placed him on the trading block.
The Brewers and Mets met to discuss him during the winter meetings, according to the New York Post's Ken Davidoff.
Minnesota Twins: Starting Pitching
A franchise that has historically focused on scouting player development made big splashes earlier in the offseason by signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Their contracts, valued at $49 million and $24 million, respectively, were the two largest that the Minnesota Twins have ever committed to free agents.
That doesn't mean the front office should be content.
Minnesota starters ranked dead last in the majors during 2013 with an earned run average that was nearly a half-run higher than the next-worst team.
Ideal Target: Matt Garza
The Twins drafted Garza, fast-tracked him to the majors and plugged him into the rotation.
However, with a staff anchored by Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano, they considered the right-hander expendable and traded him after the 2007 season. Starting pitching has been an issue for Minnesota during most of the half-dozen seasons since then.
The Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III insists that there's still the possibility for a reunion.
New York Mets: Late-Inning Relief
This offseason has arguably been the most productive of Sandy Alderson's tenure as New York Mets general manager.
Yet two areas still raise concerns: the shortstop position and bullpen.
Besides the overpriced Stephen Drew, there's basically nothing available for the former. And if Ruben Tejada reverts to 2011-2012 form, when he batted .287/.345/.345 with a positive Ultimate Zone Rating, then the Mets would actually be fairly well off.
But there's no sugar-coating the fact that New York's relief pitching is a problem after finishing last in the majors in strikeout rate. Losing LaTroy Hawkins in free agency left the club with even more question marks.
Ideal Target: Fernando Rodney
Rodney already has a handful of suitors, and understandably so. He's been allowing far fewer baserunners during the past two seasons, yet the whiffs keep piling up.
MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets that the hard-throwing right-hander is finally lowering his contract expectations.
New York Yankees: Innings-Eater
The New York Yankees have three-fifths of their 2014 rotation filled. Hiroki Kuroda, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova will start games for them, but there are serious doubts about all other internal candidates.
So New York seeks another durable pitcher.
Pursuing anybody who's tied to a compensatory draft pick is unlikely. The Yanks have already sacrificed their first three picks in next year's draft by signing reputable free-agent position players, and they only gained two back when Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson departed. Trading for an impact starter is also undesirable considering the thinness of their farm system.
Ideal Target: Masahiro Tanaka
Tanaka would've been an absolutely perfect fit for the Yankees under the old posting system, which involved committing a substantial amount of money to a player's team overseas. General manager Brian Cashman could have splurged because the posting fee doesn't affect payroll or move them any closer to the dreaded $189 million luxury-tax threshold.
Even with Tanaka's posting fee capped at $20 million, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Spots, that still takes a chunk out of the contract the right-hander would earn in true free agency. Besides, the Yankees could heavily back-load the contract.
Oakland Athletics: Designated Hitter
The Oakland Athletics dealt Seth Smith following his weakest offensive season, and there's no obvious internal replacement.
Ideally, the A's would give his plate appearances to somebody who isn't quite so useless against left-handed pitching.
But cost is always an issue for this club. That's doubly true at this stage of the winter considering the salaries owed to new pitchers like Luke Gregerson, Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson.
Ideal Target: Raul Ibanez
ESPN's Jayson Stark (among others) has linked Ibanez to the Los Angeles Angels, one of Oakland's AL West rivals, which could serve as motivation for Billy Beane to intervene.
Although 41 years old, Ibanez is coming off a campaign of 29 home runs. Just as importantly, his production was virtually unaffected by the opponent's handedness.
Philadelphia Phillies: Outfield Defense
The agreement with Roberto Hernandez fills the the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies rotation, so we can shift our focus away from that.
However, the previous season served as a painful example of how poor team defense could hold back a potential contender. Due to dreadful glove work, the Phillies allowed baseball's third-highest batting average on balls in play.
Outfielders like Darin Ruf, Delmon Young and Domonic Brown were particularly counterproductive. It's no shock that the latter has been mentioned in trade rumors.
Ideal Target: Franklin Gutierrez
Gutierrez boasts a superb 15.6 UZR/150 in his major league career and has at least 200 innings of experience at each outfield position (primarily center field).
Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN notes that the Phillies are a suitor for the 30-year-old free agent.
Pittsburgh Pirates: James Loney
Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Neal Huntington claims that he'd be comfortable with Gaby Sanchez in an everyday role, according to MLB.com's John Schlegel.
He's a talented liar.
If nothing else, the lesson to be learned from the 2013 Pirates is that they can't rely solely on Andrew McCutchen and expect a championship. Allocating more plate appearances to part-time players is no way to remedy that.
Ideal Target: James Loney
Loney is likely to regress after an uncharacteristically decent season against left-handed pitching, so Sanchez would still get on the field occasionally.
What he brings to the Bucs, however, is an excellent glove and impressive overall batting average.
Pittsburgh's primary competition for Loney will come from the Tampa Bay Rays.
San Diego Padres: Late-Inning Relief
To acquire Seth Smith, the veteran left-handed bat he'd been craving, San Diego Padres general manager Josh Byrnes moved steady late-inning reliever Luke Gregerson.
The club cannot afford to leave that void addressed.
The Padres' NL West rivals already had intimidating bullpens entering the offseason. Since then, Javier Lopez re-signed with the San Francisco Giants, Brian Wilson did the same with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies added LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan.
So there's pressure for them to keep up.
Ideal Target: Joaquin Benoit
An official with knowledge of Benoit contract talks believes SD is the front runner over Cleveland.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 12, 2013
Jeff Passan tweeted that it's going to take a two-year deal worth at least $14 million to close the deal.
San Francisco Giants: Rotation Depth
The San Francisco Giants re-signed Ryan Vogelsong coming off a nightmarish season. He couldn't miss bats or keep balls out of the stands, which culminated in a 5.73 earned run average and .299 batting average against.
Perhaps he'll bounce back at age 36, but the Giants ought to find a reasonably priced insurance policy in case Vogelsong's struggles persist.
Ideal Target: Bruce Chen
Chen is at a near-identical stage of his career, but he's coming off a far more impressive summer (3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in 121.0 IP).
The Panamanian right-hander has ample experience in both starting and bullpen roles, so he can contribute to the team regardless of how he's utilized. Moreover, Chen makes sense for a franchise that prides itself on building a tight-knit clubhouse.
Seattle Mariners: Starting Pitching
Few MLB rotations look more imposing at the top than the Seattle Mariners' does. Felix Hernandez (3.04 ERA, 2.61 FIP in 204.1 IP) and Hisashi Iwakuma (2.66 ERA, 3.44 FIP in 219.2 IP) were both dominant throughout 2013.
Too bad the rest of it is a mess.
If filled internally, the No. 3-5 spots would include pitchers with virtually zero major league experience, or at least those without much positive experience.
Ideal Target: David Price
Price's agent told Ken Rosenthal that he wouldn't expect his client to sign a long-term extension with the M's. With them entering win-now mode, however, Rosenthal adds that the right-hander's two remaining years under team control could still encourage a trade.
In 21-year-old Taijuan Walker, Seattle has a player whose immense upside can tempt the Tampa Bay Rays to part ways with Price.
For the time being, though, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has no intention of dangling Walker, per Greg Johns of MLB.com.
St. Louis Cardinals: Stopgap Second Baseman
The revamped St. Louis Cardinals roster will feature Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, Matt Carpenter at third base and, for the time being, Kolten Wong at second.
The glaring issue there, of course, is Wong. He contributed only one extra-base hit in 62 plate appearances last season and posted a horrifying .194 on-base percentage.
There are still those in the organization that believe that he'll thrive in the majors, but it's a stretch to deem him qualified for the 2014 starting job.
Ideal Target: Brian Roberts
St. Louis is worried about Roberts' injury history, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Well, duh. If not for the frequent trips to the disabled list and handful of surgeries in recent years, he'd already have a multi-year deal.
But it's important to note that Roberts entered the offseason with momentum. Starting 16 of the Baltimore Orioles' final 19 contests, he slashed .284/.324/.463.
Tampa Bay Rays: First Base
The Tampa Bay Rays had varying levels of interest in Justin Morneau, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison for their vacancy at first base.
All of them have since changed uniforms.
Before more desirable options come off the market, Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he'd like to make a move within the next few days.
Ideal Target: James Loney
Topkin writes that Tampa Bay won't meet Loney's three-year, $27 million asking price, but he remains the club's "top choice."
The former first-round draft pick slashed .299/.348/.430 at age 29 and contributed stellar defense. He's among the few Rays players who actually performed well during the postseason.
Texas Rangers: Outfield/Leadoff Hitter
"Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington acknowledged that there's a long way between now and the start of spring training," ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports, "but if the club doesn't go out and sign a leadoff hitter, Leonys Martin is the man."
The Rangers will be hard-pressed to return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus if that's the case. Martin is a smooth defender who deserves regular usage, but a lack of plate discipline makes him ill-suited for the No. 1 spot in the lineup.
Ideal Target: Shin-Soo Choo
Unsurprisingly, Texas is the front-runner for his services.
Given the friendly conditions at Rangers Ballpark, this club should never post league-average offensive numbers as it did in 2013.
Choo would thrive at the plate while occupying left field.
Toronto Blue Jays: Controllable Starting Pitching
The Toronto Blue Jays have enough resources to pursue any starting pitcher on the market, but they should be focused on getting younger.
Co-rotation leaders R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle will pitch this coming season at ages 39 and 35, respectively. Perhaps they can stay healthy for the duration of their contracts, but neither is going to generate many swings-and-misses against AL East competition.
Brandon Morrow has spent most of the past two summers on the disabled list, and several other rotation candidates also have ugly injury histories.
Ideal Target: Jeff Samardzija
The Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer reports that Samardzija's market has been drying up. Two once-sensible fits, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Washington Nationals, no longer appear to be logical trade partners for the Chicago Cubs.
The asking price is bound to come down, potentially opening the door for Toronto to acquire Shark without relinquishing a can't-miss pitching prospect.
Washington Nationals: Left-Handed Reliever
Newly acquired Jerry Blevins bolsters the Washington Nationals bullpen. He represents a step in the right direction, but he hardly resolves their issues against left-handed batters.
The veteran southpaw actually posted reverse platoon splits in 2013.
The Nats still seek a specialist who can come in to neutralize Freddie Freeman or the Cincinnati Reds' duo of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Ideal Target: Scott Downs
With Javier Lopez and Boone Logan off the market, Downs is Washington's safest bet.
Entering his age-38 season, he won't have the same three-year contract expectations that they did.
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.