Baseball's winter meetings provide opportunities for teams like the Seattle Mariners to make big changes and spend lots of money on brand-new superstars.
For other teams, the meetings are not nearly as dramatic. If a team was solid last season, it might not really need to do a whole lot right now. Maybe most of its key players are still under contract and it doesn't have an awful lot of payroll flexibility. It could even be possible that teams will try to do something major, even when they really don't need to.
For these reasons and others, here are five teams that really don’t need to take any major risks at the winter meetings.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had a miraculous comeback last season. They were at the brink of firing manager Don Mattingly following the team’s underwhelming start to the season, but came storming back and nearly made it to the World Series.
Most of the team is coming back next season. Among those who will not, however, is Ricky Nolasco, who has already signed elsewhere. Michael Young could also find a new home, along with Juan Uribe and Mark Ellis. However, even though these players did play important roles on the team, they are certainly not superstars.
Beyond that, considering that Matt Kemp should be returning to at least decent form next season, the Dodgers don’t really have many holes that need to be filled. They will be a serious World Series contender next year without any major moves.
Let’s stay in the same city. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim do not need to make any major moves in my opinion because they have done too much of that already. They are heavily committed to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols for the long term.
They do not need to take any more major risks. Rather, they need the players who they have already rolled the dice on to start paying off. The answer to that problem is not simply throwing more money at new players.
I don’t envy the position that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are in, but if you consider what the Angels could do if their talent begins to produce like it should, there is some hope for 2014 without another major deal.
The Kansas City Royals might only be concerned about signing Ervin Santana at the winter meetings.
They don’t need to make a major financial commitment to any other free agent, though. Santana will not really be that big of a risk, and the Royals, quite frankly, don’t need to worry about anyone else.
Last season, there were definite signs of progress. The Royals were actually competitive and most of their nucleus is still relatively young. It is more important that the money is available to sign James Shields next winter.
Right now, the Royals need to continue to mature. Rather than burn their money on a risky free agent, I would accept the natural progression of Kansas City players like Wil Myers, conserve the money to bring back Shields next winter and not take too many risks at this point.
I am about to lay out some advice for the Houston Astros, but it really applies to any team that finds themselves in a serious rebuilding phase.
The Miami Marlins recently decided that they were going to rebuild as well, and as you recall, they went out and spent big money on José Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buerhle. It didn’t work out so well. The Toronto Blue Jays did a similar thing last year and tried to rebuild their entire team in one winter. Not surprisingly, that didn’t go too well either.
I like what the Astros are doing. They are getting solid pieces in place like Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman. They are putting players in positions where they can make a difference, and they clearly understand that it takes a full team to win. These moves are not groundbreaking or even risky, but they are solid, and I am glad to see it.
I know I just got done saying that the Toronto Blue Jays made really bad decisions last winter. They did. However, now is not the time for the Blue Jays to start about taking any more long-term risks. They are kind of like the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in that respect.
Both franchises are relying on a few established starting pitchers who need to be supported by some more inexperienced arms at the bottom of the rotation. Both teams have strong lineups, but need their stars to produce much more than they did last season.
These kinds of problems are not solved by making high-risk moves at the winter meetings. They are solved by exercising solid judgments regarding the end of their rotations—not by spending money recklessly just because they have to spend it.