Adjusting Every MLB Team's Offseason Goals Post-Trade Deadline
This year's MLB trade deadline not only changed the MLB landscape for the remainder of the 2014 season, but it also will have an impact on the upcoming offseason.
The biggest impact will obviously be with the Detroit Tigers and the impending free agency of Max Scherzer, who could now be headed elsewhere, with the team turning its attention to signing newly acquired David Price long term instead.
Other teams were affected by the July wheelings and dealings as well, but each team still has at least one area of focus once the offseason rolls around.
So here is a look at every MLB team's offseason goals following one of the most eventful trade deadlines in recent memory.
- Re-sign Nelson Cruz or find a way to replace his production
The Baltimore Orioles struck gold with the one-year, $8 million deal they signed Nelson Cruz to this past offseason, and it's safe to assume he won't come nearly as cheap this winter.
While the team would no doubt love to have him back, there's a good chance he finds greener pastures elsewhere, and that could leave the Orioles with a hole in the middle of their lineup.
Whether it is bringing back Cruz, signing someone else, pulling off a trade or finding a way to get Chris Davis back to his 2013 form, figuring out a way to keep from losing that production in the middle of the order will be key.
- Renegotiate with Nick Markakis
Outfielder Nick Markakis has been a staple in right field for the Orioles since he debuted back in 2006, and while he is no longer a 100-RBI threat in the middle of the lineup, he's turned himself into a nice on-base threat atop the lineup.
The team holds a $17.5 million option with a $2 million buyout for the 2015 season, a steep price to pay for someone who is essentially a 2.0 WAR player at this point in his career.
Declining that option to negotiate a new two- or three-year deal seems like the best move for the Orioles, and there's a good chance they'll be willing to pay more than he'd get on the open market, so it's a win for Markakis as well.
- Decide whether Manny Machado moves to shortstop
When Manny Machado was first called up and stuck on third base, it was out of necessity. Roughly two years later, he has turned into a Gold Glove third baseman, but incumbent shortstop J.J. Hardy is headed for free agency in the offseason.
Hardy has seen his offensive production drop this year, with a .663 OPS and just four home runs, so unless the O's can get him to re-sign for cheap, they will likely let him walk.
That leaves the team with a big decision to make about whether Machado moves back to his natural shortstop position for the remainder of his career or stays on the hot corner, where he's perhaps the best in the game defensively.
Boston Red Sox
- Re-sign SP Jon Lester
The Boston Red Sox kicked into full fire-sale mode at the deadline, dealing a number of guys who played key roles in their title run a year ago, but no trade was bigger than that of ace Jon Lester.
A member of the Boston organization since he was selected in the second round of the 2002 draft, Lester and the team were unable to come to terms on an extension in the offseason and a few times in-season. So when the Red Sox became clear sellers, he was their most valuable chip.
He's nothing more than a rental for the low-budget Oakland A's, so he'll almost certainly hit the open market this winter. Expect the Red Sox to make every effort to bring him back, but they will need to come up significantly from what was reportedly a four-year, $70-$80 million offer in the offseason.
- Extend OF Yoenis Cespedes
If the Red Sox can find a way to pull off No. 1 and No. 2 on this list, it would make their August blockbuster an absolute slam dunk. In that case, they would have essentially loaned Lester out for two months for the price of a terrific young bat in Yoenis Cespedes.
The Cuban-born slugger signed a four-year, $36 million deal prior to the 2012 season, and according to the terms of his contract, he is ineligible for the arbitration process and moves straight to free agency once the deal is over.
His salary is $10.5 million, and it will likely take a decent bump in average annual value over at least four years to get the 28-year-old to re-up in Boston.
- Re-sign RP Koji Uehara
One trade chip the Red Sox opted to hold on to is All-Star closer Koji Uehara, and it was with intention of making every effort to re-sign him at the end of the season.
The 39-year-old is working on the second year of a two-year, $9.25 million deal this year, and while a three-year deal seems reasonable for both sides, expect his salary to roughly double.
New York Yankees
- Find a replacement for Derek Jeter
Obviously, there is no replacing what Derek Jeter meant to the New York Yankees organization, but the team will physically have to replace the legendary captain on the field when he retires at the end of the season.
As far as internal options, Brendan Ryan is under contract for next season, but he's best suited as a defensive replacement off the bench.
Expect the Yankees to make a serious run at Hanley Ramirez if the Los Angels Dodgers allow him to hit the open market. If he winds up not being available, bringing back deadline acquisition Stephen Drew and returning him to shortstop may wind up being their best option.
- Sign at least one frontline starting pitcher
If Masahiro Tanaka does wind up needing surgery, he won't be ready for the start of the 2015 season and could in fact wind up missing the entire year.
Ivan Nova will also be recovering from TJ surgery when the season starts and CC Sabathia may never be the same. Add to that the injury history of Michael Pineda, and the team's returning options are shaky at best.
Hiroki Kuroda will again need to decide between re-upping on a one-year deal or returning to Japan, while deadline pickup Brandon McCarthy may wind up being a candidate to be re-signed if he keeps pitching like he has.
Either way, the team looks to have nothing in the way of a reliable veteran arm heading into next season, and it will need to go outside of the organization to address that fact.
Tampa Bay Rays
- Extend SP Alex Cobb with a team-friendly deal
More than perhaps any other team in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to extend their high-end young starting pitching before they become too involved in the arbitration process.
Matt Moore (five-year, $14 million, plus three option years), Wade Davis (four-year, $12.6 million, plus three option years) and Chris Archer (six-year, $25.5 million, plus two option years) all received long-term deals early in their careers, and Alex Cobb would seem like the logical next choice to extend.
The 26-year-old broke out last season when he went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 22 starts, and he's been strong once again this year at 7-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 16 starts.
Cobb will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming offseason, so extending him now and avoiding the process altogether would follow the Rays' recent strategy for locking up their young pitching talent.
- Find the next relief pitcher reclamation project
The Rays did a great job picking over the free-agent scraps to sign the likes of Kyle Farnsworth, Fernando Rodney, Jamey Wright and Juan Cruz over the past few seasons. However, the additions of Heath Bell (13 G, 7.27 ERA) and Grant Balfour (43 G, 4.79 ERA) this past offseason did not work out quite as favorably.
Jake McGee has done a terrific job stepping in as closer, and the duo of Joel Peralta and Brad Boxberger will also be back next year, but the team will need to again search for bargains to fill out the pen around them.
Toronto Blue Jays
- Re-sign Melky Cabrera
After a disappointing first season in Toronto in which he hit just .279/.322/.360 with just 20 extra-base hits in 344 at-bats, Melky Cabrera has bounced back with another big contract year.
Signed to a two-year, $16 million deal by the Blue Jays, Cabrera is hitting .309/.359/.475 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs, 59 RBI and 70 runs scored on the season.
He will no doubt be due a raise over his current salary, but he still carries the stigma of having been suspended for PEDs, so he may not be as expensive as some might think. He's the team's biggest free agent, and he'd be tough to replace on a market expected to be thin on bats.
- Bridge the gap to Dalton Pompey in center field
Incumbent center fielder Colby Rasmus is a free agent at season's end, and while he is not having a good year by any means, with a .219/.281/.441 line, there will likely still be someone willing to give him a multiyear deal based on upside.
That someone probably won't be the Blue Jays, as they will instead be looking for a stopgap option until 21-year-old Dalton Pompey is ready to take over the job.
Pompey was a 16th-round pick out of high school in 2010, and he has hit .312/.392/.468 with 36 steals between High-A and Double-A this year. He's probably at least a year away still, but he looks like the real deal and has the potential to be an impact leadoff hitter.
Anthony Gose would likely get the first crack among incumbent options, but look for the team to also target second-tier free-agent options to fill the position in 2015.
Chicago White Sox
- Unload 2B Gordon Beckham
The Chicago White Sox have given Gordon Beckham every opportunity to turn into the player they expected him to be when he was taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2008 draft, but it's time to cut ties.
The 27-year-old is hitting .226/.271/.357 on the year and is entering his final year of arbitration after earning $4.175 million this season.
Whether it is trading him or simply non-tendering him, there is no reason he should be playing over prospects Carlos Sanchez and Micah Johnson at this point.
- Look for buy-low starting pitching candidates
The White Sox took a chance on signing Felipe Paulino to a one-year, $1.75 million this past offseason after he missed all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery. That move didn't pay off, but the team should continue trying to find diamonds in the rough on the pitching side of things to fill out the rotation behind Chris Sale and Jose Quintana.
The crosstown Chicago Cubs have done a nice job plucking Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel from the scrapheap the past two season on one-year deals, and those are the kinds of players the White Sox should be looking at as well.
- Explore a Corey Kluber extension
After posting strong numbers to little fanfare in 2013, Corey Kluber has officially broken out here in 2014, as he's gone 11-6 with a 2.61 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 158.1 innings of work.
The 28-year-old still has another season on the cheap before he reaches arbitration for the first time in 2016, but the team could make a move now to extend him.
The five-year, $35 million deal Madison Bumgarner signed with one pre-arbitration year left may be the best comparison, but it's worth noting that Kluber is six years older than Bumgarner was when he signed his extension.
- Sign/acquire a veteran starting pitcher
With Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir departing in free agency last offseason and Justin Masterson traded at the deadline, the Indians starting rotation looks significantly different from the one that helped lead them to the playoffs in 2013.
Corey Kluber has emerged as a bona fide ace, and the trio of Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and T.J. House all look to have bright futures ahead of them prior to their age-25 seasons, but the team could really use another veteran to slide into the No. 2 spot.
Perhaps a reunion with Bartolo Colon could be a short-term option on the trade market, as the New York Mets were actively trying to move him and his $11 million salary for 2015 at the trade deadline. Both Bauer and Salazar still have front-line upside, so it may just be a matter of allowing them another year to develop.
- Decide between Max Scherzer and David Price
The Detroit Tigers' move to acquire David Price at the trade deadline makes them an awfully dangerous team for this year, but it also adds an interesting wrinkle to the Max Scherzer situation.
Scherzer declined a six-year, $144 million extension offer prior to the start of this season, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. Ridiculous as it sounds to turn down that kind of money, there's a good chance he gets more on the open market this winter.
The decision to trade Prince Fielder and Doug Fister this past offseason looked to be immediately tied to the team's wishes to re-sign Scherzer, but now that Price is in the fold, the Tigers could turn their attention to a long-term deal with him instead.
Price is two years younger than Scherzer and has a longer track record of success. He has one year of arbitration remaining, in which he'll likely earn around $20 million, giving the Tigers a good-sized window with which to negotiate an extension.
- Re-sign DH Victor Martinez
Aside from Scherzer, the team also has the free agency of Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter to address this coming winter. The Tigers could look to bring the 39-year-old Hunter back on a short-term deal, but Martinez is a much more significant case.
The 35-year-old has had a phenomenal season stepping into the role of protecting Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup, hitting .321/.381/.567 with 23 home runs and 65 RBI. That being said, his days of catching are essentially over (he's caught just five games the past two years), so his status as a DH/first baseman does cut into his overall value a bit.
David Ortiz signed a two-year, $26 million deal prior to the 2013 season, and while Martinez could get as many as four years, the $13 million AAV seems about right and would be a slight bump from his $12 million salary this year.
Kansas City Royals
- Replace James Shields
There is no question that the Kansas City Royals would love to keep James Shields, but the chances they will be able to compete with what he will get on the open market are slim. Expect him to turn down a qualifying offer and sign on with the highest bidder this coming offseason.
That means the team will need to find a replacement for him in the rotation on the free-agent market—and one that will come for significantly less than the six figures Shields could command.
The Royals did a great job in a similar situation last offseason, signing Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million deal to take the spot vacated by free agent Ervin Santana.
- Sign/acquire a right fielder with some power
A lack of thump in the middle of the order has been perhaps the biggest issue in Kansas City this season, and the team ranks dead last in MLB with just 62 home runs on the year.
Right field is the obvious area to upgrade, with offseason acquisition Nori Aoki headed for free agency and no clear replacement for him in-house unless the Royals give Jarrod Dyson (1 HR, 187 AB) everyday at-bats.
Nelson Cruz will be the top power bat on the market if he doesn't re-sign in Baltimore, while Michael Cuddyer and Michael Morse are also capable of providing some right-handed pop.
- Find a low-cost replacement for Josh Willingham
The Minnesota Twins remain a team with an eye on the future, so chances are they won't be looking to spend big in free agency. That being said, looking for a low-cost power bat to replace free agent Josh Willingham in left field seems like their biggest area of need.
Someone like Michael Morse would be a nice fit on a two-year deal if he doesn't re-sign with the San Francisco Giants.
Whether he winds up being the target or not remains to be seen, but the team will need to find someone who can step into the everyday left field job and who is capable of hitting in the cleanup spot in the order.
- Sign a mid-level starting pitcher
Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes received the two largest free-agent deals in team history last offseason, and the results have been mixed at best.
Hughes had a nice stretch of starts in the first half, but he's fallen off a bit of late and is currently 10-8 with a 4.12 ERA in 22 starts on the year. He looks like a stud compared to Nolasco, though, as he's gone 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA in 18 starts after agreeing to a four-year, $48 million deal.
Kevin Correia is set to hit free agency at the end of the year, and while the team is unlikely to spend big again with guys like Alex Meyer and Trevor May waiting in the wings, bringing in a mid-level veteran on a short-term deal would help ease those guys into the mix.
- Find the next Collin McHugh
As they continue to wait on the development of their high-end young talent, the Houston Astros will likely stick to bargain hunting once again this offseason, and they struck gold with their waiver claim of Collin McHugh last December.
McHugh was 0-8 with an 8.94 ERA in 47.1 big league innings with the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies between 2012 and 2013, so there was little reason to think he'd make any sort of big league impact when the Astros claimed him.
Instead, he's made 16 starts and gone 4-9 with a 3.32 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 95 innings in Houston this season. Expect the team to look for similar bargains through free agency and waivers this offseason, though it will be hard to top McHugh.
- Unload DH Chris Carter
With Jon Singleton establishing himself as the everyday first baseman, Chris Carter has become more or less expendable in Houston. The 27-year-old led the team with 29 home runs and 82 RBI in 2013, but he also hit just .223/.320/.451 with 212 strikeouts in 506 at-bats in the process.
He's again leading the team with 22 home runs and 52 RBI, but his slash line has dropped to .219/.294/.480, and he's still striking out at a hefty 31.6 percent rate.
Right-handed power is hard to come by these days, so Carter still has some value on the trade market. Dealing him this winter rather than paying out what will likely be a decent raise in his first year of arbitration seems like a solid move.
Los Angeles Angels
- Explore a Garrett Richards extension
After splitting the 2013 season between the bullpen and rotation, Garrett Richards has established himself as the Los Angeles Angels' best starter this year.
The 26-year-old is 11-4 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 143 strikeouts in 144.1 innings of work, and he was perhaps the biggest All-Star Game snub in either league.
He's set to hit arbitration for the first time this coming offseason, so now seems like it would be the time to start talking about an extension. Team-friendly deals to buy out arbitration years and a couple free agency years have become the norm around the league, and Richards has earned that sort of consideration.
- Sign a late-inning reliever
The Angels gave up a lot to land San Diego Padres closer Huston Street, but he was well worth the price given what a glaring need the closer's spot was and the fact that he has a $7 million team option for next year.
Joe Smith and Kevin Jepsen will also be back next season, but the team will be losing Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher in free agency, so signing another veteran reliever to keep the bullpen from again becoming an issue seems wise.
- Re-sign Jed Lowrie or sign Asdrubal Cabrera
With limited production at second base and a virtually nonexistent free-agent market at the position, the Oakland A's can't afford to let shortstop become a black hole offensively as well.
Jed Lowrie (.240/.319/.353, 5 HR, 41 RBI) has not been nearly as good as he was last season (.290/.344/.446, 15 HR, 75 RBI), but he is still probably the best option out there for the A's.
If they don't keep Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera is really the only other viable everyday guy at the position, unless they decide a reunion with Stephen Drew is of interest. Cabrera is playing second base for the Washington Nationals right now, but he will no doubt be looking for someone willing to play him back at shortstop on an everyday basis in 2015.
Top prospect Addison Russell looked like the heir apparent to Lowrie at shortstop, but he was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija deal.
- Sign a right-handed-hitting run producer
Adding Austin Jackson at the trade deadline shores up what was a glaring hole in center field for the Seattle Mariners, but they still lack a right-handed run producer to hit between Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the lineup.
Nelson Cruz would have filled that void perfectly had the team pulled the trigger on signing him in the offseason, and it may be worth taking a run at him once again if he doesn't re-sign with the Orioles.
Otherwise, Michael Cuddyer may be the most attractive option to provide some punch out of the cleanup spot. The hope was that free-agent signing Corey Hart could be that guy this season, but he has hit just .203/.278/.314 with five home runs and 20 RBI on the year.
- Explore a Kyle Seager extension
After quietly averaging a .260/.327/.424 line with 21 home runs and 78 RBI over the previous two seasons, Kyle Seager has finally started to get some recognition this year, making the All-Star team for the first time.
The 26-year-old is hitting .275/.341/.474 with 16 home runs and 67 RBI. He's also been one of the better defensive third basemen in the league, with 10 DRS (sixth among 3B) and an 11.2 UZR/150 (fourth), according to FanGraphs.
He's first-time arbitration-eligible this winter, and seeing as he's clearly established himself as a core piece in Seattle, something like a five-year extension to buy out his arbitration and a few free-agency years seems like a good deal.
- Sign a durable starting pitcher or four
A grand total of 13 different pitchers have started a game for the Texas Rangers this season, and Yu Darvish is the only one with more than 20 starts or an ERA under 4.00 to his credit.
Martin Perez looked like he was headed for a breakout year before he was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery in May. Meanwhile, the future of Matt Harrison remains cloudy at best, and Derek Holland has yet to return from offseason knee surgery.
A lot of the Rangers' problems this season can be blamed on injury, but the fact is they just don't have very good starting pitching.
Signing another veteran who can be counted on to make 30-plus starts and throw 200-plus innings is an absolute must, because outside of Darvish, it really doesn't look like they have a sure thing to even be part of the rotation in 2015.
- Add a bullpen arm or two
The Rangers got a terrific return on closer Joakim Soria when they traded him to the Detroit Tigers, and they also managed to move setup man Jason Frasor in a trade with the Kansas City Royals. However, with those two guys gone and Neal Cotts also headed for free agency, the bullpen will need some retooling this coming offseason.
Neftali Feliz is back in the closer's role, and Shawn Tolleson (45 G, 3.31 ERA, 1.22 WHIP) is quietly having a solid season, but beyond those two, it's a patchwork group of unproven arms.
- Add a front-line starting pitcher
The Atlanta Braves have a budding ace atop their rotation in Julio Teheran, but the rest of their rotation is something of a question mark moving forward.
Mike Minor has struggled to a 5.42 ERA in 17 starts, Alex Wood has split time between the rotation and bullpen once again and both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will be working to recover from their second Tommy John surgeries.
Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd and Aaron Harang are all free agents at the end of the year, and while the team could look to bring one or more of them back, none of them really qualify as a strong No. 2 starter option.
If this team wants to get over the hump and legitimately contend for a title, it will have to start with improving its rotation at the top.
- Explore a Giancarlo Stanton extension
Prior to the deadline, picking up another controllable starting pitcher to fill out the rotation would have topped this list, but the Miami Marlins pulled off a trade for Houston Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart, so that is checked off the to-do list.
With no significant free agents and no glaring hole on the roster that is easily upgraded, the focus of the offseason could be on locking up superstar right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.
That would put an end to the incessant and baseless trade rumors once and for all, and with Stanton set to for his second year of arbitration and a hefty raise from his current $6.5 million salary, now may be the time to do it.
It would be a significant investment for the Marlins, but it's one they have to make if they are serious about making a run at sustained contention. Still just 24, Stanton is one of the game's brightest young stars, and getting him to commit to the franchise would be a big step toward making the Marlins a franchise to be reckoned with long term.
New York Mets
- Figure out a long-term answer at shortstop
With top prospect Gavin Cecchini struggling in High-A and Ruben Tejada (.228/.350/.281) doing little to prove he can be the everyday option, shortstop remains a glaring hole for the Mets.
The free-agent market is fairly thin behind Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera, but neither of those guys really represents long-term answers at the position anyway, so the Mets may need to turn to the trade market.
Didi Gregorius remains a dispensable piece in Arizona, while the Chicago Cubs now have a stockpile of good young shortstop talent and could be persuaded to trade by some of the Mets' impressive starting pitching depth.
- Trade SP Bartolo Colon
With Matt Harvey returning from injury and both Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero expected to challenge for rotation spots next year, the Mets could have as many as eight legitimate candidates competing for five rotation spots next spring.
It was no surprise then that they were aggressively shopping Bartolo Colon at the trade deadline. While the market never really developed for the big right-hander, it's something they will no doubt attempt once again this winter.
The 41-year-old is 10-9 with a 4.12 ERA over a team-high 146.1 innings of work this season, but his $11 million salary for next year likely scared more than a few teams off that were looking for short-term help. That's a lot to commit to someone his age, but teams could be more willing to pull the trigger in the offseason.
- Start rebuilding
It will be interesting to see if sitting on his hands at the trade deadline will be the final straw for general manager Ruben Amaro in Philadelphia, as this is a team that desperately needs a complete teardown and rebuild, and it may have to start at the top.
The Philadelphia Phillies have $100.5 million committed to seven players who will be 34 or older for next season, and outside of maybe outfielder Marlon Byrd, there may not be a movable piece in that bunch unless they are willing to eat significant salary.
At this point, that may be what it takes.
Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins have full no-trade rights, but eating significant chunks of what's still owed to Ryan Howard ($60 million with buyout), Cliff Lee ($37.5 million with buyout) and Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million plus $13 million vesting option) and unloading them could finally get the wheels turning on a long-overdue rebuild.
- Find a proven left-handed reliever
The Nationals have a fairly complete roster top to bottom and no significant players headed for free agency, provided Adam LaRoche exercises his end of a $15 million mutual option.
One area that has been a weakness the past two seasons, however, is left-handed relief pitching. It's something that should be able to be addressed through free agency this winter, with a number of solid options expected to be available, led by Andrew Miller.
The unproven duo of Fernando Abad and Ian Krol handled southpaw duties in 2013, while it's been Jerry Blevins and ousted starter Ross Detwiler handling things this season.
This team stacks up with any in the National League when healthy, but if there is one area that needs to be addressed, it's left-handed bullpen help.
- Sign Shohei Otani if he makes the jump to the MLB
The Cubs may finally be in a position to take a step forward in the rebuilding process next year, but a lack of front-line starting pitching remains their biggest hole moving forward.
The emergence of Jake Arrieta this year has been huge, and it looks like Kyle Hendricks can be a nice complementary piece alongside Travis Wood, but if this team is going to legitimately contend for a title some time soon, it will need to add a legitimate ace.
Perhaps a run at 20-year-old Shohei Otani, the consensus top pitcher in Japan now that Masahiro Tanaka has come stateside, could give the team the young ace it so desperately needs.
Otani is 9-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 105 innings of work on the year, despite just turning 20 at the beginning of July.
He has also seen time in the outfield, hitting .281/.338/.486 with 13 doubles and five home runs in 146 at-bats, which speaks to the kind of athlete he is.
- Decide where Javier Baez and Kris Bryant will play defensively
The duo of Kris Bryant and Javier Baez may not see much time in Chicago this year, but they could step into everyday job early on in 2015, and they figure to be a huge part of the team's future success.
Bryant is currently playing third base, but there are some questions as to whether he will stick there long term or move to a corner outfield spot.
Baez is a shortstop by trade, but he's blocked by Starlin Castro in the majors and also has to contend with recently acquired Addison Russell who is viewed as a better fielder. He could wind up moving to either second or third base for the long haul.
It may not seem like the most pressing of needs, but figuring out where these guys are going to play prior to the start of the season could help make their transition to an everyday job in the big leagues a little easier.
- Trade a starting pitcher
The Cincinnati Reds should still find themselves in a position to contend next season, but that doesn't mean they won't look to trade one of their starters this coming offseason.
With Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon all set to hit free agency after the 2015 season, there are some rather significant decisions looming.
After signing Homer Bailey to a big-money deal last offseason, and with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips all signed through at least 2017 and making a ton of money combined, there's a good chance the team won't be able to afford both Cueto and Latos long term.
The team was reportedly "dangling" Latos at the trade deadline, though its asking price was understandably very high, and he wound up staying put.
He could end up being the odd man out, and moving him this offseason for a return similar to what the Kansas City Royals got for James Shields is not out of the question.
- Figure out a long-term answer at first base
With a platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay, the Milwaukee Brewers have gotten a .219/.302/.377 line out of the first base position. That's a .678 OPS, which ranks 23rd in the MLB at the position.
It's worth noting that Reynolds has also seen time at third base this year, and he's hitting .211/.303/.428 with 19 home runs overall on the season.
Both guys are headed for free agency after signing one-year deals in the offseason, so the Brewers will be searching for an answer at first base once again this winter.
Hunter Morris remains their best in-house option, but he has been sidelined since the beginning of July with a broken arm. The 25-year-old was hitting .274/.316/.444 with 17 doubles and 10 home runs in 288 at-bats in Triple-A.
- Address the bullpen
With closer Francisco Rodriguez and setup man Zach Duke both headed for free agency, the Brewers will also need to address the bullpen this coming offseason.
Brandon Kintzler and Will Smith will be back as reliable veteran arms, but neither of them is really a candidate to close, so the team will either need to re-up with K-Rod or find itself another closer.
Duke (52 G, 1.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, .205 BAA) signed a one-year, $850,000 deal in the offseason. The team will likely make every effort to keep him around, but he's earned a multiyear deal and a substantial raise.
- Re-sign C Russell Martin
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review predicted back in June that it would take a three-year, $39 million deal to re-sign Russell Martin this offseason. If that's the case, or if it's something in that neighborhood, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to pull the trigger.
Martin signed a two-year, $17 million deal to join the team last season, and he's been a fantastic addition. He's missed some time this year, but the 31-year-old is hitting .281/.409/.383 with 41 RBI in 69 games on the year.
With Kurt Suzuki extended by the Minnesota Twins, the free-agent market at catcher will be led by guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Geovany Soto and David Ross, so Martin seems well worth the cost to re-sign.
- Upgrade at first base
Like the Brewers, the Pirates have employed a platoon at first base this season with less-than-stellar results.
Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez have teamed up to hit .228/.313/.362 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI on the season, putting them 24th in the MLB at the position with a .675 OPS. Davis and Sanchez are both arbitration-eligible, and after making a combined $5.8 million this season, they will likely be even more expensive next year.
Ideally, the team could non-tender both and sign a legitimate everyday option, but Michael Morse looks like the only viable option on the free-agent market, and he's a prime candidate to be re-signed in San Francisco.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Explore a Lance Lynn extension
The St. Louis Cardinals really have no glaring needs to address this offseason like they did at shortstop last winter, and their only notable free agents are second baseman Mark Ellis and newly acquired starter Justin Masterson.
Insuring John Lackey will in fact play for his $500,000 option will be important, but so far he claims he will, according to Ryan Fagan of Sporting News.
I’m absolutely going to (pitch for that amount), as long as I stay healthy, yeah. I’ll be out there getting after it. Obviously it was case-by-case. I mean, it would have been a harder decision other places, for sure, but this is definitely somewhere I wanted to be, and I’m excited about it.
That leaves no clear area of focus for the Cardinals this winter, but they could start talks on an extension for right-hander Lance Lynn.
The team has a history of locking guys up well before they are set to hit free agency, and the 27-year-old Lynn will be first-time arbitration-eligible this coming offseason. He's in the middle of a great season, going 11-8 with a 2.98 ERA in 22 starts.
With Joe Kelly traded, Shelby Miller struggling with consistency and Michael Wacha battling a shoulder injury, he's become as important to the team's success as anyone on the roster.
- Figure out third base
With Matt Davidson traded last offseason and Martin Prado shipped to the New York Yankees at the trade deadline, the Arizona Diamondbacks will need to sort out the future at the hot corner this offseason.
Prospect Jake Lamb is a solid in-house option, hitting .324/.402/.563 with 36 doubles, 15 home runs and 81 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A this year.
However, the team may decide to sign a veteran stopgap in the offseason and let Lamb start the year in the minors.
- Add a front-line starting pitcher
The Diamondbacks have some solid, controllable young arms in Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson and the recently-acquired Vidal Nuno to compete for rotation spots next season. They should also have 2013 All-Star Patrick Corbin back atop the rotation after he was lost in March to Tommy John surgery.
Throw in top prospect Archie Bradley, who was expected to make an impact this season but was slowed by elbow soreness in the first half, and there are plenty of rotation options in Arizona.
That said, adding a veteran arm to front the staff still looks to be a necessity if the Diamondbacks hope to contend in the NL West for the upcoming season.
- Re-sign SP Jorge De La Rosa
The Colorado Rockies made it clear how highly they valued left-hander Jorge De La Rosa at the trade deadline when they reportedly asked for Kevin Gausman when the Baltimore Orioles showed interest.
He's one of the few pitchers who has had consistent success at Coors Field through the years, going 42-14 with a 4.06 ERA in 77 games (72 starts) in his career.
He earns $11 million this season in the final year of his contract, and bringing him back with a slight raise on something like a three-year, $36 million deal makes sense for the pitching-starved Rockies.
- Sign another capable starting pitcher
Bringing back De La Rosa would be a nice first step, and the continued progression of top prospects Jon Gray and Eddie Butler should help the rotation moving forward, but the Rockies still have some decisions to make about the starting staff.
Jordan Lyles, Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin have all shown flashes over the past couple years and are all under team control for next year, but they have struggled to stay healthy over the years.
The Rockies also hold a $12 million option on left-hander Brett Anderson, who has dealt with injuries this season as well—and throughout his career, for that matter.
Getting healthy and staying healthy would obviously help this staff dramatically, but with a 5.07 starter's ERA on the year, simply relying on the in-house talent is not going to cut it.
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Re-sign SS Hanley Ramirez
Despite injuries limiting him to just 86 games, Hanley Ramirez had a huge season in 2013, hitting .345/.402/.638 with 25 doubles and 20 home runs to finish eighth in NL MVP voting. His production is down across the board this year to .273/.366/.457 with 26 doubles and 12 home runs in 94 games. That's still high-end production at the shortstop position, though, as his .823 OPS is second only to Troy Tulowitzki among all qualified shortstops.
He's not going to come cheap, but the Los Angeles Dodgers really have no choice but to pony up and bring him back. Top prospect Corey Seager is still at least a year away and may very well end up at third base long term.
Ramirez's below-average defense cuts into his value on the open market to a point, but he should get something well north of the six-year, $106 million deal Jose Reyes received prior to the 2012 season.
- Sort out the outfield logjam
One way or another, the Dodgers are going to have to find a way to open up a spot for Joc Pederson in 2015. The 22-year-old is hitting .308/.435/.567 with 23 home runs and 25 steals at Triple-A this year, and the team has to give him a chance to develop into a star.
Yasiel Puig is locked into one starting spot for the foreseeable future, but the team has three high-priced veterans clogging up the roster alongside him.
Money continues to be a significant hurdle in moving Matt Kemp (5/$107 million), Carl Crawford (3/$62.25) and Andrew Ethier (3/$54.5).
At this point, the team may simply have to suck it up and eat the bulk of money it still owes both Crawford and Ethier, simply to cut ties and open up a spot for Pederson.
San Diego Padres
- Find a way to add some offensive firepower
Despite the fact that they currently lead the National League with a 3.10 team ERA, the San Diego Padres sit 10 games under .500 and well out of the playoff race due to an offense that's scoring an MLB-low 3.22 runs per game.
Their core pieces of Jedd Gyorko, Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal have not progressed as hoped, and outside of outfielder Seth Smith, their lineup has put up below-average production on a player-by-player basis.
Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy are a solid one-two punch atop the rotation, and they will be joined by a healthy Andrew Cashner next season. With emergence of Odrisamer Despaigne and Jesse Hahn behind them, the rotation should be a strength once again next season.
The Padres have all of the constraints of a small-market team and are dealing with a changing of the guard in the front office, but somehow, they need to find a way to add an impact bat or two this winter.
That could be enough to make San Diego a dark-horse contender for a wild-card spot in 2015.
- Explore an Ian Kennedy extension
The Padres bought low on right-hander Ian Kennedy at the 2013 trade deadline, acquiring him from the Diamondbacks for reliever Joe Thatcher, and that move has paid major dividends this year.
In 23 starts, he's gone 8-9 with a 3.59 ERA (3.11 FIP) and 150 strikeouts in 140.1 innings of work. As a result, there was plenty of interest in the 29-year-old at the trade deadline, but the Padres opted to hold on to him.
Kennedy made $6.1 million this season and has one year of arbitration left, but the Padres may want to start exploring what it would take to get an extension done this coming offseason.
San Francisco Giants
- Re-sign Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse
The San Francisco Giants have focused heavily on re-signing their own free agents the past few years, handing out extensions to Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro since the start of 2012.
That leaves Pablo Sandoval as the only real core piece not signed long term, and he is set to hit the open market this winter. In a thin market for bats, he'll be one of the most sought-after players available, so it wouldn't be surprising to see the Giants look to lock him up early like they did with Pence last offseason.
The team should also look to bring back Michael Morse, who has been a terrific find on a one-year, $6 million deal and has given the team some added pop it's been missing in years past. The Giants won't overpay to keep him, but bringing him back on something like a two-year, $18 million deal seems reasonable.
- Add a late-inning reliever to replace Sergio Romo
Sandoval and Morse are not the only notable free agents for the Giants this coming offseason, as ousted closer Sergio Romo is also set to hit the open market.
Romo was one of the top closers in baseball entering the season, but he is just 22-of-27 on save chances with a 4.83 ERA on the season. The team has turned closer duties over to Santiago Casilla as a result, and chances are the Giants will let Romo walk in the offseason.
Casilla has done a solid job and could hold onto the job next season. However, adding another late-inning arm to the mix to improve the pen as a whole makes sense.
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