The MLB Team Most Desperate to Acquire Each Star Winter-Meetings Target

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2017

The MLB Team Most Desperate to Acquire Each Star Winter-Meetings Target

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    The MLB winter meetings are in full swing at the Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. Tires are being kicked. Agents and general managers are glued to their phones. 

    As we await word on the freshest swaps and signings, let's take a look at the top nine stars available via free agency or trade, according to the latest credible rumors, and which clubs are most desperate to acquire them.

    Each player will have multiple suitors, obviously, but we're looking for the franchise with the greatest mix of need and resources, coupled with a dollop of gut feeling.

    We'll begin with the market's top closer and end with a superstar infielder who could be the ultimate one-year rental.

RHP Wade Davis: Colorado Rockies

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    Wade Davis was among the best relievers in baseball last season, as he nailed down 32 saves while posting a 2.30 ERA and 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings for the Chicago Cubs.

    The 32-year-old should field an array of offers, but look for the Colorado Rockies to make an especially aggressive push.

    The Rockies' bullpen lowered its ERA from 5.13 in 2016 to 4.40 in 2017, yet Colorado already lost All-Star right-hander Pat Neshek to free agency. Left-handed setup man Jake McGee and closer Greg Holland may soon follow suit. 

    Hence word, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, that Colorado is chasing multiple bullpen options, including Davis. 

    The Rockies signed righty Bryan Shaw to a three-year pact, per FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, but could use further reinforcements. 

    It will probably require an overpay to lure Davis to hitter-happy Coors Field. The Rockies need to do what it takes, however, if they want to keep pace with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.

3B Mike Moustakas: San Francisco Giants

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    The San Francisco Giants were in on slugger Giancarlo Stanton and two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, but whiffed on both.

    Now, San Francisco must turn its attention to other targets to bolster an offense that finished dead last in home runs and OPS in 2017.

    Third base is an obvious area of need, and Mike Moustakas is the top free agent at the position.

    The 29-year-old bounced back from an injury-marred 2016 to club 38 home runs and would provide immediate protection for Buster Posey in the middle of San Francisco's lineup.

    An unnamed rival suggested the Giants would be "all over" Moustakas in September, per Heyman

    There is one hurdle, and it's significant: Moustakas received the qualifying offer from the Kansas City Royals, meaning any club that signs him will forfeit draft-pick compensation. 

    Still, the Giants have indicated they're not interested in a rebuild and instead want to contend with their current core. 

    If so, they need proven bats, and Moustakas fits the bill.

CF Lorenzo Cain: San Francisco Giants

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    In addition to their power void, the Giants have serious concerns in the outfield.

    Left field was a black hole last season, and center fielder Denard Span and right fielder Hunter Pence both suffered through offensive and defensive declines. Pence is 34 years old and Span is 33, which doesn't scream comeback.

    That explains San Francisco's interest in Stanton, and it makes Lorenzo Cain an enticing Plan B.

    Cain hit .300 with an .803 OPS and 26 stolen bases last season for Kansas City and posted five defensive runs saved in center field (compared to Span's abysmal minus-27).

    Like Moustakas, Cain received the qualifying offer and would ding the Giants in the draft. He's also 31, and could be a burden on the back end of any long-term deal.

    Again, though, if San Francisco is serious about rebounding from a 98-loss finish and competing with the Rockies, D-backs and Dodgers, it can't afford to tinker. 

1B Eric Hosmer: Boston Red Sox

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    Signing Eric Hosmer might not be the best idea for the Boston Red Sox in the long term. Throw caution out the window, however. The Yankees unleashed a massive shot when they acquired Stanton, and it's imperative for Boston to fire back.

    Hosmer will probably be overpaid in this market, and could easily command nine figures. He's also a four-time Gold Glove winner at first base and noted clubhouse leader coming off a season in which he set career highs in hits (192), average (.318) and OPS (.882).

    Boston has won two straight AL East titles but failed each time to advance past the division series. It needs an offensive boost and has a glaring need at first base. Heyman was among the most recent to report the Red Sox's continued interest. 

    Legitimate concerns about overpaying aside, this marriage feels borderline inevitable.

LF/RF J.D. Martinez: Boston Red Sox

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    The Sox might also pursue another of the winter's top free agents: outfielder J.D. Martinez.

    Boston finished last the AL in home runs last season, while Martinez cleared the fences 45 times for the Detroit Tigers and Diamondbacks. 

    The 30-year-old would enter a crowded outfield mix populated by franchise building blocks Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi as well as center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

    The Sox could trade Bradley, however, if they inked Martinez. No matter what, his prodigious pop would be a major boon at Fenway. 

    Like Hosmer, Martinez could command a budget-straining nine-figure deal. Both players are represented by superagent Scott Boras, who isn't known for doling out discounts. 

    As they gaze at the Yankees and their newly formed Stanton/Aaron Judge twosome, however, the Sox and executive Dave Dombrowski will be tempted to swing big.

    As Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opined, "[The Red Sox] need to strike not just once but twice with a pair of bold and necessary moves to keep open a window for winning that is threatening to slam shut in their faces."

RHP Chris Archer: Atlanta Braves

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    As Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported, the Tampa Bay Rays are willing to listen to offers for right-hander Chris Archer. Not surprisingly, Topkin added, multiple teams have inquired.

    A 29-year-old two-time All-Star inked to an affordable pact that runs through 2021 with a couple of club options, Archer would join free agents Jake Arrieta and Yu Dravish as the only aces on the market if he's dealt.

    That's a big "if," obviously. The small-market Rays are always looking to bolster their farm system and may see the writing on the wall with the division-rival Yankees and Red Sox engaged in an expensive arms race. Still, they're under no obligation to move Archer.

    It would take a haul of prospects to pry him away, which is where the Atlanta Braves come in.

    The Braves were among the interested teams mentioned by Topkin, and even after surrendering a dozen prospects in the wake of their international-signing scandal, they have one of the game's most loaded farm systems.

    Atlanta won't mortgage its future in a trade, but it could use some positive PR. Acquiring a controllable stud like Archer, even at a steep price, would provide exactly that.

RHP Jake Arrieta: Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Milwaukee Brewers accelerated their rebuild last season and gave the Cubs a surprising run for their money in the NL Central.

    Milwaukee isn't going to decimate its farm system with any massive trades this winter, but it could make noise in free agency.

    The team could use a frontline starting pitcher with Jimmy Nelson coming off shoulder surgery, and has showed interest in right-hander Jake Arrieta, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi

    The 31-year-old has seen his velocity dip and ERA climb since his 2015 NL Cy Young Award-winning campaign, but he's still an ace-level talent.

    Signing him would clearly signal Milwaukee's intention to win, and would take a key contributor away from the Cubbies.

    The Brewers can now credibly call Chicago a rival. Inking Arrieta would thicken the plot.

RHP Yu Darvish: Texas Rangers

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    Yu Darvish made four All-Star teams and had two top-10 AL Cy Young Award finsishes during his tenure with the Texas Rangers.

    Yes, he missed the entire 2015 season to Tommy John surgery, but overall, Arlington was good to the Japanese right-hander and he was good to it.

    Things went less swimmingly after Darvish was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline. He battled initial injury problems, and then infamously crumbled in the postseason.

    Still, someone is going to pay the 31-year-old handsomely in free agency. That someone could be the Rangers.

    Texas needs a starter to augment left-hander Cole Hamels, who posted a 4.20 ERA and failed to reach 200 innings for the first time since 2009.

    There are less expensive options than Darvish, but few with more upside. And, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, Texas GM Jon Daniels said the team's relationship with Darvish "remains strong."

    Also strong? The Rangers' need to think big if they want to keep contact with the Lone Star State rival Houston Astros in the AL West.

3B Manny Machado: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Trade chatter is heating up around Baltimore Orioles infielder Manny Machado, one of the brightest stars in the game.

    Baltimore is fielding offers for its franchise player and is "more inclined to move him," per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. 

    The 25-year-old two-time Gold Glove winner and two-time top-five AL MVP finisher is entering his final season before free agency, but the O's will command a rich return package nonetheless.

    That means the team that acquired him would need to be in clear win-now mode. Cue the St. Louis Cardinals, name-dropped by Nightengale as a serious suitor. 

    The Cards, along with San Francisco, made a push for Stanton. They've got solid pitching and enough hitters to hang around the edge of the playoff picture but need a big bat to tie it all together and challenge the archrival Cubs.

    Machado could be that bat and could take over at shortstop, where Nightengale noted he'd like to play after getting the bulk of his starts at third base for the Orioles. 

    Jettisoning top MiLB pieces and possibly young big league talent for one year of Machado would be risky for the Redbirds, but it might pay huge dividends in 2018.

       

    All statistics and contract information courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.