The top-tier free agents are off the board, but while Jayson Werth and Cliff Lee have comfortable new homes, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are still looking for work. Several key trades have already been made, but there are gathering whispers about the New York Yankees trading for a starting pitcher, and a number of deals will still be made before pitchers and catchers report next month.
Welcome to the Hot Stove league, late January and early February addition. The biggest hype this time of year surrounds guys who have waited out the market to the point of losing value, players (like Joey Votto, who has signed, and Albert Pujols, who has not) in line for contract extensions and last-minute deals to help teams feel more confident going into Spring Training.
What is your team up to right now? Read on for a breakdown of all 30 teams' remaining offseason checklists, and what they are rumored to be doing about it.
As the winter began, GM Kevin Towers sought to field a team that struck out many fewer times in 2011 than they had in 2010. Alas, trading Mark Reynolds and letting Adam LaRoche depart via free agency did not cure the team-wide strikeout pandemic at the plate, and the addition of Zach Duke only exacerbates a serious problem on the other side of the ledger: Arizona pitchers cannot strike anyone out themselves, putting far too much pressure on an unsteady defense.
The Diamondbacks have re-signed free agent Aaron Heilman, but that should by no means put an end to their search for pitching help. Trading Max Scherzer last winter and Dan Haren in July were bad choices, and the organization’s approach to the rest of this offseason ought to be to add power arms capable of producing strikeouts on the mound.
One-year deals with Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens helped the team avoid arbitration with either player, but by no means guarantee that either will play for the Braves in 2011. Prado’s spot in left field seems assured, but Jurrjens could be dealt as the Braves look to beef up their lineup while trading from the strength and depth of their starting rotation.
The offense now seems set, but the Orioles need pitching help badly if they hope to even win 70-75 games this season. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta need time to develop and deserve the organization’s patience as starters, but the bullpen could still be firmed up around Kevin Gregg, and the Orioles could deal Nolan Reimold and Koji Uehara in order to trim costs and improve in left field or with a back-of-the-rotation arm.
Missing out on Brian Fuentes marked the first real shortfall of the Red Sox’s stellar offseason. They are a bit unbalanced with righties Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard leading their bullpen, so look for the team to sign or trade for a southpaw of some utility in relief.
Catcher is the team’s only other weakness, and abundant depth at the other positions—Josh Reddick, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and/or Darnell McDonald all are essentially expendable—could help the team patch even that small chink in the armor.
Trading Tom Gorzelanny to Washington looks like the last key move in the team’s offseason gameplan, which essentially called for a first baseman, starting pitcher and reliever who do not tax the organization’s payroll beyond 2011.
The Cubs will be big spenders next winter, but in the meantime, the only moves on the horizon could be to trade Kosuke Fukudome and/or Geovany Soto: The team has sturdy prospects at each spot and could trade one or both to make way for its young guns.
One-year deals with Carlos Quentin and John Danks do not provide either player with much security. Both have been mentioned in trade talks this offseason and Quentin may yet be out of town before pitchers and catchers report. The Sox need a bona fide closer and a massive defensive upgrade somewhere in the outfield to seriously push the Twins this season, so if a trade happens, look for the team to seek relief pitching or an athletic outfielder in return.
General manager Walt Jocketty said he was “done” after signing Fred Lewis. And really, once a team acquires a guy like Fred Lewis, why do any more?
Cincinnati must add insurance to its bullpen, and trading first base prospect Yonder Alonso may not be out of the question. The team just locked up Joey Votto on a three-year deal, so Alonso is ostensibly expendable and would command a good return.
Fausto Carmona’s name came up an awful lot around the Winter Meetings, but he never did get dealt. With teams like Texas and New York desperate for ground-ball mavens to round out their rotations, that deal might happen after all.
The Indians are hamstrung after finishing dead last in average attendance in 2010, so free agency is an avenue the team has hardly even explored. Since they are in pure rebuilding mode, that is probably for the best.
Trading an excess outfielder, be it Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith or Ryan Spilborghs, is an ace Dan O’Dowd would prefer to keep up his sleeve until midseason, if and when the Rockies need a key piece to make a late run at the crown in the presumably competitive NL West.
In the meantime, the focus ought to be on an upgrade at catcher, where Chris Iannetta suddenly stands alone and ill-suited to the task of playing everyday in the big leagues. A lively competition at third base, in which there will be two losers, becomes instant trade fodder, too.
The Tigers see themselves as legitimate competitors to the Twins after signing Victor Martinez and retaining Magglio Ordonez, Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge. They are, but to be the favorites in the AL Central, they need a solid answer either at second base or in left field. Johnny Damon is still on the market, and if the Tigers think he can play the outfield semi-regularly, they may try to bring him back.
The Marlins have lots of great young hitters. Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison join forces with Hanley Ramirez for the first time in a full season in 2011. That should more than offset the loss of Dan Uggla.
The problem is that none of them are especially smooth defenders. Morrison and Coghlan especially will have to adjust to playing out of position. Extending Ricky Nolasco proved the organization intends to move forward this season. Leo Nunez could still be expendable, though, and trade whispers surrounding the closer are still blowing on the winds.
Clearly, this team is muddled deep in a rebuilding phase, and they must spend this season focusing not on winning 75 games instead of 65, but on augmenting what little farm depth they have right now. The Astros would love to get Carlos Lee off their books, and if he shows any reason for any other team to take a chance on him, they will move him at any price.
Sixty percent of the Royals’ 2010 rotation is gone. Zack Greinke is a Brewer, Gil Meche retired this week and Brian Bannister will play in Japan next year. Although there are relatively few remaining big-league talents for the team to move, their future is bright given a sparkling farm system. Unless and until they feel Billy Butler becomes expendable, they are unlikely to make a major move.
It is time to settle the catcher situation with a firm note of finality. With Hank Conger very nearly ready to take over, Mike Napoli becomes good trade bait. Tony Reagins signed Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi already, but he may not be done. The Angels need a more legitimate third baseman, and could leverage Napoli or one of their excess middle infielders to go after one.
The Dodgers shored up their pitching staff impressively and quickly at the outset of the offseason, but since then, all of their moves have been head-scratchers. Marcus Thames and Jay Gibbons appear to be the preferred options for Los Angeles in left field, and the Dodgers let Russell Martin walk in order to hand the job to Rod Barajas.
Both of those positions remain very much in flux, and trading from the strength of the pitching staff (John Ely is one of a handful of excess options) could solve one of those problems. James Loney appeared to be on the block last month, but that deal never materialized.
Doing team-friendly, long-term deals with Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder will become impossible once Spring Training starts. The Brewers will continue to talk with both players, but Fielder’s one-year, $15.5 million deal signed in lieu of an arbitration means those negotiations are not progressing as the Brewers might have hoped.
Milwaukee will not trade either player unless and until it needs to, as it seems poised to enter 2011 as the NL Central favorites. Still, it may become necessary to trade one of the two rather than losing both to free agency after the season.
Carl Pavano’s deal is finally done, allowing the Twins to turn their attention to more minor adjustments. Minnesota needs to round out its infield, but does not seem interested in bringing back Nick Punto. Matt Tolbert might fill that need, or the Twins could swap one of Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer (both of whom are somewhat less critical if speedy outfielder Ben Revere is ready for a full season of big-league ball) to add depth in another area.
New York reportedly is on the brink of simply releasing second baseman Luis Castillo and pitcher Oliver Perez, and the very mention of that possibility is a testament to the team’s frustrations of late. Adding to an increasingly thin pitching staff has to top the Mets’ agenda, though not many options are left that fit the mold. Strangely, whispers that the team is listening to offers for shortstop and free agent-to-be Jose Reyes persist.
Are you a talented but high-priced NL Central pitcher? Has your career seen better days? Does your team want to unload your contract to move forward in a different direction? If you answered yes, the New York Yankees are looking for you.
Spurned by Cliff Lee and abandoned by Andy Pettitte, the Yanks need another pitcher to round out their rotation even respectably, and have reportedly checked in on Carlos Zambrano, Chris Carpenter and Wandy Rodriguez.
Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes are now Athletics, and while they will not make anyone forget what could have been with Adrian Beltre or Hisashi Iwakuma, they do round out a pitching staff that might now be the best in the AL West. Oakland needs a better third baseman than Kevin Kouzmanoff, but probably will not get it.
Orlando Cabrera is still out there, you know. Why on Earth does Ronny Cedeno have a job in baseball, while Orlando Cabrera keeps waiting for the right gig? Meanwhile, the Pirates missed out on Jorge de la Rosa and Carl Pavano, and need to find something resembling a big-league pitcher before Opening Day. Kevin Millwood might be a fit.
Ruben Amaro keeps trying to foist Joe Blanton off onto someone, and though the Phillies will not relish helping the team that so burned them, the Yankees are the smartest landing spot. Amaro has been wise to tone down the rhetoric of needing to move Blanton over the past month. Meanwhile, the Phillies would like to add a right-handed bat to their outfield mix, but it sure looks like a pipe dream at the moment.
The Albert Pujols negotiation hangs like a gathering cloud over the horizon in St. Louis. If the team can lock him up before pitchers and catchers report, it will have cost certainty on its side as it gears up for a season in which it hopes to make a move back to the front of the division. If not, the team might remain frozen. A Carpenter trade might loosen the tight budget and make more room to commit to Pujols.
After the Adrian Gonzalez trade, the Padres improved their depleted infield with the additions of Brad Hawpe and Orlando Hudson. Still, they are not going to be an offensive juggernaut. Jed Hoyer said he has no intention to trade Heath Bell, but the burly and dominant closer could fetch a hefty price on the trade market. If San Diego believes the return could constitute a serious step forward in its latest rebuilding, Bell could be a goner.
The Giants may have overplayed their hand by allowing both Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria to depart as free agents. They managed to retain their offensive core but failed to improve upon it, a definite gamble by the defending champions. The good news is that they did not need to add much, anyway: Their pitching staff was as good as it needed to be entering the offseason, and they lost no one. Cabrera has perhaps no more alluring home than San Francisco, so the shortstop situation may resolve itself.
Milton Bradley’s arrest should not shake the foundations for the Mariners. Michael Saunders had all but usurped Bradley already anyway. Jack Zduriencik still seems enamored of the defense-only paradigm that so betrayed the Mariners in 2010, as he traded for Brendan Ryan this winter to augment what was already the league’s best glove unit. The Mariners are likely not in play for a big-name DH/outfielder after signing Jack Cust, but they could jump on Johnny Damon or Vlad Guerrero at the right price.
The massive losses across the board have not left the Rays without recourse. They still have five strong starters and Desmond Jennings will replace Carl Crawford. Another bullpen signing would hurt nothing, and the team seems to be circling Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon as possible DH options. Ultimately, they will take the cheaper of the two, ceding the higher turf to a rival like the Rangers or Blue Jays.
With plenty of left-handed hitters in the fold already, the Rangers would surely like to have Vladimir Guerrero or Manny Ramirez rather than Damon as their DH. Whomever they end up signing, Texas will have a formidable lineup.
The more important and prudent question is whether they can improve their rotation, which is not top-notch without Cliff Lee. John Danks or Gavin Floyd of the White Sox might be the best targets, and the Sox are rumored to be shopping them, but the price would be high after the Cubs set the market for pitchers of that caliber with their deal for Tampa’s Matt Garza.
Getting Brett Lawrie for Shaun Marcum gave the Blue Jays added farm system depth without costing them much, since Kyle Drabek should step in to pitch a full season in 2011 and could be as good as Marcum or better. The Jays can always look to trade a third baseman (Edwin Encarnacion is still around) for pitching help if they so choose. In the meantime, they continue to come up as a probable destination for any of Damon, Guerrero and Ramirez.
The Nats came close to polishing off their offseason checklist by acquiring Tom Gorzelanny from the Cubs. They continue to build intelligently toward 2012, and if they can find a platoon partner or insurance policy for young Danny Espinosa at second base, they will likely head for spring training satisfied with their winter’s progress.