Time to get back to business...
The 2011 season of Major League Baseball is at hand. In about two weeks, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training, signifying the beginning of the 2011 baseball year. From now until March 31, each team has an equal chance of winning the World Series.
However, each team also has a glaring weakness. Here is a list of every MLB team’s needs going into spring training:
Upton is the subject of trade rumors, and will be considered one of baseball's biggest trade chips this season.
Right now, the Diamondbacks have a team deceptively better than what most people believe. However, they are weak at first base, lacking solid offensive production from the players slotted to play that position.
Currently, Brandon Allen and Xavier Nady are both slated to compete for the starting job. If Nady is healthy, he may yet provide some pop. If he can’t, then a trade could provide them with the boost they need.
Heyward is looking the next step towards greatness
The Braves have a sound all-around team, but their bullpen is unproven with the retirement of closer Billy Wagner. I like Craig Kimbrel going forward as closer, but the rest of the bullpen may not have what it takes. Look for some prospects to fill the gap or a trade for a Joakim Soria-type midseason to boost the pen.
Buck will get the most out of his troops, but he needs an ace.
The Orioles may be baseball’s most improved team in 2011, but their pitching is suspect at best. They lack an ace to go up against the CC Sabathias of the world and they lack the back-end pitchers that help make a deep rotation.
The trio of Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz and Brad Bergeson is a serviceable rotation. However, if the Orioles landed a premier pitcher to put in front of the trio, the Orioles could possibly win the AL East this season.
What will the AL's best GM think of next?
Losing Victor Martinez was a huge blow to the Red Sox this offseason. Despite the fact he may be the most overrated catcher in the game, his stick is way better than Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s, and Jason Varitek can’t be counted on to catch full time anymore.
The best answer for the Sox might be to acquire a catcher at the trade deadline like Miguel Montero, who could be available if the D-backs are sellers.
Zambrano needs some help at the back end of his rotation, and he needs to not fight with his catcher this season...
The North Siders have a decent team going for them, but they need some help at the back end of their rotation. Currently, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva and James Russell are going to fight it out in spring training for the last two spots, but neither can be counted on for great success in 2011.
If the Cubbies could acquire a quality fourth starter, they would be in position to contend in a tough NL Central this year.
Ozzie will be Ozzie with his pitchers, and can be especially eccentric with his bullpen.
Can Matt Thorton be counted on to close games? If he can, the White Sox should win 90 games this season. If he can’t, the rest of the bullpen will fall apart. They should have some decent middle relievers in Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain, but they also couldn’t be counted on to close games.
If the White Sox traded for an elite closer like Heath Bell, they would be the absolute favorites to win the AL Central, and could win 100 games. Unfortunately, the South Siders might not have the pieces in their farm system to get Bell.
Votto and the Reds need some bullpen help.
The Reds are probably the NL’s second-best team, but their middle relievers expose the team’s soft underbelly. They need relievers for the fifth-through-seventh innings in order to bridge the gap to Francisco Cordero and Aroldis Chapman.
Middle relievers are somewhat easy to find, and I expect them to look inside the organization to find one. Still, it is possible they go the trade route midseason with relievers that are DFA.
The Indians need help in quite a few places, but they are really suffering at second base. Luis Valbuena is young, but did not play well last year. He needs to improve his bat to make it in the majors.
The Indians will be better than they were last year, but if they want to make a run at .500, acquiring a better second baseman is a must.
The Rockies need another middle-of-the-rotation starter in order to win the NL West. Ubaldo Jimenez was as good as anybody was in the first half of 2010, but he faded in the second half. He clearly needs some help in a newly-strong division.
The Rockies could benefit from gaining a mid-rotation starter from a team at the trade deadline. The Rockies usually pick up steam around that time and make a run for the playoffs, so gaining another valuable arm could put them over the top, even if that arm is a rental.
Podsednik would be a great fit in Detroit.
The Tigers are one of the better teams in baseball, but they need help in both corner outfield spots in order to contend. Of all of their corner outfielders, I like Ryan Raburn the most.
Trading for a serviceable, speedy corner outfielder would help their defense and set the table for the big boppers like Miguel Cabrera. Scott Podsednik comes to mind and would fit the bill perfectly. He is currently a free agent, so the Tigers have nothing to lose by inviting him to spring training.
Could H-Ram and the Marlins be a surprise team in 2011?
The Marlins have a serviceable closer in Leo Nunez, but they need to get the ball to Nunez in order to win games. While the Marlins will have one of the league’s best rotations this year, their middle relief is unproven.
If the Marlins could acquire a good setup man or an elite closer to push Nunez to setup duties, the Marlins could actually threaten the Phillies in the NL East. If not, they can look forward to contending next year.
The Astros are in a state of rebuilding, but they are especially weak at first base. Currently, Brett Wallace is slated to start at first, and he doesn’t provide the pop a first baseman’s bat should.
Don’t expect the 'Stros to make a trade for a veteran, but address the first base deficiency in house through prospects, or through other teams’ prospects, with the inevitable Carlos Lee trade sometime during the season.
Selling greinke is proof winning is not Glass' top priority
Ever since Royals owner David Glass came to power in Kansas City, the team has decreased both its payroll and winning ways to zilch.
Despite being the former CEO of Wal-Mart, Glass has been playing his small-market fiddle, and traded away elite talents like Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon and Zack Greinke to cut costs, while basking in the glow of revenue sharing.
The Royals payroll this season is an estimated $33 million, which could be less than what Albert Pujols might make in 2012. Glass either needs to commit to winning or sell the team for the benefit of the good people in Kansas City.
Wells was a huge addition, but his addition created a need at catcher for the Halos.
With Mike Napoli being traded to Toronto and eventually Texas, the Angels now have a major question mark at catcher.
Jeff Mathis was an elite prospect, but will be 28 on Opening Day. Mathis must prove he can hold down the fort. If not, the Angels will be forced to trade for a catcher with some thunder in his bat. Pudge Rodriguez comes to mind—if the Nationals fall out of contention.
Donnie Baseball will have to figure out the left field quagmire until the Dodgers make a move later this season.
Right now, the Dodgers are going to use a platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames. The Dodgers are going to have their work cut out for them with the Giants and Rockies, so an extra bat in left field might be worth looking at.
If the Dodgers could acquire an above average right fielder, they could win the NL Central. Johnny Damon would be a great fit if the Rays are out of contention midseason.
Prince is ready to do some Damage with the Brew Crew...
The Brewers need either an elite closer to push John Axford to the setup role or, more likely, an elite setup man to boost the rest of the bullpen.
I like Axford, but he will miss Trevor Hoffman as his unofficial pitching coach. If the Brew Crew got a setup man, the bullpen, which is the Brewers’ soft underbelly, would be that much deeper.
Casey Blake and the Twins are a match made in heaven.
The Twins need a utility infielder to spell Justin Morneau and Danny Valencia at the corners. Morneau is injury prone, and Valencia is inexperienced. The Twins may have re-signed Jim Thome, but he’s a DH now, and can’t be counted on to play the field with any regularity.
If the Dodgers are out of contention at midseason, Casey Blake would be a perfect fit. He could play first or third and provide a good blend of hitting and defense.
Luis Castillo is a mess at second base. He can’t stay healthy, and his skills have eroded to the point where he hurts the team far more than he helps it. If and when the Mets fall out of contention, he could be traded to a contender because his contract is expiring.
If Castillo isn’t traded, the Mets should focus on trading other players like Carlos Beltran or Jose Reyes for an elite second base prospect so they can contend in 2012.
CC could use some help...
The key to the Yankees rotation in 2011 is AJ Burnett. If Burnett can pitch to his talent level, the Yankees will be tough to beat. In the real world, Yankee fans know that is highly unlikely.
CC Sabathia can’t be counted on to shoulder the load alone and, as a result, one or two more starters are necessary. Bartolo Colon is a band-aid signing to tide the team over until the trade deadline. At that point, the Yankees can focus on trading for a Felix Hernandez or other elite pitcher.
Can BIlly Beane strike again? Or, will moneyball prove to be full of beans...
The A’s may already be addressing this weakness, as they were talking with the Seattle Mariners about a trade involving Chone Figgins for a package around Kevin Kouzmanoff. If Billy Beane can pull off such a trade, Ocean’s 11 will look like stealing a candy bar from your local stationary store.
The Phillies are by far baseball's strongest team and a team with no true weakness. Still the Phillies could use a reliever to help out in the sixth and seventh innings.
The Phillies won’t have to do much to get one, as their rotation is already strong enough, and Brad Lidge is downright dominant when he is right. If Lidge is not right, than the Phillies will have a weak bullpen and a distinct weakness.
The owner of the Pirates, Robert Nutting, is worth about $1.48 billion, according to the website Cha Cha. The Pirates payroll is just under $40 million.
Basically, Nutting is another billionaire owner playing his sad fiddle. If these people would just realize winning baseball brings in the fans, they might actually invest in their team.
Instead, Nutting will use only the revenue sharing and make money off of everything else the Pirates do. This franchise has been terrible for almost the last 20 years, and unless Nutting gets a change of heart or sells the team, little will change in Pittsburgh.
David Freese will not do at the hot corner. The Cardinals need to acquire a third baseman that can come close to the production Scott Rolen had during the Cards’ dominance in the middle of the past decade.
This is a Cardinals team that would greatly benefit from Chone Figgins if they were inclined to enter the Figgins sweepstakes. Casey Blake would also make for a great fit.
Heath Bell will be a key trading chip the Padres might use to address the team's needs.
In many respects, the catcher is the most important player on the team because he must provide at the plate, play defense and handle the entire pitching staff. The Padres need a serviceable catcher if they want any hope of contending in 2011.
Rob Johnson or Nick Hundley will not fit the bill. Look for the Padres to trade Heath Bell this season, and in turn, receive an elite catching prospect as part of the package.
The defending champs are a well-balanced team, but they lack in production out of the right field slot. Right fielders are easy to come by, but a great move would be to acquire a Justin Upton to anchor their lineup for years to come.
If the Giants can’t get Upton, working out a trade with the Yankees for Nick Swisher would work wonders for their lineup.
Could Ichiro or Figgins be traded ths year?
If Erik Bedard is healthy, the Mariners will be better than expected in 2011. If not, King Felix is going to need a ton of help if the Mariners are going to contend in the strong AL West.
The Mariners basically have King Felix and a bunch of fourth and fifth starters on staff. They need a solid No. 2 like a resurgent Rickie Nolasco or Ted Lilly.
Using Chone Figgins or Ichiro as trade bait might help with their starting pitching if the M's wish to rebuild around King Felix.
The Rays don’t have much going for them at short. Currently, Reid Brignac is penciled in as the starter at short, and his production probably won’t be good enough to contend in the always-strong AL East.
The Rays will most likely address this deficiency through the draft, but they could always trade Kyle Farnsworth midseason for a prospect.
Losing Cliff Lee created a huge need for the Rangers
The Rangers have a decent rotation, and a good one if Brandon Webb is close to what he once was. However, if the Rangers want to advance in the playoffs, they need an ace to go up against the Jon Lesters and CC Sabathias of the world.
If Webb can’t step up, the Rangers could renew their pursuit of King Felix, or look for a returning Johan Santana toward the trade deadline.
Trading Vernon Wells was huge going forward for the Jays.
The Jays should improve rapidly over the next two years because all of their bad contracts from the last few years are off the books. They can now focus on letting their farm system season and using it to fill holes in the roster, or trading for young veteran leadership.
The Blue Jays should focus on getting a young and talented starter or a couple of mid-rotation starters to solidify the rotation. The ace seems the smarter route, as their great farm system will fill out the rest of the rotation.
Losing Strasburg to injury is a huge blow to the Nats, and will create a need going forward
The Nationals can’t count on anything from Stephen Strasburg this season due to his Tommy John surgery. Without Strasburg, Washington’s rotation is weak at best, and the Nats must address this deficiency via the trade route.
Look for the Nationals to go after a pitcher like Ted Lilly or Gio Gonzalez as a setup for next season.