MLB Trade Needs: Each Team's Biggest Target Heading Out of Spring Training
The 2011 Major League Baseball season starts this week, and as the teams prepare to head north, there are still holes to be filled on just about every major league depth chart.
For Major League Baseball teams, it is relatively clear that, unless you are the Boston Red Sox, you are probably going to need to make a move or two in the next three months if you want to lock up a playoff spot come October.
And so as we await the first games of the season, which will strangely take place on Thursday this year, we take a look at the top trade target for every major league team as they head north.
New York Yankees: Starting Pitching
For the first time since 1995, Major League Baseball will not have Andy Pettitte to kick around.
The New York Yankees were somehow ill prepared for the loss of Pettitte to retirement and find themselves heading north with Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia slated as their No. 4 and 5 starters.
And this is a rotation that has A.J. Burnett, an absolute disaster in 2010, penciled in at No. 2 for this year.
If this team does not make a move for the rotation, they will be out of it by September.
Boston Red Sox: Catcher
The Boston Red Sox have a catcher who is too old in Jason Varitek and a catcher who has never proven that he belongs in the majors in Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
At the same time, if the Red Sox do not get a single hit from any catcher this season, they may still win 100 games.
Baltimore Orioles: Infield Defense
The Baltimore Orioles have a talented pitching staff, a very good manager and, for the first time in a while, a chance to put some runs on the board.
Unfortunately, the infield defense of Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Brian Roberts and Derrek Lee is likely to a porous one, letting hit after hit through the middle and down the line.
The Orioles think they have reason to be optimistic, and on their own strange scale, they do. But their infield defense will be their undoing.
Toronto Blue Jays: Bullpen Help
Jon Rauch is super tall. Octavio Dotel was an awesome closer 10 years ago. Frank Francisco racked up 25 saves for the Rangers two years ago.
But none of these pitchers is an honest-to-goodness major league closer in 2011, and the Blue Jays are going to let more than a couple of games slip away while they figure out that they do not have a closer right now.
Tampa Bay Rays: Depth
The Tampa Bay Rays break camp with Johnny Damon in left field, Manny Ramirez at designated hitter and Dan Johnson at first base.
Which begs the question: What do the Rays do when Damon and Ramirez need every fifth day off and Johnson cannot hit his weight?
With their thin bench, that is a question that does not appear to have an answer.
Chicago White Sox: Third Base
The Chicago White Sox better hope Brent Morel can field his position, because his offensive resume in the minor leagues does not look like the type of line that would translate to the majors.
Morel strikes out about twice as often as he walks, has a little power and a little speed and hit well in hitter-friendly environments at Double and Triple-A.
This looks like a Joe Crede/Mark Teahan situation all over again.
Cleveland Indians: Everything Other Than Right Field and Catcher
Shin-Soo Choo is probably the most underrated five-tool player in Major League Baseball and catcher Carlos Santana is one of the hottest prospects going.
Everyone else on this laughable roster is trouble, from Jayson Nix (!) at third base to Orlando Cabrera at second base, the oft-injured Grady Sizemore in center field and Travis Hafner at designated hitter.
This team is in trouble.
Kansas City Royals: Center Field
The three worst everyday players in Major League Baseball last season were Yuniesky Betancourt, Melky Cabrera and Carlos Lee.
After being terrible with Betancourt last year, the Royals brought in Cabrera this year.
Not that we're saying getting rid of Cabrera will make the Royals a good team.
But keeping him will certainly make them a bad team.
Detroit Tigers: Defense
What the Tigers needed to do this offseason was bring in a first baseman who could field so Miguel Cabrera could slide over to DH and replace Magglio Ordonez.
Instead, they kept Ordonez and brought in Victor Martinez, a catcher who is even more of a liability in the field than Cabrera.
Plus, Jhonny Peralta is now the shortstop, which only undercuts the defense further.
Minnesota Twins: Starting Pitching
This is not a talented rotation with Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Scott Baker all giving up way too many hits per nine innings to ever realize significant success at the major league level.
Fact is, Carl Pavano overachieved last season and has never put together back-to-back successful seasons at the major league level, while Francisco Liriano remains an injury threat who has recently been dangled as trade bait.
The Twins will likely need another arm by June 1st.
Oakland Athletics: Catcher
Actually, the Oakland A's are a team without too many weaknesses heading into the 2011 season.
The A's defense is outstanding, the pitching is young and talented, and the team has added hitters.
But Kurt Suzuki leaves a bit to be desired both at the plate and behind it, and the A's could use an upgrade.
Texas Rangers: An Ace
Colby Lewis is a bona fide stud for the Rangers and C.J. Wilson will be looking to make it two good years in a row, which has been a rarity amongst Rangers starting pitchers the last 20 years or so.
But without Cliff Lee, if the Rangers are going to have any shot at winning the AL West and making it back to the World Series again, they are going to need another arm.
Seattle Mariners: Offense
The Seattle Mariners made two very interesting offseason acquisitions: Brendan Ryan, who was the best defensive shortstop in the NL last season, and Miguel Olivo, who in the last two years has caught Zack Greinke and Ubaldo Jimenez.
But they did not add much on offense and enter the season having not improved upon a terrible offensive team from a year ago. And Justin Smoak ain't the answer.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Corner Infielders
Mark Trumbo at first base.
Alberto Callaspo at third base.
This will not do.
Trumbo saw a huge jump in his numbers when he moved from Double to Triple-A. That is what happens when a player moves to the Pacific Coast League (see Brandon Wood, Dallas McPherson and Casey Kotchman).
Alberto Callaspo has the type of numbers that make you happy when he is a middle infielder, but not so much at the corners.
Washington Nationals: Pitching
There can be no doubt that the Washington Nationals are building for 2012, when they will get Stephen Strasburg back and when the freakishly talented Bryce Harper will be ready for the bigs.
Nevertheless, at some point, this team is going to need to get some pitching. We've been saying it for six seasons, and it is still true.
Atlanta Braves: Up-the-Middle Defense
Dan Uggla will help with his bat, but he is one of the worst defensive second basemen in the league. Alex Gonzalez is not getting any younger and Nate McLouth is the answer to all the wrong questions in center field, though at least he is not Melky Cabrera.
Look for the Braves pitching staff to give up a ton of hits this season.
Florida Marlins: Veteran Leadership
Teams do not usually trade for intangibles, but this young and frankly exciting team could use some veteran talent in the clubhouse.
Javier Vazquez may be that player, but Wes Helms will not.
This team is young at every position and they need a Jeff Conine-type player to serve as an emulsifier to bring it all together.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bullpen Help
The Phillies bullpen had issues before Brad Lidge got hurt.
Now that he is out indefinitely, the Phillies have an outright calamity on their hands.
New York Mets: Any Talent Will Do
Half of their major stars, like Jason Bay and David Wright, do not perform like stars, while the other half of their stars, like Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran, cannot stay on the field.
The Mets are thin at pitching, which is a shame, since they play in a pitcher's park and cannot field a competent offense.
The Mets should be looking to pick up any talented player they can.
Milwaukee Brewers: Defense, Defense, Defense
I am sure Yuniesky Betancourt is a nice guy. He does not bring anything to the table, however, on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.
His play has undermined every team he has ever been on. The good news for him is that when the Milwaukee Brewers have the worst defense in the league, it will only partially be his fault.
The Brewers already have league-worst defenders at first base, second base, third base and left field.
Houston Astros: Left Field
The Houston Astros are like that old Sesame Street game: "Three of these things belong together."
Carlos Lee sticks out like a sore thumb on this team. The Astros are young, talented and still developing. Meanwhile, Lee sits out in left field like a concrete block, and at the plate he does just enough to hit the occasional home run without actually being productive on offense.
They need to ship this guy to Kansas City and bring in someone, anyone, to replace him.
St. Louis Cardinals: Another Bat
The easy target here would be the pitching staff, where the Cardinals have lost one of the elite young pitchers in baseball in Adam Wainwright.
But I suspect that the Cards are going to have more trouble on offense than on defense in 2011.
Or perhaps I am just putting too much faith in the ability of Dave Duncan and Yadier Molina to pry success out of another re-tread.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching, Defense and Hitting
The Pittsburgh Pirates do not have quality pitching to send to the mound, they do not have adequate defense to support their pitching, and they do not have an adequate offense to score the runs necessary to win games for their pitchers.
In short, this team needs everything. Except a center fielder, that is. Andrew McCutchen should be fine.
Chicago Cubs: A Big Bat
Maybe Aramis Ramirez will be back. Maybe Alfonso Soriano will be back. Maybe Geovanny Soto can carry this team.
That is a lot of maybes.
If there is one thing we know for sure, it's that it's very hard for the Cubs to succeed, historically, when they do not have that prototypical three-spot hitter that can carry an offense.
Cincinnati Reds: Depth
The Reds actually look very good for the second year in a row. Solid pitching, good defense and several good young hitters, along with the veteran Scott Rolen, are back for another year.
The Reds will need some depth on the bench to spell guys like Rolen, Ramon Hernandez and Jonny Gomes.
Los Angeles Dodgers: New Owners
Assuming the issues related to the McCourts' divorce dealings are resolved, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in a bit of a rebuilding period.
Their current depth chart is a disaster with Juan Uribe at third base, Jay Gibbons (!) in left field and Rod Barajas behind the plate.
This franchise just needs a do-over.
Colorado Rockies: A Nice Sinker-Ball Pitcher
Remember just a couple of years ago when the Colorado Rockies were oddly flush with pitching for the first time in their history?
Fast-forward to 2011, and the well has run dry once again.
We now know the secret to success in Coors Field: pitchers who can keep the ball down, and thus keep it from being launched out of the park.
Colorado needs to compile a list of sinker-ball pitchers and start making offers.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Contact Hitters
With Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche gone, the Diamondbacks should strike out a lot less than they did last year.
But Chris Young is still with the team, as is Melvin Mora, Xavier Nady and a still-developing Justin Upton.
This is a team that will still have some pain at the plate in their future.
San Francisco Giants: People Who Are Not Named Cody Ross and Pat Burrell
It seems like such a simple solution: Aubrey Huff in right, rookie Brandon Belt at first base and Pat Burrell and Cody Ross in a platoon.
That the Giants would give two starting spots to these guys on Opening Day is somewhat shocking, and I do not care how hot they got in the playoffs last season.
San Diego Padres: A Whole New Team
Goodbye, Jake Peavy. Goodbye, Trevor Hoffman. Goodbye, Adrian Gonzalez.
Hello, Brad Hawpe, Cameron Maybin, Ryan Ludwick and Jason Bartlett.
Wow, it is going to be a long year in San Diego.