MLB Free Agent News: Every Team's No. 1 Offseason Priority
At this point in the baseball season, there are teams thinking about making a playoff push, getting home field advantage in the LDS and LCS and are looking ahead to the World Series.
For other teams, the outlook is not as good. Some are near the end of the line and are ready to look to 2012; while some teams were already done back during the All-Star break.
When the offseason begins in just a couple short months, most teams know exactly what they need to do heading into it, while others have a few directions they can go. The following are the top priorities for each major league team.
Baltimore Orioles: Get Brian Matusz on Track
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
The Baltimore Orioles can make all the free agent moves they want, but to show improvement in the AL East, they need to work from within. And when a major pitcher has an incredibly underwhelming season, that's a problem.
Brian Matusz was looking to build on a solid 2010 season, but instead put up horrendous numbers, putting up an ERA of nearly 10.00 in 10 starts. The starting rotation as a whole is terrible this year on top of that.
A Matusz-Zach Britton one-two punch could be decent in a couple years; and if Matusz is the future ace the O's are hoping for, then they have to get the ship righted quickly.
Boston Red Sox: Add Some Starting Rotation Depth
The Boston Red Sox are in great shape in the lineup, and even if Papelbon leaves after this season, they can just insert Daniel Bard as closer, so they're set there. They also have Jon Lester and Josh Beckett pitching well, but there are many question marks after that.
Tim Wakefield can only have so much left in the tank, Buchholz is great when he's healthy, which has not been that often, and John Lackey's a complete bust. They'll need to add a free agent pitcher to fix things.
Adding someone like Edwin Jackson could be a good move. There's little major talent in the pitching market, but there are veterans out there that can be of assistance.
New York Yankees: Keep CC Sabathia from Opting Out
Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images
CC Sabathia still has four years left on his contract, but he can opt out this offseason. Perhaps surprisingly, the Yankees need Sabathia far more than Sabathia needs them.
Sabathia can be an ace pitcher for any team at this point, so long as he gets paid. And the Yankees' rotation behind Sabathia is in poor shape heading into 2012, as Colon may retire and Garcia may leave, and we all know Burnett's ace days are over.
Tampa Bay Rays: Get David Price Signed Long Term
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The Tampa Bay Rays are generally good about keeping a few pieces of talent and building around them. That's their plan with Evan Longoria, and I could see them doing that with Jeremy Hellickson soon. Imagine my surprise when I saw that David Price's contract is nearly up.
Yes, Price has another year left until the Rays really have to worry, but if they're smart, they'll take care of this now before other AL East teams start having thoughts about launching a bidding war once he's arbitration-eligible after 2012.
Toronto Blue Jays: Start Bringing in Veterans
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Jose Bautista has a nice contract and has proven he was no fluke last year with another great season. Ricky Romero has also proven me right by showing he can be an ace.
Having said that, the pitching core is very young still, and it shows. Kyle Drabek and Jo-Jo Reyes struggled this year, and Brett Cecil wasn't all that great either. They still need to replace Shaun Marcum, and while the farm talent will make its way up soon, having veteran leadership on the pitching end is a must.
Chicago White Sox: Re-Sign Mark Buehrle
Leon Halip/Getty Images
The Chicago White Sox have a rather underrated starting rotation that is anchored by the consistently good Mark Buehrle. He has an option for 2012, but the best course of action would be to re-sign him for an extra few years.
Buehrle is 32, however, and may be looking at greener pastures if the White Sox can't prove to him that they can get back to the playoffs and compete with the Detroit Tigers. After all, if Sabathia re-signs and he declines the option, Buehrle will be the top pitcher in the free agent market.
Cleveland Indians: Condition the Talent
Jason Miller/Getty Images
The biggest problem with the Indians, year in and year out, seems to be injuries. Not only do they have a lot of them, but Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner and others seem to be injured over and over again.
The problem goes beyond the players and seems to go to general conditioning. That's what the Tribe has to focus on during the offseason to avoid future injuries. You can have the best players in the world, but they won't help if they're all hurt.
An extra power hitter in the middle would be nice as well, especially if Hafner seems done.
Detroit Tigers: Add a Designated Third Baseman
Leon Halip/Getty Images
The Detroit Tigers did most of their offseason work last year, and as a result there's not much they have to do this year. The only place that seems to be weak, partially due to it being a weak spot for most teams, is third base.
Brandon Inge's career might be winding down and someone will have to step up, as having so many positions by committee does not make for a championship team. Greg Dobbs could be a prime target there.
Kansas City Royals: Stay the Course
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
Here's the first vague one, but it makes sense when you think about it. Last offseason, Kansas City's main acquisitions were Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur, moves I found to be ridiculous.
Both players have had solid seasons and have proved me wrong. With the team is hitting decently, now's the time to do the same with a poor pitching group. Bruce Chen's the only one showing much this season, and he's 34 and a free agent this offseason.
Minnesota Twins: Complete Mental Overhaul
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
I honestly don't know what to suggest for the Twins. They have talent on their team, and there's no reason they should have been this bad this season. Having only two players play 100 games so far this year might do that. Even the Indians, who I just ripped on injury-wise, have four so far.
Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are true leaders when healthy, and when Francisco Liriano's at his best, he's a quality ace. They may need to find a new closer, but the market's pretty deep for that this year, so that's not a concern.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Find an Offensive Catcher
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson have two things in common. First, they've all spent a good amount of time catching this season. Second, none of them can hit. Batting averages of .178, .198 and .207, respectively, are unacceptable, and Mathis in particular should be out of chances.
Most of the free agents are 50-games-per-season catchers, but at least they have batting averages that aren't embarassing.
Getting rid of Vernon Wells' contract is up there as well, but the only team that would take on such a deal already has him.
Oakland Athletics: Add Some Power to the Lineup
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
With the exception of journeymen Josh Willingham and perhaps Hideki Matsui, there is a major power vacuum in Oakland. They have players who are good at small ball, but no one to hit for power and drive in the runs.
There are always a surplus of aging power hitters, so there's no excuse not to find one since it's uncertain if Matsui will be back.
Seattle Mariners: Anything Involving the Starting Lineup
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
It's a good thing the Mariners brought up Dustin Ackley, otherwise their lineup would be even more anemic than it already is, especially with Ichiro no longer being an automatic .300 hitter.
They need to sign a hitter in the offseason; and pretty much anyone would be an improvement offensively than what they have. After all, other teams are going to start taking a mighty good look at Felix Hernandez if the Mariners don't start hitting.
Texas Rangers: Re-Sign C.J. Wilson
J. Meric/Getty Images
The Texas Rangers have a great lineup of hitters, as well as a solid five-man rotation, led this year by C.J. Wilson. If the Rangers want to remain a playoff threat, Wilson is someone they are going to need to keep around.
Wilson won't be easy to re-sign, as he is one of the top free agent pitchers, and teams like the Yankees are going to be closely looking at him. Since he just recently became a starter, his arm should definitely hold out for many more years, so he's a relatively safe long-term option.
Atlanta Braves: Add Some Speed
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
The Atlanta Braves have a powerful lineup, a solid rotation and a terrific bullpen, and there's a reason why they're in the thick of the playoff race. If they want that extra edge against other teams, then they'll need some speed in their lineup.
Of the starting nine, Jason Heyward leads with six stolen bases and two triples. Jordan Schafer, who's played 52 games, leads the team in both categories. A playoff lineup cannot be one-dimensional, but there are speedsters on the free agent block, such as Coco Crisp, who can fit right in.
Florida Marlins: Make a Decision on Anibal Sanchez
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Josh Johnson is the ace for the Marlins when healthy, and has another couple years left on his deal. Anibal Sanchez, arguably the No. 2 man, is eligible for arbitration this year and free agency the next.
If they feel that Sanchez provides them more value in a trade, rather than a long-term deal, they will have to decide that. The Marlins are used to unloading their talent often, but keeping select pieces will be what helps them improve.
New York Mets: Re-Sign Jose Reyes
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The fact that the Mets did not trade him this season when he's putting up MVP-type numbers obviously means they want to keep him for the long haul. If that's the case, they'll have to pay big money to keep him.
The Mets also have to be convinced Reyes can remain both good and healthy, as the money they've spent on Jason Bay and Oliver Perez, among many others, shows that they have not has a good track record with big deals lately.
Philadelphia Phillies: Infuse Young Hitting Talent
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Phillies have an incredible starting rotation and a great bullpen to match. Everyone knows that. It's why they've been the favorites to win it all.
While San Francisco proved last year you don't need great hitting to win it all, the Phillies' lineup is full of players 30 or over; which is fine for this year and next, but 2013 is going to be tough on them. They'll need to find young talent now and groom them so that they're not scrambling to replace Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco and others in the next two seasons.
They've already done that this year by adding Hunter Pence via trade, so while I say that this is a priority, the Phillies could do nothing at all and be entirely fine next year.
Washington Nationals: Get Jayson Werth Back on Track
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
The Washington Nationals are not liking last offseason's move to bring in Jayson Werth so far. So rather than spend more money this year, they need to try and get the current talent working for them.
The Nats' young talent is performing well, but when Werth starts falling apart, the rest of the team is going to as well.
Chicago Cubs: Find a Team That Wants Carlos Zambrano
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
The Chicago Cubs should be a better team once they get rid of Carlos Zambrano. Yes, they have a lot of other issues to work out this offseason, but one thing at a time.
If the Cubs can find someone willing to take Big Z for a prospect or two, then that's a win for them, as releasing him outright seems likely as well.
Cincinnati Reds: Add a Solid Starting Pitcher
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Bronson Arroyo is the resident veteran on the team, but from the looks of it, he cannot provide any help to a rotation that needs someone to step up. The only one who might be able to is Johnny Cueto, but a vet still needs to help anchor the rotation.
There are a good number of veteran pitchers who can anchor a rotation available, ones who can actually keep their ERA under 5.00 at that, which three separate Reds pitchers have been unable to do this year.
Houston Astros: Continue Rebuilding
Bob Levey/Getty Images
The Houston Astros, more than any other team, are now engaging in full rebuild mode. They won't be adding anyone sans perhaps a couple veterans to help out, and any offseason attention will focus on getting the young guys ready for 2012.
Milwaukee Brewers: Re-Sign or Replace Prince Fielder
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images
Prince Fielder is having another great year, and the Brewers knew he would be testing the free agent market. While they would like to re-sign him, the odds of that happening are not good, as he could be the consolation prize for any team that doesn't acquire Albert Pujols.
There are decent first basemen on the market, so the Brewers shouldn't have to fret over losing Fielder too much, especially since Ryan Braun's stepped up and become the team leader.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Continue to Build Confidence
Brian Kersey/Getty Images
The Pittsburgh Pirates fell by the wayside somewhat at the end of this season, but for a long time their record was over .500. Clearly something they're doing is finally clicking, and that's what they need to concentrate on.
If it means bringing in some veterans to move the team along, that's what needs to be done. If it means free agency should not be touched, then that's what should be done. Whatever can finally get them over the .500 mark should be the plan.
St. Louis Cardinals: Re-Sign Albert Pujols
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Easiest slide of the bunch. Of course the Cardinals have to re-sign Albert Pujols, especially if they want to get back into the postseason. They have Matt Holliday to help lead if Pujols is gone, but that's not quite the same thing.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Sign Ian Kennedy Long Term
Tony Medina/Getty Images
To many, Ian Kennedy came out of nowhere to have a great season in 2011. To me, I felt that he was going to break out sooner or later, and he proved himself to be an ace this year.
If the Diamondbacks want to turn their unexpected playoff chase into one that others expect, then keeping Kennedy around for a while is the way to do it.
Colorado Rockies: Groom Young Pitching Talent
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
The Rockies are set on the hitting end with Coors Field, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez locked up for the long haul. Their pitching, on the other hand, is being completely rebuilt after trading Ubaldo Jimenez.
Alex White has started a couple games, and Drew Pomeranz will as well. Add in Jhoulys Chacin, and that's a very good young core. Jorge de la Rosa should be ready to go as well next year, so they could be an interesting team to watch over the next couple years, even if they'll do very little in free agency.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Decide on Matt Kemp's Future
Joe Murphy/Getty Images
Matt Kemp is having a career year with the Dodgers, and is one of the few bright spots after all the turmoil they have dealt with this season. He is arbitration-eligible this year and could go to free agency in 2013, so the Dodgers probably should try to get him signed now.
The Dodgers are a big market team and could afford to wait for free agency, but given all the problems Dodgers ownership is having, it's better to get this dealt with sooner rather than later.
San Diego Padres: Add Some Power to the Lineup
Sarah Glenn/Getty Images
The lack of hitting on the Padres is pretty much embarassing, and is made worse by the fact that the only one hitting for power at all, Ryan Ludwick, was traded to Pittsburgh. As a result, there's no one to drive in the runs on that team.
It doesn't really matter who they pick up to fill that role, as anyone's an improvement over who they have doing that now, which is nobody. The Padres' pitching staff is solid, but they can't win games if they're not scoring runs.
San Francisco Giants: Add an Extra Hitter
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Giants must have taken the idea of pitching winning championships a bit too literally after their World Series victory last year. Yes, their pitching remains great, but their hitting has went from serviceable to awful.
The Giants are dead last in batting average and near the bottom in almost everything other offensive category. Buster Posey returning next year should help, but they need to add an extra player or two who can actually get on base and score runs.