As 2011 winds down and a new World Series champion will soon be crowned, a look ahead to this winter reveals an intriguing crop of free agents that, if paired with the right clubs, can give several teams a great chance to compete for a world championship in 2012.
If each team could make one signing that would give them a shot to win it all next season, who would it be?
The starting rotation needs an upgrade, and C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 206 K's in 2011) is the man to build that staff around.
The trouble with the Red Sox in 2011 wasn't lack of talent. Having scored the most runs in baseball (875), hit for the second-highest team batting average (.280) and posting the third-lowest opponents' batting average in the American League (.247), the Red Sox aren't missing much in the way of championship-caliber players on the roster.
What they need is a manager that can prevent players from drinking beer, eating fried chicken and playing video games in the clubhouse during games.
Tony La Russa and the Cardinals have a mutual option for 2012 and after the success La Russa has had with the Red Birds this season, he may just get an extension.
But if he doesn't, La Russa has the bona fides and the experience to handle the scrutiny and pressures of Beantown.
The Rays pitched extremely well in 2011, which was a big reason they got into the postseason after a furious dash to the finish line at the end.
Tampa Bay's team ERA ranked second in the American League (3.58), and their opponents' batting average was the second-lowest in baseball (.234).
Enter Big Papi. David Ortiz has spoken about leaving Boston in the wake of the clubhouse drama, and a good fit for the free agent may just be in Tampa.
With Justin Verlander as your ace, you need only another solid starter or two to make a rotation elite.
The Tigers could really use another solid starter, as Detroit's offense is very well established and finished in the top five in many categories in 2011.
Despite Verlander's sheer dominance, the Tigers' pitching stats this season were nothing spectacular.
Hiroki Kuroda may be one of the most underrated starters in the game.
The Texas Rangers are arguably the best-hitting club in the game. They finished the regular season with an MLB-leading .283 team batting average, and finished second to the Red Sox by just fractional points in slugging percentage and OPS.
Texas is perhaps the most complete team in baseball as well, boasting a pitching staff that finished second in the American League with a .244 opponents' batting average.
The Rangers, however, finished fifth in team ERA (3.79), and could use a little starting rotation help.
C.C. Sabathia may just opt out of his final contract year with the Yankees, and if so, Arlington could be a great fit for him.
Indeed, Sabathia could fill a void if C.J. Wilson leaves Texas as a free agent himself, or could bolster the rotation especially if Wilson re-signs.
The Angels were hanging around in the playoff race in the AL West into the second half of the season, but then faded from contention, finishing 10 games behind the Texas Rangers.
One stat that must be improved upon if the Angels want to compete for a playoff berth in 2012 is in the blown-save category.
The Halos blew 25 saves in 2011, leading the American League.
Jonathan Papelbon and Heath Bell are the premier closers available on the free-agent market this winter, and Papelbon, being younger and with American League experience, ought to be a prime target for Anaheim.
The elimination of the Philadelphia Phillies in this year's NLDS was perhaps the most shocking premature playoff exit of any team in recent memory.
The Phillies finished the regular season with the best record in baseball, and were expected to tear through all comers on their way to the World Series, especially with their all-world starting rotation.
But it wasn't meant to be.
Skipper Charlie Manuel vowed better hitting in 2012. He and the Phils will need it.
With Ryan Howard likely to miss time in 2012 due to a rupture of his Achilles tendon in the final at-bat of the NLDS, the Phillies are in dire need of an offensive force.
Carlos Beltran may be their man.
Beltran is a switch-hitting power hitter that can play both corner outfield positions, which is something the Phillies may be looking for as well this winter.
Even before their epic late-season collapse, the Atlanta Braves had real offensive problems.
In 2011, Atlanta hit just .243 as a team.
Their pitching staff has been fabulous, but the Braves need help at the plate, especially from the leadoff position.
Jose Reyes could be perfect for Atlanta, bringing unmatched energy to the offensive side of the club with the ability to hit for average and power while wreaking havoc on the basepaths.
Reyes could jump-start Atlanta's offense and set the table for the middle of the lineup, creating more RBI opportunities for the likes of Freddie Freeman and Chipper Jones.
Prince Fielder has already declared that 2011 could be his last season in a Milwaukee Brewer uniform.
If that is indeed, the case, the Brewers, who rely on a juggernaut offensive attack, could have a big hole to fill at first base.
Carlos Pena is a guy that has the potential to hit 35 home runs and drive in 100 every year, and despite having a tendency to hit for a relatively low batting average, that type of player could thrive at Miller Park.
Albert Pujols is the heart and soul of the St. Louis Cardinals, and has been for the past 11 years.
For St. Louis to make a legitimate run at a world championship in 2012, he needs to be signed for the remainder of his career.
A Pujols departure could mean an irreplaceable presence has left this historic franchise for good, and that won't bode well for the Red Birds.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were the biggest surprise of the 2011 MLB season, going from worst to first in the National League West.
The D'Backs can hit for power, which is what got them to the postseason. Arizona smashed 172 homers and finished with the third-best slugging percentage in the NL.
But the Snakes need pitching.
Rich Harden could be a fantastic addition to Arizona's rotation.
Harden is a veteran, but is still just 29 years old. He has had several seasons of sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP under 1.10.
His career record is 59-38 with a 3.76 ERA, and could be just what the doctor ordered in Phoenix.
The San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series with utterly dominant pitching and timely hitting.
Their pitching staff, headlined by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Brian Wilson, is the envy of MLB.
Their offense in 2010 ranked below average, at ninth in the National League, and yet they still won a world championship.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, injuries to key players like Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez kept the Giants out of the playoffs in 2011.
Two key areas that San Francisco needs help desperately is shortstop and a leadoff hitter. Both of these needs could be filled by a reliable veteran that has only missed significant time due to injury once in his 11-year career.
Jimmy Rollins is a career .272 hitter who can hit for power and can steal bases (he swiped 30 bags in 2011).
With the return of Sanchez and Posey to the middle of the lineup, as well as a rejuvenated Pablo Sandoval, Rollins could set the tone for an offense that can provide just enough for San Francisco's stellar pitching staff, which the Giants proved is a formula for success when they won it all in 2010.