Every MLB team wants their pick of the free agent litter this offseason, but who needs them? Who's future depends on landing one of the elite talents floating on baseball's open market?
Matching each top free agent with the team that most needs them reveals team weaknesses and player strengths. It also sets the stakes high for negotiations to come.
Don't be surprised if these teams fall over themselves for the objects of their desire.
The Miami Marlins Need...Jose Reyes
Jose Reyes fits the newly termed Miami Marlins like a glove, and a much need glove at that.
Hanley Ramirez may be one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, but he's never excelled on the field. Han-Ram's posted negative defensive WAR's in each of the past three seasons and those numbers will only decline in the coming years.
If Reyes lands in South Beach, Miami can move Ramirez to third base or center field. Either of those collateral moves would fill a lineup hole from last year and make Ramirez a more valuable defender. If he lands at third base, the Marlins could even move top prospect Matt Dominguez for more veteran help in the rotation.
Add all of that to the fact that Reyes would bring star power to the opening of a new stadium and the deal makes even more sense. It's no surprise the Marlins are openly pursuing him with all that potential benefit on the line.
The Boston Red Sox Need...C.J. Wilson
The Red Sox of the last decade aren't used to losing, but they've done a lot of it in the last few months. First their epic regular season collapse, followed by the loss of GM Theo Epstein, followed by the arm injury that shelves John Lackey for all of 2012.
The Red Sox need to stop the bleeding, both on the field and off, with a big signing. The pitching staff, now without Jonathan Papelbon, is in particularly acute need of reinforcements. Wilson should provide innings and a nice 1-2 punch with Jon Lester.
As always, the Red Sox have the money to make it work, and last year's failure gives them the motivation to move.
The Nationals Need...Prince Fielder
The Nats have money to spend and some positive momentum generated from a surprising 80-81 finish in 2011. Signing Prince Fielder would remove the stain of last year's Jayson Werth deal and keep a promising franchise on the up-and-up.
Fielder would allow them to keep building and put a dynamite core in place for the future. He'd also bump slugger Michael Morse to left field, thereby covering an offensive hole from last season.
You could argue for the Cubs in this spot simply from a sentimental standpoint, as a way of marking Theo Esptein's bold new era. But on the field, the Cubs have time (and need time) to make more systematic changes.
Washington could use Fielder's production right now and in the next few years.
The Philadelphia Phillies Need...Jimmy Rollins
With an aging lineup and veteran staff, it's clear the Phillies won't be elite much longer. They need talent to win now.
I don't think they're likely to steal Jose Reyes away from Miami, New York or San Francisco, leaving them with one viable option at shortstop for next year: Jimmy Rollins.
Rollins has a few good years left in him, and top infield prospect Freddy Galvis isn't ready to play every day in the big leagues.
Rollins' remaining usefulness as a starter coincides nicely with Philly's window to win. That and the fact that there aren't many good shortstops out there makes Philadelphia a sucker for his demands.
A team with Philadelphia's lofty goals simply can't have a question mark in the middle of the diamond.
The St. Louis Cardinals Need...Albert Pujols
It's hard to imagine the St. Louis Cardinals without Tony LaRussa, but it's even harder to picture them without Albert Pujols. St. Louis doesn't have a lot of other options at first base, at least not one that can cover up their aging core.
Matt Holliday's showing chinks in the armor, Lance Berkman's greying beard portends a drop-off and Chris Carpenter won't last too many years past 35. With Albert Pujols by their side, this cast can keep the Cardinals competitive for the next few seasons and provide some continuity between Mike Mattheny's tenure and LaRussa's.
Without Pujols, the Cardinals might need to self destruct and start over. I can't see this veteran team surviving a long season without him, and that's allowing for Adam Wainwright to return full-strength in 2012.
There's no one capable of replacing the value he brings to St. Louis.