MLB Trades/Free Agency: One Position Each Team Needs to Upgrade
With winter meetings now underway, MLB free agency is really going to get moving, and we will see a lot more rumors floating around. Naturally, most rumors will involve players being suited to the needs of each team.
It's obvious which teams need pitching and hitting—players like Prince Fielder will be rumored as heading to the Mariners to give them a pop, and C.J. Wilson will be rumored as heading to the Yankees even if the sides seem far apart currently.
Every team needs to upgrade at least one position, even the World Series-winning Cardinals.
Here is the position that each team needs to upgrade most.
Baltimore Orioles: Pitching
The Baltimore Orioles finished 2011 with a 4.92 ERA as a team, and if you just look at the starting pitching as a unit, it is downright embarrassing.
Only Jeremy Guthrie was even mediocre (at least he made it to 200 innings), and he's on the trading block.
Unless Zach Britton improves on this season, I'm not seeing any good starters for next year, so they absolutely need to bring at least one in.
Their lineup is not all that bad, and can definitely hit for power, but they need to be able to realistically win games.
Even adding a couple quality relievers would help, as Koji Uehara can only do so much after the starter leaves the game—and now he can't do anything for Baltimore, because they traded him.
Boston Red Sox: Starting Pitching
Unlike the Orioles, at least we can get more specific with the Boston Red Sox.
They have one of the best hitting lineups in the game and plenty of good relievers.
After Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, though, there's a lot of problems in the rotation.
Clay Buchholz can't play a whole season, Tim Wakefield might be done, John Lackey sucks, and who knows what will happen with Daisuke Matsuzaka? Even if he does well, he has one year left. For that matter, re-signing Erik Bedard looks like one of the better options.
Adding an innings-eater to the back of the rotation (no one hit 200 last year) is the Red Sox's best bet, as that's what did them in late in the season.
New York Yankees: Starting Pitching
For as much as the Red Sox and Yankees hate each other, every other slideshow I do seems to have them with the same needs and wants.
Such is the case here, as the Yankees have a great hitting squad and a great bullpen.
Their rotation has Sabathia as the ace and Ivan Nova as a rising star.
A.J. Burnett's a back-end innings-eater at this point, and even if Phil Hughes returns to form, it still leaves at least one big hole in the rotation.
Luckily, the Yankees can go after quality instead of quantity this year, and that's where they thrive.
Tampa Bay Rays: Infield
While the Tampa Bay Rays have a legit third baseman in Evan Longoria and should not have much trouble finding a new first baseman if they don't keep Casey Kotchman, the position that needs to be filled most is shortstop or second base.
Reid Brignac doesn't appear to be an everyday player there, and Ben Zobrist can only play one of those spots.
Finding a leadoff-type hitter who can frequently get on base would be the best option, as the Rays were low in batting average and hits last year.
Toronto Blue Jays: Closer
The Toronto Blue Jays are quickly improving, and if the prospects produce like management expects them to in 2012, they will have few major issues—even Prince Fielder is not really a major need for them.
What they do need help in, however, is the bullpen, namely the closer slot.
The Frank Francisco/Jon Rauch closer situation was far from ideal, and both are free agents anyway.
Luckily, the free-agent market is loaded with quality closers, so they should be able to land one without much difficulty.
Chicago White Sox: Pitching Ace
If the fire-sale rumors regarding the Chicago White Sox are true, then they are going to have a huge number of needs.
If Mark Buehrle ends up signing elsewhere, then the top need becomes obvious—an ace pitcher.
They have a solid rotation 2-4 group, with John Danks, Philip Humber and Gavin Floyd being serviceable enough to be on any team.
They don't have that lights-out pitcher though, and Buehrle's going to be a very tough guy to replace—it's likely that it won't be this season.
Cleveland Indians: First Base
While the Indians could use some rotation help, adding Derek Lowe helps somewhat in that regard.
As a result, the glaring need on that team is at first base.
Matt LaPorta has not been getting it done, and as a result, it would be best to bring in someone like Carlos Pena, who can provide some power and durability to a team that needs it.
Detroit Tigers: Third Base
Brandon Inge looks like he's about done, at least offensively, and unless they want to try Jhonny Peralta at third base, the Tigers are going to need to find one in the offseason, as it is the glaring weak link in the lineup.
Third base is always a difficult position to shop around for, and the Tigers were perhaps lucky that Inge could play there, so they were able to hold the fort down and hope that this year's class would be better.
Alas, they may have to make a trade to get one that can plateau with Inge until his contract's up.
A fifth starting pitcher would also be great, through their rotation is actually quite solid heading into 2012.
Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitching
The Kansas City Royals, perhaps surprisingly, are a great small ball team.
First in triples, second in stolen bases and fourth in batting average is quite good.
It's just a shame their pitching is quite poor.
They partially addressed this in acquiring Jonathan Sanchez, but they will need to add in one more if they want to hit .500 next year.
It doesn't have to be a great one—just someone who can pitch six innings per game and actually win a few of them.
With the addition of Jonathan Broxton to the bullpen, I consider that need fully addressed, so they are definitely trying to make headway in the AL Central.
Minnesota Twins: Outfield
This was a tough one, because a look at the team's stats from this past year shows an all-around bad team, with the best player being Scott Baker.
Where do you start with a team that may have just had a terrible year rather than is a bad team?
Given that Delmon Young was traded and Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are free agents, the outfield is the team's biggest priority, as there are now a few gaping holes.
These need to be filled by players who are able to play solid baseball every day.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Catcher
I'm surprised that I don't hear more about the Angels wanting to acquire a catcher, seeing as how they rotated three last year with none of them being any good.
They shipped Jeff Mathis and his career .194 average to Toronto, which is a start.
Despite how weak the catching market is, pretty much anyone would be an improvement over Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson, who may already be an improvement over Mathis.
Oakland Athletics: Outfield
While the Minnesota Twins need outfield help, as least they have Ben Revere as a holdover.
The Oakland Athletics have three outfielders—Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus—who are all free agents.
When none of your starting outfielders are likely to come on, it's time to pick up at least two during free agency, no matter how much you may like your farm talent.
Seattle Mariners: First Base
The Seattle Mariners have a great rotation and a solid bullpen, but you wouldn't know it looking at the win-loss records. That's the result of the starting lineup being unable to hit.
Aside from Ichiro, the most productive players were Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp, who only played part of the season.
It doesn't even matter all that much what position they improve with a stronger bat, as it would be difficult for the lineup to get worse, though if I had to pick one spot, I would say first base, since I don't see Justin Smoak becoming a high-caliber first baseman.
Texas Rangers: First Base
There are those who thing Mitch Moreland is a rising stud at first base and believe he should stay with the Rangers, and there are those who think he's entirely replaceable, and that the Rangers should do just that in 2012.
I'm in that second camp. I see first base as the clear weak link.
While replacing C.J. Wilson is a high priority, they at least have other starters who can step up, especially in the playoffs, which is something I don't see Moreland doing after a terrible 2011 playoffs, though he was good in 2010.
Atlanta Braves: Shortstop
More accurately, I'd like to say that the Atlanta Braves need to pick up a shortstop that is great at playing small ball.
The Braves have a solid rotation and perhaps the best bullpen in baseball, but they are ranked near the bottom in doubles, triples, stolen bases and on-base percentage last year.
Adding Michael Bourn helps them in this regard, but they need an extra guy, ideally at shortstop, since Alex Gonzalez is a free agent.
His defense is good enough to keep around, but to make that leap over the Phillies, the Braves might need more.
Miami Marlins: Closer
I was considering going in the tongue-in-cheek route and saying they need to improve the manager spot due to ridiculously high turnover, but Ozzie Guillen should put a stop to that.
Instead, the main thing they need, aside from a big offensive playmaker in general, is a closer.
Acquiring Heath Bell was a great move to pick one up since Leo Nunez/Juan Oveido has been merely okay, so now they can concentrate on stocking up on talent.
New York Mets: Starting Pitching
While the Mets lost Jose Reyes to free agency, they at least have Ruben Tejada to take his place.
This leaves the weak point of the team as a terrible starting rotation, which only saw R.A. Dickey perform effectively last year.
Realistically, the Mets will need to find two starters in free agency, just in hopes that enough of them can pitch decently in 2012 so that the Mets can try to compete in the NL East.
Philadelphia Phillies: Shortstop or Third Base
Jimmy Rollins is a free agent this season, and it's too early to say whether or not he will be back.
One thing is for sure, though—the Phillies are looking closely at other options, including Aramis Ramirez.
Placido Polanco can play shortstop or third, so that makes it easy to fill in their sudden weak spot.
As long as the lineup can be improved, the Phillies should have an easier time in the playoffs next year.
Washington Nationals: Outfield
The Washington Nationals thought they would have a solid outfield in 2011, but they were mistaken.
Laynce Nix signed elsewhere in free agency, Roger Bernadina appears to only be a fourth outfielder, Jayson Werth has not played to his deal and while Rick Ankiel provides good defense, that's about it.
At the very least, they need a left fielder to add to their roster, and having an offensive-minded center fielder who could platoon with Ankiel may not be too bad, either.
Chicago Cubs: Starting Pitching
As much chaos as there's going to be in the Cubs' lineup this offseason, with Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez likely gone, the position they really need to start attacking is their starting rotation.
The team was 14th in the NL in ERA despite a few good players in the bullpen.
This is due to Matt Garza being the only good starter last year.
Carlos Zambrano should be gone, and Ryan Dempster is only an innings-eater at this point. Needless to say, there's some trouble there.
Cincinnati Reds: Starting Pitching
It looks like the Reds had a lot of young pitching talent, but 2011 said otherwise.
Johnny Cueto was great and Mike Leake was serviceable, but the other three spots went to waste.
The likely move would be adding in a veteran starter to help out the young guns that are struggling, since we've seen some good things from each one.
Houston Astros: Starting Pitching
The NL Central seems to have a pattern.
If the Houston Astros are really considering trading Wandy Rodriguez or Brett Myers, then they better bring in pitchers who can go immediately, because they are already dead last in ERA, and a Rodriguez departure would make them even worse.
Milwaukee Brewers: Shortstop
If Prince Fielder leaves Milwaukee, then there's a huge hole at first base that needs to be fixed.
If he stays, the weak spot is obviously shortstop, as it was during the season.
It won't be difficult to find a shortstop better than Yuniesky Betancourt, but having one who can play small ball would help, since they have few players doing that now.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Catcher
The Pittsburgh Pirates used eight catchers last season.
Their most successful one, Ryan Doumit, was signed elsewhere in free agency, and Chris Snyder was as well.
That leaves Michael McKenry as the only one with any major experience.
Despite the weak catching field, that's a spot that has to be fixed.
There are a lot of small holes on the Pirates, such as the starting rotation and the questions at third base, but catcher sticks out to me.
St. Louis Cardinals: Second Base
The Cardinals are in a similar situation to the Brewers.
If they lose their star first baseman, Albert Pujols, then that's the obvious hole they need to fill.
That being said, I've always felt the weak link of the team was second baseman Skip Schumaker, and I still do, even though he's not going anywhere.
Arizona Diamondbacks: First Base
The Arizona Diamondbacks came out of nowhere to win the NL West last season, even though the stats suggest they should have been a rather average team.
In any case, nowhere is where they may end up again if they don't sign a first baseman.
For a team that has every other spot in the lineup go right, the platoon of Juan Miranda, Xavier Nady and Paul Goldschmidt is definitely not going to cut it next year.
Colorado Rockies: Starting Pitching
Because of where they play, the Rockies always need starting pitching, and they are always ranked poorly in ERA.
They have farm talent that's ready to go alongside Jhoulys Chacin, but adding in a veteran reliever to replace Ubaldo Jimenez would be ideal.
Ten pitchers started at least five games for the Rockies. That's too much inconsistency for any team.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Third Base
Third base is a tough position to fill for many teams, but the Dodgers may be in bigger trouble than any other.
Casey Blake is a free agent, as is Aaron Miles, and while they have Juan Uribe, he was just bad this year.
At the very least, they need to sign a third baseman to platoon with him, since none of the farm talent promoted late last year seemed to make an impact—or hit well over .200, for that matter.
San Diego Padres: Outfield
The San Diego Padres need power hitters in the lineup, plain and simple, as they are last in pretty much all of those categories.
There are a good amount of outfielders available who are power hitters, so picking up one or two would be a great move.
The Padres were first in the NL in triples and stolen bases, which is nice but shows that their offense is entirely one-dimensional. That has to be fixed.
San Francisco Giants: Outfield
Last year, the Giants worked with Pat Burrell, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross and Andres Torres in the outfield before bringing in Carlos Beltran late.
Burrell and Rowand are done, Ross is likely gone in free agency, and while Schierholtz and Torres are serviceable, the Giants can do better.
Adding in an outfielder to work alongside Beltran or platoon with the others would make their lineup that much better.
There are a couple other pieces in the lineup that need fixing as well, but working from the top down should help.