Los Angeles Dodgers and Teams with the Most Work to Do in MLB Free Agency
With MLB free agency in full swing, we are getting a real sense of what teams will look like in 2023.
They will be markedly different, with Justin Verlander pitching in Queens instead of Houston, Trea Turner in the City of Brotherly Love instead of the City of Angels, and Xander Bogaerts going cross country from Boston to San Diego.
José Abreu will also wear a uniform different from the Chicago White Sox as he takes over with the World Series champions in Houston.
Some contenders undoubtedly have made their teams better in free agency.
But there is also more work to be done. In this exercise, we'll look at some of the key teams, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals, that could stand to put in more work before the market dries up.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers lost Trea Turner and have the money to adequately replace him. Gavin Lux would not be the answer at shortstop since he's far better off at second base.
Dansby Swanson is still out there, so L.A. should be doing its best to sign him.
One of the franchise's hallmarks is depth and consistency, so expect that to continue, even if it doesn't land one of the remaining marquee shortstops. But notice what's happening around the Dodgers.
Their NL West foes in San Diego continue to invest heavily, signing Xander Bogaerts in free agency. The Dodgers' biggest rival, the San Francisco Giants, added Carlos Correa.
The NL East continues to strengthen. The pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies signed away Turner, and the 101-win New York Mets won the Justin Verlander sweepstakes.
It's important the Dodgers keep up.
New York Yankees
Similar to last offseason, the Yankees have been oddly quiet in free agency.
Re-signing Aaron Judge was the priority, and whoever landed him could view themselves as a winner, especially in the short term. But the Yankees have done very little, if anything, to close the gap between them and the Astros.
They haven't seemed interested in back-to-back offseasons with talented free-agent shortstops. Even if they aren't serious about adding Dansby Swanson, the Yankees could use another outfielder and a rotation arm.
Signing Carlos Rodón would go a long way for the Yankees. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported the Yankees are expected to make the lefty a "formal offer."
The Cubs made decent moves in signing Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger
They were believed to be toward the front of the line for a top free-agent shortstop. Three of them—Trea Turner (Phillies), Xander Bogaerts (Padres) and Carlos Correa (Giants)—are off the board. That leaves just Dansby Swanson at the top of the market if the Cubs are interested.
They should be. They are one of the few teams that can afford to rebuild and spend big on free agents at the same time.
The Giants' Correa deal was done without the Cubs even making him an offer, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago.
Cubs fans have to wonder what is keeping them being more relevant in free agency.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are headed in the wrong direction. It's yet another offseason in which their fans had to watch an elite player either get traded prematurely or walk in free agency.
Last offseason, it was their failure to re-sign Kyle Schwarber after the Red Sox reached the ALCS but lost to the Astros. This offseason, it's losing Xander Bogaerts in free agency to the emerging Padres.
All of this occurred after trading Mookie Betts, one of the game's best players who helped them to a World Series.
The Red Sox bottomed out in the AL East in 2022 and have responded by shoring up their bullpen with Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin and adding Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida. However, those additions won't put them atop what should be a competitive AL East next season.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom recently told The Athletic's Chad Jennings they are looking into the trade market, so maybe that's the route they'll take to improve.
For now, it looks bleak.
This one seems funny because the Astros just won the World Series, have returned most of the key contributors from that team except for Justin Verlander, and enjoy one of the best pitching staffs in baseball even without their former ace.
They also signed José Abreu to replace Yuli Gurriel as their everyday first baseman, a clear upgrade. They might even re-sign Gurriel, a two-time World Series champion at age 38 who is also a free agent.
But they still wanted more offense to pair with catcher Martín Maldonado, who they covet for how he handles pitchers but who holds a 63 OPS+ over 805 plate appearances in the last two seasons.
The Astros whiffed on Willson Contreras and their backup plan, Christian Vázquez. Astros owner Jim Crane likely intended to add more than just Abreu, so they still have work to do.
Atlanta is having a decent offseason. It acquired catcher Sean Murphy from the Oakland Athletics in a three-team deal that saw nine players switch teams.
William Contreras was sent to the Milwaukee Brewers, while Atlanta grabbed one of the most coveted players on the trade market.
But NL East competitors are also making moves and getting better. The Mets, who, like Atlanta, won 101 games last season, signed Justin Verlander. The Phillies, who just went to the World Series, added Trea Turner in free agency.
Atlanta is still among the teams in discussions with Dansby Swanson, who helped win a World Series there in 2021 and had his best season in 2022.
Signing Jacob deGrom was cool, and the Rangers have made some bold moves over the past year. They followed the Corey Seager-Marcus Semien offseason by finding their new ace, showing a real commitment to building a contender.
But deGrom doesn't help them improve on offense, which the Rangers desperately need. Texas has to address its outfield, which ranked last in wRC+ last year.
The Rangers can forget about competing with the Astros or Mariners if that's the kind of offensive production they get from the outfield. Texas needs to continue making moves in order for the ones they've already made to be worthwhile.
They should still pursue Andrew Benintendi and Michael Conforto and could probably bring back Joey Gallo or Jurickson Profar.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals signed the best free-agent catcher available as Willson Contreras replaces the retired legend Yadier Molina.
St. Louis knew it was Molina's last season and that its top priority was to find his successor. The Cardinals' culture and tradition sold themselves to Contreras. Molina, after all, was his idol.
But as important as the signing was, the Cardinals still haven't done much to close the gap between them and the upper-echelon teams in the NL.
The Phillies and Padres, who competed in the NLCS last season, have both done more to elevate their teams. The same is the case for the Mets signing Justin Verlander, and the Dodgers are still a force.
What are the Cardinals, exactly? The sixth- or seventh-best NL team? Adding a front-line starter like Carlos Rodón could help them get closer to where they want to be, but they have much still to do if they want to be more than the champions of the NL Central.