Predicting All 30 MLB Teams' Biggest Offseason Move
Regardless of whether or not the San Francisco Giants wrap up the World Series with a Game 6 victory or the Kansas City Royals force a decisive Game 7, the MLB offseason is rapidly approaching.
Already this October, we have taken a look at each team's top potential offseason target, as well as options to address each team's biggest weakness. Now it's time for some pre-offseason predictions, and what follows is a look at my best guess for what will be each team's biggest offseason move.
Free-agent signings, trades and in-house contract extensions were all considered here, with the "biggest" being considered the one that will have the greatest impact on the team in 2015 and beyond.
Are all of these predictions going to come to fruition? Almost certainly not, but based on team need and available options, they appear to at least be realistic options at this point.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Signing SP Aaron Harang
Aaron Harang was one of the better out-of-nowhere stories of 2014, as he was well off the free-agent grid last winter following a season in which he went 5-12 with a 5.40 ERA.
After failing to make the Cleveland Indians after a so-so spring training, he was scooped up by the injury-riddled Atlanta Braves on a minor league deal just before the start of the regular season.
The 36-year-old wound up topping the 200-inning mark for the first time since 2007, going 12-12 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 starts and posting a 3.57 FIP to give some credence to the idea that he could turn in a similar performance in 2015.
The Arizona Diamondbacks got an MLB-low 41 wins from their starting pitchers last season, as they posted a 4.44 ERA that ranked 27th in the league.
Wade Miley and Josh Collmenter appear to be the only locks to open the season with rotation spots, with 2013 All-Star Patrick Corbin expected back at some point in the first half.
Adding a mid-level veteran like Harang on a two-year deal could help solidify the staff as it gets healthy and awaits the arrival of stud prospects Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair.
Atlanta Braves: Signing SP Jake Peavy
The Braves did an impressive job piecing together one of the league's best starting rotations last season, despite a number of key injuries, as they finished the season ranked fifth in the MLB with a 3.42 starter's ERA.
Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Mike Minor would appear to be locks to be part of the 2015 rotation, but the final two spots are up for grabs heading into the offseason.
Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang could both bolt in free agency, and it's hard to count on anything out of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy as they make their way back from Tommy John surgery No. 2.
David Hale is certainly one incumbent option, but he could actually be more valuable remaining in the swing role he filled last season. Top prospects Lucas Sims and Jason Hursh both appear to be at least a year away, though Hursh could see the majors in the second half of next year.
Regardless, a veteran presence is clearly needed on this staff, and signing a fiery competitor like Jake Peavy to fill that role could give the group a much-needed edge.
He was a different pitcher after being traded to the San Francisco Giants at the deadline, and the Alabama native could be swayed by the idea of moving closer to home to close out his career.
Also, the Braves have shown interest in the 33-year-old in the past. They pushed hard to acquire the right-hander from the San Diego Padres prior to the 2009 season and were in the mix once again at the deadline this season, according to CBS Sports' Mike Axisa and The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham and Nick Cafardo, respectively.
Baltimore Orioles: Re-Signing DH Nelson Cruz
Despite the fact that they led the majors with 211 home runs this past season, the Baltimore Orioles' biggest need this offseason will be addressing their middle-of-the-order run production.
With Chris Davis taking a big step backward and perhaps even a candidate to be non-tendered, both Matt Wieters and Manny Machado returning from surgery and the chances slim that Steve Pearce duplicates his out-of-nowhere 2014 numbers, the only real lock is center fielder Adam Jones.
That makes re-signing slugger Nelson Cruz absolutely crucial if the Orioles hope to repeat as AL East champions while making another run at the AL pennant.
The free-agent market never really developed for him a year ago, after he rejected a qualifying offer from the Texas Rangers, and he wound up leaving $6.1 million on the table by doing that when he signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the O's.
That contract made him one of the best bargains in all of baseball, as he hit .271/.333/.525 while leading the MLB with 40 home runs and setting a career high with 108 RBI.
"I want to come back no doubt," Cruz told Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun (via the Los Angeles Times). "Just wait and see what happens."
The Orioles' chances of returning to the playoffs shrink dramatically if he signs somewhere else, so expect the two sides to work something out early on this coming offseason.
Boston Red Sox: Trading for SP Mat Latos and Signing SP James Shields
The Boston Red Sox took an aggressive approach at the deadline last season, selling off a number of veteran pieces but looking for major league-ready talent in return, with an eye on bouncing back and contending in 2015.
Their farm system is loaded with high-end pitching prospects, but the big league staff is relatively barren, with Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly the only real experienced options the Red Sox have in place at the moment.
Expect them to be major players on both the free-agent and trade market and one way or another for two front-line starting pitchers to be added to the mix this offseason.
James Shields will no doubt come cheaper than Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, and he may be able to be had for something like a five-year, $100 million deal. Not chump change by any stretch of the imagination, but not the six- or seven-year megadeal that has gotten the Red Sox in trouble in the past either.
Adding Shields and working out a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, who could potentially move either Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos this offseason according to ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required) and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal (h/t Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors) respectively, gives them a pair of rock-solid right-handers to front their staff.
My guess is Latos ends up being the one who's moved, with the Red Sox shipping a package built around outfielder Daniel Nava and one of their big league-ready pitching prospects like Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster or Matt Barnes.
Chicago Cubs: Signing SP Jon Lester
The Chicago Cubs have some nice rotation pieces to build around in Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks, but they are probably best suited being No. 2 and No. 4 guys in a contender's rotation.
Finding that No. 1 guy remains their top priority, and this could be the offseason they finally do it, as the Cubs have made it no secret that left-hander Jon Lester is their top target.
"Multiple industry sources say the Cubs are targeting Lester and will make a run at him this winter, trying to set a foundation piece in the rebuild at Clark and Addison," wrote Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago.
They could also be in the mix for either Scherzer or Shields if they miss out on Lester, or they could revisit trade talks with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cole Hamels after putting in a waiver claim on him in August.
At the end of the day, though, the Cubs have the money to land Lester, and they are undoubtedly a more attractive free-agent destination than in past seasons, with a wealth of young talent and plenty of reason for optimism moving forward.
Chicago White Sox: Signing RP Francisco Rodriguez
Unless they can somehow find a way to sign Victor Martinez away from the Detroit Tigers, there is a good chance the Chicago White Sox's biggest offseason addition will come in the ninth-inning role.
The team traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason, and the closer's role ended up being a revolving door as a result.
Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka and Javy Guerra all had solid seasons and should be back in 2015, but as a whole, the bullpen ranked 28th in the majors with a 4.38 ERA.
There is no shortage of closer options behind the duo of David Robertson and Koji Uehara, both of whom seem likely to re-sign with their respective teams.
Jason Grilli, Sergio Romo, Francisco Rodriguez, Casey Janssen and Rafael Soriano (if his $14 million option is declined, as expected by The Washington Post's James Wagner) all have ninth-inning experience and are set to hit free agency, and K-Rod looks like the most attractive option of that bunch.
Still just 32 years old, he converted 44 of 49 save chances with a 3.04 ERA and 0.985 WHIP for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. They will likely make a run at re-signing him but may not be willing to go over two years, and the White Sox could swoop in and nab him with a three-year deal as a result.
Cincinnati Reds: Extending SP Johnny Cueto
The Reds have some big decisions to make about their starting rotation between now and the end of the 2015 season, and at the very least, they should lay some groundwork for a potential trade this offseason.
With Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon all headed for free agency at the end of 2015, and a number of long-term deals already on the books, not all of those guys will be in Cincinnati for the 2016 season.
As noted by Rosenthal, Latos looks like the leading candidate to be traded at this point, and if the Reds deal him this offseason, the next step could be an extension for Cueto.
Unloading second baseman Brandon Phillips and at least some of the $39 million he is due over the next three years could certainly help make that happen, though that will likely be easier said than done.
It will no doubt cost nine figures to lock up Cueto, even with his relatively shaky injury history, as he was undoubtedly one of the game's best this past season when he went 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA while leading the NL with 242 strikeouts in and 243.2 innings pitched.
A rotation of Cueto, Homer Bailey, Robert Stephenson, Tony Cingrani and perhaps a prospect they land in moving Latos still gives the Reds a formidable staff with plenty of upside.
Cleveland Indians: Extending SP Corey Kluber
Corey Kluber flew under the radar with a strong season in 2013, but he officially broke out this past season, putting up some of the best numbers of any starting pitcher in the game. He should finish in the top three in AL Cy Young voting after going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 235.2 innings, emerging as the clear ace of a young Indians rotation.
Kluber is an interesting case when it comes to extension talks, as he will likely be just as motivated as the Indians are to get a deal done. Already 28 years old, and still a year away from arbitration, Kluber won't hit free agency for the first time until his age-33 season, so there may not be a nine-figure megadeal waiting for him down the line.
He could simply go year to year through the arbitration process, but the stability of a long-term deal with such a short track record of success may be hard to pass up.
The five-year, $35 million deal Madison Bumgarner signed with one pre-arbitration year could be a starting point in extension talks.
Something like a five-year, $50 million deal would still be a significant raise for Kluber and a steal for the Indians if he can duplicate his 2014 success.
Colorado Rockies: Signing SP Roberto Hernandez
The struggle to put together a passable five-man rotation rages on for the Colorado Rockies, as they finished last in the NL with a 4.89 starter's ERA in 2014.
Jorge De La Rosa will be back after signing a two-year extension, and the young duo of Jordan Lyles and Tyler Matzek showed enough that they should be locks to join him in the rotation, but there is still work to be done.
A healthy Jhoulys Chacin would likely earn a spot as well, while prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray could also get an extended long look this spring, but another mid-level veteran would seem to be the Rockies' top target.
As always, pitchers who are able to consistently keep the ball on the ground will top their list of targets, while they are not likely to break the bank with a huge offseason addition.
Justin Masterson (58.2 percent ground-ball rate), Francisco Liriano (54.4 percent) and Brandon McCarthy (52.6 percent) all had terrific ground-ball rates last season and should come on mid-level deals, but convincing them to come to Colorado won't be easy when there are other options.
Roberto Hernandez, on the other hand, could probably be swayed with a multiyear deal, and the sinkerballer had a respectable 49.7 percent ground-ball rate himself, so there is at least a fighting chance he succeeds at altitude.
Detroit Tigers: Re-Signing DH Victor Martinez
It's easy to poke holes in the idea of offering a 35-year-old designated hitter big money and a multiyear deal, but re-signing Victor Martinez looks like a must for the Tigers this offseason.
After missing all of 2012 with knee surgery, V-Mart came back to hit .301/.355/.430 in 2013, but his power numbers were down, as he had just 14 home runs and 83 RBI.
Asked to step into the role of cleanup hitter after the team traded Prince Fielder, his pop returned in a big way, and he finished the 2014 season hitting .335/.409/.565 with 32 home runs and 103 RBI.
He is seeking a four-year deal this winter, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and that could be enough to scare off a number of teams that are not willing to make that sort of commitment to someone his age. His last contract with the Tigers was a four-year, $52 million deal, and it's hard to imagine him accepting anything less than that this time around.
As the Tigers remain in win-now mode, expect the two sides to get something done and for Martinez to be penciled into the cleanup spot behind Miguel Cabrera once again in 2015 and beyond.
Houston Astros: Signing SS Hanley Ramirez
At this point in the offseason, it's tough to gauge exactly how the market for Hanley Ramirez is going to shape up. The Dodgers will almost certainly make him a qualifying offer, and there is at least a chance he accepts it and looks to rebuild some value after a dip in his production from 2013 to 2014.
If he does turn it down, there is no question he is one of the top bats on the market, but a below-average glove at shortstop and his injury history make him a risky target considering the money he will be looking for.
One team that has a clear need at shortstop, and the flexibility to move him to third base a couple years from now, is the Houston Astros.
Jonathan Villar and Matt Dominguez were the primary options on the left side of the infield last year, but their chances of holding down those positions long term look to be slim at best.
Using Ramirez at shortstop to bridge the gap to top prospect Carlos Correa, then shifting him to the hot corner, makes a lot of sense.
With just $17.9 million on the books for 2015, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the team has a ton of money to spend, and after a 19-win improvement this past season, it may finally be ready to start spending after years of rebuilding.
Kansas City Royals: Signing SP Ervin Santana
The Royals will at least make an effort to re-sign Shields this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but the odds are still heavily on the side of him playing elsewhere in 2015. That leaves them with a rather glaring hole atop their rotation, though there are in-house options to fill out the rotation if they are comfortable having Yordano Ventura serve in the role of staff ace.
Danny Duffy, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas will all be back as well, while Brandon Finnegan could also get a look as a starter after making a rapid ascent to the majors as a reliever.
The team gave out long-term deals to mid-level veterans the past two offseasons in Guthrie (three-year, $25 million) and Vargas (four-year, $32 million), and targeting a second-tier guy this winter makes sense.
Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez and Ervin Santana should all be able to be had on three- or four-year deals, and they are all capable of pitching like a front-line starter when they are at their best.
Santana is probably the safest of the three choices, and he represents a familiar face after going 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA with the Royals in 2013.
There was some mutual interest between the two sides this past offseason, but the financial side of things didn't line up and Santana eventually wound up in Atlanta. With money freed up by the departure of Shields, bringing back the 31-year-old could go a long way in easing that loss.
Los Angeles Angels: Signing RP Andrew Miller
The Los Angeles Angels improved their bullpen significantly with the additions of Jason Grilli and Huston Street last season, but they were still lacking a reliable left-handed option for most of the year.
The team acquired Joe Thatcher from the Diamondbacks in hopes that he could fill that role in the postseason, but he ended up sidelined with an ankle injury and is now set to hit free agency.
As far as in-house options go, Jose Alvarez and Michael Roth represent the best of the bunch, but neither has shown enough to be considered a reliable late-inning option at this point.
That leaves free agency, where stud Andrew Miller tops the list of available southpaws, and he will likely top the Angels' offseason wish list as well.
The 29-year-old made 73 appearances between Boston and Baltimore last season, posting a 2.02 ERA, 0.802 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 63.1 innings of work. He has just one career save, and chances are he will remain in a setup role, but he could wind up commanding closer money after his performance during the regular season and on into the playoffs.
That would be money well spent for an Angels team that should be right back in contention for the AL West title this coming season.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Signing SP Max Scherzer
The market for Max Scherzer remains something of a question mark at this point.
The New York Yankees are likely to focus on mid-level pieces this offseason, while the Chicago Cubs are thought to prefer James Shields and the Boston Red Sox have interest in Jon Lester according to The Kansas City Star's Andy McCullough, so that could take some of the big spenders out of the equation.
One team that is seemingly never out of the mix these days is the Dodgers, and after they failed in their pursuit of David Price at the trade deadline, they could inevitably be the landing spot for Scherzer.
A potential postseason rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu is nothing short of terrifying, and after another disappointing postseason exit, that could be exactly the kind of splash the Dodgers look to make this winter.
According to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi (h/t MLive.com's , Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million extension offer from the Tigers last offseason, so he will be looking to at least top that mark. What's another $20-plus million player for the Dodgers though in the grand scheme of things?
Miami Marlins: Signing 2B Hector Olivera
After taking a huge step forward this past season, the Miami Marlins look like a team on the rise, and they really don't have an excessive number of areas that need to be addressed this offseason.
One glaring hole is second base, where the likes of Donovan Solano, Ed Lucas, Jordany Valdespin and Derek Dietrich combined to hit .236/.303/.334 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI in 2014.
The free-agent market is thin as usual, as the best options are Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie if they can be convinced to move off shortstop and perhaps take less money as a result. Rickie Weeks, Emilio Bonifacio and Stephen Drew are also out there.
A more intriguing option could be Cuban defector Hector Olivera, whom the Marlins have shown interest in, according to a report from Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
"At his best, Olivera (listed at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds) had been one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba, showing a combination of hitting ability, power, speed and size," wrote Ben Badler of Baseball America.
The 29-year-old has yet to establish residency, so he is not officially eligible to be signed yet. If that gets done before the start of the regular season, though, expect the Marlins to be the front-runners to sign him.
Milwaukee Brewers: Signing 1B Adam LaRoche
The Brewers waited until the very end of the offseason to address their need at first base last offseason, signing veterans Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds to minor league deals.
All told, the first base position contributed a .207/.287/.356 line with 19 home runs and 61 RBI. Not awful, considering both of the aforementioned players were brought in on minor league deals, but still well below-average production for the position.
Adam LaRoche is by far the best option on the market this offseason, provided his $15 million option is declined by the Washington Nationals, which is expected in order to open up first base for Ryan Zimmerman, according to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors.
LaRoche has dealt with some injuries over the years, but when he is healthy, he remains a legitimate 30-homer, 100-RBI threat. Limited to 494 at-bats this past season, he still posted an .817 OPS with 26 home runs and 92 RBI.
The Brewers are right-handed-heavy in the middle of the order with Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun and Khris Davis, so adding a left-handed power bat like LaRoche would also help provide some balance there.
Adams predicted a two-year, $30 million deal for LaRoche, and that would be money well spent by the Brewers.
Minnesota Twins: Signing SP Justin Masterson
The Minnesota Twins have now ranked dead last in the MLB in starter's ERA each of the past two seasons, and after signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes last offseason, expect them to be kicking the tires on some mid-level arms once again this winter.
Hughes ended up being a great signing, going 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA and record 11.6 K/BB ratio after agreeing to a three-year, $24 million deal. Nolasco was a disaster, though, and some combination of Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and Trevor May would fill out the rotation if the Twins stuck with their incumbent choices.
There are a handful of buy-low options on the market that may be able to be had on one-year deals as they look to rebuild some value, and the most attractive of the bunch is Justin Masterson. The 29-year-old was 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 2013, but he went just 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA this past season, costing himself an awful lot of money in the process.
Signing him to something like the one-year, $10 million deal Dan Haren inked with the Dodgers last year could be a steal for the Twins, and it would set Masterson up for another go at a big contract year.
New York Mets: Trading for SS Didi Gregorius
A lack of production from the shortstop position has been a consistent issue for the New York Mets since Jose Reyes departed following the 2011 season, and fixing that figures to be among their top priorities this offseason.
Let's take a quick look at the post-Reyes production at the position.
- 2012: .272/.328/.345, 3 HR, 37 RBI, 78 R
- 2013: .215/.285/.276, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 49 R
- 2014: .236/.317/.312, 8 HR, 57 RBI, 49 R
The in-house options to fill the spot remain the same, with Ruben Tejada and Wilmer Flores both still under team control. Neither has proved capable of being the everyday guy to this point, though, and they both may be out of chances.
The team could opt to sign someone like Asdrubal Cabrera or Jed Lowrie to fix things in the short term, but as it looks to take a big step forward in 2015, it may be more interested in a long-term solution.
Chris Owings seized the everyday shortstop job for the Diamondbacks last season, leaving Didi Gregorius as an expendable piece, and he certainly has the upside to be the long-term answer for the Mets. The 24-year-old hit just .226/.290/.363 this past season while bouncing between the minors and majors and shifting all over the infield.
He saw everyday playing time at shortstop in 2013, though, and hit .252/.332/.373 with 16 doubles and seven home runs in 357 at-bats.
Gregorius has far more offensive potential than Tejada and is a much better fielder than Flores, so adding him to the mix would have to be considered an upgrade.
New York Yankees: Re-Signing RP David Robertson
After spending roughly half-a-billion dollars last offseason and targeting the top players on the market, the New York Yankees could opt to go with a more conservative approach this time around and target complementary pieces.
Re-signing Brandon McCarthy and making a run at Japanese import Kenta Maeda could shore up the rotation, while signing one of the veteran shortstops in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie or Stephen Drew would sort out the infield.
However, as far as the Yankees' biggest offseason move is concerned, re-signing All-Star closer David Robertson could be the most significant financial investment they make.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors predicted a four-year, $52 million deal for the 29-year-old, and it's hard to say Robertson is not deserving of that kind of payday as the top bullpen arm on the market.
Robertson converted 39 of 44 save chances in his first full season as a closer last year and struck out an impressive 96 hitters in 64.1 innings of work.
Having a dominant bullpen is quickly becoming a must in order to make a serious postseason run, and the duo of Dellin Betances and Robertson gives the Yankees a one-two punch that rivals any in the league.
Oakland Athletics: Signing SS Stephen Drew
The thought of bringing back Stephen Drew to play shortstop is not an overly exciting one for Oakland A's fans, but that's how this team operates, and in the long run, he could be a nice buy-low addition.
The 31-year-old was terrific in 2013, hitting .253/.333/.443 with 29 doubles and 13 home runs while playing plus defense on his way to a 3.1 WAR for the Boston Red Sox. However, the qualifying offer burned him last offseason, and he wound up sitting in free-agency limbo until the Red Sox finally re-signed him at the end of May.
He was playing catch-up the rest of the way, and the results were not pretty, as he finished with a .162/.237/.299 line over 271 at-bats.
That should drive his price down this offseason, and he may have to settle for a one-year deal with an option for a second year, which could prove to be a great investment for the A's.
All bets are off if the A's pull the trigger on trading Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija, as those deals would certainly trump signing Stephen Drew as the biggest move of the offseason, but for now, that is nothing more than a rumor, according to Olney.
Philadelphia Phillies: Signing LF Yasmany Tomas
The Phillies desperately need an injection of young talent on an aging roster, and while the chances this team ever commits to a rebuild are slim-to-none unless the front office is gutted, signing Yasmany Tomas would be a step in the right direction.
"A right-handed-hitting corner outfielder, Tomas can hit towering home runs thanks to the strength from his thickly-built 6-foot-1, 230-pound frame. Tomas has 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale," Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote.
Right-handed power is in short supply these days, and it's not everyday that a 23-year-old hits the free-agent market. Whoever signs him will be paying for his prime years, and that's something rarely afford through standard free agency.
According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, the Phillies have emerged as the early favorites to sign Tomas.
He will almost certainly eclipse the six-year, $68 million deal Jose Abreu signed with the White Sox last offseason, and he could push the $90-$100 million range, but if ever there was a player for the Phillies to spend that kind of money on, it's Tomas.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Re-Signing C Russell Martin
The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised a lot of people two years ago when they signed Russell Martin away from the New York Yankees with a two-year, $17 million deal, and it wound up being one of the best signings in franchise history.
Martin was good for 9.9 WAR in his two years with the team, ranking among the best at the catcher position both offensively and defensively and helping lead the Pirates to consecutive postseason appearances.
He hit .290/.402/.430 with 20 doubles and 11 home runs in 379 at-bats this past season, and at just 31 years old, there is no reason to think he can't stay around that level of production for at least a few more seasons.
The Pirates' only real in-house option is Tony Sanchez, and the free-agent market is slim behind Martin, with Nick Hundley and A.J. Pierzynski looking like the best of the bunch, so re-upping with Martin has to be a priority.
It will likely cost something in the neighborhood of a three-year, $40 million deal to do it, and that number could climb if someone like the Dodgers gets involved, but the Pirates have to do whatever it takes to make sure he sticks around.
San Diego Padres: Signing 1B/OF Michael Morse
For a team that ranked dead last in batting average (.226), OPS (.634) and runs per game (3.30) this past season, offense is an obvious area of need for the Padres. However, this is not a team that generally spends in free agency, as the two-year, $15.5 million deal it gave reliever Joaquin Benoit last offseason was the largest free-agent contract in franchise history.
The team has been linked to Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, according to a tweet from Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, but with his asking price likely to push $100 million, it's hard to see the Padres being serious contenders.
That leaves the free-agent market, where they would be wise to target a first base/corner outfield type who could provide some flexibility.
Michael Morse has enjoyed a nice bounce-back season on a one-year, $6 million deal with the San Francisco Giants, and he has the raw power to be a legitimate home run threat in Petco Park provided he's healthy. An oblique injury cost him time this season, but he still hit .279/.336/.475 with 32 doubles and 16 home runs in 438 at-bats.
He's by no means an asset in left field, but he's a passable defender, and adding his bat to the middle of the lineup could really help the Padres turn things around offensively.
San Francisco Giants: Re-Signing 3B Pablo Sandoval
The Giants have a long-standing need to fill in left field, especially if they let Morse walk in free agency, but their biggest concern this offseason will be third base. Pablo Sandoval has not always played up to his potential, and his weight could become an issue moving forward, but he remains one of the best all-around third basemen in the league.
The 28-year-old hit .279/.324/.415 this past season with 16 home runs and 73 RBI, and he has added to his reputation as a postseason stud with another strong showing in October.
Hunter Pence got a five-year, $90 million extension last year, and it will likely take something along those lines to lock up Sandoval as well.
If they don't re-sign him, the Giants' best option becomes signing Chase Headley or trading for someone like Trevor Plouffe, so expect them to get a deal done.
Don't be surprised if an extension comes shortly after the postseason wraps up, as the Giants have wasted little time re-upping with their own players over the past few years.
Seattle Mariners: Signing 1B/OF Michael Cuddyer
According to The News Tribune's Bob Dutton, the Seattle Mariners kicked the tires on signing Nelson Cruz last offseason, but they wound up going with Corey Hart on a one-year deal in an effort to fill their need for a right-handed power bat.
Hart wound up hitting .203/.271/.319 with six home runs and 21 RBI in 232 at-bats, and it's back to the drawing board for the Mariners in their effort to find someone to slot between left-handed bats Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in their lineup.
Cruz is once again the best option on the market, but there is a good chance he re-signs with the Orioles. Cuban defector Yasmany Tomas is also expected to provide right-handed power, but the Phillies look like the favorites to sign him at this point.
That leaves the M's to explore the secondary market once again, and they could opt to buy low on another injury risk in Michael Cuddyer.
The 35-year-old won the NL batting title in 2013 and put up terrific numbers once again this past season, hitting .332/.376/.579. However, shoulder and hamstring injuries limited him to just 49 games and make for a significant red flag heading into free agency.
If he can stay healthy, he could be exactly what the Mariners have been looking for, and it may not cost much more than the one-year, $8 million deal the Orioles gave Cruz a year ago to sign him.
St. Louis Cardinals: Signing RP Luke Gregerson
The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen is loaded with talented young arms, but the Cards will likely be in the market to add at least one veteran piece to the mix.
Pat Neshek is certainly a candidate to be re-signed after turning a minor league deal into an All-Star appearance, but the Cardinals have tended to let other teams pay for a guy's career year, with Edward Mujica and Kyle Lohse coming to mind as recent examples.
A safer option to invest multiple years in would be Luke Gregerson, who has been one of the best right-handed setup men in the game since breaking into the league with the Padres back in 2009.
The 30-year-old has made an MLB-high 435 appearances and recorded a 2.75 ERA since the start of '09, making him as close to a sure thing as there is in a middle-relief role.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicts a three-year, $20 million deal for Gregerson, so he won't come cheap, but he could really help stabilize a young relief corps.
Tampa Bay Rays: Extending SP Alex Cobb
More than perhaps any other team in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays will look to extend their high-end young starting pitching before they become too involved in the arbitration process.
Matt Moore (five years, $14 million, plus three option years), Wade Davis (four years, $12.6 million, plus three option years) and Chris Archer (six years, $25.5 million, plus two option years) all received long-term deals early in their careers, and Alex Cobb would seem like the logical next choice to extend.
The 27-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance in 2013 when he went 11-3 with a 2.76 ERA, and he followed that up by going 10-9 with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.136 WHIP this past season.
Cobb will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this coming offseason, so extending him now and avoiding the process altogether would follow the Rays' recent strategy for locking up their young pitching talent.
Texas Rangers: Signing SP Edinson Volquez
The Texas Rangers used 15 different starting pitchers last season, but they may not be in as bad of shape as one might think heading into the 2015 season. Yu Darvish gives them a bona fide ace, Derek Holland (5 GS, 2-0, 1.46 ERA) looked great once he finally returned from an offseason knee injury and Nick Tepesch showed signs of being a viable back-of-the-rotation arm.
Adding someone like Edinson Volquez to the mix and asking him to be nothing more than the No. 3 starter could be enough for the rotation to do a complete 180 and become a legitimate strength heading into 2015.
Volquez began what has been an up-and-down career to this point with the Rangers, before he was shipped to the Reds in the deal that brought Josh Hamilton to Texas.
He settled for a one-year, $5 million deal from the Pirates last offseason after a rough 2013 season and wound up being an absolute steal, going 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA and 1.230 WHIP.
It's hard to think anyone will be willing to commit more than two years to him, given his inconsistency, but he could provide terrific value on something like a two-year, $18 million deal.
Toronto Blue Jays: Re-Signing LF Melky Cabrera
Melky Cabrera bounced back from a rough 2013 season (.682 OPS, -0.3 WAR) to again rank as one of the more productive left fielders in baseball this past season, and he should be in line for a nice raise as a result.
The last time he hit free agency, it was on the heels of a 50-game performance-enhancing drug suspension, and he settled for a two-year, $16 million deal to join the Toronto Blue Jays.
He finished the season with a .301/.351/.458 line that included 35 doubles, 16 home runs and 73 RBI for a 3.1 WAR, and he could see his annual salary doubled as a result.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors predicted a five-year, $66.25 million deal, giving him the same average annual value as the deal Jhonny Peralta signed last offseason with an extra year tacked on.
That's a significant investment, but one the Blue Jays will have to make if they have any hope of being serious contenders in the AL East next season.
Washington Nationals: Extending Jordan Zimmermann
Despite their early exit from the postseason, the Washington Nationals remain one of the most complete all-around teams in baseball. They will need to decide what to do about second base this offseason, whether it is re-signing Asdrubal Cabrera, making a run at another free agent or giving Danny Espinosa another go.
However, as far as their biggest offseason move is concerned, that could very well come in the form of an extension for one of their soon-to-be free-agent starters.
Both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are free agents after the 2015 season, with Stephen Strasburg headed there the following offseason, so now could be the time to lock up one of those prized arms.
Zimmermann has gone 45-22 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.109 WHIP while averaging 33 starts and 203 innings of work over the past three seasons, quietly emerging as one of the best starters in the National League.
The Nationals offered him a five-year, $85 million extension last offseason, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, before settling on a two-year, $24 million deal to buy out his remaining arbitration time.
Something in the neighborhood of the six-year, $127.5 million extension Matt Cain received from the Giants could be a more realistic expectation of what it will cost to lock up Zimmermann, and we could see a deal of that nature hammered out this winter.
All standard and advanced stats (including WAR) courtesy of Baseball-Reference and accurate through Sunday, Oct. 26.
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