One Critical Mistake All 30 MLB Teams Must Avoid Making in 2015-16 Offseason
The MLB offseason is an exciting time to be a baseball fan. All 30 teams are hard at work tweaking their rosters for the upcoming season, and the rumor mill gives fans plenty to debate on a daily basis.
However, it's also a time when costly mistakes tend to be made.
From overpaying for a free agent to failing to address a glaring need, there are plenty of opportunities to make a franchise-altering decision in the offseason, both for the good and the bad.
So, with that in mind, here is a look at the one critical mistake all 30 MLB teams must avoid making this offseason.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not opening up the payroll to sign an ace
The Arizona Diamondbacks are a team on the rise, and one with a terrific core of position players to build around led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and center fielder A.J. Pollock.
However, the starting rotation is clearly lacking a bona fide ace, and until they find one it's hard to see them pushing their way into the National League playoff picture.
The recent trade of Jeremy Hellickson and his $6.6 million projected salary was largely viewed as a salary dump of sorts, and that coupled with the team's new $1.5 billion TV deal should allow for more financial flexibility than in years past.
One way or another, the team needs to find an anchor for a rotation that has potential with the likes of Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley and Robbie Ray but is lacking a true stud.
Potential Critical Mistake: Selling low on SP Julio Teheran
After the surprising trade of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, you can't help but wonder who could be next out the door for the Atlanta Braves as their dramatic rebuilding efforts continue.
The answer could be right-hander Julio Teheran.
The rumor last week, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, was that the Braves were "shopping everyone owed money" this winter.
Teheran fits that description, as he's owed $28.6 million over the next four years with a $12 million option and $1 million buyout for 2020.
The 24-year-old was one of the best pitchers in the National League in 2014, going 14-13 with a 2.89 ERA and 1.081 WHIP, but he was not nearly as sharp this past season at 11-8 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.306 WHIP.
Trading him now could make sense for the right return, but the Braves have no reason to sell low on Teheran as he's still a very affordable arm capable of more than he showed in 2015.
Potential Critical Mistake: Overspending on 1B Chris Davis, not improving the rotation enough
The Baltimore Orioles have several holes to plug this offseason, and the surprise decision by Matt Wieters to accept his $15.8 million qualifying offer did not exactly help their payroll situation.
Re-signing slugger Chris Davis remains a priority for a team that would be hard-pressed to replace his offensive production, but at the same time the starting rotation may have been their biggest weakness this past season.
So will their be enough available money for the Orioles to address all their offseason needs?
According to the team's front office, they appear to have more flexibility than some may think.
"Orioles GM Dan Duquette just told us that they have the resources to spend and that includes both Chris Davis and a top-of-rotation starter," wrote Jim Bowden of ESPN. "They are going to be big players in free agency."
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports predicted a seven-year, $182 million deal for Davis earlier this offseason, and regardless of what Duquette might be saying it's hard to see them making a serious run at a front-line pitcher if they shell out that kind of money on him.
Making the rotation—which struggled last season and will now be dealing with the loss of Wei-Yin Chen—a secondary focus would be a critical mistake for the Orioles this winter.
Boston Red Sox
Potential Critical Mistake: Not further bolstering the bullpen
The Boston Red Sox pulled the trigger on the first major blockbuster deal of the offseason last week when they acquired closer Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres for four prospects, including highly regarded outfielder Manuel Margot.
Time to turn their focus to the starting rotation now then, right?
While finding an ace to front the rotation is certainly still on the to-do list, further bolstering the relief corps may still be the more pressing need even with Kimbrel in the fold.
At this point, the projected bullpen is as follows, according to Roster Resource:
- RH Steven Wright: 16 G, 9 GS, 5-4, 4.09 ERA, 1.294 WHIP
- LH Tommy Layne: 64 G, 2-1, 9 HLD, 3.97 ERA, 1.427 WHIP
- RH Noe Ramirez: 17 G, 0-1, 0 HLD, 4.15 ERA, 1.538 WHIP
- LH Robbie Ross Jr.: 54 G, 0-2, 12 HLD, 3.06 ERA, 1.302 WHIP
- RH Junichi Tazawa: 61 G, 2-7, 16 HLD, 4.14 ERA, 1.330 WHIP
- RH Koji Uehara: 43 G, 2-4, 25/27 SV, 2.23 ERA, 0.917 WHIP
- RH Craig Kimbrel:
After ranking 26th in the league last season with a 4.24 ERA from their bullpen and converting just 40-of-61 save chances, adding Kimbrel will obviously help.
That being said, so would adding a couple more proven pieces to the pen, as Uehara will be 41 this coming season and the rest of the incumbents are coming off less-than-inspiring seasons.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not finding a viable leadoff hitter/center fielder
So far, the major rumors surrounding the Chicago Cubs this offseason have all revolved around the starting rotation and their pursuit of a third front-line arm to slot alongside Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester.
While that is no doubt a major need and will likely be where their biggest financial investment comes this offseason, replacing Dexter Fowler in center field and atop the lineup will be equally important.
Fowler was terrific in the role of catalyst this past season, hitting .250/.346/.411 with 102 runs scored and 20 stolen bases, while also setting a new career high with 17 home runs.
The 29-year-old turned down his qualifying offer and will likely be in line for more years and dollars than the Cubs want to commit given the presence of Albert Almora in the minor leagues.
There are some intriguing options behind Fowler on the free-agent market, though, including Denard Span and Austin Jackson. The trade market is also an option, where Jackie Bradley Jr. could provide a significant defensive boost and some offensive upside.
Regardless of what route they take, replacing Fowler with a capable leadoff threat will be one of the keys to a successful offseason.
Chicago White Sox
Potential Critical Mistake: Trading SP Chris Sale for anything short of a king's ransom
Let me preface this by saying that, to date, the Chicago White Sox have given no indication that they intend to trade ace Chris Sale.
That hasn't stopped his name from popping up in trade rumors already this winter, though, with Peter Gammons suggesting that the Red Sox might make sense as a trade partner with a package built around catcher Blake Swihart.
For a White Sox team with a number of holes to fill and a thin farm system, it would be silly not to at least listen to what teams are willing to give up for the 26-year-old southpaw.
However, anything short of a monster package of three or four marquee prospects would be selling low on one of the game's elite arms and tough to justify to the fanbase.
His team-friendly contract only makes Sale that much more appealing as a trade chip, as he's owed $47.15 million over the next four years, including two option years.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not trading RP Aroldis Chapman, RF Jay Bruce this offseason
While the Chicago White Sox should only consider moving Chris Sale if they are absolutely blown out of the water by the potential return, the Cincinnati Reds would be best suited simply taking the best offer on the table for both Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce before the offseason comes to a close.
That doesn't mean the team needs to sell low on either player, as both have plenty of trade value and should have more than a few suitors, but holding onto them in hopes of getting that perfect return doesn't do the team any good at this point.
Chapman is undoubtedly one of the game's elite bullpen arms, but he's also projected to earn $12.9 million in his final year of team control, and there's no reason for a non-contending Reds team to be paying that much for a reliever.
As for Bruce, he's owed $12.5 million this coming season with a $13 million option and $1 million buyout for 2017.
The 28-year-old hit just .226/.294/.434 this past season, but he did have 35 doubles and 26 home runs, the seventh time in his eight big league seasons that he's topped 20 home runs.
Moving both players and adding more young talent to the mix ahead of spring training would allow the team to focus on the future as opposed to continuing to try to find new homes for both players leading up to the trade deadline.
You can also argue that Chapman has more value now with a full season ahead of him than he would at the deadline as a two-month rental.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not doing enough to improve the offense
There is a clear need for a power bat in the middle of the Cleveland Indians lineup, and ideally it would be one that hits right-handed.
Someone like Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes would make sense as a free-agent target, but the Indians generally don't break the bank in free agency, and both players are in line for contracts north of $100 million.
The trade market is also an option, where they could explore flipping one of their starting pitchers for an impact bat, but that also doesn't appear to be as likely as it once was.
According to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, the team is in the market for an outfielder, but likely not at the cost of one of their starting pitchers or Carlos Santana.
Instead, he lists Austin Jackson, Gerardo Parra, Steve Pearce, Chris Young, Nori Aoki, Chris Denorfia and David DeJesus as free agents who are "more in the Indians wheelhouse" this offseason.
None of those names really jumps out as someone who is going to push the Cleveland offense over the top, and for a team that may be one or two pieces away from contending, it needs to do more.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not pulling the trigger on trading RF Carlos Gonzalez
There was a time when the money left on his deal was a hindrance for the Colorado Rockies in trying to trade Carlos Gonzalez, but that is no longer the case.
The 30-year-old is owed $37 million over the next two years, and after finally staying healthy and posting an .864 OPS with 40 home runs this past season that's probably below his market value at this point.
So will CarGo be on the move this winter, now that he's rebuilt a significant amount of trade value?
"I think we’ve showed that if we were hellbent on trading Carlos Gonzalez, he would’ve already been gone by now," GM Jeff Bridich said on MLB Network Radio (via MLBTradeRumors).
At this point, the Rockies really don't gain much from holding onto the star outfielder.
Given their pitching woes, they are unlikely to be in any sort of position to contend before his contract is up, and if unloading him now saves the team some money and adds some quality young talent to the mix there's no reason not to.
Holding onto him until a deep crop of free-agent outfielders unfolds makes sense, but holding onto the injury-prone outfielder for another season when his value has once again peaked doesn't.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not making the bullpen priority No. 1
There is no question the Detroit Tigers need help in the starting rotation, behind Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.
A trio of rookies in Daniel Norris, Buck Farmer and Matt Boyd are currently penciled into the final three spots, and while all three have varying levels of upside, adding another experienced arm or two would be the preferred approach.
However, improving the rotation doesn't mean much if the bullpen can't protect a lead, and after largely ignoring the relief corps the past several seasons the Tigers have to make that their top priority.
Here's where the team has ranked in bullpen ERA the past several seasons:
- 2011: 3.93 ERA (25th)
- 2012: 3.79 ERA (19th)
- 2013: 4.01 ERA (24th)
- 2014: 4.29 ERA (27th)
- 2015: 4.38 ERA (27th)
That's a length span of mediocrity or worse, and if the team is serious about making a push back toward contention in 2016, that will have to change.
Blaine Hardy, Alex Wilson and Bruce Rondon give the team three quality arms, but there is not a proven closer in that bunch, and three reliable arms is not enough.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not re-signing or replacing RP Tony Sipp
It may seem odd to call a 32-year-old reliever the key to the offseason for a team coming off a postseason appearance and expected to contend once again, but that's the case for Tony Sipp and the Houston Astros.
Sipp was one of the best lefty relievers in the league this past season, posting a 1.99 ERA, 1.031 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 with 13 holds in 60 appearances.
That's enough to make him the top left-handed reliever on the free-agent market this winter, alongside Antonio Bastardo.
Re-signing Scott Kazmir or finding a similar veteran to replace him in the rotation may appear to be the Astros' biggest need, but there is an abundance of mid-level starting pitching options out there this winter.
There simply aren't many impact southpaw relievers.
The Astros relief corps was drastically improved this past season, as they improved their bullpen ERA from 4.80 (30th) to 3.27 (sixth) with the additions of Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek and Will Harris.
However, they still posted a 27-30 record and converted just 39-of-58 save chances, so there is still room for improvement.
Losing Sipp or failing to find a suitable replacement would be a step in the wrong direction.
Kansas City Royals
Potential Critical Mistake: Overpaying to re-sign LF Alex Gordon
For a team coming off a World Series title, the Kansas City Royals have no shortage of questions that need to be answered this offseason.
Tops on that list is the free agency of left fielder Alex Gordon, who missed time with a groin injury this past season but has been one of the most valuable all-around players in the game with a 27.2 WAR since the start of the 2011 season.
At this point, a five-year, $100 million contract seems like the floor for Gordon's earning potential on the open market, which represents a ton of money for the small-market Royals, even with a boost in revenue from their postseason run.
Breaking the bank on Gordon also does nothing to address needs at second base, right field and in the starting rotation.
Throw in the fact that Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Wade Davis are all set to hit free agency after the 2017 season and Salvador Perez is deserving of a raise, and committing that kind of money to Gordon long term simply may not be an option.
So what's the alternative? Here's one idea:
Sign Gerardo Parra to replace Gordon in left field, then use the money saved to also sign Ben Zobrist and Marlon Byrd to short-term deals to gear up for another run in 2016.
Los Angeles Angels
Potential Critical Mistake: Staying too right-handed offensively
We've quoted the Los Angeles Angels numbers from the left side of the plate more than a few times here, but for those of you who may have missed it here's a quick refresher from an article I wrote earlier this offseason:
(The Angels) hit just .236/.289/.356 with 78 doubles, 42 home runs and 190 RBI as a team from the left side of the plate this past season, and those numbers grow considerably worse when you remove one player from the mix.
In 1,158 at-bats by left-handed hitters not named Kole Calhoun, the team managed a meager .225/.280/.320 line with 55 doubles, 16 home runs and 107 RBI.
The Angels have obvious holes to fill at third base and in left field, and they could also look for an upgrade over Johnny Giavotella at second base, so they have options for adding more than one lefty to the lineup.
Daniel Murphy still looks like the ideal target, whether it's as a second baseman or a third baseman, while Alex Gordon would also be a nice addition alongside Mike Trout and Calhoun in the outfield.
One way or another, they need to enter the season with at least one impact left-handed hitter added to the mix, or they've made a critical mistake.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Potential Critical Mistake: Not properly filling out the back of the rotation
The big story for the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason will be whether or not they re-sign Zack Greinke, and which front-line starter they target to replace him if he does in fact sign elsewhere.
However, shoring up the back of the rotation will be an equally important area of focus after the No. 4 and No. 5 starter spots were a revolving door this past season.
All told, a total of 13 different pitchers made at least one start behind the trio of Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Brett Anderson.
Those three pitchers combined to go 45-19 with a 2.40 ERA in 96 starts.
The other 13 starters went 19-23 with a 4.78 ERA in their 66 combined starts.
A healthy Hyun-Jin Ryu would certainly help, and Mike Bolsinger (21 GS, 6-6, 3.62 ERA) was a passable option, but look for the Dodgers to sign at least one other mid-level starting pitcher.
If they don't, it could be another carousel ride at the bottom of the staff in 2016.
Potential Critical Mistake: Selling low on CF Marcell Ozuna
Marcell Ozuna looked like a long-term piece of the puzzle for the Miami Marlins when he hit .269/.317/.455 with 23 home runs and 85 RBI in his age-23 season in 2014.
That was enough for the Marlins to open talks on a potential extension last offseason, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. But the two sides did not come to terms on a new deal and a lot has changed in the past year.
When Ozuna was hitting just .249/.301/.337 in early July, the Marlins opted to demote him to Triple-A in an effort to kick-start his season, and he did not take the move well. In fact, he would say his time in the minors was "like a jail," according to Adam Zuvanich of the Miami Herald.
His name then popped up in trade rumors at the deadline and on into August as a result, and agent Scott Boras accused the Marlins of keeping him in the minors to delay his arbitration eligibility.
It was an ugly situation all around, and yet as of writing this Ozuna is still a member of the Marlins organization.
An offseason trade is still a possibility, but selling low on a young, controllable bat with significant upside just because he didn't take a deserved demotion to the minors well would be foolish.
Unless the Marlins can flip Ozuna for a big league-ready starting pitcher with similar upside who can immediately step into a rotation spot, their best move is to keep him and hope he rebounds.
Potential Critical Mistake: Relying on OF Domingo Santana as the everyday center fielder
Domingo Santana was one of the key pieces acquired from the Houston Astros in the deadline deal that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros.
The 23-year-old has tremendous offensive potential, evidenced by his .333/.426/.573 line that included 23 doubles, 18 home runs and 77 RBI in 354 at-bats at the Triple-A level last season.
He also held his own when the Brewers gave him an extended look down the stretch, posting a .766 OPS with 11 extra-base hits in 121 at-bats.
However, the bulk of his playing time came in center field last season, and that simply can't continue.
At 6'5" and 225 pounds, Santana profiles as the prototypical power-hitting right fielder, and he looked very much like a right fielder trying to play center field.
The defensive metrics were not kind to his 161.2 innings where he lined up as a center fielder (-3 DRS, -26.6 UZR/150), and while that represents a small sample size, expecting it to improve is probably a pipe dream.
That creates a problem for the Brewers, as Khris Davis and Ryan Braun are currently entrenched at the corner outfield spots, but counting on Santana as the everyday center fielder is simply not an option.
Potential Critical Mistake: Selling low on 3B Trevor Plouffe
Assuming the Minnesota Twins are able to come to terns with Korean first baseman Byung-ho Park, who they won the right to negotiate with thanks to a $12.85 million bid, the team could look to trade incumbent third baseman Trevor Plouffe.
Allow me to connect the dots.
Last season, standout rookie Miguel Sano spent the bulk of his time serving as designated hitter, but GM Terry Ryan has already said that he "cannot get into the mindset that he’s going to be a DH," according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune, so at some point he figures to see extended action at first or third base.
Joe Mauer is currently entrenched at first base, and with $69 million left on his deal over the next three years he's not going anywhere.
Park and Mauer will likely split time between first base and DH this coming season, so that puts Sano in line to return to his natural position of third base on a regular basis.
That leaves Plouffe as the odd-man out, despite a stellar 2015 season that saw him post a .742 OPS with 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 86 RBI for a 2.5 WAR.
With a thin free-agent market at the hot corner, there should be a market for Plouffe. The Twins need to get a legitimate return for him, though, and not simply trade him for the sake of breaking up the logjam.
New York Mets
Potential Critical Mistake: Not adding an impact bat
After an impressive run to the World Series this past season, it's easy to forget just how bad the New York Mets offense was prior to the deadline additions of Yoenis Cespedes and to a lesser degree Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe.
On July 31, the Mets were averaging 3.54 runs per game, the worst mark in all of baseball.
That lack off offense threatened to undermine one of the best pitching staffs in the league, as they were 53-50 on the season and two games behind an underperforming Washington Nationals team.
We all know the rest of the story, as Cespedes sparked the offense and they went 37-22 the rest of the way while averaging 5.39 runs per game to capture the NL East title.
So with Cespedes and postseason hero Daniel Murphy both all but certain to sign elsewhere in free agency, what's next?
The Mets could hope for a healthy season from David Wright and Michael Cuddyer and another step forward by rookie standout Michael Conforto, but even that may not be enough to keep their offense from regressing to mediocrity.
One way or another, the team has to find a way to add an impact bat to the middle of the lineup, or they're going to have their work cut out for them duplicating their 2015 success.
New York Yankees
Potential Critical Mistake: Trading RP Andrew Miller
The New York Yankees turned more than a few heads last offseason when they signed left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million deal, a record for a reliever with no previous closer experience.
A year later that looks like a steal, as Miller converted 36-of-38 save chances with a 2.04 ERA, 0.859 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 61.2 innings of work to win AL Reliever of the Year honors.
However, despite that success the Yankees are reportedly willing to listen to offers for the 30-year-old this offseason, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Heyman is quick to note that it would take a blockbuster deal for the Yankees to consider moving the standout reliever:
Others suggest the price tag would be very high for Miller, whose first year in New York was nothing short of brilliant. The Yankees would want an ace pitcher or some other huge return sources suggest, to so much as consider it.
One player that could make sense for Miller is Nationals star Stephen Strasburg, who might be hard for Washington to extend. That is speculative; it isn't known if Miller's name has come up with Washington.
While a trade for Stephen Strasburg or someone of his caliber would obviously bolster the rotation, the value of a dominant bullpen come October has been proven time and again in recent years, and Miller is one of the game's elite in the prime of his career.
Trading him this offseason would be a mistake, regardless of the return.
Potential Critical Mistake: Trading SP Sonny Gray or RF Josh Reddick
This one should be easy enough to avoid, provided the front office keeps to its word.
Sonny Gray is one of the best young starters in the game, coming off a 2015 season that saw him go 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.082 WHIP over 208 innings of work.
Seems like a prime candidate to be flipped for more prospects, right?
"We don’t intend to trade Sonny Gray," A's GM David Forst told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. "Not for a lack of interest, and not because he’s not a great pitcher that a lot of teams want. But we really feel like he’s part of our future, as well. As soon as you trade a young, healthy really good pitcher, you’re looking for another one."
Fair enough, but certainly Josh Reddick is on the block after hitting .272/.333/.449 with 25 doubles, 20 home runs and 77 RBI. After all, he's set to hit free agency following the 2016 season.
Despite that fact, he is viewed as a keeper, and could actually be an extension candidate, according to team president Billy Beane.
"One player who will be back, Beane said: right fielder Josh Reddick," wrote Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Reddick, 28, fits the profile of a player the A’s often move because he’s coming off a good offensive year and will be a free agent after next season, but Beane said the team is considering an extension for Reddick."
After forcing the fanbase to say goodbye to a handful of All-Stars last winter, headlined by likely AL MVP Josh Donaldson, going back on these quotes would be a critical mistake in more ways than one.
Potential Critical Mistake: Relying too much on young starters
The rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies figure to trot out a ton of young talent this coming season, as they start to evaluate who can be a part of the team's long-term plans and what areas the team still needs to address.
Aaron Nola (13 GS, 6-2, 3.59 ERA) and Jerad Eickhoff (8 GS, 3-3, 2.65 ERA) are slated to front the rotation after impressive rookie performances, and the team recently acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Arizona Diamondbacks to add a veteran presence.
That said, filling out the rotation with more veteran arms would be wise.
Relying on a rotation full of rookies could be a disaster for an equally young and inexperienced bullpen, so starting the season with some low-cost veterans installed to eat innings could help take some pressure off the young arms.
Ideally, they could land a bounce-back candidate and then flip him at the deadline for more young talent.
Doug Fister, Mat Latos and Bud Norris all fit the bill, and should be available on one-year deals as they look to rebuild their stock.
Potential Critical Mistake: Trading RP Mark Melancon for salary reasons
The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen led all of baseball with a 2.61 ERA, and closer Mark Melancon was a big part of that unit's success.
The 30-year-old set a franchise record with 51 saves in 53 chances, posting a 2.23 ERA, 0.926 WHIP and 7.3 K/9 to win NL Reliever of the Year honors.
Despite that, he appears to be available via trade this winter.
"According to two rival GMs, the Pirates' Mark Melancon, the top closer in the National League this year and winner of the Trevor Hoffman award, is also out there for the taking," wrote Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
The obvious reason is his price tag, as he's projected to earn $10 million in his final year of arbitration before hitting free agency next winter.
However, for a Pirates team that figures to be among the best in the NL once again this coming season, cost-cutting moves simply don't make sense.
With Joakim Soria, Antonio Bastardo and Joe Blanton already hitting free agency from last year's relief corps, they already have work to do if they hope to defend their title as the league's best bullpen.
Trading Melancon would likely mean Tony Watson moves into the closer's role, and while he has the stuff to succeed there, that would have the trickle-down effect of weakening the bullpen as a whole.
San Diego Padres
Potential Critical Mistake: Not making defense a priority
The San Diego Padres and GM A.J. Preller set up to completely overhaul an anemic offense last offseason, and while they added a number of impact bats, they did so with little regard for the value of defense.
Look no further than the decision to play Wil Myers—a former catcher—in center field, where his lack of range was perfectly illustrated by a shockingly bad minus-42.5 UZR/150.
After ranking fourth in the majors and second in the NL with a 3.27 ERA in 2014, they fell to 20th in the league with a 4.09 ERA this past season, despite the additions of James Shields and Craig Kimbrel.
The team needs to play to the strengths of spacious Petco Park and put more of an emphasis on pitching and defense once again this winter.
Moving Myers to left field or first base would be a good place to start, and finding a viable everyday shortstop after trying the likes of Will Middlebrooks and Jedd Gyorko at the position this past season would also help.
Not prioritizing defense in some fashion this winter could make for another long season in San Diego.
San Francisco Giants
Potential Critical Mistake: Relying on SP Matt Cain to fill a rotation spot
The San Francisco Giants have some work to do this offseason overhauling their starting rotation, and the X-factor in that group will be Matt Cain.
The 31-year-old made just 11 starts in 2015 after undergoing elbow and ankle surgery last winter, going 2-4 with a 5.79 ERA in 60.2 innings of work.
That makes relying on him to fill a rotation spot this coming season tough, but at the same time with a $21 million salary the Giants will want to get whatever they can in return for the money they're paying him.
Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston figure to fill three spots in the rotation, so look for the team to target a pair of starting pitchers in free agency, including one front-line arm to pair with MadBum at the top.
If Cain is healthy and productive, Heston can move to the bullpen as a swingman or return to Triple-A.
If he's not, Heston is the No. 5 starter and the rotation is still in good shape.
Simply signing one starting pitcher and hoping Cain and everyone else for that matter can stay healthy and productive would definitely be a critical mistake for the Giants.
Potential Critical Mistake: Not making the bullpen priority No. 1
The Seattle Mariners came one win away from reaching the postseason in 2014, and an MLB-best 2.59 ERA from their relief corps was a big reason why.
After signing Nelson Cruz last winter to shore up the offense, the team was expected to be a serious contender out of the American League this past season.
Instead, they finished 76-86 and the bullpen was a major factor once again as their 4.15 ERA was 25th in the majors.
Tom Wilhelmsen and Danny Farquhar have both been traded this offseason, while Joaquin Benoit was acquired from the San Diego Padres and Anthony Bass was picked up from the Texas Rangers.
Carson Smith and Tony Zych both showed potential as rookies, and Smith still has the stuff to be a lights-out closer down the line, but there is a ton of work to do if the bullpen is to again be a strength.
Signing a proven closer and at least two or three other solid veteran relievers is a must this offseason, as the bullpen doesn't just need tweaking but needs to be completely overhauled.
St. Louis Cardinals
Potential Critical Mistake: Relying on in-house starting pitching depth
No team has been better at dealing with injuries over the past few seasons than the St. Louis Cardinals, as their impressive organizational depth has been on display time and again.
However, they have to add some outside depth to the starting pitching mix this winter after Lance Lynn was lost for the season to Tommy John surgery and John Lackey declined his qualifying offer.
Re-signing Lackey is still a strong possibility, and that would be a good place to start.
As it currently stands, the rotation would be as follows:
- Adam Wainwright
- Michael Wacha
- Carlos Martinez
- Jaime Garcia
- Marco Gonzales
Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons are other options, but Lyons may be headed for a significant role in the bullpen after standing out as a reliever down the stretch.
There's nothing wrong with that group on paper, as it has a chance to be one of the best rotations in baseball.
However, you also have to remember that everyone on that list missed time last year with injury other than Wacha, and he was sidelined with a significant shoulder injury the previous season, so depth is going to be key.
Tampa Bay Rays
Potential Critical Mistake: Not pulling the trigger on trading RP Jake McGee
It's hard to say he's not worth that kind of money, even after he missed the start of last season following arthroscopic surgery on his elbow.
He finished the year with 19 holds, a 2.41 ERA, 0.938 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 over 39 appearances, after saving 19 games and posting a 1.89 ERA the previous season.
In his absence, Brad Boxberger took over the closer's role and wound up earning a spot on the AL All-Star team as he led the AL with 41 saves to go along with a 3.71 ERA and 10.6 K/9.
Both relievers have drawn significant interest on the trade market already this winter, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
Boxberger is still a year away from being arbitration eligible, so McGee is the more likely reliever to be moved.
Freeing up that slice of the payroll could help the team upgrade offensively, which is a more pressing need than setup relief at this point.
Potential Critical Mistake: Overpaying to re-sign SP Yovani Gallardo
The Texas Rangers have only one glaring area of need to fill this offseason, and it's deciding on a fifth starting pitcher to round out their rotation.
Cole Hamels, Martin Perez and Derek Holland will be joined by Yu Darvish once he fully recovers from Tommy John surgery, but as things currently stand the No. 5 starter job would go to either Chi Chi Gonzalez or Nick Martinez.
Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo ranked first and second on the team in innings pitched this past season, and both are candidates to be re-signed in free agency.
Lewis is six years older at 36 and could likely be had on another one-year deal with a slight bump up from the $4 million he earned this past season.
However, Gallardo is looking for a long-term contract after declining the team's qualifying offer.
The Rangers would certainly have a formidable staff with Gallardo back in the fold, but he only makes sense at the right price.
He was 13-11 with a 3.42 ERA this past season, but he had a 4.00 FIP and his strikeout rate declined for a fourth consecutive season to a career-low 5.9 K/9.
Overpaying for Gallardo would be a mistake, even with no other clear areas of need to address.
Toronto Blue Jays
Potential Critical Mistake: Sticking to the five-year contract limit, if only in practice
Under former team president and CEO Paul Beeston, the Toronto Blue Jays stuck to a firm rule of not offering players contracts longer than five years.
That made for some obvious limitations when it came to targeting the top players on the free-agent market.
Beeston stepped down from that role on Oct. 31, with former Cleveland Indians team president Mark Shapiro taking over, and with that move appears to be a change in philosophy.
Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca provided the following information on the five-year rule, following Shapiro's introductory press conference.
It’s history. Shapiro said he prefers to avoid long-term contracts when possible, but he left open the possibility of signing players to six, seven and eight-year deals under the right circumstances.
“I don’t believe in absolutes,” he said.
The Indians signed the likes of Grady Sizemore, Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis to six-year contracts under Shapiro.
Saying the five-year rule is no more is one thing, but actually pulling the trigger on offering up a megadeal this winter is something else entirely.
The Blue Jays need an ace to join Marcus Stroman atop the rotation, whether it's David Price or someone else, and that's likely going to cost at least six years and a ton of money.
The window is now for this team to win, though, so it's an investment the front office has to make.
Potential Critical Mistake: Relying on CF Michael Taylor to be the leadoff hitter
Michael Taylor has a chance to be a future star for the Washington Nationals, even after a subpar showing this past season as a rookie.
The full toolbox was on display for the 24-year-old in 2014, as he hit .304/.390/.526 with 20 doubles, 23 home runs and 37 stolen bases between Double-A and Triple-A.
However, he hit just .229/.282/.358 in 472 at-bats as a rookie, and until he cuts down on his strikeouts (30.9 percent) and takes more walks (6.8 percent), he really doesn't profile as a leadoff hitter.
That's the role he could find himself in this coming season, though, as he's set to replace Denard Span as the team's everyday center fielder.
Signing someone like Gerardo Parra who can spend time at all three outfield spots, serve as valuable depth if injury strikes and is capable of handling leadoff duties seems like a smart move for the Nationals, if only to help bridge the gap to what Taylor is capable of.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.