Impact MLB Offseason Moves Teams Should Pull the Trigger on ASAP
Sure, a few meaningful deals have gone down. The Houston Astros signed outfielder Josh Reddick and acquired catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees. On Wednesday, the Seattle Mariners shipped mercurial right-hander Taijuan Walker to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a five-player swap.
Most of the top free agents and trade targets remain on the board, however.
That's not completely unusual; big names often sign after the holidays and well into the new year.
However, with uncertainty swirling around the soon-to-expire collective bargaining agreement, it feels as though players, agents and executives are hanging back like shy partygoers shuffling their feet by the punchbowl.
With that in mind, let's crank up the music and run through a half-dozen moves clubs should pull the trigger on as soon as possible—mostly because it would behoove them, but also because we're ready for some action.
San Francisco Giants: Trade for J.D. Martinez
The San Francisco Giants need to upgrade a bullpen that sagged in the second half and imploded in the division series against the Chicago Cubs. Not surprisingly, they're in on the winter's crop of elite closers, including Mark Melancon, per David Adler of MLB.com.
But the Giants also have a hole to plug in left field, and they should add pop to a lineup that hit the third-fewest home runs in baseball last season.
If they're going to spend big on a closer, it may knock them out of the running for expensive free-agent sluggers in the Yoenis Cespedes mold.
Enter J.D. Martinez.
Martinez is the "most likely" player to be traded from a Detroit Tigers team that's looking to shed payroll, per ESPN.com's Jim Bowden, who lists the Giants among likely landing spots. The Giants and Tigers have also had some initial discussions, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
The 29-year-old hit .307 with 22 home runs last season and clubbed 38 homers with 102 RBI in 2015. His numbers could take a hit in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, but he'd represent a power upgrade over free-agent left fielder Angel Pagan.
San Francisco may have to part with a top prospect such as infielder Christian Arroyo or right-hander Tyler Beede from a farm system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 24 in the game.
That would sting, especially since Martinez is set to hit the market after 2017. The Giants, though, are in a win-now window, and the $11.75 million Martinez is owed next season would leave San Francisco with resources to pour into the pen.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Re-Sign Justin Turner
Justin Turner put together a quietly superlative season in 2016. He hit .275 with an .832 OPS, cracked 27 home runs, put up seven defensive runs saved at third base and finished ninth in National League MVP voting.
Now, he's going to get paid accordingly in free agency.
Technically, the Dodgers have options at third, including a long-rumored swap for the Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria.
However, as I recently argued, Turner is probably the better player right now. Signing him will cost only money, whereas a trade for Longoria will deplete the Dodgers' farm system.
Turner is a Southern California native, and while the 32-year-old isn't likely to give Los Angeles a hometown discount, the deep-pocketed Dodgers have the ability and the allure to bring him back.
Doing so would maintain a solid offensive core that also includes reigning NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager and veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. It would allow the Dodgers to turn their attention to their other big free agent, closer Kenley Jansen.
Boston Red Sox: Sign Carlos Beltran
Hey, not sure if you've heard, but the Boston Red Sox lost their designated hitter to retirement.
No one will fill the Big Papi-shaped hole in the hearts of Sox fans, nor is any hitter likely to replicate the MLB-leading 1.021 OPS David Ortiz put up at age 40.
But there are some intriguing bats on the market. Edwin Encarnacion looked like an obvious fit, but now it seems he may re-up with the Toronto Blue Jays (more on that in a moment).
If Boston wants a less expensive, shorter-term solution, they could turn their gaze to Carlos Beltran. Per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal, the Puerto Rican has become the Red Sox's "preferred target."
The 39-year-old switch-hitter posted a .295/.337/.513 slash line last season between the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers. He can still play a passable right field, but he's best suited at this point as a full-time DH.
The Yankees and Astros are also in the running for Beltran's services, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Prying him away from the rival Yanks would only sweeten the deal for Boston.
Consider, too, that Beltran has always raked at Fenway Park, where he owns a career .335 average and .932 OPS.
New York Yankees: Sign Mike Napoli
If the Yankees don't bring back Beltran, they'll need to fill their own void at DH, especially after trading away McCann.
A splashy signing such as Cespedes or Encarnacion is a possibility. New York, though, is in the middle of a rebuild, meaning the focus should be on shorter-term deals.
Which brings us to Mike Napoli, who hit 34 homers and tallied 101 RBI for the AL champion Cleveland Indians and could fit the Yankees' needs perfectly.
As Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News outlined:
The 35-year-old [Napoli] will likely be looking for no more than a two-year deal, making him the ideal placeholder while the Yankees work toward their two primary goals: getting a real look at their young talent, and trimming the payroll beneath the luxury-tax threshold, whatever that number might be in 2018.
Napoli can also play first base and would give the Yankees some backup for Greg Bird, who missed all of 2016 after undergoing shoulder surgery.
He also has experience in the AL East, having spent two-plus seasons with Boston, including a title run in 2013.
Toronto Blue Jays: Re-Sign Edwin Encarnacion
When the Blue Jays signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales for three years and $33 million on Nov. 11, it seemed to slam the door on Edwin Encarnacion's Toronto tenure.
Not so fast.
The Jays offered Encarnacion about $80 million and four years before inking Morales, per FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman, and "remain interested" in bringing him back.
Encarnacion hit 42 home runs and tied for the AL lead with 127 RBI last season while making the bulk of his starts at DH. He did play 75 games at first base, however, meaning he and Morales could coexist.
"People realize he can do it," Encarnacion's agent, Paul Kinzer, said of his client's playing first, per Heyman. "He showed a lot of athleticism."
If the Jays do bring Encarnacion back, they almost surely wouldn't have room in the budget for their other free-agent slugger, Jose Bautista. Morales, though, hit more home runs than Bautista in 2016 (30 to 22) and posted a higher slugging percentage (.468 to .452).
It's possible a Morales-Encarnacion tandem would improve a Jays lineup that also features 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson.
Chicago Cubs: Re-Sign Aroldis Chapman
Aroldis Chapman is going to be expensive. He might become baseball's first $100 million reliever.
He also sounds like he's leaning toward a reunion with the Yankees, the club that acquired him last winter from the Cincinnati Reds before shipping him to the Cubs at the trade deadline.
"The organization treated me first class," Chapman said of the Yankees, per Ray Negron of New York Sports Day. "And the fans were like no other."
The flame-throwing Cuban added, "I would love to be a Yankee again."
Still, Chapman will go where the money is. He admitted as much to Negron: "This is business, and the Yankees know that."
The Cubs rode Chapman hard in the postseason, and while he faltered in stretches and wore down at the end of the Fall Classic, it's doubtful Chicago would have busted its 108-year title drought without him.
Much of the Cubs' young core is under team control at affordable rates, meaning the defending champs can afford to splurge.
A nine-figure contract for a reliever is a risk. Maybe Chapman really does want to return to the Bronx no matter what. The Los Angeles Dodgers are also "expected to make a dedicated pursuit," per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.
The Cubbies should do what it takes, however, to bring Chapman's triple-digit heater back for a repeat run. Returning bullpen arms such as Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon could do the job, but why chance it?
One trophy is cool. Two trophies is legendary.