New Year's Resolutions for All 30 MLB Teams in 2017
If baseball is America's favorite pastime, the country's second favorite is making New Year's resolutions—and breaking them. Doing so might result in some extra pounds in the spring or more clutter in the garage, but typically, it's nothing that's going to impact our 2017 negatively.
The same can't be said for each of Major League Baseball's 30 teams.
Some of these resolutions revolve around adding (or subtracting) pieces to a team's roster. Others have to do with ensuring a team can keep its best player—or players—around for the foreseeable future. There are even a few that have nothing to do with the on-field action.
But one thing is for sure: Not following through on these resolutions will have consequences, some that resonate well past the upcoming season.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Continue Fixing the Bullpen
Shortly after signing Fernando Rodney to serve as Arizona's new closer, general manager Mike Hazen proclaimed he was happy with the team's bullpen as constructed.
"Very comfortable with the group we have right now," Hazen told FanRag Sports' Jack Magruder. "I still think we need to add depth to the bullpen. We’d love to get a little more left-handed overall, for the short and long term, and continue to build competition in various spots."
The D-backs selected Tyler Jones, who pitched to a 2.17 ERA while fanning more than 13 batters per nine innings in Double-A last season, from the New York Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. He could provide competition and depth, but the 27-year-old has never pitched above Double-A. He's far from a sure thing.
It's hard to take Hazen at his word when, of the relievers who remained with the club, Jake Barrett is the only one who has pitched to an ERA below 4.00 (3.49 ERA, 1.26 WHIP). The Diamondbacks have more work to do before they can feel like they've substantially reinforced their relief corps.
As luck would have it, there are still a number of quality relievers sitting on the free-agent market for the Arizona to target. Some, such as Greg Holland and Boone Logan, may prove to be too expensive for the team's liking. But others, including Santiago Casilla and Neftali Feliz, could be more affordable.
Atlanta Braves: Stick to the Plan
On paper, the Atlanta Braves look like a team that could surprise a whole bunch of people and find itself in contention in 2017. That doesn't mean much, of course: Many said the same thing about Arizona heading into 2016, and the Diamondbacks proceeded to lose 93 games.
But there's no disputing that general manager John Coppolella and president of baseball operations John Hart have done a terrific job setting up the Braves for a brighter future. They've bolstered the rotation with veterans Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia.
The lineup—at least the top half, which will likely feature Ender Inciarte, Dansby Swanson, Freddie Freeman and Matt Kemp—could do some serious damage. And the bullpen, per FanGraphs, posted the sixth-highest WAR (4.1) among National League relief corps in 2016 without a true marquee reliever among the group.
When you take all of that into consideration, plus the fact that the Braves boast one of the game's best farm systems, the temptation to make a bold move is tempting. But Atlanta isn't one star attraction away from making a 2017 World Series run.
Patience and shrewd moves have served the club well thus far during its rebuilding process. Sticking to that plan is imperative for the Braves to continue building toward a brighter future, one that isn't too far off.
Baltimore Orioles: Add the Pieces They Need
Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman will all able to depart as free agents over the next few years, so there should be a sense of urgency around Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore's window of contention won't stay open for much longer.
That sense of urgency should revolve around plugging the team's gaping holes in right field and at the designated hitter spot.
Re-signing American League home run champion Mark Trumbo seems like the most obvious solution to the latter problem. While the O's remain interested in a reunion, talks between the two sides stalled, and Baltimore pulled its offer off the table earlier this month, per MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko.
More recently, Kubatko reported the O's have interest in a variety of right field options, including Michael Bourn, Rajai Davis, Angel Pagan and Michael Saunders. Any of those players would be an upgrade over Dariel Alvarez and Joey Rickard, the team's best internal options.
But, eventually, all those players are going to come off the market. Baltimore must ensure it's not picking out of the bargain bin right before spring training begins in February.
Boston Red Sox: Lock Up Mookie Betts And/or Xander Bogaerts
Boston's free-spending ways in the past have finally caught up with the Red Sox.
Xander Bogaerts is arbitration-eligible for the first time, and Mookie Betts is set to follow suit next winter. So now would be an ideal time for the Red Sox to work out long-term extensions for the pair. But as the Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson pointed out, the way MLB calculates luxury tax makes that difficult:
A hypothetical -- and probably conservative -- Bogearts extension might earn him salaries of $5 million, $10 million and $15 million for the next three seasons and then $25 million to buy out his first three potential free-agent seasons, accounting for inflation. That would be a total package of $105 million over six seasons, an average annual value of $17.5 million per season. He'd count for an extra $12.5 million against the team's luxury-tax calculation next season without actually earning more money. That would eat up almost all of the team's available room under the threshold by itself.
"I can assure you that we'd like to have them in the organization for many years," president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski told MacPherson, adding: "[Luxury-tax] ramifications are huge with those types of deals nowadays."
How do the Red Sox get around this? Shed salary when possible, creating more wiggle room between the team's calculated luxury tax and the threshold.
Chicago Cubs: Extend Jake Arrieta
Working out an extension with one of Scott Boras' clients is never an easy task, but it's possible, contrary to popular opinion. "I always tell teams when they talk long term, we're always happy to stay long term," Boras told CSN Chicago's Patrick Mooney in August.
Boras plans on discussing a long-term pact for Jake Arrieta when he meets with the Chicago Cubs next month to discuss his client's final year of arbitration eligibility, according to ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers.
Arrieta wasn't nearly as dominant in 2016 as he was during his march to the National League Cy Young Award in 2015, but he's gone a remarkable 50-19 with a 2.42 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 593 strikeouts over 583 innings of work over the past three years.
While the Cubs might be hesitant to commit to a pitcher who will be in his mid-30s at the end of his next deal, Arrieta has thrown fewer than 1,000 innings over the course of his career. That lack of wear and tear bodes well for sustained success moving forward.
Considering the lack of high-upside pitching prospects in Chicago's farm system who are close to contributing, extending Arrieta is in the team's best interest.
Chicago White Sox: Continue Selling Off Pieces
Chicago received a slew of young, controllable talent in exchange for Adam Eaton and Chris Sale, but the White Sox can't afford to stop wheeling and dealing now. Not when the club still has a number of veteran pieces whose greatest value to the rebuilding franchise is in the return they'd bring back in a trade.
Staff ace Jose Quintana tops that list, and there's been no shortage of speculation regarding his next landing spot. Most recently, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates were his most aggressive suitors.
Closer David Robertson, third baseman Todd Frazier and left fielder Melky Cabrera are among the other players the White Sox could deal before Opening Day or at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Cincinnati Reds: Find Regular Playing Time for Dilson Herrera, Jose Peraza
Cincinnati has four players—Zack Cozart, Dilson Herrera, Jose Peraza and Brandon Phillips—to fill two spots in the middle of its infield. While it's good to have depth, the continued presence of the erstwhile veterans is inhibiting the continued development of the youngsters.
The Reds tried—and failed—to trade Cozart and Phillips at the winter meetings, setting up a situation where both Herrera and Peraza could start the year at Triple-A. That wasn't lost on newly minted general manager Dick Williams, who spoke with the Cincinnati Enquirer's Zach Buchanan in early December:
Two of the guys have options, so if you need to option them down and play, you could do that. The other two are in their last year. If they’re not going to be here beyond this year, they can take a more limited role. We still have to go through six or seven weeks of playing to see who’s playing well and see that everybody’s healthy. Then we’ll deal with having to divvy up playing time if everybody’s healthy and playing well.
Having Herrera and/or Peraza spend half of their time on Cincinnati's bench does little to help their continued development. They need regular playing time. If that's only available at Triple-A to start the season, so be it.
Cleveland Indians: Be Overly Cautious with Michael Brantley
Now that Edwin Encarnacion is in the fold, taking a cautious approach with Michael Brantley isn't quite as easy as it first appeared to be. No longer does Cleveland manager Terry Francona have the option to deploy Brantley as his designated hitter more often than not to protect his surgically repaired shoulder.
That's not to say signing Encarnacion was a mistake—far from it. Rather, it just makes it all the more important for Francona and the Tribe to treat the 29-year-old, who was emerging as a perennial MVP candidate before shoulder issues limited him to just 11 games in 2016, with kid gloves moving forward.
Maybe that means slowly easing him into action during spring training. Or perhaps he starts the season as part of a platoon in left field with Abraham Almonte, assuming he's healthy enough to be on the Opening Day roster.
Whatever path the Indians choose, the goal remains the same: Having a healthy, productive Brantley in the lineup down the stretch and in the playoffs, not necessarily in April and May.
Colorado Rockies: Continue to Bolster the Bullpen
Signing Mike Dunn to replace the pictured Boone Logan was a lateral move, but Colorado can still bolster a bullpen that pitched to an MLB-worst 5.13 ERA in 2016. Yes, Rockies relievers were even more inept than their counterparts in Cincinnati (though not by much).
The Rockies are interested in former Kansas City closer Greg Holland, with GM Jeff Bridich telling MLB.com's Thomas Harding earlier this week that the Rockies had "checked in (on the free agent), like most teams, I imagine."
Signing Holland, who was one of the best closers in baseball before undergoing Tommy John surgery in late 2015, makes sense for the Rockies, who currently figure to have Adam Ottavino handling things in the ninth inning.
Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Romo and Drew Storen are among the free-agent relievers with closing experience who remain available, while there is a slew of non-closing options that could be of interest to the Rockies as well.
Detroit Tigers: Commit to Making One More Run
So far, the only cost-cutting move Detroit has been able to pull off was unloading Cameron Maybin's $9 million salary when the club traded him to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for pitching prospect Victor Alcantara.
Doing so may have saved the Tigers some money, but it created a hole in center field that the club has thus far been unable to fill. While there's been speculation surrounding the rest of the team's high-priced veterans, including Ian Kinsler, it doesn't appear as if the Tigers will pull off another significant trade.
While getting under the luxury-tax threshold with a younger, cheaper roster is the team's ultimate goal, it's not going to happen in 2017.
Taking on another burdensome long-term contract isn't in the cards, but if the opportunity to improve the roster materializes where they'd have to take on an expensive player in the final year of his deal, why not do it?
There's too much talent on the roster for the Tigers to tank, and they're closer to contending than they are to finishing in last place. Making one more run with the roster they've got is the only move that makes any sense at this point.
Houston Astros: Add Another Piece to the Rotation
Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and Lance McCullers Jr. comprise a formidable foursome in Houston's rotation. But four quality starters isn't nearly enough to get a team through the rigors of a 162-game regular season, especially when one, McCullers, figures to be working on an innings limit.
The Astros have been linked to a number of starting pitchers this offseason, most recently Kansas City's Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, per a report from MLB.com's Brian McTaggart earlier this month.
"We do have ongoing discussions that may materialize over the course of the next week or so," GM Jeff Luhnow told McTaggart at the close of the winter meetings. "I don't know how to handicap it, but we're certainly attempting to do everything we can to make sure we improve what is already a pretty good pitching staff."
While those discussions have yet to lead to a move, the Astros, who still boast one of baseball's better farm systems, have the prospects to trade for the pitcher they seek.
Kansas City Royals: Prepare to Tear Things Down
Trading All-Star closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Jorge Soler was only the first in what figures to be a slew of moves made by the Kansas City Royals. Consider the list of players they stand to lose as free agents after the 2017 season:
- CF Lorenzo Cain
- SP Danny Duffy
- OF Jarrod Dyson
- SS Alcides Escobar
- 1B Eric Hosmer
- 3B Mike Moustakas
- SP Jason Vargas
There's just no way a midmarket team like the Royals can afford to keep all of those players, specifically Cain, Hosmer and Moustakas, all of whom figure to be in line for significant multiyear deals. There's going to be a drastic turnover of the roster, whether the Royals like it or not.
While the club is surely going to try to make one more run with the group that, along with Davis, won the team's first World Series crown in 30 years in 2015, the Royals could very easily find themselves on the contention fence—or out of contention—as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.
Should that be the case, the Royals need to be prepared to move quickly and make moves geared toward bringing back as much MLB-ready, controllable talent as possible. Reloading, not rebuilding, should be the club's ultimate goal in 2017 if they fall short of a playoff run.
Los Angeles Angels: Stop Wasting Mike Trout
Here's a simple math problem for you: What do you get when you add five and two together? If you answered seven, you're wrong.
The answer is one, as in one playoff appearance in the five years that Mike Trout has been a full-time player for the Los Angeles Angels, during which time he's taken home two American League Most Valuable Player awards.
Half a decade is more than enough time for a team to figure out how to build a winner around the best player in baseball. The Angels, time and time again, have failed to do just that.
With all due respect to Matt Joyce and Ben Revere, two of the team's "big" additions this winter, they've got about as much chance of solving what ails the Angels as adding James Joyce and Paul Revere would: None.
If the Angels aren't able, due to finances or incompetence, to surround Trout with enough talent to become perennial contenders, they owe it to him and their fans to do something else: Trade him and start over.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Add Right-Handed Power to the Lineup
While the Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the game's deepest farm systems, the Dodgers are firmly operating in World Series-or-bust territory. Years of failing to reach the Fall Classic have taken a toll on both the franchise and its fanbase, and the club's current window won't stay open forever.
In fact, we can put a two-year window on that window, as Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his contract after the 2018 season. While it's hard to envision him wearing a different uniform, it'd be ridiculous to think that he wouldn't leave L.A. for a fresh start elsewhere.
Adding some right-handed power to a lineup that leans heavily to the left would go a long way toward improving the team's chances of making a deep playoff run. Minnesota's Brian Dozier, whom the Dodgers have been linked to for weeks, makes the most sense, as he'd bring the right-handed pop and fill a hole at second base in the process.
But as FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman reports, the two sides have reached a standstill in those trade talks. They've agreed on pitching prospect Jose De Leon, but can't settle on the other pieces that would accompany him to Minnesota.
Should those efforts continue to stall, the Dodgers could check in with Detroit about outfielder J.D. Martinez, who is entering the final year of his deal. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun could be another option.
One way or another, the Dodgers must add the right-handed pop that their lineup sorely needs if they've got any chance of finally reaching the lofty expectations that have surrounded the team for years.
Miami Marlins: Honor Jose Fernandez with a Run to the Playoffs
The emotions and grief associated with Jose Fernandez's tragic death is something that isn't going away anytime soon in Miami. But as Marlins president Michael Hill told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick in November, the loss of the team's ace and leader can't be used as an excuse.
"You never forget the human [side] or what happened, but you know you have a job to do. We're never going to replace Jose, but we have to try to move forward. The memory of him will always be with us and be a part of who we are. That's a bond we'll all have forever.''
Miami has done what it can to bolster its roster this winter, adding veterans Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez to bolster the rotation, Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler to strengthen the bullpen and catcher A.J. Ellis to help J.T. Realmuto guide the pitching staff.
With the bulk of the team's core returning—Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich—the Marlins are poised to contend in 2017. They might not be ready to overtake the New York Mets or Washington Nationals in the division, but a wild-card berth looks to be well within their reach.
The pieces are in place. It's up to the players to rally around each other—to rally around the memory of their fallen teammate—and make 2017 a season to remember.
Milwaukee Brewers: Continue the Rebuild While Showing Improvement
While Milwaukee finished the 2016 season more than 30 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, it wasn't a completely lost season for the Brewers. Top prospect Orlando Arcia got his first taste of the big leagues, while fellow prospect Zach Davies cemented himself as a part of the team's rotation.
There's more help on the way, with outfield prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips, along with pitching prospect Josh Hader, getting closer to becoming permanent fixtures on the Brew Crew's 25-man roster.
Their eventual arrivals, along with the offseason additions of Travis Shaw and Eric Thames—while not game-changing talents—should help the Brewers improve upon their 73-89 record from a season ago and get closer to a return to relevancy.
Nobody's expecting Milwaukee to contend in 2017, but it's not crazy to think the club could come close to a .500 record.
Minnesota Twins: Cash In on Brian Dozier
Few teams have as valuable a trade chip as the Minnesota Twins do with second baseman Brian Dozier.
He offers big right-handed power at a premium position, is still in his prime and comes on one of the most team-friendly deals in baseball for an established player, as he's due just $15 million through the 2018 season.
Players with two full years of control, especially those on contracts like Dozier's, are far more valuable than those with one year, or a year and a half of control.
As previously noted, discussions between the Twins and Dodgers have reached a standstill. But the pitching-starved franchise is assured of getting an MLB-ready, front-of-the-rotation arm in that proposed deal (Jose De Leon), and the Dodgers have enough prospects for the two sides to find a middle ground.
Minnesota isn't going to contend while Dozier remains under its control, and there's little chance the Twins would be willing to match the kinds of offers he'd likely receive as a free agent following the 2018 campaign.
The time to trade Dozier is now.
New York Mets: Trade an Outfielder
The New York Mets have five outfielders—Jay Bruce, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares—to fill three spots. So, of course, the Mets went out and looked into potentially acquiring another outfielder, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, per a report from MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.
While those McCutchen talks haven't led anywhere, the club's outfield glut is something that needs to be addressed. It's an untenable situation, and something has to give.
Before Christmas, MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported that Toronto had interest in both Bruce and Granderson. With both of them entering the last year of their respective contracts, moving one makes the most sense for the Mets, who figure to be seeking relief help in return.
A deal may not materialize until spring training when injury robs another club of a corner outfielder it was counting on. But a deal must get done.
New York Yankees: Continue Building from Within
While his teammates certainly played a part, it was rookie catcher Gary Sanchez who essentially put the New York Yankees on his back last season and nearly carried the Bronx Bombers into the playoffs. Can you imagine the outcry in New York if Sanchez had done that wearing a different uniform?
The Bronx would most assuredly be burning.
With last season's trades of Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, along with this offseason's trade of Brian McCann, the Yankees have stockpiled one of the most impressive groups of prospects in the game. Arguably, the team's farm system has never been in better shape.
That's going to go a long way toward helping the club continue to supplement its roster as the contracts attached to high-priced veterans continue to expire and, ultimately, reach its goal of getting under the luxury-tax threshold.
So far this winter, GM Brian Cashman has resisted the urge to package those prospects, such as outfielder Clint Frazier and shortstop Gleyber Torres, in deals for premier starting pitchers, whether it be Chris Sale or Jose Quintana.
He needs to remain steadfast in that resolve. One day, dealing from its farm system for an established big league talent will make sense. But that day isn't on the upcoming calendar.
Oakland Athletics: Sell High on Sonny Gray at the Trade Deadline
On the heels of a career-worst season that saw him go 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over just 22 starts, Sonny Gray's trade value this offseason is nonexistent. Oakland could trade him, of course, but it'd be giving away one of the game's brightest young pitchers.
The A's aren't about to do that. But they're not about to contend in the AL West, either, and the quickest way to infuse the club with the offensive talent it needs is to capitalize on Gray's value when he's at his best.
Assuming the 2016 season was an aberration and Gray returns to his usual Cy Young form—injuries played a part in Gray's struggles—Oakland should be looking to make a deal once the dog days of summer arrive.
Contenders and noncontenders alike would love to add a controllable, front-of-the-rotation stud like Gray, and would be willing to pay a hefty price to secure his services.
Philadelphia Phillies: Keep Locking Up Young Talent
Christmas arrived early in Philadelphia this year as the Phillies were able to sign center fielder Odubel Herrera to a five-year, $30.5 million extension that will keep the 25-year-old in uniform through the 2021 season.
Next up: 26-year-old second baseman Cesar Hernandez, who was a "hot name" in trade talks at the general manager meetings in November, according to CSN Philly's Jim Salisbury. Hernandez doesn't have Herrera's pop, but he's a contact hitter who knows how to get on base consistently and plays excellent defense at a premium position.
Doing so will not only keep Philadelphia's long-term costs down when it comes to retaining its own talent but continue to afford the club plenty of payroll flexibility, which it can use to make a huge splash in the free-agent bonanza of 2018-19.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Andrew McCutchen
Whether Andrew McCutchen reverts to his All-Star form or not, his time in Pittsburgh is coming to an end.
Austin Meadows is Pittsburgh's future in center field, and both Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco are signed to team-friendly deals that will keep them in black and gold for years to come. With two years of team control left, McCutchen isn't part of the long-term plan in the Steel City.
The Pirates don't have to trade McCutchen now. Like Oakland's Sonny Gray, he's coming off a career-worst season—one in which injuries played a part—and as a result, his value as a trade chip has been severely compromised.
That said, a team could come along with an offer the Pirates don't feel they can refuse.
Should that not happen, waiting until midseason isn't the worst thing in the world, either. Assuming he's back to his usual form, contenders would line up for a chance to add him to their lineups. That he'd be more than a short-term rental, with a reasonable $14.5 million team option for 2018, only adds to his value.
San Diego Padres: Be Transparent
You know things have gotten out of control when MLB is forced to suspend a team's general manager.
Such was the case with San Diego's A.J. Preller, who was suspended for 30 days (and the team fined) after MLB determined that he knowingly withheld medical information about Drew Pomeranz, who he traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza.
That suspension ultimately led to MLB standardizing the medical information that teams now must share when discussing a potential deal. Call it the "A.J. Preller Rule."
If that wasn't bad enough, another one of Preller's deals had to be partially walked back by the commissioner's office after Colin Rea, who had been part of a multiplayer deal with Miami, left his first start as a Marlin with an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery.
While Preller wasn't found to have been deceptive in that deal, having those two strikes against him makes it hard, if not impossible, for other teams to believe a word he says in trade negotiations moving forward.
It's on Preller and the Padres to repair their image, and reputation, among their contemporaries around the game.
San Francisco Giants: Continue Fixing the Bullpen
Signing Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal was a good start in repairing a San Francisco bullpen that was among the least reliable in 2016. But it can't stand as the only addition the Giants make to their relief corps.
There's some leftover talent to be sure. George Kontos, Derek Law, Will Smith and Hunter Strickland are all competent relievers who are capable of shutting down the opposition. But more reinforcements are needed.
Like Arizona and the other teams we've touched on who are in need of bullpen help, free agents Greg Holland and Boone Logan are likely at or near the top of San Francisco's wish list. But there are plenty of capable arms still available, one of which has to find his way to the Bay Area before Opening Day.
Seattle Mariners: Add Another Starter
King Felix still sits on his throne in the Emerald City, and both Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton are his loyal sidekicks standing alongside him in Seattle's rotation. As things stand now, Nate Karns and Ariel Miranda are slotted to fill things out.
That's not nearly enough starting pitching.
General manager Jerry Dipoto prefers to trade for the players he needs rather than sign free agents, as he explained to MLB.com's Greg Johns recently. That helps to explain why he hasn't made a run at free-agent Jason Hammel, a Washington native who seems like a perfect fit as a No. 4 starter.
But aside from outfielders Kyle Lewis and Tyler O'Neill, the Mariners lack the prospects other teams covet. That makes trading for a starter difficult, given the high prices teams are asking in a market that's thin on quality arms.
Ultimately, Dipoto may have no choice but to dip his toes into the free-agent waters to get the arm his team sorely needs.
St. Louis Cardinals: Commit to Playing Solid Defense
Of the 10 teams in baseball that committed at least 100 errors in 2016, only one, the Chicago Cubs, made it to the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals were one of the nine that were forced to watch the Cubs' march to the World Series at home, partly due to their inability to field the ball cleanly.
While advanced metrics were down on Dexter Fowler's center field defense last season, his addition should go a long way toward improving the Cardinals defense up the middle. But the players who remain from last year's club, such as shortstop Aledmys Diaz— whose 16 errors were the seventh-most by a shortstop—need to be focused on fielding the ball cleanly and making strong and accurate throws.
In a division with the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates and a wild-card field that continues to get more crowded, the Cardinals can ill-afford to be giving games away due to avoidable defensive miscues. A recommitment to the fundamentals can only help them get back into the postseason picture.
Tampa Bay Rays: Capitalize on the Thin Pitching Market
It's no secret that Tampa Bay is deep in starting pitching, with an assortment of arms that other clubs covet to varying degrees. Trading staff ace Chris Archer would bring back the biggest haul, but the likes of Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Erasmo Ramirez and Drew Smyly (pictured) all have varying degrees of trade value.
With a number of teams on the hunt for rotation reinforcements, dealing one of their arms—most likely Cobb, Ramirez or Smyly—would bring back a decent enough return to make it worth the fiscally constrained franchise's while to pull off a deal.
Texas Rangers: Free Joey Gallo
Just when it looked like Joey Gallo was finally going to get a chance to prove himself at the big league level with regular playing time as a designated hitter, along comes news from MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan that the Rangers are in talks with free agent Mike Napoli on a two-year deal.
Adding Napoli makes plenty of sense for Texas, but it throws another obstacle in Gallo's path. While the 23-year-old is far from a complete player, the only conceivable way he's going to improve his approach against big league pitching is to face it on a daily basis.
With Napoli in the fold, Gallo would be relegated to splitting time with Jurickson Profar at the DH spot or, more likely, spending much of the 2017 season back in Triple-A. If Texas isn't going to play Gallo, the time has come to trade him.
Teams still covet his otherworldly power, and another season at Triple-A isn't going to do anything to increase his value. The Rangers could perhaps add the pitching they need, either at the back end of the rotation and/or in the bullpen with a deal centered around the slugging corner infielder.
Toronto Blue Jays: Add a Corner Outfielder
Kevin Pillar has center field covered in Toronto, while the combination of Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. is more than capable of holding things down in either left field or right field. It's the other corner outfield spot for which the Blue Jays have an answer—yet there are plenty of possibilities.
Maybe it's a reunion with Jose Bautista, with whom the club is said to be in "active discussions" with, according to Morosi. Maybe it's a trade for New York's Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson, which we touched upon earlier when looking at the Mets' resolution. Or maybe it's a player nobody's thought of yet.
Whomever the answer might be, the Blue Jays need to ensure that they fill that void. Otherwise, the club will have little to no chance of making a return trip to the postseason for the third consecutive season.
Washington Nationals: Find a Closer
As the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes recently wrote, Washington's search for a reliable closer goes back nearly a decade. That the club missed out on not only Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon but lesser options like Fernando Rodney and Brad Ziegler only amplifies the issue.
She goes on to note that the Nats may ultimately have no choice but to look in-house for their ninth-inning solution. But that doesn't necessarily have to be the case, as there are still a handful of free-agent relievers available who have closing experience.
Greg Holland sits atop that list, followed by Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz and Sergio Romo, among others. Signing one of those players wouldn't necessarily preclude the Nationals from going with an internal option, but it would give manager Dusty Baker another potential choice late in games.