Each MLB Team's Nightmare 2018-19 Offseason Scenario
Every team has a dream offseason scenario, whether it's signing a marquee free agent, swinging a blockbuster trade or cashing in a trade chip for a huge prospect haul.
That means every team also has a nightmare offseason scenario.
Ahead we've taken a look at what would constitute a worst-case offseason for all 30 MLB teams, from ill-advised signings to missed trade opportunities and everything in between.
Proceed with caution. This one is not for the faint of heart.
Baltimore Orioles: Trading Dylan Bundy for pennies on the dollar
Bundy, 25, could generate some trade interest this offseason thanks to his top prospect pedigree and remaining team control through the 2021 season.
It's hard to imagine the Orioles would get top dollar, however, after he finished 8-16 with a 5.45 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 171.2 innings last season.
A 4.28 xFIP and 3.94 SIERA suggest there's positive regression to come, and if he can do a better job keeping the ball in the ballpark (41 HR, 2.1 HR/9), he's capable of bouncing back in a big way. In other words, selling low now could prove to be a huge mistake.
Boston Red Sox: Not adding a proven closer
With closer Craig Kimbrel and hard-throwing setup man Joe Kelly hitting free agency, the Red Sox have glaring holes to fill at the back of the bullpen.
If the team doesn't want to break the bank to re-sign Kimbrel, other available options with ninth-inning experience include Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Cody Allen, David Robertson, Jeurys Familia and Joakim Soria.
If the season starts with Ryan Brasier or Matt Barnes closing games, mistakes were made.
New York Yankees: Maintaining the status quo with the starting rotation
The Yankees have already re-signed CC Sabathia to a one-year, $8 million deal, and they're showing interest in a reunion with deadline-addition J.A. Happ, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network.
With Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka locked in and rising prospects Justus Sheffield and Jonathan Loaisiga also in the mix, though, there's a chance New York might try to go with a status quo situation.
Spending big on Manny Machado would be sexy. Using that money on someone like Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel would make a bigger impact, however, and failing to add a good starter would be a huge misstep by the front office.
Tampa Bay Rays: Not addressing the lack of power
Despite a lackluster offense, the Rays found a way to win 90 games in 2018.
They finished 27th in home runs (150) and 16th in runs scored (716), and only non-tender candidate C.J. Cron (30 HR) reached 15 long balls.
As always, the Rays will have to navigate their own financial limitations, but that shouldn't stop them from making a run at a right-handed power hitter. Nelson Cruz and Andrew McCutchen would be hugely impactful additions, while someone like Steve Pearce or Evan Gattis would come significantly cheaper.
Toronto Blue Jays: Justin Smoak's market not developing
While his $8 million club option was exercised at the start of the offseason, that doesn't preclude him from being traded as Toronto begins rebuilding.
After first base prospect Rowdy Tellez posted a 154 OPS+ with nine doubles, four home runs and 14 RBI in 73 plate appearances down the stretch, the Blue Jays have every reason to shop Smoak. Failing to find a market for his services would block Tellez and rob the team of a quality prospect haul.
Chicago White Sox: Not adding an innings-eater to the rotation
With James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez departing in free agency, the White Sox are projected to open the season with an extremely young and inexperienced starting rotation:
- Carlos Rodon (age 25, 494.1 IP)
- Reynaldo Lopez (24, 280.1)
- Lucas Giolito (24, 240.0)
- Dylan Covey (27, 191.2)
- Carson Fulmer (24, 67.1)
Contention is still a few years away, so they don't need to target any of the market's top-tier arms, but finding someone who can eat 180-plus innings is a must. Otherwise, they risk overworking their young arms.
Cleveland Indians: Not addressing the outfield
The Indians have an outfield in flux.
Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Melky Cabrera and Rajai Davis are all free agents, leaving some combination of Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin and Bradley Zimmer (once he's healthy) as the in-house candidates to man the three available spots.
For a team whose window of contention is still open, that simply won't cut it.
If the Indians don't add at least one proven commodity to the outfield mix to replace the production that is departing with Brantley and Co., the offense could take a significant step back in 2019.
Detroit Tigers: Not finding a suitable deal for Nicholas Castellanos
"Given the team's situation, it seems likely the Tigers will be listening intently on Castellanos this winter because it could be the best time to trade him," Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press wrote.
It's hard to argue with that logic, but finding an acceptable deal could be easier said than done.
Finding a way to maximize his value will be key, as losing him for nothing next offseason would be a missed opportunity to say the least.
Kansas City Royals: Missing the opportunity to sell high on Whit Merrifield
Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star offered the following in regards to Merrifield as a trade candidate:
"Dayton Moore, the architect and foreman of the Royals' last world champion, knows that Merrifield probably will never be more valuable in the eyes of other teams—he will never be younger, never be cheaper, and never offer more years of club control.
"All of that is true, and so is this: Moore is unlikely to trade."
The Royals are still in the early stages of rebuilding (they recorded a 104-loss season in 2018), and it's hard to envision a scenario in which they're ready to contend in the next three years. Not selling high on Merrifield would be a short-sighted mistake, plain and simple.
Minnesota Twins: Not addressing the starting rotation
The Twins have a solid one-two punch returning atop the rotation in Jose Berrios (114 ERA+, 202 K, 192.1 IP) and Kyle Gibson (121 ERA+, 179 K, 196.2 IP) along with innings-eater Jake Odorizzi (97 ERA+, 162 K, 164.1 IP).
After that, the starting staff looks questionable at best.
Fernando Romero and Adalberto Mejia have shown potential, and Stephen Gonsalves is ready for an extended look, but if the Twins hope to contend again in 2019, they're going to need more rotation help. Relying on the in-house options could mean another sub-.500 season.
Houston Astros: The pitching staff becoming a weakness
The Astros led the majors in team ERA (3.11), starters' ERA (3.16) and bullpen ERA (3.03) on their way to 103 wins and another AL West title last season.
With Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton in free agency and Lance McCullers Jr. out after Tommy John surgery, however, the starting rotation has taken a hit.
Collin McHugh (58 G, 12 HLD, 1.99 ERA) and Brad Peacock (61 G, 10 HLD, 3.46 ERA) could return to starting roles, but that would weaken the bullpen, which also stands to lose its only lefty, Tony Sipp (54 G, 10 HLD, 1.86 ERA), in free agency.
Young arms such as Josh James, Framber Valdez, Cionel Perez, Dean Deetz and eventually Forrest Whitley could help lessen the blow, but the Astros can't afford to let the pitching staff become a weakness.
Los Angeles Angels: Another offseason of Band-Aids
The Angels added veterans Zack Cozart, Ian Kinsler and Jim Johnson last offseason—along with Shohei Ohtani—in an effort to bolster a team that finished 80-82 in 2017.
The result? An identical record in 2018.
The Astros are stacked, the Athletics are on the rise, and the Mariners are talented and hungry to break a 17-year playoff drought.
It's going to take more than just another series of Band-Aids for the Angels to have a chance to contend in 2019. If they're not willing to go for it, it's time to start thinking about trading Mike Trout.
Oakland Athletics: The front office being unwilling to spend
Despite a payroll that ranked 28th in the majors ($80.3 million), the Athletics won 97 games and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
If ever there were a time to stretch the payroll, it's now.
With an excellent young offensive core in place, a dynamic bullpen and a stocked farm system, a couple of proven starters would go a long way.
If the offseason comes and goes without any impact additions, it would mark a squandered opportunity for a team whose window of contention is just starting to open.
Seattle Mariners: Not deciding between contending and rebuilding
First, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported the Mariners were "considering a full-fledged teardown" this offseason.
Then, general manager Jerry Dipoto clarified to Jon Morosi of MLB Network that while he's interested in "re-imagining" the roster, he doesn't intend to tear it "down to the studs."
Now, rumors are swirling about teams' interest in ace James Paxton, with the Astros and Yankees among the early suitors, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
A wishy-washy offseason is never good.
Texas Rangers: Missing the opportunity to sell high on Jose Leclerc
With the value of controllable late-innings relievers at an all-time high, the Rangers have an extremely valuable trade chip in Jose Leclerc.
The 24-year-old is controllable through the 2022 season and won't be arbitration-eligible for the first time until next offseason. He's also fresh off a dominant season, having posted a 1.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings with 12 saves and 15 holds in 59 appearances.
There's nothing in his peripherals to suggest he's headed for significant regression, but relievers are a fickle bunch. It might behoove the Rangers to sell high now with a rebuild looming.
Atlanta Braves: Clinging too tightly to prospects
The Braves have done an excellent job building one of the best farm systems in baseball, and while their wealth of prospect talent is enviable, it could also be a double-edged sword.
At what point should a contending team start seeking prospect-for-proven commodity trades? Which prospects have high enough ceilings to be deemed untouchable? Do present needs outweigh future potential?
These are the questions now facing the front office.
Fresh off an NL East title and with a talented roster already in place, they can't be afraid to strike while the iron is hot if an appealing trade presents itself.
Miami Marlins: Missing the opportunity to sell high on J.T. Realmuto
The Marlins will still be able to get a sizable return for Realmuto if they wait until midseason, or even until next offseason, to trade him.
They just might not get top dollar.
Realmuto led all catchers in WAR (4.3) while hitting .277/.340/.484 with 30 doubles and 21 home runs, and with a $6.1 million projected salary for 2019 and control through the 2020 season, his value will never be higher.
The Marlins are a long way from contending, so maximizing their most valuable trade chip is crucial.
New York Mets: Another offseason of treading water
Two offseasons ago, the Mets didn't sign a single outside player, as the entirety of their offseason activity was re-signing Yoenis Cespedes and Jerry Blevins.
Last offseason, they settled for signing the veteran trio of Jay Bruce, Jason Vargas and Todd Frazier, who combined for 1.2 WAR in 2018.
If the Mets are opposed to the idea of trading Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler and have their sights set on contending in 2019, they can't afford another stale offseason.
With clear needs at catcher and in the bullpen, there's ample opportunity to make a splash.
Philadelphia Phillies: Waiting around too long for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado
The Phillies are expected to be major players for one of or both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
But what happens if they don't land either young star?
A Plan B has to be in place if it starts to look like they're going to swing and miss on Harper and/or Machado, whether it's signing someone like Andrew McCutchen or A.J. Pollock or pivoting to bolster the pitching staff with starter Patrick Corbin or closer Craig Kimbrel.
The Phils have money to spend and needs to address, so exiting the offseason without any impact additions would be inexcusable.
Washington Nationals: Blocking or trading Victor Robles
Under no circumstances should the Nationals trade top prospect Victor Robles, and blocking his path to the big leagues would also be a mistake.
In its prospect profile on the 21-year-old last offseason, MLB.com wrote, "Robles has the makings of becoming a true franchise player for the Nationals, one who has the upside of a perennial All-Star and possibly an MVP candidate."
That's not the kind of player you trade.
If the Marlins insist on including him in a deal for J.T. Realmuto, the Nats should sign Wilson Ramos instead. If Bryce Harper returns, they should trade Adam Eaton to clear a path. You get the idea.
Chicago Cubs: Not making significant changes to the offense
The Cubs finished ninth in the majors and fourth in the National League with 761 runs last season, but the lineup went cold down the stretch.
They hit .239/.303/.367 and averaged 4.1 runs per game in September, so it's clear some changes need to be made.
Addison Russell, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber could be used as trade chips, and Chicago could focus on high-on-base players like Jed Lowrie and Andrew McCutchen in free agency. It could also pursue Whit Merrifield on the trade market.
Entering 2019 with the same offensive attack would be nothing short of complacent.
Cincinnati Reds: Missing the opportunity to sell high on Raisel Iglesias
Iglesias, 28, has quietly emerged as one of the game's most efficient closers, converting 58 of 64 save chances with a 2.43 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 129 appearances.
With a team-friendly $5.7 million salary in each of the next two seasons, he fits into any team's payroll picture, and his value will only diminish as he draws closer to free agency.
The Reds are heading in the right direction, but at the same time, it's hard to imagine them making a serious run in a loaded NL Central in the next two years.
So it makes perfect sense to sell high on Iglesias since there's a good chance he won't be part of the next contending Reds team anyway.
Milwaukee Brewers: Not addressing the starting rotation
The Brewers don't need to sign a top-of-the-rotation starter to contend.
With Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson and a healthy Jimmy Nelson leading the way and standout rookies Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes capable of taking on more substantial roles in addition to what should again be a dynamic bullpen, they're in good shape.
They do, however, need to make an addition of some sort.
Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez filled key roles on the staff down the stretch and into October, and replacing them is a must. Otherwise, the staff will be stretched too thin.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Not adding middle infield depth
With longtime middle infield staples Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer in free agency, the Pirates are set to hand over the second base and shortstop positions to some combination of Adam Frazier, Kevin Kramer, Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker.
While it stands to reason that two viable options are almost certain to emerge from that foursome, it might be wise to hedge with some veteran depth.
Whether it's someone like Freddy Galvis or Jose Iglesias to fill a utility role, or a bigger fish like Marwin Gonzalez or Asdrubal Cabrera to fill a starting role in the short-term, the Pirates could use insurance.
Otherwise, they risk turning two of the most important positions on the field into liabilities.
St. Louis Cardinals: Counting on Jordan Hicks to close
The Cardinals have notoriously shied away committing big money and multiple years, with the notable exception being the Jason Isringhausen pact.
The late addition of Greg Holland last offseason backfired, and St. Louis ended up with a revolving door in the ninth inning, as veteran Bud Norris and Opening Day starter Carlos Martinez were among those who took turns as the closer.
Rookie standout Jordan Hicks has the stuff to close with a fastball that averaged 101.7 mph and a slider that held opposing hitters to a .091 batting average and .015 isolated slugging percentage, per Brooks Baseball.
However, his 5.2 walks per nine innings and 1.34 WHIP make trusting him with the job a major risk. The free-agent market is teeming with experienced late-innings arms, and the Cardinals would be wise to add at least one.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Not deciding between contending and rebuilding
On Oct. 10, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the D-backs were expected to "strip down the team and rebuild," specifically mentioning perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt as someone for whom the team would be willing to listen to offers.
On Oct. 22, they re-signed infielder Eduardo Escobar to a three-year, $21 million deal.
Tough to know exactly what to make of that.
With Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock in free agency, further additions will need to be made if the team hopes to contend. Otherwise, now is the time to move Goldschmidt, and that could be the first domino in a major sell-off.
Not taking one direction or the other could set the team back years.
Colorado Rockies: Not addressing the catcher position
Rockies catchers produced a .206/.307/.349 line, as free-agent addition Chris Iannetta (360 PA, 85 OPS+, -0.4 WAR) was not the stop-gap solution the team was hoping for when he signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal that includes a $4.3 million club option for 2020.
Whether it's a blockbuster trade for J.T. Realmuto, a run at Wilson Ramos or Yasmani Grandal or something else entirely, Colorado's young pitching staff would benefit greatly from some stability at the position.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Maintaining the status quo with the bullpen
While the Dodgers bullpen finished a respectable eighth in the majors with a 3.72 ERA, there are obvious holes that need to be addressed.
Ryan Madson, who was acquired Aug. 31 for a minor league reliever, served as one of the team's setup men in the postseason.
That's not meant to be a knock on Madson, who pitched well with a 2.08 ERA over 11 appearances in the playoffs, but it speaks to the instability at the back of the relief corps that a scrapheap pickup filled such a vital role.
Adding at least one of the market's top-tier setup relievers—someone like Adam Ottavino, Kelvin Herrera or Andrew Miller—could prove more valuable than any flashy addition to the lineup. Otherwise, L.A. could again have a hard time bridging the gap to Kenley Jansen.
San Diego Padres: Adding another ill-advised long-term contract
The decision to give Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million deal looked like a bad one at the time.
After he posted a lackluster 99 OPS+ with 18 home runs, 69 RBI and 1.4 WAR in his first season with the team, those sentiments remain.
The Padres have arguably the deepest farm system in baseball and a wealth of young talent on the cusp of making an impact in the majors.
Just because they have money to spend doesn't mean they should bog down the payroll with ill-advised long-term deals. They're better off giving the young guys a few years to get established and then using that payroll flexibility to fill in the holes.
San Francisco Giants: Buying rather than selling
All signs pointed to a glaring need for the Giants to start rebuilding last offseason.
Instead, they mortgaged some of their scarce prospect talent to acquire Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria—two deals that proved futile for a team that lost 89 games.
So now what?
San Francisco has been linked to Bryce Harper, but this roster is not one Bryce Harper away from contending.
It's time to blow it up. Trade Madison Bumgarner to the highest bidder, do what you can to try to move guys like Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, and start stockpiling young talent.
Another year of treading water and hoping for a wild-card run will only set the franchise back further.