How Each MLB Team Can Fix Its Most Desperate Need This Offseason

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2018

How Each MLB Team Can Fix Its Most Desperate Need This Offseason

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    Thanksgiving has come and gone. The 2018 MLB winter meetings will kick off Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

    While we await the next hot-stove milestone, let's examine each team's most desperate offseason need and what they can do to address it. 

    In some cases, it's engineering a big trade or signing a marquee free agent to fill a glaring hole. In other cases, it's accepting the inevitability of a rebuild.

    In all cases, said fixes would help move the club in question forward.

American League East

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    Baltimore Orioles

    Most desperate need:  Accelerating the rebuild

    The Baltimore Orioles need just about everything, including a new manager after firing Buck Showalter. But what they need most of all is to add young talent and accept the realities of a painful, protracted rebuild.

    The O's dealt their best assets at the 2018 non-waiver deadline, including shortstop Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton. If they can drum up interest in any remaining pieces, such as infielder Jonathan Villar, reliever Mychal Givens or catcher Caleb Joseph, they should reap what prospects they can and brace for another 100-loss season.

       

    Boston Red Sox

    Most desperate need: A late-inning reliever

    As they embark on their title defense, the Boston Red Sox need to address the back end of their bullpen. 

    Veteran closer Craig Kimbrel is a free agent and will likely demand a massive contract. He's also entering his age-31 season.

    Rather than re-sign Kimbrel to a potential albatross deal, Boston could pursue any number of free-agent relievers who could probably be had for less money and fewer years. One name that jumps to the forefront: right-hander David Robertson, who has ninth-inning experience and posted 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings last season for the New York Yankees.

       

    New York Yankees

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    The Yankees improved a suspect starting rotation when they acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners for a package headlined by top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield. They shouldn't stop there.

    New York could still use a bona fide ace, and the Cleveland Indians' Corey Kluber fits the bill.

    According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yanks met with the Indians about Kluber and Cleveland righty Carlos Carrasco at the general manager meetings. 

    Kluber's price tag would undoubtedly be sky-high, but New York could build a package around young outfielder Clint Frazier, whom Cleveland drafted fifth overall in 2013 and traded to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller deal.

       

    Tampa Bay Rays

    Most desperate need: A power bat

    The Tampa Bay Rays were sneaky contenders in 2018 and won 90 games despite selling at the trade deadline. If they want to build on that success, they could use a power bat after ranking 27th in baseball with 150 home runs. 

    The small-market Rays won't ink any gargantuan contracts, but they could splurge on a short-term deal for veteran designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

    Cruz didn't receive a qualifying offer from the Seattle Mariners, meaning he won't come with draft-pick compensation. He's 38 years old but swatted 37 homers with an .850 OPS in 2018 and would slot nicely into the middle of Tampa Bay's lineup. 

       

    Toronto Blue Jays

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The Toronto Blue Jays finished a distant fourth in the American League East in 2018 and have little chance of catching up to the mighty Yankees and Red Sox. It's time to embrace a rebuild north of the border.

    The Jays don't have any marquee trade chips on the MLB roster, but players such as center fielder Kevin Pillar and right-hander Marcus Stroman could bring something back.

    It won't be an exciting winter for Toronto fans, but they can close their eyes and dream big on top prospect and impending star Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

American League Central

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    Cleveland Indians

    Most desperate need: The outfield

    With Michael Brantley testing free agency, the Indians need to bolster their outfield. A depth chart headlined by Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin won't do for the defending AL Central champs.

    The Indians don't have the budget to go after a top-tier name such as Bryce Harper. But if they're willing to part with pitching, they could acquire talent via trade.

    We already mentioned a possible deal with the Yankees. Trading Corey Kluber would hurt, but if the Tribe could acquire Clint Frazier along with more controllable young talent, it could be worth the sacrifice.

       

    Chicago White Sox

    Most desperate need: The outfield 

    The Chicago White Sox have spent the last few years stockpiling young talent and engaging in a full-scale rebuild. They lost 100 games in 2018 but have enough promising players on the edge of stardom (Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez) to make a leap in a weak division.

    To do so, they should improve an outfield that didn't feature any player with an OPS above .778 who had at least 100 at-bats. Enter Bryce Harper.

    The ChiSox have been connected to the free-agent superstar by various insiders, including MLB.com's Jon Morosi (via NBC Chicago's White Sox Talk podcast). And they have the second-lowest committed payroll for 2019, per Spotrac, meaning they can spend big if they so choose.

       

    Detroit Tigers

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The Detroit Tigers won't be able to unload veteran Miguel Cabrera, who is owed $30 million or more annually through at least 2023. But they should do their best to sell off other assets and continue to restock the farm.

    Nick Castellanos has logged time at both third base and in the outfield and led the team with 23 home runs. And teams might surrender some MiLB pieces in exchange for right-hander Michael Fulmer despite the 4.69 ERA he posted in 2018.

    Here's the bottom line: The Tigers should listen to any and all offers for veteran players and resist the urge to spend significantly in free agency. 

       

    Kansas City Royals

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    Much like Detroit, the Kansas City Royals' offseason mantra should be "sell, sell, sell." Last winter, they re-upped third baseman Mike Moustakas in an ill-conceived attempt to contend and lost 104 games. Oops. 

    They aren't loaded with trade pieces. They're stuck with Alex Gordon, who posted a .694 OPS and will make $20 million in 2019.

    Second baseman Whit Merrifield could draw interest, however, after hitting .304 with an .806 OPS and leading the team with 192 hits. He could be part of the future in K.C., but he could also bolster a farm system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 23 in the game.  

       

    Minnesota Twins

    Most desperate need: The infield

    The Minnesota Twins took a step backward in 2018. After earning a surprise wild-card berth in 2017, they dipped below .500 and missed the dance. 

    They could contend in the winnable AL Central, but they'll need to replenish an infield that was depleted by the midseason trades of Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier.

    There are established options on the market, including Mike Moustakas, Jed Lowrie and DJ LeMahieu, any of whom would improve the Twinkies without breaking the bank.

American League West

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    Houston Astros

    Most desperate need: Catcher

    After winning it all in 2017, the Houston Astros fell in the American League Championship Series in 2018. Their catching corps doesn't deserve all the blame, but it deserves some. 

    Brian McCann (.212 average), Max Stassi (.226 average) and Martin Maldonado (.231 average) didn't do much in the batter's box, and McCann and Maldonado are free agents.

    The 'Stros could go various routes to fill this need, but if they want to shoot for another championship, they'd be wise to trade for J.T. Realmuto.

    The Miami Marlins backstop posted an .825 OPS last season, emerged as possibly the best catcher in baseball and is controllable through 2020. Houston would likely need to surrender a top prospect such as outfielder Kyle Tucker or right-hander Forrest Whitley. That would hurt but not as much as another year of subpar production behind the dish.

       

    Los Angeles Angels

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    Two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery. Erstwhile ace Garrett Richards is a free agent and also fell victim to Tommy John. The Los Angeles Angels need starting pitching if they want to contend in the final two years of Mike Trout's contract.

    They could go the trade route and dangle top prospect Jo Adell. But they've just begun to buttress a formerly moribund farm system. 

    Instead, the Halos should splurge in free agency and go after top targets such as left-hander Patrick Corbin. Such a signing would carry risk, but with their Trout window possibly closing soon, the Angels can't afford to be timid. 

       

    Oakland Athletics

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    The Oakland Athletics shocked the baseball world by winning 97 games and making the playoffs in 2018. Can they repeat the feat? Yes, if they add some starting pitching.

    A's starters ranked 17th in MLB with a 4.17 ERA, and they lack an established ace or much reliable depth, especially with left-hander Sean Manaea shelved indefinitely following shoulder surgery.

    They're considering a reunion with righty Sonny Gray, per Morosi. Gray struggled during his stint with the Yankees but was an All-Star and top-three Cy Young Award finisher for Oakland in 2015 and could benefit from a going-home-again change of scenery.

       

    Seattle Mariners

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The Seattle Mariners signaled their intent to rebuild when they dealt James Paxton to New York. Now, it's time for the M's to commit. 

    Sure, it'll hurt after 17 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. Clearly, though, the current course isn't working. 

    Veterans such as shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Robinson Cano should be on the block as the Mariners reload the game's bottom-ranked farm system and set their gaze on the future.

       

    Texas Rangers

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The Texas Rangers sunk to the bottom of the AL West in 2018 and traded left-hander Cole Hamels to the Chicago Cubs. Third baseman and likely Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre retired. It's time to face the unavoidable.

    Hamels was their most obvious veteran trade piece, but slugging outfielder Joey Gallo could garner interest because of his 40 home runs and despite his .206 average.

    If they're willing to eat some salary, the Rangers might also get a return for veteran Shin-Soo Choo, who posted an .810 OPS in a bounce-back season.

National League East

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    Atlanta Braves

    Most desperate need: An ace

    The Atlanta Braves blossomed ahead of schedule last season, won 90 games and claimed the NL East crown. They've got the game's No. 2 farm system even after graduating burgeoning stars such as outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. 

    If they want to make the leap from scrappy up-and-comers to legitimate title contenders, they could use a bona fide ace.

    Mike Foltynewicz posted a 2.85 ERA with 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings but owns a 4.22 career ERA and has never eclipsed 200 frames in a season. To support him, the Braves could make a big offer for San Francisco Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner.

    Bumgarner is a postseason legend who is locked in for an affordable $12 million in 2019 and has Southern roots in North Carolina. It would cost the Braves from their prospect trove, but it could pay off big-time come October.

       

    Miami Marlins

    Most desperate need: Accelerate the rebuild

    Last winter, the Miami Marlins traded outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, as well as speedy Dee Gordon. Barring an unexpected about-face, they'll continue the sell this offseason.

    J.T. Realmuto is the most obvious trade piece. As mentioned, he became arguably the best catcher in the game in 2018. He's entering his age-28 season and has two years of control remaining. Various prospect-rich clubs, including the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, need a stud to don the tools of ignorance.

    Miami is right to ask a lot for Realmuto, but this is the moment for the Fish to sell high and add prospects.

       

    New York Mets

    Most desperate need: Accept the rebuild

    See if this sounds familiar: The New York Mets suffered injuries to the starting rotation in 2018, and the offense didn't do enough to pick up the slack. That sad tale keeps repeating itself in Queens, and it's time for a change.

    Yes, the Mets could attempt to plug holes and hope for health. But with the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies rising behind youth movements, that would be foolish.

    Instead, New York should dangle everyone up to and including Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, add MiLB talent and try to replicate the template of Atlanta and Philadelphia. 

       

    Philadelphia Phillies

    Most desperate need: Manny Machado

    The Phillies are on the doorstep of contention. They have money to spend. Shortstop Scott Kingery is unproven and third baseman Maikel Franco owns a .252/.303/.435 slash line in 533 games for the Phillies. 

    They've got a need. Machado is a generational talent in the midst of his prime. And he admires the Phils, for what that's worth.

    "They're a good ballclub. They're young, they're hungry, they want to win," Machado said of Philadelphia before the 2018 non-waiver trade deadline, per MLB.com's Stephen Pianovich. "They've been impressive."

    Now, it's time to make an impressive offer.

       

    Washington Nationals

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    The Washington Nationals addressed their catching deficit by signing veteran Kurt Suzuki. They've added Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen. If Bryce Harper walks, they have emerging stars Juan Soto and Victor Robles ready and waiting. 

    They lack pitching depth beyond Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, however. If they want to return to the top of the NL East mountain, that's where their focus should be.

    Assuming they don't back up the Brink's truck for Bryce, they should toss that cash at Patrick Corbin, left-hander Dallas Keuchel or another ace-level arm and literally give the upstart Phillies and Braves a run for their money.

National League Central

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    Chicago Cubs

    Most desperate need: The bullpen

    After exercising Cole Hamels' option, the Cubs are mostly set in the starting rotation, especially if Yu Darvish returns to health.

    Their bullpen finished second in baseball with a 3.35 ERA but has uncertainty as closer Brandon Morrow comes off an injury-marred season.

    They could spend on a free agent such as Craig Kimbrel or David Robertson. Alternately, they could dangle troubled but talented shortstop Addison Russell and try to pry away a late-inning arm like the Mariners' Edwin Diaz, assuming Seattle makes him available.

          

    Cincinnati Reds

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The Cincinnati Reds finished last in the NL Central in 2018 yet didn't sell at the trade deadline. This winter, they should shop the pieces they have and try to build for the future.

    Second baseman Scooter Gennett posted an .847 OPS and made his first All-Star appearance; he could fetch a nice haul. Closer Raisel Iglesias notched 30 saves, struck out 10 per nine innings and is controllable through 2021. And speedy, glove-first outfielder Billy Hamilton has utility for an array of contenders.

    The Reds shouldn't sell for the sake of selling, but their odds of competing with the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers in 2019 are next to zero, so hoarding MLB assets makes little sense.

          

    Milwaukee Brewers

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    The Brewers won the division despite a starting rotation that posted a pedestrian 3.92 ERA and lacked a consensus ace.

    If the Brew Crew want to hoist a Commissioner's Trophy, they'd be wise to make a play for free agents such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel or try to engineer a trade by sacrificing top prospects Keston Hiura and/or Corey Ray.

    The Brewers will never spend with the game's deep-pocketed upper echelon, but after advancing to the National League Championship Series, they should act like unambiguous contenders.

          

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    Most desperate need: Middle infield

    With Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison both on the free-agent market, the Pittsburgh Pirates need reinforcements in the middle infield.

    Assuming the Bucs plan to contend in 2019which they signaled by acquiring right-hander Chris Archer at the 2018 non-waiver deadline—they should pursue options such as Jed Lowrie or a possible trade for the Marlins' Starlin Castro.

    They could also sell, as they did last winter when they shipped out ace Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Such is the uncertainty in Pittsburgh.

          

    St. Louis Cardinals

    Most desperate need: An impact bat

    The St. Louis Cardinals finished 14th in baseball with a collective .730 OPS in 2018 and need an impact bat to pair with first baseman Matt Carpenter.

    They could open the wallet for Manny Machado, but a better play might be to sign third baseman Josh Donaldson to a shorter-term, show-me contract.

    The 2015 AL MVP has battled injuries and inconsistency in recent years but posted a .920 OPS after a waiver trade to the Indians. If he can regain the form that once made him an offensive and defensive force, he could vault the Cardinals into contention for a fraction of the dough Machado and other star free agents will command.

National League West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks

    Most desperate need: Starting pitching

    It seems increasingly likely the Arizona Diamondbacks will embrace a rebuild or at least a reload after missing the playoffs in 2018. Patrick Corbin is a free agent, and they're "extensively shopping" right-hander Zack Greinke, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

    Maybe the D-backs will deal their top assets, including first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. If so, their priority should be adding minor league chips.

    If they have any designs on contending, though, they should go after mid-tier pitchers such as Nathan Eovaldi and Gio Gonzalez to fill the pending void in their starting five.

            

    Colorado Rockies

    Most desperate need: The outfield

    Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are free agents. Charlie Blackmon doesn't have the defensive skills to play center field. The Colorado Rockies require outfield help if they want to make a third straight postseason appearance.

    A trade for a defensive whiz such as the Reds' Billy Hamilton or the Jays' Kevin Pillar is an option, or the Rox could go hard after free agent A.J. Pollock, who has wrestled injuries but is a top-tier center fielder when healthy.

    Colorado might be gun-shy after signing Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal in December 2016 that's mostly been a bust. But this is an obvious area of need.

          

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    Most desperate need: Catcher

    With Yasmani Grandal set to exit via free agency, the Los Angeles Dodgers need a catcher.

    The defending NL champs could go all-in on J.T. Realmuto, but they have ample catching depth in the minor leagues and may only need a stopgap solution.

    That could be 31-year-old Wilson Ramos, who is a free agent and thus won't cost any prospects but posted an .845 OPS in 2018 and would bridge the backstop gap for L.A.

          

    San Diego Padres

    Most desperate need: Accelerating the rebuild

    The San Diego Padres made a splash last winter by signing first baseman Eric Hosmer to a franchise-record eight-year, $144 million deal. Hosmer "rewarded" them by posting minus-0.1 WAR by FanGraphs' measure.

    This winter, the Pads should avoid flashy signings and instead look to add pieces to a minor league system that's already the best in baseball.

    The one exception would be a trade for a player who's under club control beyond 2019 and could have an immediate MLB impact. Like, say, Noah Syndergaard, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.

         

    San Francisco Giants

    Most desperate need: Accept the rebuild

    It's time for the San Francisco Giants to accept reality. Their run of even-year titles is over. Their core is aging. Their farm system desperately needs depth.

    The Giants don't have a ton of bankable veteran trade pieces, but Madison Bumgarner would attract an array of suitors and could bring back more than one blue-chip prospect in his contract year.

    It won't be a popular decision in the Bay Area for new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, but it will be the correct one.

           

    All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs