MLB Teams at Serious Risk of Completely Blowing the Offseason
It's tough to peg any team as an offseason winner or loser in December.
What we can do is envision what a positive offseason would entail for each MLB team and what a negative offseason would entail, and from there we can start to see in which direction teams are trending.
A lot can change going forward. Teams shift gears all the time based on what's happening with the market.
But what follows is a closer look at five teams that are in serious danger of completely blowing it.
Whether it's failing to sell high on a valuable trade chip or waiting too long to plug a significant roster hole, contenders and rebuilding teams alike are capable of squandering their offseasons.
Let's see who might be heading in that direction.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have already made one major trade, sending first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for right-hander Luke Weaver, catcher Carson Kelly, infielder Andy Young and a competitive balance pick.
There's no reason for them to stop there. It sounds like that's exactly what they might do, though, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: "If the right offers come along in which the club can extract significant value for one or more of its players, then, they say, the team might act. But barring that, the Diamondbacks seem comfortable standing pat, filling holes on the roster and seeing what happens next season."
It's not like opposing teams aren't interested.
They've also set a "really high bar" in terms of what they want for left-hander Robbie Ray, according to Piecoro. He'd no doubt be an in-demand trade target if he were made available.
And while unloading the high-priced Zack Greinke would be a welcome move, his 15-team no-trade list is said to be a "major impediment" in talks, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred.
So where does that leave a team that finished 82-80 last year and just traded its best player?
It's hard to imagine the D-backs making a serious run at the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, and the Colorado Rockies aren't going anywhere, so fringe wild-card contention might be their best-case scenario.
A full teardown is the right move for the franchise.
Los Angeles Angels
If the Los Angeles Angels are not going to make an aggressive push to improve their starting rotation, they might as well start fielding offers for Mike Trout.
That's a blunt statement, but it's true.
Assuming the Houston Astros are the class of the American League West once again and the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are postseason contenders, the Angels will be among the handful of teams vying for one wild-card spot in 2019.
Their projected rotation simply isn't good enough for them to contend:
- Andrew Heaney
- Jaime Barria
- Tyler Skaggs
- Felix Pena
- Nick Tropeano
The starting pitching market is moving quickly this offseason. Patrick Corbin and Nathan Eovaldi have already signed new contracts, and James Paxton was traded from Seattle to New York.
If the winter meetings come and go and more dominos fall without the Angels adding a quality arm, they'll likely be looking at another lost season of hovering around .500 in 2019.
Trout is two years away from free agency. If the front office has any hope of convincing him to stay, now is the time to be aggressive.
J.T. Realmuto will never be more valuable than he is this offseason.
The 27-year-old has two years of team control remaining, and he's coming off the best season of his career, having posted a 131 OPS+ with 30 doubles and 21 home runs on his way to leading all catcher with 4.3 WAR.
The Miami Marlins need to realize that and sell high this offseason.
An unreasonably high asking price, however, has deterred potential suitors.
As Buster Olney of ESPN wrote in November, "Other teams that have checked in with Miami on Realmuto are convinced that the Marlins will end up keeping the catcher through the winter, because of the extremely high asking price they've placed on the veteran."
The further his remaining control dwindles, the less valuable he becomes.
There's also the risk of decline. There's no reason to think he won't once again be a top-tier catcher in 2019, but after posting his best offensive numbers to date, a repeat performance is far from guaranteed.
The Marlins have reportedly "slightly lowered" their asking price since the end of the regular season, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, who noted the perception is that Miami is "gun-shy" after the light returns it received for a number of players last offseason—including NL MVP Christian Yelich.
Until a Realmuto deal is done, the Marlins run the risk of making a major offseason mistake.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants were directionless last offseason.
Despite losing 98 games in 2017, they put off what seemed like an obvious decision to rebuild in favor of making trades to acquire Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen.
Those moves cost the team several promising pieces from an already thin farm system, and the on-field result was essentially the same, as San Francisco finished 73-89 and a distant fourth in the NL West.
While McCutchen was a one-year rental, the Giants are on the hook for the $68.2 million owed to Longoria over the next four years along with a $5 million buyout on his $13 million club option for 2023.
Surely they won't make the same mistake again this offseason.
Madison Bumgarner is an obvious trade chip who's a year away from free agency, and dealing him would finally signal the start of a long overdue rebuild. The Giants have been willing to listen to trade offers, but according to Morosi, a trade is "not close."
In fact, it still doesn't sound like the team has a clear direction, even after Farhan Zaidi was hired as the new president of baseball operations.
As Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "[Giants team president Larry] Baer said none of the half-dozen candidates who got initial interviews argued the Giants need to blow everything up and start over. While Baer acknowledged that candidates understood the organization's philosophy of trying to win every year, he said Zaidi 'isn't a fan of tearing things down for X number of years and building it back up.'"
It sounds like another long season of treading water could be forthcoming.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays finished 27th in the majors last season with 150 home runs, and their two leading home run hitters—C.J. Cron (30) and Wilson Ramos (14)—are no longer with the team.
That leaves the following players as Tampa Bay's most productive sluggers:
- Jake Bauers: 11 HR
- Willy Adames: 10 HR
- Daniel Robertson: 9 HR
- Ji-Man Choi: 8 HR
An uninspiring group of "sluggers" to say the least.
After winning 90 games last season, a team that is generally quiet on the free-agent market has a chance to make some serious noise.
"With money to spend, for a change, given a payroll that could be as low as $32 million and flexibility with their roster, Rays officials are talking in terms of 'considering high-end upgrades' and 'exploring the top shelf,'" Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote.
Nelson Cruz is one name that has been linked to the Rays, per Heyman, and after they cut ties with Cron in hopes of finding a more imposing middle-of-the-order threat, he'd be the perfect addition.
One way or another, Tampa Bay needs to add more punch to its lineup. If it waits around too long, it'll be bargain shopping once again, and that shouldn't be the team's mindset this offseason given its financial situation and upside for 2019.