1 Big Splash Each MLB Team Can Still Make This Winter
It's not too late for MLB teams to make a big splash this offseason.
The following players are available from the list of the top 30 free agents we put together at the start of the offseason:
- 1. SS/3B Manny Machado
- 2. RF Bryce Harper
- 4. SP Dallas Keuchel
- 7. RP Craig Kimbrel
- 9. DH Nelson Cruz
- 10. RP Adam Ottavino
- 11. C Yasmani Grandal
- 14. SP Yusei Kikuchi
- 16. CF A.J. Pollock
- 18. 2B Jed Lowrie
- 20. RP Andrew Miller (Close to signing with Cardinals, per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal)
- 21. RP Zach Britton
- 22. UT Marwin Gonzalez
- 23. RF Nick Markakis
- 25. RP David Robertson
- 27. SP Gio Gonzalez
- 28. 2B DJ LeMahieu
- 29. 3B Mike Moustakas
That's to say nothing of a trade market that has already seen a number of blockbuster swaps completed and could have more in the chamber with guys such as Corey Kluber, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, Nicholas Castellanos and Yasiel Puig potentially available.
So with so much still to be sorted, let's look at one potential splash move for each MLB team. Admittedly, some moves are "splashier" than others, but all 30 clubs can't sign Harper and Machado.
Baltimore Orioles: Trade SP Alex Cobb to the Reds
Selling low on Dylan Bundy or Mychal Givens might not be in the Orioles' best interest, but they should jump at the chance to move Alex Cobb.
The 31-year-old has three years and $43 million left on his contract, yet opposing teams were still showing some interest in the starting pitcher during the annual winter meetings, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.
The Reds are known to be looking for another veteran starter, per Bob Nightengale for the Cincinnati Inquirer, even after they acquired Tanner Roark earlier this offseason. Cobb could be an attractive target. Despite a 4.90 ERA in his O's debut, he posted a 2.56 ERA in 10 starts after the All-Star break.
Boston Red Sox: Sign RP Adam Ottavino
Since a reunion with Craig Kimbrel is looking unlikely, the Red Sox will need to find an alternative to close out games.
Matt Barnes (two career saves) and Ryan Brasier (zero career saves) are the leading in-house candidates to move into the ninth-inning role, but both are short on experience, and counting on them would be a risky proposition for a team expected to contend for a title.
According to Jon Morosi of the MLB Network, the Red Sox are among the teams showing interest in Adam Ottavino. The 33-year-old posted a 2.43 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 13.0 K/9 with six saves and 34 holds in 75 appearances for the Colorado Rockies.
New York Yankees: Sign SS Manny Machado
Manny Machado met with the Yankees on Wednesday as part of his three-team free-agency tour that included stops with the White Sox and Phillies.
After signing J.A. Happ (2/$34M) instead of Patrick Corbin (6/$140M) to round out the starting rotation, the already cash-rich Yankees have even more financial flexibility than expected, so landing Machado is a possibility.
There's a hole to fill at shortstop while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery, and that could turn into a long-term vacancy if he walks in free agency next winter. So if the Yankees want to make a splash, signing Machado makes sense.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sign DH Nelson Cruz
The Nelson Cruz-to-Tampa Bay speculation has been swirling since the start of the offseason, and with good reason.
The team's top three home run hitters from a year ago—C.J. Cron (30), Wilson Ramos (14) and Jake Bauers (11)—are no longer with the club. Tommy Pham hit 21 home runs in 2018 with Tampa and St. Louis, and newly acquired catcher Mike Zunino hit 20 long balls in Seattle, but there's a clear need for middle-of-the-order power.
The 38-year-old Cruz has averaged 41 home runs over the past five seasons, and while he won't come cheap, it might only take a two-year commitment to land him.
Toronto Blue Jays: Sign SP Clay Buchholz
"[Blue Jays] general manager Ross Atkins has acknowledged all offseason that pitching sits atop his offseason shopping list," wrote Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
That said, with contention unlikely in 2019, Toronto will find its free-agent additions in the bargain bin.
Clay Buchholz is an intriguing upside play after he posted a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts with the Diamondbacks last season. He has plenty of experience with pitching in the AL East and could turn into a valuable trade chip by midseason.
Chicago White Sox: Sign RF Bryce Harper
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times broke down the White Sox's pursuit of Bryce Harper and Machado perfectly:
"The White Sox need Jon Lester.
"Not the flesh-and-blood Jon Lester. They need the idea of Lester, who, as a big-name free agent, took a leap of faith and a load of money when he signed with the Cubs in December 2014."
Signing Harper could be a franchise-altering moment on the South Side. There's already a promising rebuild in place, and he would give it a face.
Cleveland Indians: Acquire OF Joc Pederson, SP Alex Wood, prospects from the Dodgers
Even after saving money by shipping out Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and Yan Gomes, the Indians are still fielding offers for ace Corey Kluber, per Morosi. It makes sense—given a significantly thinned starting pitching market—that they would continue to take an opportunistic approach to the offseason.
The Dodgers have a wealth of outfield depth, and the Indians have a clear need there with Greg Allen, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin penciled into the three starting spots.
Left-hander Alex Wood and hard-throwing prospect Yadier Alvarez are believed to be available in trade talks, per Morosi. If L.A. adds MLB outfielder Joc Pederson and catching prospect Connor Wong to the package, that might be enough for the Indians to pull the trigger.
Detroit Tigers: Sign RP Greg Holland
The best move for Greg Holland would be to sign somewhere he has a chance to close games and help rebuild his value before another trip to free agency next winter.
He signed a one-year, $14 million deal with the Cardinals late last offseason and then was shelled to the tune of a 7.92 ERA in 32 appearances, leading to his late-July release. The bullpen-needy Nationals scooped him up a few days later, and he was a different pitcher. He posted a sterling 0.84 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 10.5 K/9 in 24 games.
The Tigers have shown a willingness to roll the dice on rebound candidates with Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin last offseason and Matt Moore and Tyson Ross this winter. Taking a chance on Holland is another opportunity to buy a potential trade chip.
Kansas City Royals: Trade 2B Whit Merrifield to the Cubs for OF Ian Happ, prospects
There's a chance Whit Merrifield's value will never be higher.
The 29-year-old led the majors in hits (192) and stolen bases (45) while hitting .304/.367/.438 with 58 extra-base hits for 5.5 WAR. Add in his team control through the 2022 season, and he's far and away the most valuable trade chip on the roster.
The Royals are at the onset of a rebuild and several years from contending. Flipping him is the best way to maximize his value. A package of Ian Happ, who has club control through 2023, one of the Cubs' top pitching prospects and a couple of low-level lottery tickets would be an excellent return.
Minnesota Twins: Sign SP Dallas Keuchel
Dallas Keuchel is the last man standing among the top free-agent starting pitchers.
Part of the reason could be the fact that he's "seeking a five- or six-year deal," a source told Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com.
The Twins have a solid trio in place with Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi. However, Gibson and Odorizzi are both a year away from free agency, so signing Keuchel would provide an upgrade in 2019 and needed support going forward.
Houston Astros: Sign RP Zach Britton
Things have started moving quickly on the reliever market, so if the Astros want to grab a quality left-hander to round out the relief corps, they'd be wise to move quickly.
Tony Sipp was the only southpaw to make double-digit appearances out of the pen last year, posting a 1.86 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 9.8 K/9 in 54 games. He's a free agent, though, and the team has a chance to aim a bit higher.
Adding Zach Britton to a unit that already includes Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon, Chris Devenski and Will Harris would turn what is already a strength into a true weapon.
Los Angeles Angels: Sign SP Gio Gonzalez
They could conceivably round out the staff with Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and 2018 rookie Jaime Barria, but adding another veteran starter on a short-term deal would be a good move given the injury histories of Heaney and Skaggs.
Gio Gonzalez has been a workhorse throughout his career, averaging 187 innings over the past nine seasons. The 33-year-old pitched extremely well down the stretch after an August trade to the Brewers, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in five starts.
Oakland Athletics: Sign SP Wade Miley
Wade Miley found success in Milwaukee under a manager who was quick to his bullpen, averaging just over five innings per start. He ended up posting a 2.57 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 16 starts, and a similar approach will be the best way to utilize him in 2019.
Provided he doesn't find his way back to the Brewers, the best fit might be Oakland, where the A's employ a similar bullpen-heavy philosophy.
They are in serious need of rotation help with Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill expected to depart in free agency and Sean Manaea recovering from August shoulder surgery. It might take a multiyear deal to sign Miley, but he should fit the budget.
Seattle Mariners: Extend RF Mitch Haniger
After trading Robinson Cano, Jean Segura and Edwin Diaz, the Mariners have entered a new era by blowing up the old core that couldn't snap a postseason drought that stretches back to 2001.
Right fielder Mitch Haniger has been a popular name on the rumor mill since the December 3 Cano trade, and rightfully so after he posted a 139 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 26 home runs and 93 RBI for 6.1 WAR in a breakout season.
The 27-year-old will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next offseason, so now could be the time to discuss an extension that buys out his arbitration years and a free-agency season or two. It would be a show of good faith to the fanbase and provide the forthcoming rebuild with a centerpiece.
Texas Rangers: Trade SP Mike Minor to the Phillies
Another beneficiary of the fast-moving starting pitching market could be the Rangers, who have an attractive trade chip in Mike Minor.
The 30-year-old signed a three-year, $28 million deal last offseason and made his return to the rotation after pitching out of the bullpen in Kansas City. The results were solid—a 4.18 ERA (116 ERA+) and 1.12 WHIP with 132 strikeouts in 157 innings. The two years and team-friendly $19.7 million left on his contract add to his value.
The Phillies are reportedly interested, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, and the Rangers are willing to move him for "a couple of their better young pitching prospects." That likely wouldn't include Sixto Sanchez, but more on that in the Phillies section.
Atlanta Braves: Acquire SP Madison Bumgarner from the Giants
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported ahead of the winter meetings that it was "becoming less and less likely" that the Giants would move Madison Bumgarner this offseason, and a midseason trade—if they slip out of contention—is the "more likely" outcome.
If there's any team with the prospect firepower to convince them otherwise, it's the Braves.
Bumgarner would give the club a proven ace to pair with 2018 All-Star Mike Foltynewicz atop the rotation. It might also give the Braves a head start on a signing Bumgarner to a long-term deal, as he'll be a free agent next winter.
Miami Marlins: Trade C J.T. Realmuto to the Rockies
As the Marlins continue to weigh offers for standout catcher J.T. Realmuto, one team that could speculatively make a strong late push to acquire him is the Rockies.
Would a package built around top prospect Brendan Rodgers be enough for the Marlins to pull the trigger?
Rodgers, 22, posted a .790 OPS with 27 doubles, 17 home runs and 67 RBI against much older competition while splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A. He's the No. 9 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com, and could be ready for the majors in 2019.
New York Mets: Sign CF A.J. Pollock
Unless the Mets trust Juan Lagares to stay healthy—a tall order for a player who has averaged 68 games over the past three seasons—center field looks like an obvious spot for an upgrade.
A.J. Pollock is among the team's free-agent options, according to Heyman, and he provides as much offensive upside as any remaining free agent not named Harper or Machado.
That said, he might need to come down from his asking price for the Mets to pull the trigger. He's thought to be seeking something in the neighborhood of the five-year, $80 million deal that Lorenzo Cain signed last offseason, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Philadelphia Phillies: Acquire SP Mike Minor from the Rangers
Having already touched on the Phillies' interest in Minor and the Rangers' asking price of a couple of Philadelphia's top pitching prospects, let's dive into who that might include.
On its updated 2019 prospect list for the Phillies, Baseball America listed seven pitchers among the club's top 10 prospects: Sixto Sanchez (1), Adonis Medina (4), JoJo Romero (6), Enyel De Los Santos (7), Spencer Howard (8), Ranger Suarez (9) and Francisco Morales (10).
Sanchez and Medina are a notch above the rest and would likely be untouchable in a deal for Minor. Would a package of MLB-ready Suarez and high-ceiling 19-year-old Morales get the job done? Or could they build a deal around Romero and another arm outside the top 10?
Washington Nationals: Sign 2B DJ LeMahieu
It seems like a safe bet that the Nationals will sign a second baseman before the offseason is over. The market is flush with options, including Jed Lowrie, Brian Dozier and Josh Harrison.
However, the team's top target might be DJ LeMahieu, with Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reporting that the sides have had "a few" discussions already.
While he has some troubling home/road splits after playing in Colorado, LeMahieu still seems like a safe bet for a high batting average and excellent defense at second base. He'd represent a more stable option at the position than veteran Howie Kendrick or utility man Wilmer Difo.
Chicago Cubs: Acquire 2B Whit Merrifield from the Royals for OF Ian Happ, prospects
Signing Daniel Descalso to a two-year, $5 million deal doesn't preclude the Cubs from making a run at Whit Merrifield. Ben Zobrist will be a free agent next offseason and Addison Russell could be cut loose any day, so there's room to add another long-term infielder.
Merrifield adds exactly what the Cubs offense was lacking last season: a prototypical table-setting leadoff hitter with a high contact rate and the ability to be disruptive on the basepaths.
Would a package of Happ, a quality pitching prospect (Justin Steele) and a lower-level lottery ticket (Nelson Velazquez) be enough to get a deal done?
Cincinnati Reds: Acquire SP Alex Cobb from the Orioles
The Reds acquired Tanner Roark—a quality workhorse who has posted a 3.89 ERA and averaged 191 innings over the past three seasons—for a minor league reliever (Tanner Rainey) and the willingness to pay his projected $9.8 million arbitration salary.
A similar prospect return and willingness to absorb the bulk of the $43 million he's owed over the next three years might be all it takes to acquire Alex Cobb from the Orioles.
There's a reason the 31-year-old was viewed as one of the top arms on the free-agent market last winter, and if his strong second half is any indication, good things could come in 2019.
Milwaukee Brewers: Sign 2B Jed Lowrie
The Brewers need a second baseman after non-tendering Jonathan Schoop. At the same time, they don't want to block Keston Hiura by signing anyone to a long-term deal.
That could make Jed Lowrie the perfect target.
Even after his two stellar seasons in Oakland, the fact that he's 34 years old may limit him to a two-year deal. He fits best at second base, but he also has experience playing shortstop and third base, so once Hiura arrives, he could move into a super-utility role.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sign SS Troy Tulowitzki
The Pirates were among the teams in attendance at Troy Tulowitzki's recent workout, and they have interest in the veteran shortstop, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is plenty familiar with Tulo from his time at the helm in Colorado, and the Pirates look like one of the few clubs that can offer him even semi-regular playing time at his preferred position of shortstop.
After letting Jordy Mercer walk, the Pirates have Indians castoff Erik Gonzalez penciled in as the primary shortstop, with prospects Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker expected to push for the job at some point. Tulowitzki would be the perfect stopgap, and he fits the budget.
St. Louis Cardinals: Sign RP Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel is reportedly seeking a six-year, $100 million contract, according to Jayson Stark of The Athletic. No one will pay that.
He's the best reliever on the market, but it's a deep market, and Kimbrel wasn't at his best in 2018. Once he gets more realistic about his asking price, the Cardinals should make a serious push to sign him.
Not since the days of Jason Isringhausen in the '00s has the team had a true lockdown closer over the span of multiple seasons. He might not Harper or Machado, but signing Kimbrel could wind up having a bigger impact on the team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Extend RP Archie Bradley
A contract extension for Archie Bradley might seem counterproductive for a team that appears headed for a rebuild, but the San Diego Padres' decision to extend Brad Hand in January 2018 worked out well.
The cost certainty of that three-year extension made Hand a more appealing trade chip when the Padres traded him to Cleveland in a July deal that brought back catching prospect Francisco Mejia.
Bradley is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, so now could be the time to discuss an extension that at least locks in his arbitration years and secures one free-agency season.
Colorado Rockies: Acquire C J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins
A strong argument can be made that no team would benefit more from adding J.T. Realmuto than the Rockies. The catcher position produced a brutal .206/.307/.349 line for Colorado last season, and with a young pitching staff, stability behind the plate defensively will be instrumental in Denver.
If the front office believes Garrett Hampson is the future at second base and thinks rising prospect Colton Welker is the heir to Nolan Arenado at third base, flipping top prospect Brendan Rodgers in a swap for Realmuto is justifiable.
Rodgers alone won't get a deal done, but the Rockies have a deep enough system to fill out the trade package. Finding a way to send incumbent catcher Chris Iannetta and his $4.2 million salary the other way would also make sense.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Acquire SP Corey Kluber from the Indians
To recap the Indians' side, our trade package for the Dodgers to land Corey Kluber was outfielder Joc Pederson, left-hander Alex Wood, hard-throwing Yadier Alvarez and catching prospect Connor Wong.
The Dodgers have a logjam in the outfield, would be replacing Wood with Kluber and have Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith ahead of Wong on the catching-prospect ladder. So while there's a lot of talent heading to Cleveland, it doesn't take much away from the Dodgers' big picture.
A rotation of Kluber, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill would be as good as any in baseball, while Julio Urias, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling provide quality depth.
San Diego Padres: Sign SP Yusei Kikuchi
Yusei Kikuchi is the biggest X-factor on the 2018-19 free-agent market.
The 27-year-old lefty has the upside to be a "No. 2 starter in the major leagues," according to a report from Morosi in August, and he's had plenty of success against high-level talent in Japan.
The Padres need a top-tier starter to anchor a rotation that has 2018 rookie Joey Lucchesi serving as the ace by default. Kikuchi would give them a boost in 2019, and he's young enough that he'll still be in his prime when they're ready to contend again.
San Francisco Giants: Trade SP Madison Bumgarner to the Braves
What would it take to convince the Giants to part with Madison Bumgarner now, as opposed to waiting until midseason?
The Braves farm system is overflowing with high-ceiling pitching prospects. The fact that Bumgarner is a one-year rental might take Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson and Touki Toussaint out of the conversation.
However, any two of Kolby Allard, Luiz Gohara, Bryse Wilson, Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller might be enough to get the ball rolling, and they could fill out the package from there with a high-ceiling, low-level prospect or two. For a Giants team with one of the thinnest farm systems in baseball, that would hard to turn down.