Yankees and Teams with the Most Work to Do Once MLB Free Agency Re-Opens

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 14, 2021

Yankees and Teams with the Most Work to Do Once MLB Free Agency Re-Opens

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Teams only got to do about a month's worth of free-agent shopping before Major League Baseball instituted a lockout on Dec. 1, so pretty much everyone will still have work to do when the market re-opens.

    Naturally, this is more true of some teams than it is with others.

    When we look around, we see six teams in particular—plus a hefty list of five honorable mentions—who simply can't be satisfied with what they've done thus far in the 2021-22 offseason. They still have glaring needs to fill and a dwindling list of available free agents with which to fill them.

    Let's count 'em down, starting with the team that has the least to do and ending with the one that has the most to do.

Honorable Mentions

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox

    After they added Kendall Graveman to their bullpen, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the White Sox still wanted to add a second baseman and a front-line starter. These needs still exist, though the catch now is that pickings are slim on both fronts.

          

    Houston Astros

    They really only have one need, but it's a big one: a replacement for Carlos Correa at shortstop. To this end, Jon Heyman of Audacy and MLB Network reported that Trevor Story is on their radar.

           

    Los Angeles Angels

    Unless they're actually comfortable with Tyler Wade as an everyday option, they're another American League West contender with a major need at shortstop. They could also use still more pitching, as Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen are high on upside but short on dependability.

          

    Milwaukee Brewers

    They began the winter looking to improve their offense, yet switching from Avisail Garcia to Hunter Renfroe in right field is arguably a step down. They'd be wise to set their sights on Kyle Schwarber or Anthony Rizzo, either of whom could slot in at first base.

               

    San Diego Padres

    The caveat here is that the Padres are already projected to spend more in 2022 than they did in 2021, so they might have to subtract before they add. But if they do, a left fielder and a new closer to replace Mark Melancon should be among their priorities.

6. Boston Red Sox

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    2021 Record: 92-70

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $191 Million

    Far from being inactive, the Boston Red Sox succeeded in shoring up two outstanding areas of need before the lockout hit.

    They responded to Eduardo Rodriguez's departure by rounding out their starting pitching depth with Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and James Paxton. And even if it cost them Renfroe, they addressed their league-worst defense when they re-acquired Jackie Bradley Jr. from Milwaukee.

    And yet, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom knows there's still work to be done. He specifically singled out the team's need for late-inning relief help, as well as a right-handed hitter.

    For the former, signing three-time All-Star Kenley Jansen is the best thing Bloom could do for a pen that didn't have a true closer by the end of 2021. There otherwise isn't much left on the reliever market at this point, though reunions with Adam Ottavino or Joe Kelly wouldn't necessarily be bad ideas.

    As far as right-handed hitters go, the Red Sox have been linked to Story by Heyman and to Japanese slugger Seiya Suzuki by Sean McAdam of Boston Sports Journal. Either would suit them well, even if signing Story would first require selling him on a position switch in deference to Xander Bogaerts.

5. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    2021 Record: 82-80

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $181 Million

    Back in October, Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski vowed that he would be "aggressive" in pursuing upgrades in the wake of yet another disappointing season.

    To Dombrowski's credit, Corey Knebel is a decent addition to a bullpen that bears a 5.20 ERA over the last two seasons. But when you're a team that's trying to snap a decade-long postseason drought, and he's the biggest name on your list of new additions, well, that's a problem.

    By failing to close on Starling Marte, it's especially frustrating that the Phillies missed out on the only viable center fielder on the open market. Yet they still have options for general offensive upgrades, both on the infield and in the outfield.

    Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia linked the Phillies to Schwarber, while Jon Morosi of MLB.com put them in the race for Nick Castellanos. Also still out there are Kris Bryant and, if the Phillies want to do better than Didi Gregorius at shortstop, Correa and Story.

    The Phillies would also be wise not to stop their bullpen reconstruction with Knebel. If not Jansen, they might at least aim high with a reclamation project such as Trevor Rosenthal or Alex Colome.

4. Atlanta

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    2021 Record: 88-73

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $140 Million

    Though Atlanta's estimated payroll for next season is already over where the club opened in 2021, that doesn't necessarily preclude the team from making splashes in free agency.

    After all, general manager Alex Anthopoulos promised in November that payroll would go up in 2022. This was shortly after his team put the finishing touches on its first World Series championship since 1995, so it certainly seemed like a promise he could and would keep.

    However, Atlanta has yet to bring back anybody from its long list of free agents—most notably, franchise icon Freddie Freeman and the MVPs of the National League Championship Series (Eddie Rosario) and World Series (Jorge Soler), respectively.

    It's still hard to believe Freeman would actually leave Atlanta, but not as hard as it was at the start of the offseason. Because as much as he seems to genuinely want a reunion, Morosi reported that at least two deep-pocketed teams are looking to steal him away.

    There's less pressure on Atlanta to retain Rosario and Soler, but its outfield mix would look a lot less volatile if one or both returned. And unless the team is comfortable with Tucker Davidson as its No. 5 starter, another starting pitcher would also be a good idea.

3. San Francisco Giants

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Record: 107-55

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $126 Million

    If nothing else, the San Francisco Giants probably have the highest spending capacity of any team at this point. Their payroll projection for 2022 is well short of their $200.5 million peak from 2018.

    As for how they might spend it, a No. 1 starter might still be their top priority.

    Though the Giants did re-sign Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood while also adding Alex Cobb, none are candidates to fill the shoes vacated by Kevin Gausman. For that, the Giants were in on Max Scherzer (Heyman) and Robbie Ray (Joel Sherman of the New York Post) before they signed elsewhere.

    Among the starters who are left, Carlos Rodon and Clayton Kershaw are the best possible options for the Giants now. And since Evan Longoria is their only sure source of it right now, they would also do well to add some right-handed power.

    The simplest option there is a reunion with Bryant, though other options include Story, Castellanos and Suzuki. Correa is probably less likely, yet not impossible if the Giants could sell either him or incumbent shortstop Brandon Crawford on a move to second base.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    2021 Record: 106-56

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $226 Million

    To the Los Angeles Dodgers' credit, retaining super-utility man Chris Taylor on a four-year, $60 million deal was not a small move.

    However, that only did so much to ease the pain imparted by the departures of Scherzer and Corey Seager. And with Kershaw and Jansen still unsigned, the Dodgers' on-paper needs include two aces, a shortstop and a closer.

    The shortstop one is perhaps debatable, given that the Dodgers can simply play Trea Turner there. Yet that's no excuse for them not to stay in touch on Correa and Story, though the Dodgers must also keep Freeman on their radar as the best possible candidate to replace Seager's left-handed thump.

    Otherwise, it's doubtful that anyone would be surprised if the Dodgers re-signed Kershaw and Jansen. For that other ace they still need, the overall depth of their pitching staff makes them a better candidate than most to sign Rodon and deal with his innings limitations.

    These are, of course, some pretty big expenditures we're talking about. Yet the Dodgers haven't been shy of pushing their payrolls well north of $200 million, and they could be that much more willing to do so in 2022 if the next collective bargaining agreement raises the luxury-tax threshold.

1. New York Yankees

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    Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

    2021 Record: 92-70

    Projected 2022 Payroll: $214 Million

    The New York Yankees are already slated to spend more in 2022 than they did in 2021, so you might say they have a good excuse for playing it as cool as they have on the free-agent market.

    They are, however, the Yankees. And after falling short of the World Series yet again, they originally seemed poised to throw luxury-tax-related caution to the wind and spend big bucks this winter.

    That simply hasn't happened, and nowhere is that more noticeable than at shortstop. Sherman reported in November that the Yankees are comfortable waiting out the market, but that approach has already cost them Seager. As such, they may have to get more aggressive to land Correa or Story.

    If the Yankees do skimp on a shortstop by signing, say, Andrelton Simmons, they might make up the difference by moving on Freeman. He'd be a needed defensive upgrade, not to mention a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium offensively. 

    Other plays the Yankees might make include one for a top-of-the-rotation starter, such as Rodon, or an athletic outfielder, such as Suzuki. In any case, they're more than one splash away from being able to say "good enough."

          

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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