2012 MLB Free Agency: Each MLB Team's Top Offseason Move If Fans Ran the Team
The offseason is a time of hope for all 30 MLB teams, and a time when rumors swirl about who will land the big name players available on the free agent market.
When it comes down to it, general managers have to take a number of things into account when signing a free agent. Fans, on the other hand, can speculate solely on emotion as to who they think their favorite team should sign to help put it over the top for the following season.
So here is a look at the top move that each team would make this offseason if fans were running the show. While many of these are unlikely to happen, some may not make sense financially and some may even be laughable, these moves represent what would constitute a fan's ideal offseason.
I stuck to only moves that make sense given the team's current roster and budget, and moves that at least have an outside shot of happening. In other words, the next 30 slides won't all say "Sign Albert Pujols," although that would no doubt be at the top of every team's list if possible.
Atlanta Braves: Sign Jose Reyes
The Braves have as promising a future as any team in baseball, with a fantastic collection of good young talent both in the lineup and in the rotation.
Moving Derek Lowe was priority number one, and the team found a taker in the Cleveland Indians, and while that could essentially be the end of their big offseason moves, shortstop remains an area of concern.
The team could bring back veteran Alex Gonzalez, or could turn things over to 22-year-old Tyler Pastornicky. However, the impact move would be to open the wallet and add Jose Reyes to the top of the team's lineup. Just imagine a lineup that featured Michael Bourn and Reyes, arguably the two fastest players in all of baseball.
Florida Marlins: Trade for David Wright
The Marlins are a team on the rise with a good young pitching staff and impressive young hitters in Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez.
There is little doubt the most glaring hole on the team is at third base, and while top prospect Matt Dominguez made his debut last season at the age of 21, he has not shown the type of offensive prowess that is need from an everyday corner infielder.
Aramis Ramirez represents the best option on the market, but at 34, he is not the best direction for a team that is still a few years away form the playoffs. If the Marlins built a package around Dominguez, they could make a run at the younger David Wright, who is set to be a free agent next season and may be available.
New York Mets: Re-Sign Jose Reyes
Many believed a fire sale in 2011 was a foregone conclusion for the Mets, as they were set to shed the big contracts of Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez among others, and while those two players were dealt, the team chose to hold onto its biggest trade chip in Jose Reyes.
That gave them a head start on trying to re-sign the dynamic table setter, and considering the prospects the Mets could have gotten in return if they had moved Reyes, the team will likely push hard to bring him back.
From a fan's perspective, losing Reyes at this point would be completely unacceptable, and if he does wind up elsewhere, it has to be after the Mets did everything in their power to retain him or fans will not be happy.
Philadelphia Phillies: Re-Sign Jimmy Rollins & Ryan Madson
The Phillies were heavy favorites to not only win the National League pennant, but to win the World Series in 2011 after they added Cliff Lee to an already stacked rotation.
While they fell short, they still have an impressive roster and should once again be towards the top of the pack in the National League.
With that said, two key contributors from the Phillies success over the past several seasons, in shortstop Jimmy Rollins and setup-man-turned-closer Ryan Madson, are free agents.
Madson was fantastic in his first full season as a closer, and should come cheaper than guys like Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon. Rollins, while no longer an MVP-caliber player, is a fan favorite, and has been a Phillie for his entire career. To put it gently, the city of Philadelphia would be unhappy if Rollins is not back in 2012.
Washington Nationals: Sign Prince Fielder
Last offseason, the Nationals made a splash when they opened the checkbook and signed right fielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract.
While that deal may have been an ill-advised one, it shows that the Nationals are serious about spending money and building a winning team, and they could be looking to make some noise once again this offseason.
Adding Prince Fielder would immediately make the Nationals lineup a dangerous one, as they could slide 2011 breakout star Michael Morse to left field and have an impressive Ryan Zimmerman-Fielder-Morse-Werth middle of the order.
Chicago Cubs: Sign Albert Pujols
The addition of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to the Cubs front office have the city of Chicago buzzing with anticipation over what the former Red Sox architects will do to the team's roster this offseason.
Following the World Series win, most believe that Albert Pujols will undoubtedly be coming back to St. Louis next season, and while that is likely the case, if anyone has a shot at luring him away it is the Cubs.
It looks as though the Cubs are the favorite to land Prince Fielder at this point, and while he makes for a phenomenal consolation prize, there is no doubt Cubs' fans would take Pujols if they could have anyone on the market. If for no other reason than to burn their arch rivals.
Cincinnati Reds: Move Aroldis Chapman to the Rotation
While this is not a move in the sense of a free agent signing or trade, it is a move that the Reds absolutely need to make.
There is little doubt that up to this point, the 23-year-old flame thrower has pitched better in the bullpen than he has as a starter in the minors, and he has yet to make a big league start.
However, he has far too much talent and pure stuff to be limited to a setup or closer role and, at the very least, the team needs to see what he is capable of as a starter. Just think of the buzz that would surround his first few starts, it would be Strasburg-esque.
Houston Astros: Trade Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and Anyone Else of Interest
The Astros are without question the worst team in baseball right now, and they are at the start of what could be a long road back to contention.
That said, a team years from contending has little use for a 32-year-old starter like Wandy Rodriguez and, in a weak free agent class for starting pitching such as this year, he could net an impressive package of prospects.
Fellow starter Brett Myers should also be moved, along with Carlos Lee if the team can find anyone willing to take on even a few thousand dollars worth of the $18.5 million he is owed in the final year of his contract.
In essence, the Astros need to commit 100 percent to a rebuild, and completely tear down the current team. While that could mean 100-loss seasons in the next few years, fans would much rather see progress being made towards competing than a team of mid-level veterans struggling to stay out of the cellar.
Milwaukee Brewers: Sign Jose Reyes
Re-signing Prince Fielder would be the best case scenario offseason move for the Brewers in the eyes of fans, but the fact of the matter is, that is just not going to happen.
Big picture, however, the Brewers have a solid young player in Mat Gamel ready to step in at first base and have a far more pressing need at the shortstop position.
After declining their $6 million option on the under performing Yuniesky Betancourt, the Brewers are without a shortstop heading into 2012.
While adding someone like Clint Barmes seems more likely, the Brewers should at least give Reyes a look and get a gauge on what exactly his price tag will be. The team does not have a true lead off hitter, as Corey Hart is more suited to hit sixth, and adding Reyes would bring a whole different dynamic to what should still be a very good Brewers lineup.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Sign Aaron Harang
Pirates fans finally had a reason to head on out to what is the nicest park in all of baseball in PNC Park last season as the team remained competitive into the second half.
They eventually fell off and wound up where they do roughly every season, and that was in large part to an over performing pitching staff coming back to Earth.
The team lacks a true staff ace, and while the fans are well aware of the small budget the team has to work with, shooting for someone like Aaron Harang who made just $3.8 million last season seems realistic.
He is coming off of a 14-7, 3.64 ERA, 124 Ks season, a terrific bounce back year after three terrible seasons in Cincinnati, and while he could cost closer to $5 million this season, he would still be a bargain, and the 34-year-old is someone who is capable of leading a staff.
St. Louis Cardinals: Re-Sign Albert Pujols
Regardless as to whether he wants $30 million per season, the Cardinals have to do whatever it takes to bring back Albert Pujols this offseason.
Coming off a title, the team returns essentially the entire roster and will be getting ace Adam Wainwright back after he missed all of last season. That should make the Cardinals among the favorites in the National League.
In the end, the Cardinals simply cannot justify letting Pujols walk—to the city or its fans—regardless of what the reason would be. Expect him back in St. Louis, or expect the rioting to ensue.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Re-Sign Aaron Hill
As odd as it is to say, there may be no team in baseball with fewer holes heading into the offseason than the Diamondbacks.
Their pitching staff is set, thanks to the emergence of Ian Kennedy as the ace and the expected arrival of Jarrod Parker and Trevor Bauer at some point in 2012.
The lineup has a great young core, with the only real hole being at second base. The team dealt incumbent Kelly Johnson to the Blue Jays for Aaron Hill in a swap of under-performing, offensive-minded second baseman.
Hill responded well to the trade, hitting .315 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI in 33 games. After watching Johnson struggle to hit over .200, the fans no doubt liked what they saw from Hill and would love to have him back.
Colorado Rockies: Trade for David Wright
The Rockies looked to have their third baseman of the next several seasons in Ian Stewart, as he entered the 2011 season with 43 home runs over the past two seasons.
However, Stewart hit just .156 this past season and spent much of the year in Triple-A and could now be a non-tender casualty.
The Rockies were linked to David Wright at the deadline last season, and they are expected to go after him again this offseason as they could have enough pitching prospects to put together a package enticing enough to pry Wright away from the Mets.
That would give the Rockies the trio of Wright, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of their lineup, a scary proposition for the rest of the NL West.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Sell the Team
After dealing with the never ending drama that was the McCourts divorce for the past three years, Dodgers fans finally got the news they had been waiting for when Frank McCourt agreed to sell the team.
Things likely won't be settled before opening day, but there is no question that the biggest priority for the Dodgers becomes finding a new ownership group to help turn around a franchise that declared bankruptcy last year.
The Dodgers have a terrific core with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw, but the financial issues of the past several seasons have kept the team from building around them. A deep-pocketed owner could turn the team into a contender very quickly.
San Diego Padres: Trade Heath Bell
Leading up to the trade deadline last season, with the Padres scuffling it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Padres would move All-Star closer Heath Bell.
Instead, the team traded setup man Mike Adams and held onto Bell as they hoped to re-sign him. Bell has expressed interest in staying in San Diego, and it appears to be his preferred destination as of now.
However, big picture for the Padres: having an All-Star closer doesn't mean much when you have an anemic offense and are in no position to contend. The team should have traded Bell last season when they had the chance, and if he accepts arbitration the team should try to work out a sign-and-trade type deal as they continue to rebuild.
San Francisco Giants: Sign Jose Reyes/Re-Sign Carlos Beltran
These two moves are 1 and 1A right now on every Giants fan's wishlist. The Giants were expected to go hard after Reyes at the deadline last season, but the Mets chose not to make him available and are now left with the daunting task of resigning him.
Adding Reyes would give the offense a desperately needed catalyst, as well as shore up the shortstop position that saw an unimpressive combination of Miguel Tejada, Mike Fontenot, Brandon Crawford and Orlando Cabrera hold down the position last season.
As for Beltran, the team gave up highly touted pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to acquire him at the deadline last year and, when the team failed to make the playoffs, their return on that investment was not great. The offense needs two or three Carlos Beltran's, but one would be a start.
Baltimore Orioles: Trade Jeremy Guthrie
Entering his final year under team control, Jeremy Guthrie will be a name that swirls around the rumor mill once again this season as many expected the Orioles to move him last year yet he remains in Baltimore.
It is not that the Orioles don't want or need Guthrie, but after making $5.75 million last season, his salary will likely approach and could pass $8 million this coming season, as he has proven to be one of the more durable starters out there with over 200 innings pitched each of the past three seasons.
For a team looking to rebuild, and in a thin free agent pitching market, the Orioles would be best suited moving Guthrie this offseason.
Boston Red Sox: Sign C.J. Wilson
If there is one thing the Yankees love doing, it is signing free agents out from under the Red Sox, or at the very least, driving up the price on them.
It is no secret that the Yankees need pitching this season, and this is the Red Sox chance to beat the them at their own game. With John Lackey out for the year, and questions surrounding the fifth spot in the rotation, the Red Sox could certainly use another starter to follow Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.
Roy Oswalt will likely get a look, but because of his questionable back, Wilson is the best option for the Red Sox. Signing him addresses a big need for the team and sticks it to the Yankees at the same time, a Red Sox fan's ideal signing.
New York Yankees: Sign Prince Fielder
The Yankees top priority this offseason was making sure that C.C. Sabathia would be back, and now that that is taken care of they, can turn their attention to filling out the rest of the rotation behind him.
However, from a fan perspective, it will be hard for Yankees fans to sit back and watch as player like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are courted by teams without so much as a phone call by the Yankees.
With Jorge Posada gone, the team is in the market for a designated hitter, and with the unlimited money that the Yankees have, how surprising would it really be if they went after Fielder for that role.
In a remarkably unspectacular starting pitching class, the Yankees will likely add a couple of arms, but if it were fans running the team, you can bet that they would at least inquire as to whether or not Fielder would be willing to toss his glove and become a DH.
Tampa Bay Rays: Trade Pitching for Offense
The Rays have perhaps the richest crop of young starting pitching in the history of baseball right now, as David Price (25), Jeremy Hellickson (24), Wade Davis (25), Alex Cobb (23), Matt Moore (22) and Alex Torres (23) are all among the top young pitchers in the game.
Add that group to James Shields and Jeff Niemann, and it is clear that the Rays have an abundance of starting pitching, something that few, if any, other teams in the league can say.
Meanwhile, they have a middle of the road offense that could easily be upgraded at catcher, first base, shortstop and left field. In general, the team needs more offense and would be foolish not to take advantage of all of their pitching and make a deal.
Toronto Blue Jays: Sign Yu Darvish
The Blue Jays unloaded Vernon Wells on the Angels last season, then acquired Colby Rasmus from the Cardinals at the deadline as they continue build a solid foundation to one day compete with the big boys in the AL East.
Their offense is impressive, and while the team may make a run at Prince Fielder, starting pitching is the team's biggest area of concern.
Considering the team is not built to win right now and has money they are willing to spend, Toronto seems like the perfect destination for a wild card like Darvish. If all went well, he could front the Blue Jays rotation for the next decade, but, regardless, it would bring a great deal of attention and fan fare to the team.
Chicago White Sox: Re-Sign Mark Buehrle
In his 12 seasons with the White Sox, Mark Buehrle has given the White Sox some fantastic memories, throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game, as well as making an absolutely ridiculous flip between his legs in what was the defensive play of the last several years.
Beyond that, though, he has proven to be one of the most durable starters in all of baseball, making over 30 starts in each of the past 11 years.
He is a fantastic guy to have in the clubhouse and he is a fan favorite, and there would no doubt be more than a few people sad to see him go if the White Sox do not re-sign him.
Cleveland Indians: Sign Michael Cuddyer
The Indians corner infield/outfield situation is an ugly one aside from Shin-Soo Choo, as someone like Jack Hannahan should never get 320 at bats at third base.
While going after one of the big-name sluggers remains an option for the Indians, what the team truly needs is someone with some versatility should injury strike.
There is nothing Indians fans want less than to watch guys like Travis Buck and Austin Kearns get regular at bats in the middle of the lineup, simply for lack of a better option. Cuddyer could alleviate those headaches with his versatility, and provide All-Star production in the middle of the order.
Detroit Tigers: Sign Aramis Ramirez
The Tigers surprised many when they knocked the Yankees out in the ALDS this past season, and while they won the AL Central handily, that is a division that changes more on a yearly basis than any other in baseball.
Picking up Delmon Young was huge for them, as they desperately needed another bat to compliment Alex Avila, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Seeing as Cabrera is the only true power hitter of that group, the team could still benefit from adding another power bat and could certainly use an upgrade over Brandon Inge, who hit .197 last season, at third base.
Ramirez is far and away the best third base option on the market, and seeing as he is looking for a multi-year deal, the Tigers may be one of the only teams willing to make that sort of commitment to him. Either way, third base is their biggest need and Ramirez fills that in a significant way.
Kansas City Royals: Sign Edwin Jackson
The youth movement in Kansas City is in full swing, and for the first time in years, there is reason for excitement surrounding the Royals.
However, the team is sorely lacking a staff ace since the departure of Zack Greinke, as Luke Hochevar got the opening day start last season.
Of all the pitchers on the market, Edwin Jackson would make the most sense, as he is still just 27 years old and has plenty of his prime years left as the Royals continue to make their way towards contention over the next few seasons.
Minnesota Twins: Sign Jose Reyes
The Twins likely won't have the financial freedom to make a serious run at Reyes, but based on the state of their middle infield alone, it is worth a shot.
After watching Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.226 BA), Trevor Plouffe (.238 BA) and Alexi Casilla (.260 BA) split time at shortstop last season, it is clear that something needs to be done at the position.
Adding Reyes would also allow the Twins to move Ben Revere out of the leadoff spot, taking some pressure off of their promising young center fielder by moving him down in the order.
Los Angeles Angels: Sign Aramis Ramirez
Last offseason, the Angels were the odds on favorites to land both Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre, but the team was unable to land either player, instead dealing for Vernon Wells in a head-scratcher of a move.
This winter, the team is once again in need of a third baseman, and it looks as though they will be competing in that market with the Detroit Tigers, who also have a gaping hole at the hot corner.
The drop-off from Aramis Ramirez to the next best third baseman (Wilson Betemit?) is a swift one, so whoever misses out on Ramirez will be missing out big time. The Angles will do everything in their power to add the 34-year-old and his powerful right-handed bat.
Oakland Athletics: Sign Offense of Any Sort
The Athletics have one of the best young pitching staffs in all of baseball, but because they are unable to score runs behind that staff, the team has remained out of contention.
Now with their top offensive threat Josh Willingham likely on his way out of Oakland in free agency, the team will have to do something to help their pitchers out.
The team could try to make a splash and go after one of the superstar free agents, or they could sign two or three mid-level guys. It really doesn't matter what they do, as long as they add someone who is capable of hitting more than 10 home runs to hit in the middle of the order.
Seattle Mariners: Sign Prince Fielder
The Mariners offense was abysmal in 2011, as they were last in the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits and runs.
Youngsters Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak give some hope for the future, but the team will still need to vastly improve their offense if they have any chance of contending with the Rangers and Angels in the AL West.
Whether or not it would be a destination that interested Fielder remains to be seen, but the Mariners have money to spend and are willing to spend it. Crazier things have happened, and inking Fielder would immediately make the Mariners better across the board offensively.
Texas Ranger: Re-Sign C.J. Wilson
A year removed from watching Cliff Lee bolt for Philadelphia in the offseason, the Rangers once again will try to retain their staff ace this winter as C.J. Wilson will be hitting the open market.
The Yankees obviously have interest, as do a number of other teams, and the Rangers have already been linked to Roy Oswalt and Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish.
At the end of the day, though, the safest bet of any starting pitcher on the market this year looks to be Wilson, and the Rangers will make sure they don't wind up with the same fate they did last season.