With this year's Winter Meetings effectively coming to an end, it is time to look at the new world in which we find ourselves. Sure, the changed baseball landscape is daunting--the jersey-swapping coming so hard, fast, and loose as to leave the entire MLB Daily Dish crew disoriented, nauseous, and dehydrated--but the time to suss the needs of these newfangled ballclubs out is here.
For the sake of ease, we shall start with the American League and move onto the National League, going team-by-team, division-by-division, until my tear ducts dry out or I lose consciousness.
Baltimore Orioles - With the infield set, the Orioles primary potential weaknesses lie with their pitching and in left field. After sending Jim Johnson to Oakland for Jemile Weeks and minor-league catcher David Freitas, the Orioles have been left with no likely options to close from within. They are currently rumored to be courting at least one of the triumvirate of Grant Balfour, John Axford, and the dastardly Chris Perez. They appear to be hyperactive in their attempts to address their bullpen needs, though there doesn't appear to be much in the way of power arms in house, so expect them not to stand pat with the addition of one of the aforementioned former closers.
As for left field (and/or designated hitter), it's straining to imagine the Orioles being content heading into the season with Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, and Danny Valencia comprising their contenders for left field and DH duties. If they hope to rekindling the flame they lit when the sneaked away with a playoff spot in 2012, the Orioles likely need to add another bat to slide into left or DH. Clearly there's a hoarder of these types of players running the show in Seattle, but with this past weekend's scathing expose coloring our expectations, who knows what will happen there?
The rotation could certainly use a bit of depth, as a lot of their success in the starting pitching department rests on the shoulders of Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in the long term, and Bundy isn't likely to return until midseason following his June 27th appointment with Dr. James Andrews. Given the upside inherent in those two arms, they probably don't need to do much more than add a back-end starter on a cheap one-year deal.
Boston Red Sox - Well, they're the World Champs. There aren't a lot of holes to fill. With Mike Napoli agreeing to a two-year deal, the only place the Red Sox might want to address is outfield depth. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is likely to fill the Jacoby-Ellsbury-sized hole in the lineup, but they might want to invest in a bit of insurance in center. It probably wouldn't kill them to sign a utility infielder, too.
New York Yankees - With Robinson Cano opting to circumnavigate the globe in Jack Zduriencik's reportedly dysfunctional clipper, the Yankees needs are at second base and in the starting rotation. The Yankees have about three too many outfielders, with only Brett Gardner likely to return anything particularly valuable, so one should expect them to use him to address one of their needs. With Rakuten's president stating that the Golden Eagles may not post Masahiro Tanaka as a direct response to his disdain for the newly instituted NPB-posting system, one wonders how the Yankees will address the rotation. Will Matt Garza or Ervin Santana really suffice if the Yankees hope to make a run at the Red Sox and Rays?
Photo credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Rays - The biggest potential story in Tampa is whether or not they get the king's ransom they are asking for David Price. They have the depth to move him, and if Andrew Friedman's return for Price is proportionate to what he got [read: stole] for James Shields, the rest of the AL East has a lot of work to do to catch up. Their primary weakness at present is first base, and they could probably stand to bolster their bullpen. Look for them to try to accomplish these two things on the cheap, especially given the way the relief pitching market has been playing out this offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays - With Alex Anthopolous cornering the market on knuckleballers, it looks like the Jays will try to bolster their rotation, possibly by shipping off Colby Rasmus to do so. The rumor mill is abuzz that they are also looking to move Adam Lind and acquire Billy Butler, but it's early to expect either of these things to happen. Otherwise, the Jays are surprisingly set, at least from a positional standpoint.
Chicago White Sox - Where can't the White Stockings improve? They return just two position players and two starting pitchers who posted 2.0+ fWAR campaigns in 2013. Help is not likely to come from the farm, though they did nab Jose Abreu for a cool $68MM. Understandably, Kenny Williams is talking about dealing Chris Sale. By far their most valuable trade chip, Sale is under club control through 2019 and was worth 9.8 fWAR and 12.8 rWAR over the past two seasons. Given his absurd value, the Southsiders are right to ask for a lot of talent in return for Sale. It will be hard for Williams to find a suitable trading partner with such a surplus of expendable talent.
Photo credit: Leon Hallip
Cleveland Indians - Coming off successful Wild Card campaign, Cleveland lost both Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency. Perhaps they can fix Trevor Bauer in 2014 and offset some of the loss, but to succeed with what they already have in house they will need a lot of things to break their way. Reports are that they are feeling out the market on what they can net for Justin Masterson. Given their pitching woes, this seems a bit self-destructive, but if the yield is high enough, no one should be off-limits. They also need a little help in the bullpen. Luckily for them, they are set on the positional-player front.
Detroit Tigers - Dave Dombrowski has been pretty aggressive thus far this offseason. Not content to ride into next season with their division-winning roster in tact, he dealt Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler and attempted to shore up the glaring hole on last year's squad by signing Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain. Of course, he also traded away Doug Fister for a middling starting pitching prospect, a utility infielder, and a pedestrian reliever, so no one is perfect. There are not many more holes to fill on this team. Aside from continuing to bolster the bullpen, the Tigers may well be done. Then again, who foresaw the Fielder/Kinsler deal?
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Kansas City Royals - To replace Ervin Santana, Dayton Moore decided to acquire his favorite kind of player--a #4 starting pitcher. If the Royals were not so fond of tying up excess years in below-average, back-of-the-rotation inning-eaters, they might be able to actually strengthen the rotation. Instead, they are likely to head into 2014 with a rotation that will look roughly like it does right now. The only position they may attempt to improve is at second base. They, along with the Yankees, have been linked to Omar Infante all week. Unfortunately for the Royals, Infante wants four years at roughly $10MM per year. If the Royals sign Infante to a four-year deal, it will likely be one they regret by the half-way point in the contract. Look for the Royals to get outbid by the Yankees again and settle for someone of Mark Ellis's ilk. Ultimately, that may be for the better.
Minnesota Twins - It sure looks like trotting out a rotation that recalled those of the mid-Aughts Royals scared Terry Ryan & Co. straight. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes may not be Frank Viola reincarnate, but they ease the pain of being scarred by Scott Diamond, Cole DeVries, Liam Hendriks, and Vance Worley's starts last year. The path of prudence is to simply wait for their vaunted farm system to start feeding their high-end talent out to the Major League roster. It won't be long, but they aren't likely to make too many more moves of consequence this offseason. The bullpen is a bit thin, which is probably the issue that they will still address this year.
Houston Astros - As I talked about earlier in the week, the Astros are likely positioning themselves for an outside shot at contention in 2014. Any shot at contention relies largely upon production from guys like George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and eventually Carlos Correa and Mark Appel. With about $10MM left to spend this offseason, they'll probably look to improve their bullpen depth, adding a pair of arms on the cheap.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - The Angels have been extremely active this offseason. In? David Freese, Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago, Fernando Salas, and Joe Smith. Out? Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, minor-league outfielder Randal Grichuk. Much of the hope they can have for success in 2014 is tied to Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols not being sub-2.0 WAR players. They could be in the mix for one of the big starting pitchers on the market, but at this point, it is not an area of need. The only move they will likely make is one to address the loss of production from the DH slot that Mark Trumbo leaves behind. They are exploring a deal with Raul Ibanez to take care of that hole.
Oakland Athletics - We should all have learned not to try to predict what Billy Beane was going to do a long time ago. This offseason, he elected to trade for two pricey relievers in Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson (losing Seth Smith in the process), defying conventional sabermetric wisdom. Having signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal and dealt Brett Anderson for Drew Pomeranz and minor-league righty starter Chris Jensen, it's hard to envision the A's making too many more moves out of need. That isn't to say Beane won't be active, but aside from maybe adding another bat to slide into the corner outfield DH mix for Michael Taylor/
Michael Choice [duh, Choice got dealt to Texas for Craig Gentry] insurance, you have to squint awfully hard to see many issues with the A's roster at this juncture.
Seattle Mariners - Apparently the Mariners are content to field a roster comprised entirely of first and second basemen. While that's not entirely the case (they do have a catcher and a third baseman, too), it is not far from it. They made the big splash with the Robinson Cano signing, who is a great player and will likely be a Mariner until he's 40, but they did already have Nick Franklin, Willie Bloomquist, and Dustin Ackley. Since they already have Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero, it only stands to reason that Zduriencik had to grab a third first baseman in the form of Corey Hart and a fourth in Logan Morrison. I guess this means Smoak and Montero are on the outs, so look for either/both of them to be dealt along with Nick Franklin, who also seems superfluous. Of course, this probably means that Jack Z will trade Ackley and Michael Saunders and field an outfield of Logan Morrison in left, Corey Hart in center, and Justin Smoak in right with Montero platooning at short with not-former-NBA-center Brad Miller. If he gets really wild, he could ship Taijuan Walker off, though that would probably be a misread of their actual chances this coming season. Their bullpen isn't the greatest, so they should try to address that, and the rumor mill seems to link them to the Rays in a possible deal for David Price every four or five minutes.
Texas Rangers - With Nelson Cruz and David Murphy gone, the Rangers' outfield is the one glaring weakness. It makes sense then that they are the odds-on favorites to sign Shin-Soo Choo. They could stand to add an arm or two in the bullpen, especially since they lost Joe Nathan to free agency, but they did get both Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz back towards the end of 2013, so adding bullpen depth would be a luxury not a necessity.