If the Rolling Stones have taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always get what you want. And while they held out hope that you could get what you need, sometimes you don’t get that either. Baseball teams do this all the time, going into the season with massive holes simply because they can’t find the right players at the right price to fill them. It’s how we, as a people, get saddled with the likes of Johnny Giavotella or Joey Rickard in your Opening Day lineups. Teams decide to punt at a spot, and hope it either won’t hurt them in the long run, or another option opens up down the road.
And it’s with that in mind that we look at the biggest projected holes that are left around baseball, and whether and how these holes will be filled before Spring Training.
Catcher – Tigers
The Tigers plan to go into 2017 with James McCann behind the plate, backed up by Al Avila. Avila has had success in the past, but head injuries in particular seem to have compromised his hitting skills. They also, sadly, make him unreliable. McCann, on the other hand, is just bad. In more than 800 plate appearances in the Majors, he’s got a .284 OBP and no power to speak of. He’s also not much of a defensive catcher, with pitch framing numbers that are, at best, mediocre. And, at 27, it’s not like he’s got a lot of room for growth. Detroit has, according to rumors, been looking for someone to take J.D. Martinez off of their hands, so it’s unlikely they’ll be looking to add a catcher at this point. Plus, the available pool is pretty awful.
First Base – Athletics
I don’t understand how Yonder Alonso still has a starting gig. I really don’t. Last year, he was below replacement level, and at 30 he offers no upside. The best you can get is a decent OBP out of him, but even that is really hit and miss. Oakland could do so much more here, and relatively easily. Mark Trumbo is just sitting there right now, and wouldn’t cost them a first round pick. Ditto with Jose Bautista. Or Mike Napoli. Jeez, just get something done. Don’t put A’s fans through any more.
Second Base – Royals
Kansas City is still planning to go into 2017 with 21 year old Raul Mondesi Jr. as the Opening Day second baseman. It’s probably not the worst idea in the world, given that he’s a former shortstop and could potentially be an impact defender there. But his offensive failure (.185/.231/.281) in 2016 showed that he was clearly not ready for the Majors, and his defense was unimpressive in limited time at a new position. His performance screams out that he needs more time at Omaha, but he isn’t going to get it, even though the Royals could turn to Chase Utley on a cheap one-year deal.
Shortstop - Padres
Last year, Friars fans suffered through watching Alexei Ramirez tank his career until Luis Sardinas took over down the stretch and played well, hitting .287/.353/.417. But the road to hell is paved with middle infielders who parlayed a hot 100 plate appearances into a larger role they couldn’t handle. If Sardinas gets the starting role, expect some truly putrid offense. Not even his defense can redeem him. In roughly half a season of work at shortstop, he grades out at below average. Not that there’s much San Diego can do at this point. Their only option on the open market is probably Daniel Descalso, who would be stretched in a starting role.
Third Base – Athletics
This is misleading for a couple reasons. One, it’s kind of the golden age of adequate third basemen. Virtually everybody has a good option at third who is either productive or who has upside. Two, Oakland has Matt Chapman in the minors, who they will roll out at some point in 2017, and who should wind up being a productive player. So don’t stress.
Left Field and Right Field – Blue Jays
My God, get this team a corner outfielder. Melvin Upton, who flatlined after being traded over by the Padres, is currently in line to start. So is Eziquiel Carrera, who is essentially a fifth outfielder. That’s not going to work in the long run. I’m not sure if Upton’s technically the worst left fielder out there right now, but he (and his counterparts in right field) are the biggest holes on any team that should have designs on being a contender. Toronto needs to figure these spots out before the start of the season. The good news is that plenty of options are still out there, including former Jays Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders. Or plenty of corner outfielders are rumored to be on the block, including Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez.
Center Field – White Sox
After trading Adam Eaton, the Sox are left with…Charlie Tilson? Rymer Liriano? Man, it’s slim pickings. I mean, in theory, you just grab whoever’s left standing in late January on the free agent market, whether that’s Austin Jackson again or Angel Pagan or whoever.
Starting Rotation – Way too many
Virtually everyone could stand to improve on the back end of their rotations, but the Mariners, Yankees, and Orioles are looking really ugly. Mostly, this is another opportunity for me to express confusion about why Jason Hammel is still just sitting out there waiting to get a good offer.