With MLB Spring Training scheduled to begin in less than a month, the Hot Stove has kicked into high gear in recent days with several high profile signings, from George Springer joining the Blue Jays to J.T. Realmuto returning to Philly. Still, nearly half of the top 30 free agents this offseason as ranked by MLB Trade Rumors remain unsigned, leaving plenty of opportunities for clubs to improve their roster in the coming days and weeks.
Let’s take a look at each team’s biggest area of need as we enter the final weeks of the offseason:
Baltimore Orioles: Starting pitching depth
The O’s aren’t intending to compete in 2021 and thus aren’t likely to add much to what projects to be one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. But it’s still fair to expect some low-cost pitching additions, as John Means and Alex Cobb are the only projected Opening Day starters with more than half a year of MLB service time.
Boston Red Sox: Bullpen help
The BoSox have added Hunter Renfroe and Enrique Hernández into the fold on the offensive end as well as signing starter Garrett Richards and acquiring reliever Adam Ottavino in a rare trade with the Yankees. For the team to contend in the competitive AL East, though, a stronger bullpen will likely be needed. Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Colomé, Joakim Soria and Mark Melancon are all unsigned.
New York Yankees: More starting pitching
The Yankees front office may not share this view after inking Corey Kluber and acquiring Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh, but I think rotation reinforcements remain the club’s biggest need after they locked up DJ LeMahieu. Kluber, Taillon and Luis Severino have thrown a combined 86 innings since the start of the 2019 season and just one total inning in 2020. There’s plenty of upside, but also the potential for huge problems behind Gerrit Cole if more stable arms aren’t added.
Tampa Bay Rays: Starting pitching
Most of the AL pennant winners’ lineup is set to remain intact heading into the 2021 season, but the biggest move the club has made to offset the losses of Charlie Morton (signed with ATL) and Blake Snell (traded to SD) is signing Michael Wacha. With Josh Fleming and Trevor Richards projected as the Rays’ fourth and fifth starters, a cheap veteran addition like Rick Porcello, Cole Hamels or Rich Hill could make sense.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting pitching
Are you sensing a theme yet? Toronto’s lineup looks like one of the best in baseball following the signings of George Springer and Marcus Semien, with six players in the club’s likely starting lineup projected for 25+ homers. Hyun Jin Ryu will return as the Blue Jays’ ace, but the team’s second and third starters (Robbie Ray and Nate Pearson) aren’t exactly on par with other big contenders. Jake Odorizzi or James Paxton would be a nice addition if the team is still willing to spend.
Chicago White Sox: Pop off the bench
After emerging as one of the top teams in the AL in 2020, the White Sox have improved significantly this winter by addressing most all of their major areas of need. Lance Lynn was added as a reliable No. 3 starter, Adam Eaton was added as a (slight) upgrade in right field and top free agent reliever Liam Hendriks was inked to handle the ninth inning. The biggest need now would seem to be a proven bat for the bench, which as currently projected doesn’t feature a player tabbed for more than five homers in 2021.
Cleveland Indians: Proven outfielder
The Indians have been reluctant to spend anything of consequence on an outfielder for several years now, so I’m not exactly holding my breath, but it is the team’s biggest need after its outfielders combined for the lowest slugging percentage (.300) in the majors in 2020. Adam Duvall, Josh Reddick and Brian Goodwin are a few free agents who could be a fit.
Detroit Tigers: A proven impact hitter
The answer here was going to be a catcher to replace Austin Romine, but the Tigers inked Wilson Ramos to a one-year deal to fill that need. Detroit clearly isn’t yet to the point of spending significant dollars in free agency, but the addition of an infielder like Jonathan Schoop (who impressed for the team in 2020) or Hanser Alberto could provide some stability in a generally young and unproven lineup.
Kansas City Royals: Bullpen help
Despite not being a likely contender in 2021, the Royals have been impressively active this winter in signing Carlos Santana, Michael A. Taylor, Mike Minor and Greg Holland. A few more low-risk, high-reward type deals with veteran relievers would make sense, but it appears GM Dayton Moore has completed most of his offseason shopping.
Minnesota Twins: Middle-of-the-order bat
Will Nelson Cruz return, or will the Twins need to pivot to find a replacement for him in the middle of their lineup? That’s the biggest remaining question for Minnesota following the signing of Andrelton Simmons, and it’s one that remains complicated by a lack of complete clarity regarding the status of the universal DH. Despite the lack of a deal to date, a reunion still seems like the most likely scenario for the 40-year-old slugger. Should he not return, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Turner and Joc Pederson are among the somewhat limited number of high-impact bats left in free agency.
Houston Astros: Bullpen depth
Not long ago, the obvious answer here would be outfield help, with George Springer and Michael Brantley hitting free agency. While Springer signed with the Blue Jays, the Astros were able to bring back Brantley on a two-year deal and don’t seem likely to add a big name in center field. That leaves the bullpen is the biggest need which could practically be addressed. Houston is losing closer Roberto Osuna along with multiple veteran relievers, and while a huge signing seems unlikely, names such as Sergio Romo, Shane Greene and Ian Kennedy could make sense.
Los Angeles Angels: Frontline starter
The biggest need for the Angels remains the same as when the offseason began. The additions of José Quintana, Raisel Iglesias, Kurt Suzuki and José Iglesias are certainly helpful, but the team is still lacking the top-tier starters of a legitimate contender. None of their expected starters is projected for an ERA under 4.20. Trevor Bauer would be a real game-changer, while Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton could also provide a nice boost.
Oakland Athletics: Middle infielder/s
The club’s 2020 middle infield duo of Marcus Semien and Tommy La Stella both signed elsewhere on Tuesday, leaving questions regarding what comes next up the middle of Oakland. Chad Pinder and Tony Kemp are the top in-house options for shortstop and second base, so some additional replacement would be wise. Don’t expect an expensive addition, particularly given the reasonable contracts Semien and La Stella landed elsewhere, but someone like Jonathan Schoop or Hanser Alberto could be a fit.
Seattle Mariners: Outfield depth
Entering the offseason, the Mariners’ biggest need was bullpen reinforcements, but GM Jerry Dipoto signed former Angels closer Keynan Middleton and traded for Rangers closer Rafael Montero. With uncertainty regarding the health of Mitch Haniger, who hasn’t played a full season since 2018, reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is the only sure thing in Seattle’s outfield, making a cheap addition or two logical, though not crucial.
Texas Rangers: Starting pitching
The Rangers realized that an on-the-fly rebuild wasn’t going to work and dealt Lance Lynn along with Montero this winter. The additions of David Dahl and Nate Lowe should perhaps help the club avoid having the worst offense in the majors in 2021. From Kyle Gibson to Jordan Lyles and the recently acquired Dane Dunning, the Rangers have rotation options, but could use some veteran stability. If such an addition is made, though, it will be at a low cost.
Atlanta Braves: Power bat
GM Alex Anthonopoulos did a good bit of his offseason shopping early on, signing Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to bolster the rotation. But Marcell Ozuna’s potential departure would leave a notable hole in a still very good, but not elite, lineup. That DH uncertainty is surely affecting his market and could be complicating a return to Atlanta. There aren’t a ton of other middle-of-the-order bats on the free agent market, so a trade (Kris Bryant?) is one possibility. Or the club could head into the 2021 season without finding a high-level replacement.
Miami Marlins: An impact bat
Aside from some mid-tier additions to the bullpen, it’s been a pretty quiet offseason for Miami under new GM Kim Ng. The club’s current projected lineup is respectable, and the rotation full of intriguing young starters, but given the rest of the NL East picture it’s possible the Marlins will stay away from any big moves this winter, feeling the time is not yet right. If they’re serious about improving prior to the 2021 season, Joc Pederson or Eddie Rosario could be a fit.
New York Mets: Center fielder
From Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to James McCann and Trevor May, the Mets’ big moves this offseason are well documented, and have addressed almost all of the club’s major needs. The one big question mark is center field, and with George Springer joining the Blue Jays, Jackie Bradley Jr. is the biggest name remaining on the market. The match here seems perfect, and it’s not clear how the Mets may pivot if Bradley signs elsewhere.
Philadelphia Phillies: Shortstop
The Phillies brought back J.T. Realmuto, allowing their fans to exhale, but that isn’t enough for a club that continues to fall short of expectations year after year. Archie Bradley and José Alvarado were added to what was a historically bad bullpen — one that could still use more help. And the rotation could use reinforcements as well. But the most pressing need may be at shortstop, where a pool of several options is quickly dwindling. A return for Didi Gregorius appears the best (and only obvious) option at this point, though there are some trade candidates.
Washington Nationals: Catcher
The Nats have somewhat quietly had a pretty productive offseason, adding Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand and Jon Lester, among others. The most obvious need now appears to be a catcher to pair with Yan Gomes after Kurt Suzuki signed with the Angels. Several experienced options are out there, including Alex Avila and Robinson Chirinos.
Chicago Cubs: Starting pitching
Four of the Cubs’ starting pitchers from last season — Tyler Chatwood, Jon Lester, José Quintana and Yu Darvish — are all gone, leaving Kyle Hendricks and plenty of uncertainty behind. It seems pretty clear the Cubs aren’t going to be spending big to add a starter, but there are plenty of cheaper options out there that can provide some depth, if nothing else. Mike Fiers, Rick Porcello, Cole Hamels, Rich Hill and Gio González are among those options.
Cincinnati Reds: Shortstop
Freddy Galvis handled the position for much of 2020 but has since signed with the Orioles. With several starting options at the position signing elsewhere in recent days, the Reds could find themselves bidding against the Phillies for Didi Gregorius’ services. Perhaps they’ll explore a trade if that doesn’t work out.
Milwaukee Brewers: Corner infielder/s
Daniel Vogelbach and Luis Urías are currently projected as the starters at first and third base, respectively, for a club desperately in need of improved offensive production. So upgrades would surely be helpful. Third base options are slim, though Maikel Franco could be a fit. Mitch Moreland, Renato Núñez and C.J. Cron are among the first basemen available.
Pittsburgh Pirates: More prospects, I guess?
The worst team in baseball traded away its best hitter and top two starters over the last few months and didn’t receive a single consensus top 100 prospect in return. They’re nearly out of logical trade chips at this point, but perhaps someone like Gregory Polanco, Colin Moran or Chris Stratton could still be dealt. Don’t expect many proven additions.
St. Louis Cardinals: Impact bat/s
Cardinals fans might tell you the club’s biggest need is to re-sign franchise icons Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, but neither is likely to make as much of an impact on the club’s 2021 outlook than a prominent bat would. Any visions of George Springer or DJ LeMahieu are long gone, but Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario or Adam Duvall could certainly help.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Late-inning arms
The back end of the D-backs’ bullpen needs to be completely rebuilt after Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin were dealt prior to the 2020 trade deadline and options weren’t picked up on other veteran relievers. GM Mike Hazen hasn’t done much on that front (or any front) this winter, though options like Ken Giles, Tyler Clippard, Mark Melancon, Joakim Soria and Shane Greene remain unsigned and possible targets.
Colorado Rockies: To pick a direction
I’ve presented a positional need for every team thus far, but that’s next to impossible for a Rockies team with no apparent plan. The current roster includes star hitters (Arenado, Story, Blackmon) and encouraging young pitching but clearly isn’t good enough as currently stands. Yet the front office seems unwilling to commit to spending any significant dollars whatsoever. If they want to win, add a few more impact bats and proven relievers. If they’re going to throw in the towel, trade Trevor Story prior to his final year under team control.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Third baseman
Like with the Twins and Nelson Cruz, you have to believe the Dodgers and Justin Turner will eventually come to terms on a deal to return, particularly with other potential fits (like the Blue Jays) addressing their need in different ways. But if the veteran heads elsewhere, the Dodgers’ front office will have to decide whether to go with internal options (Edwin Rios, Matt Beaty) or perhaps try to swing a trade for a third baseman like Kris Bryant.
San Diego Padres: Relievers
With the only possible exception of the Mets, no team has been as active this winter as the Padres, who’ve addressed their biggest needs with the additions of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Ha-seong Kim, Jurickson Profar and Victor Caratini. San Diego’s roster looks as complete as any, though if there is one area where further additions wouldn’t be surprising, it’s the bullpen. Two closers have departed in Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal (though he remains unsigned), and although Drew Pomeranz is capable of handling the ninth inning, a few depth adds could be helpful.
San Francisco Giants: Late-inning arm/s
Without making any huge moves, the Giants have somewhat quietly addressed their biggest needs as they look to give it one more go with their aging position player core. Infielder Tommy La Stella is a strong addition and the club improved its rotation by bringing back Kevin Gausman and signing Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. The back end of the bullpen is still uncertain, though, and while Matt Wisler could be a reliable late-inning reliever it’d be nice to add another experienced option.
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