Free MLB Pick Biggest Offseason Need For Every MLB Team
MLB’s Winter Meetings are in the books, and as per usual we saw some fireworks take place. Although the biggest free agent prizes remain on the board, some of the second-tier players found new homes. We also saw Paul Goldschmidt get dealt to the Cardinals, new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen has been super aggressive in looking to make the Mets immediate NL East contenders and Mariners GM Jerry Dipito has more than lived up to his promise of a teardown out west. Despite the flurry of action, plenty of offseason remains. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain free agents and will likely clog up much of the free agent activity until they sign their lucrative contracts. With plenty of moves still to be made and Christmas coming in hot, let’s identify one Christmas present for every MLB team.
Present: A New Era
No, it’s not a gift that will have fans rolling around on the carpet in utter joy, but change is the name of the game in Baltimore and fans can officially put last season’s 115-loss season behind them. It also came a little early. Sure, more losses are on the way, however, the Orioles are already ahead of where they were just one year ago, although they didn’t know it at the time. In his new GM Mike Elias, formerly the Houston Astros assistant GM, as well as new manager Brandon Hyde, the former Chicago Cubs bench coach to Joe Maddon. Elias and Hyde bring a new-look dynamic into the fold, something O’s fans should be thankful for after the Duquette/Showalter regime went stale in a hurry. Combined with some future assets acquired in their flurry of trade deadline moves, a new era is a perfect Christmas gift for the Orioles.
Toronto Blue Jays
There is a youth movement underway in Toronto, however, it’s not your typical rebuild. The Blue Jays have the top prospect in baseball in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as well as some excellent young talent having already appeared in the big leagues in 2018. Just don’t get ahead of yourselves, Jays fans.The talent is exciting, but very few youth movements produce immediate results. The anchors of the rotation in Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez both endured injury-plagued seasons in 2018, so proceed with caution there as well. If all the youngsters can play to their ability and the veterans pull their weight, Toronto could surprise. However, I am going to give the Blue Jays some patience while their promising talent develops in the world’s top baseball league.
Present: Rotation Success
After the two-year, $30M contract the Rays handed out to right-hander Charlie Morton, you would think the low-budget Tampa Bay club is mostly done its shopping as they head into next season. The bullpen picked up an inordinate amount of the slack for a rotation that both dealt with injuries and consistency issues, but it’s tough to say if their rousing success from their “opener” strategy can work swimmingly this time around. Therefore, I am going to give them rotation success this holiday season so they don’t have to worry about taxing their bullpen every game of the season. Blake Snell, Morton and Tyler Glasnow form a solid top three while perhaps Jacob Faria can come in and handle the fourth spot. If they can be successful, maybe it’s one bullpen game every five days rather than the opposite, which was pretty much the case last season.
Present: Manny Machado
This has to be it for the Yankees, especially since they are required to go toe-to-toe with the defending world champion Red Sox. There is a gaping hole at shortstop in the Bronx with Didi Gregorius sidelined until around the All-Star break, and Machado would make sense, especially with Gregorius hitting free agency after the upcoming season.It would be the icing on the cake for a team that has shored up its rotation in a big way with the addition of James Paxton and signing of J.A. Happ, so let’s give the Yankees what they want, and that’s the top infielder on the open market.
Boston Red Sox
Present: Andrew Miller
I will go with a player-specific present for the Red Sox as well and give them Andrew Miller who would be a real nice addition to the back of their bullpen. The Red Sox could still reunite with closer Craig Kimbrel, although I’m not so sure they want to hand out a record-breaking deal to a closer given the hefty luxury tax bill sitting on their counter. Instead, the Red Sox could reunite with Miller who endured an injury-filled 2018 season where he produced an uncharacteristic 4.24 ERA at the big league level. This would indicate a closer-by-committee approach for Alex Cora, but teaming Miller up with Matt Barnes/Ryan Brasier/Heath Hembree at the back end of the bullpen would be both cost effective and brilliant if Miller can return to form. It’s not like there’s a litany of elite closers on the market, anyway.
Kansas City Royals
Present: Rebound seasons from veteran starters
The Royals have another 100-loss season on the way this year, but things can turn a little brighter if a couple of veteran starters can rebound and become trade chips. Danny Duffy (4.88 2018 ERA) and Ian Kennedy (4.66) both have term on their deals after the 2019 season at high salaries, but those salaries could become palatable if they are producing. Kennedy hasn’t been any good since 2016, but Duffy has been mostly good in his career aside from 2018. Until Sal Perez or Whit Merrifield become fully available, these two guys are their best bets at adding prospect capital in a trade, but they’ll need to bounce back before anything can happen.
Chicago White Sox
Present: Bryce Harper
Okay, now for one that would have people running out into the streets celebrating. White Sox are said to be in the mix for both Harper and Machado, and they seem to make sense for Chicago as most of their top prospects are going to be in the big leagues this season. It’s Harper that makes more sense for me as Tim Anderson produced two wins above replacement at shortstop last season whereas they could use some help in the outfield in replacement of Leury Garcia, Adam Engel or Nicky Delmonico. They have the money and the window of contention is opening, so let’s give the White Sox the top free agent on the market for Christmas.
Present: A Nicholas Castellanos Trade
This gift may have to wait until the July trade deadline, but the rebuilding Tigers could very well have one of the best trade chips in their hands in Nicholas Castellanos. He is coming off his best offensive season at the age of 26 and he is set for free agency after the season. Castellanos is not a good defender in the outfield or at third base, but he has the ability to play both positions and produced a career-high 3.0 WAR last season despite bad defensive marks. He is easily Detroit’s most marketable trade chip and would bring back a nice prospect haul for a team that is going to see their pitching-heavy top prospects reach the majors within a year or two.
Present: A productive Byron Buxton
I’m not sure there has been anything more frustrating for this organization over the last few years than the inconsistent development of former top prospect Buxton.Buxton appeared to be coming into his own in 2017 when he hit 16 homers, stole 29 bases and played a better center field than just about anyone else in baseball. He accumulated 3.5 WAR thanks to a huge second half. In 2018, he struggled mightily to the tune of a .156/.183/.200 slash line in 94 plate appearances and didn’t even get called up in September. Minnesota needs you, Byron, so a productive Buxton is what I will give you for Christmas.
Present: A Corey Kluber Trade
This rumor here is about as big as it gets right now in the offseason, but for Cleveland’s sake, this needs to happen. Carlos Carrasco is locked up now and Trevor Bauer is the future ace of this staff, even though he was essentially a co-ace with Kluber in 2018. Kluber is 32 years old and is owed $52.5M over the next three years. Clearing most of that money for a Bauer extension and getting some big league-ready talent in return is essential for the small-market Indians. An outfielder would be nice with Michael Brantley heading to Houston via free agency.
Present: Productive Starting Pitching
Whether the Rangers are done adding to their rotation after signing Lance Lynn or not, I’m giving Texas productive starting pitching for Christmas. It’s clear they need it after their 5.37 starter’s ERA last season, good for 29th. Texas will only compete in the most optimistic scenarios, but if they can get solid production from their starters, their bats are good enough to hold up their end of the bargain. Texas finished 16th with a .315 wOBA last season, but also 12th with a .319 mark in the season half. Their second-half .173 ISO ranked 10th. They have some upside on offense, and if the starters could help them out more, it would be an improved season in Arlington.
Los Angeles Angels
Present: Rotation Health
There wasn’t a team in baseball that dealt with more injuries within their starting rotation as these Angels.They lost JC Ramirez to Tommy John surgery after two starts, Garrett Richards to the same injury shortly after and Matt Shoemaker made just seven starts all season. Shohei Ohtani also needed Tommy John surgery and won’t pitch in 2019. Right there that’s four members of a rotation gone, and they didn’t stand a chance no matter what Mike Trout did after. They just added Matt Harvey to mix in with Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and Jaime Barria. I’m not giving them another starter for Christmas, I am giving their starters health so they can help Trout and co. take aim at the top of the AL West.
This one is more for the fans that are upset about the recent trades that sent some star talent out the door.To be clear, Dipito got one of the game’s top prospect in Justus Sheffield from the Yankees in exchange for James Paxton, a 30-year-old injury-prone pitcher who has exceeded 150 innings once in his career, and that was in 2018 when he posted a solid, yet unspectacular 3.76 ERA. He got rid of $19M of Robinson Cano’s contract, although it cost him his closer to do so. Still, the Mariners are left with nice pieces in their lineup in the form of Mitch Haniger, Edwin Encarnacion, Kyle Seager, Dee Gordon, Mallex Smith, Jay Bruce and Ryon Healy. It’s not the league’s best group, but was it before last season began?
Present: Starting Pitching
I’m not going to name names and play the guessing game, but for the love of god this team needs starting pitching. As it stands right now, Pete Blackburn is the only fully healthy Oakland starter. Sean Manaea is out for the season and Andrew Triggs is questionable to start the season due to thoracic outlet surgery. I mean, that’s it. Right now they are on pace to use an opener about 140 times next season, putting the Rays 2018 usage to shame. At least Tampa had a couple starters mixed in. There’s still help on the open market, but it’s a questionable offseason so far for a team that came one win away from the ALDS last season.
Present: J.T. Realmuto
The Astros signed catcher Robinson Chirinos to a one-year deal earlier in the offseason, but I still think they should look into landing the top catcher in baseball in Realmuto.After landing Michael Brantley, it would appear that top prospect Kyle Tucker is once again out of an everyday role with the club, barring another move, possibly involving Josh Reddick. With Tucker perhaps in play, the Astros and Marlins could have the beginning of a negotiation right there, and the move would easily put Houston on track for another AL West crown.
Present: A J.T. Realmuto Trade
The Marlins shouldn’t be in any rush to trade star catcher Realmuto, but the possible prospect haul would be a great Christmas present for the team. There’s nothing fun about having the best catcher in baseball on a 98-loss team. There’s plenty that the Marlins need for Christmas given the cast of characters in their everyday lineup, but at least a Realmuto trade would give the future of the team a serious shot in the arm.
New York Mets
Brodie Van Wagenen has played Santa Claus for Mets fans everywhere in his brief time as GM, delivering Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Wilson Ramos, and Jeurys Familia, so far. Technically, this gift comes from their new GM. Cano and Ramos can help their offense, but keep in mind the Mets still run out a top four of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. I wouldn’t rule out more offensive additions as the offseason moves along, but I’ll give the Mets some competitiveness this season in what is shaping up to be a real intriguing NL East.
Present: Bryce Harper
Yeah, I gave the White Sox Harper earlier, but he still has to be atop the wishlist of the Phillies. I’d have to hear an explanation, but it was interesting to see the Phillies trade for shortstop Jean Segura given their pursuit of fellow shortstop Manny Machado. Now, I think the better fit in Philadelphia between the two superstar free agents is Harper who can take over in right field, a position that struggled in Philly last season between Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. The addition would make the Phillies one of the better all-round clubs in baseball.
Present: Bullpen Health
It’s been a quiet offseason in Atlanta outside of the Josh Donaldson signing and a one-year reunion with Brian McCann. The team is good enough to win the NL East again this season, there’s no doubt about that. The top starters are off the market, as are some of the trade options. Therefore, I will give them a clean bill of health in the bullpen where they ranked 17th with a 4.15 ERA a season ago, partly due to closer Arodys Vizcaino missing two months from mid-July to mid-September. A healthier ‘pen would help in their quest to repeat.
Present: Starting Pitching
The Reds’ efforts to try and land starting pitching have yielded right-hander Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals, but there’s more needed in this area, so I will give them some starting pitching help. Now, these pitchers can come via the free agent route or the trade route. They have been linked to the Jays’ Marcus Stroman and the Yankees’ Sonny Gray in trade talks while they could also go out and get Dallas Keuchel, the top free agent arm on the market. The Reds finished 14th with a solid .317 wOBA last season, and the goal should be to try and win during the Joey Votto era. They will need starting pitching to do so, so this should be atop their Christmas list this holiday season.
Present: Dallas Keuchel
This one is a bit out there as I don’t believe the Pirates are involved in the Keuchel sweepstakes, but mediocrity can’t be accepted.That’s because they made a win-now move for right-hander Chris Archer, a trade that cost them their top prospects from the 2015-17 seasons in Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows. Therefore, another 82-79 season like last year won’t cut it. Sign Keuchel and roll out a rock-solid rotation of Jameson Taillon, Archer, Keuchel, Trevor Williams and Joe Musgrove. They aren’t going to improve their offense much, so prevent fewer runs and win with pitching.
St. Louis Cardinals
Present: Bullpen Help
Christmas came early for the Cardinals when they acquired Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks on December 5th.With that, the everyday lineup is set and they boast some elite starting pitching depth. Now, turn the attention to the bullpen where Jordan Hicks sits one of the only locks of the group. Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson, Oliver Perez, Tony Sipp and Brad Brach are just a few of the relief pitchers still available in free agency that could help. A Christmas present to the Cardinals needs to include two top-tier guys in order to take a run at this division.
Present: A.J. Pollock
I would love to give Bryce Harper to a Cubs team that is need of help in the outfield, but I’ve already given him to two teams so far, so I’ll give Pollock to the Cubs. The Cubs got just about zero offense from Albert Almora and Jason Heyward in center and right field respectively last season. Almora produced a .305 wOBA and Heyward finished with a .319 mark. Both players were above replacement level, in Almora’s case almost solely because of defense while Heyward is a good defender as well. Pollock, however, is a big upgrade offensively with a career .346 wOBA and .805 OPS. He’s a five-tool player that hits for power and makes a difference on the basepaths. You need outfield help Chicago, so here is A.J. Pollock.
Present: A Bullseye
Sorry, but that’s all your getting. The Brewers aren’t going to sneak up on anyone again this year. In fact, with expected improved health in their rotation, they could be even better. The only difference is now they are the defending NL Central champions, and I got them a bullseye just in case teams don’t bring their own. A repeat is by no means a given here in a division that has three serious contenders in the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals, but the season’s previous division champs tend to get noticed on the schedule.
San Diego Padres
The Padres, so far, haven’t swung any big-time deals to turn themselves into some form of contender this season, so we need to give them some time to let their young players develop. Keep in mind that everyday players like Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot, Franmil Reyes and Austin Hedges are still young players. Although they signed Ian Kinsler, second baseman of the future Luis Urias is just 21. The rotation is mostly young, and there’s nothing you can do to fast forward time. For now, time is just what this group needs
San Francisco Giants
Present: A Rebuild
It doesn’t seem like they are going to pull the trigger on one, but the Giants aren’t looking anything like competitors with the majority of their veterans passed their prime.The rotation is old at the top with Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto (out for the year) and Jeff Samardzija the top three options, when healthy. Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez are nice young assets at the back end. The everyday lineup is either riddled with passed their prime veterans, and in the case of the outfield, no experience whatsoever. This team needs to trade its best assets (Bumgarner) and try and start over because there’s no chance they compete with the Dodgers and Rockies in this division.
Hope isn’t a strategy, but I don’t think the D-backs are as far off as some may think. Sure, trading Goldschmidt takes an MVP-caliber player out of the lineup, but they also got a real nice return for a player that was heading into free agency regardless. They still have a quality rotation, if they remain intact, and a solid bullpen that was among the league’s best for most of last season. I wouldn’t completely write them off at this point, so I will offer hope to the Diamondbacks faithful.
Present: Improved Bullpen
The Rockies’ bullpen was an absolute dumpster fire for the majority of the season last year, and they managed to play in a division-deciding game 163 despite that fact.They will likely lose Adam Ottavino, their best reliever from last season, in free agency, but talent remains in that group, they just need to perform.Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Seunghwan Oh should be able to form a solid back end of the bullpen. They all have a history of being above-average relievers, and they need to come through in 2019.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Present: Corey Kluber
The Dodgers have prospects, and they’re in win-now mode after losing in back-to-back World Series’, so they need to make this trade happen. They also have the funds to take on the remaining contract of Kluber, making them one of the few teams who can pull off a trade for the perennial Cy Young candidate. Add Kluber to a rotation that consists of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill would be devastating for every team crossing the Dodgers’ path in 2019.