2013 MLB Winter Meetings: Every Team’s Biggest Question Mark
2013 MLB Winter Meetings: Every Team's Biggest Question Mark
This is the time of year where teams start addressing the weakest part of their roster. Whether via free agency or trade, the Winter Meetings are the time that teams can check on the availability of players from every team as well as gauge the interest on their own. It is also the time where teams can meet with the agents face to face and try to work out a deal quickly and aggressively.
During the 2012 Winter Meetings, players like Yunel Escobar and Ben Revere were acquired during the Winter Meetings. While trades do happen during these meetings, it is usually the Free Agents that get the bulk of the attention. 2011 may have been the most active Winter Meetings in recent memory. Players like Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, Matt Capps, Kelly Johnson, Francisco Rodriguez and Aaron Harang signed. The days following led to Mark Buehrle, Octavio Dotel, C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols signing.
Pujols, the biggest free agent prize since Alex Rodriguez, was being heavily pursued by the Miami Marlins. Most thought it was down to him re-signing with the St. Louis Cardinals or taking his talents to South Beach. Somehow, the Los Angeles Angels were able to sneak him across country and land him with a 10-year deal.
This year the free agent crop has already began to thin. The top catcher and outfielder on the market have already signed with the New York Yankees. By getting Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury early, the Yankees have address two of their biggest needs before the meetings begin. That allows them to focus on trying to re-sign the biggest free agent of 2013, Robinson Cano. Cano will likely be the most talked about player during the Winter Meetings and is in a position to be one of the highest paid players in baseball.
Along with Cano, players like Shin Soo-Choo, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Mike Napoli, Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon will be looking for new teams during the meetings. Also Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trumbo and Jeff Samardzija will continue to pop up in trade rumors. Regardless of what is needed, every team will be active and looking to improve on Monday.
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a revolving door at closer last year. Between J.J. Putz, Heath Bell, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler they got 36 saves. However, Bell was recently traded, Ziegler and Hernandez are more valuable as middle relievers and Putz has not been able to stay healthy and is aging. The Diamondbacks' No. 1 target should be Grant Balfour.
The biggest question mark for the Atlanta Braves is second base. They have Dan Uggla under contract for two more years and need to work on moving him to anyone willing to take him. He made a little over $13 million last year and hit only .179 with 22 home runs and 55 RBI. He was benched in the postseason in favor of Elliot Johnson who is a career .218 hitter and his .209 average last year made him look like Ryne Sandberg at second base compared to Uggla.
The biggest question mark for the Orioles is what was one of their biggest strengths the last two seasons. After trading Jim Johnson to Oakland, they need to find a replacement at closer and don't currently have one on their roster.
Boston Red Sox
After losing Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox need to find an outfielder in the next few weeks. They have the flexibility with Shane Victorino in the roster to go after a center fielder or right fielder. The best option may be Shin-Soo Choo who will be much cheaper than Ellsbury and could play either position.
The Chicago Cubs thought they had second base under control with Darwin Barney. However, after two straight years of being unproductive hitting .254 and 208 and only hitting seven home runs each season, it may be time to move on. A player like Omar Infante would be a big upgrade and could be in their price range after trading Alfonso Soriano away.
Chicago White Sox
The two catchers the Chicago White Sox would go into the season with right now are Josh Phegly and Tyler Flowers. Flowers was their catcher of the future for a couple years and finally was given the chance to play everyday in 2013. He hit only .195 with 10 home tuns and 24 RBI in 84 games. Flowers stuck out 94 times and walked only 14, which means he struck out over one time per game. Phegly, a rookie, hit .206 with four home runs and 22 RBI. They are in desperate need of a veteran catcher.
The Cincinnati Reds have one of the best rotations and bullpens in baseball. They are also returning many veteran bats in the lineup as well as infusing speedster Billy Hamilton. One area they need to address is left field, where Ryan Ludwick played only 38 games last season and none of his replacements hit over .250. They could re-sign Choo, move him to left, and allow Hamilton to take over in center.
For the Cleveland Indians, their entire bullpen is something that needs to be addressed. Chris Perez had one of the worst ERAs amongst closers last year at 4.33. They lost Joe Smith to the Los Angeles Angels and Matt Albers is a free agent as well. They need to sign a couple of middle relievers in case Vinnie Pestano needs to take over for Perez at closer in 2014.
After trading Dexter Fowler and the retirement of Todd Helton, they need to figure out if Michael Cuddyer is going to be a first baseman or an outfielder. If he plays first then they need to sign an outfielder to go with Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon. If Cuddyer is going to play in the outfield, they need to get a first baseman with only Jordan Pacheco listed at that position on the roster.
The Detroit Tigers were grooming third base prospect Nick Castellanos to play left field. However, after trading Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers they are going to move Miguel Cabrera to first and Castellanos back to third. This leaves a hole in left field and a duo of Andy Dirks and Don Kelly won't get it done.
The Houston Astros have a rotation of Graham Harrell, Dallas Keuchel, Alex White and Brad Peacock. They are not just in desperate need for a starter, they need multiple veterans to jump into this rotation of young and inconsistent starters.
Kansas City Royals
With the acquisition of Nori Aoki, the Kansas City Royals are set on two of their three outfield positions. Alex Gordon will be the everyday left fielder and Aoki will be in either center or right. They have four guys that all have the ability to contribute but none that have been consistent enough to push the Royals over the hump. Between Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Justin Maxwell and David Lough they have the pieces to trade for an everyday outfielder.
Los Angeles Angels
The starting rotation for the Angels right now would be Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Joe Blanton. Unfortunately for Los Angeles you need five starters to round out your rotation, and after losing Jason Vargas and Jerome Williams they will need to add a couple. A veteran like Barry Zito would be perfect and would allow him to come back to the AL Easy where he enjoyed most of his success.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers were stacked with infielders last season. However, with a list of impending free agents that include Juan Uribe, Michael Young, Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr., the Dodgers are two short on the infield. They do have Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez coming back. If they don't feel comfortable with Justin Sellers and Dee Gordon taking over at third and second they will need to address it during this offseason.
Going into the offseason, the Marlins' biggest concern was the catcher position. They addressed that by signing Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year contract. Their second biggest question mark was second base, and they addressed that for one year by signing Rafael Furcal. After those signings, they still need a third baseman. Last year the Marlins has Placido Polanco, Ed Lucas, Greg Dobbs and Chris Coghlan all take turns at third, and none of them are really everyday players. With Colin Moran in the minors and likely ready in 2015, they will need to find someone for just a year and not long term.
After losing Prince Fielder before last season, Milwaukee decided to move Corey Hart to first base permanently. Hart missed all of 2013 and is a free agent right now. Right now Milwaukee currently sports Juan Francisco and Jeff Bianchi as potential starters at first next year. They don't need to get a superstar, but they definitely need to address this position long term.
The Minnesota Twins have already addressed their biggest question mark by signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to their starting rotation. Another position they need to take care of is shortstop where they tried both Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar unsuccessfully. Florimon hit only .221 but managed to slug nine homers and drive in 44 runs. Escobar had a slightly better average at .236 but had only three home runs in 66 games.
New York Mets
The Ike Davis experiment with the New York Mets needs to end this offseason if they want to rebuild the right way. They are throwing money away by playing him through his arbitration years and having a first baseman that only hit .205 with nine home runs. They could go after someone like Corey Hart to solidify the position.
New York Yankees
For 18 years the New York Yankees have been able to turn to Mariano Rivera as their closer. That means for 18 years they have never had to worry about the ninth inning in the regular season and especially in the postseason. With Rivera retiring, the Yankees are likely to turn to David Robertson at the position. However, he has never proven to be more than setup guy, and they should look into getting Grant Balfour in free agency or call Miami about Steve Cishek.
With Grant Balfour leaving via free agency, the Athletics addressed their closer situation by trading for Jim Johnson. With Bartolo Colon likely leaving as well, they signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal. That leaves second base as their biggest question make heading into the Winter Meetings. On the roster they have Eric Sogard who hit .266 with two home runs and 35 RBI in 130 games. Sogard is a good player to have come off the bench but not an MLB starter. They have Jed Lowire at shortstop and Hiroyuki Nakajima blocked at that position by Lowrie. They could try to move one of them to second base, but signing Omar Infante or trading for Brandon Phillips would solidify the position.
The Philadelphia Phillies addressed their issue at third base last offseason by trading for Michael Young. However, after falling out of contention they dealt him to the Los Angeles Dodgers and were left with very little at third. Between Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis, you have one young improving player and another one whose role should be off the bench. They could go with Asche and let him develop, but with an aging lineup they need to win now with these guys. They should look for another player that they can sign for just a year or two and let Asche develop more in the minors.
The Pittsburgh Pirates made the postseason for the first time in twenty years. They were very aggressive at the trade deadline and acquired Justin Morneau to play first base. With Morneau a free agent as well as Garrett Jones, that leaves Gaby Sanchez as the only first baseman left on the roster. Either Corey Hart or Mike Napoli would solidify this position.
San Diego Padres
After the 2011 season, the San Diego Padres invested five years and $35 million into center fielder Cameron Maybin. in 2012, he hit only .243 with eight home runs and 45 RBI. In an injury plagued 2013, Maybin hit .157 in 14 games and had only 51 at-bats. The Padres are loaded with outfielders, but the majority of them are role players other than Carlos Quentin. If they don't feel Maybin is the star they thought he was when they gave him the contract they should go after Shin-Soo Choo to be their everyday center fielder.
San Francisco Giants
Outside of Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, the San Francisco Giants don't have a dependable right handed arm in bullpen. They are loaded up with lefties, but with Romo pitching the ninth they will need to find a couple decent middle relief arms. They should be on the hunt for someone like Edward Mujica or Francisco Rodriguez.
Outside of Michael Saunders, the Seattle Mariners don't have a proven outfielder on their roster. They are loaded up with young infielders and pitchers which allows them to look at free agents and through the trade market for any player they want. They have the pieces to acquire someone like Giancarlo Stanton or Mark Trumbo as well as the money to chase Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson or Corey Hart.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a roster loaded with superstars and young talented players ready to contribute. By trading David Freese and allowing Carlos Beltran to walk away they are going to give the second base job to Kolten Wong and first base to Matt Adams. Adams has proven to be a valuable piece off the bench and Wong is one of their top prospects. However, with no depth at third base, if Wong doesn't work out they will be forced to keep Matt Carpenter there and put Daniel Descalso back at second.
Tampa Bay Rays
James Loney was the perfect first base rental for the Tampa Bay Rays last year. He is a guy that gets on base a lot and plays great defense. After hitting .299 with 13 home runs and 75 RBI he may have priced himself out of Tampa, and they don't have another first baseman on the roster. They could shift Ben Zobrist over there, but a better option would be looking to acquire Logan Morrison from the Miami Marlins. He is another high on-base player and is arbitration eligible for the first time. Having a guy that is under club control for three years would be an attractive get for the Rays.
After losing A.J. Pierzynski to the Boston Red Sox, the Texas Rangers are left with Geovany Soto as their starting catcher. For a team that has had Jarrod Saltalamacchi and Mike Napoli behind the plate in recent years, Soto will be a big drop off. The catching market has thinned out, but they could still get someone like J.P. Arencibia or John Buck.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays already have most of their rotation set. However, they are lacking an ace at the top of rotation to be able to compete. R.A. Dickey had an up and down season in 2013 and did not prove to be the Cy Young winner he was in 2012. Mark Buehrle and Brendan Morrow are No. 3 and 4 guys at this stage in their careers, and J.A. Happ is a decent No. 5. This team more than any needs to go after Bartolo Colon and get him to be their opening day starter.
When you look at the bullpen for the Washington Nationals, they are loaded with right handed arms at the tail end. Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen, Criag Stammen and Tyler Clippard are the strength of this bullpen. They need to go out and get a dominant lefty to mix in with these righties. In a division with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, they need to go out and get someone like J.P. Howell, Matt Thornton or Scott Downs to complete their roster.