The 2017 MLB Winter Meetings will begin Monday in Orlando, Florida. The Winter Meetings are, without fail, the busiest week of the offseason year in and year out. There will be trades and free-agent signings and rumors. Lots and lots of rumors. Put all 30 general managers in one place and deals are bound to happen.
So, with the Winter Meetings approaching, this is as good a time as any to take a step back and look at Major League Baseball overall. What does each team need this offseason? What will they try to accomplish at the Winter Meetings? Here is our team-by-team preview.
The Diamondbacks have already added Brad Boxberger to improve the bullpen, but the No. 1 priority is, clearly, re-signing J.D. Martinez or acquiring a big bat to replace him. Can the D-Backs win a nine-figure bidding war for Martinez? Sure, they did it with Zack Greinke, but that was under a different front office regime. The new front office might be more disciplined financially. In addition to adding that big bat, general pitching depth is a need as well.
Thanks to their international impropriety, the Braves now have a new general manager (Alex Anthopoulos) and 13 fewer prospects. Anthopoulos has always been very aggressive and very willing to trade prospects, and Atlanta still has plenty to deal. His top priority figures to be stabilizing the rotation and finding a way to unload Matt Kemp and/or Nick Markakis to clear an outfield spot for Ronald Acuna, arguably baseball's best prospect. Third base is also a priority. Keep an eye on the Braves and Mike Moustakas. There's a fit there.
Already this offseason the Orioles have been rejected by one free agent. Mike Fiers reportedly turned down a two-year deal with Baltimore to take a one-year deal with the Tigers.
Mike Fiers turned down a 2-year offer in the $10-11M range from #Orioles to sign for one year and $6M with #Tigers. If he throws 170-180 innings in Detroit this year, Fiers has a chance to more than make up the difference in arbitration as a 5-plus player a year from now.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 8, 2017
Ouch. Point is the Orioles need pitching help, badly. Their rotation had a 5.70 ERA last season and four of their top six pitchers in starts became free agents this winter (Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Jeremy Hellickson). On one hand, it's good to clear out the crummy pitchers and start fresh. On the other hand, the Orioles don't have much pitching depth, otherwise those guys wouldn't have been starting games in the first place. Trading Manny Machado or Zach Britton isn't a must, but it could happen. For now, the O's are focused on pitching, pitching, pitching and more pitching.
Boston Red Sox
So far it has been a low-key offseason for the Red Sox, who were quickly ruled out on Shohei Ohtani and remain apparently uninterested in pursuing Giancarlo Stanton despite their need for power. Addressing that power deficiency -- the BoSox were dead last in the AL in home runs in 2017 -- figures to be a priority next week. Boston might not be interested in Stanton, but keep an eye on J.D. Martinez. Martinez and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski know each other from their Detroit days. Also, the Red Sox are going to be on the lookout for a quality utility infielder who can help cover second base while Dustin Pedroia rehabs from his knee surgery.
The Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a three-year contract earlier this week, which certainly helps their rotation situation. There is still room for another starting pitcher and I expect the Cubs to keep an eye out for another arm next week. The bigger priority right now figures to be replacing Wade Davis as closer. Justin Wilson stopped throwing strikes after going to Chicago and Carl Edwards Jr. can run into control problems of his own at times. Even if they trust Pedro Strop to handle the ninth inning, there is still a clear need for a back-end reliever here, something Theo Epstein & Co. will prioritize in Orlando.
Chicago White Sox
GM Rick Hahn has done a wonderful job building arguably baseball's best farm system over the past 12 months, and already some of those prospects have reached the big leagues, like Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito. The final two remaining tradeable veterans on the roster, Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia, are certainly worth watching next week. Abreu's name has already popped up in trade rumors. The White Sox might do a little adding -- they did sign Welington Castillo to a two-year contract recently, after all -- but right now the goal is supplementing their developing young core, not overhauling things.
Hey, give them credit, the Reds made a strong push for Shohei Ohtani, but they were ruled out along with every East Coast team and pretty much every other Midwest team. Such is life. Billy Hamilton's name has come up as a possible trade chip and the Reds will surely continue to explore things with him. Their position player core is not that far away from being postseason caliber. The pitching staff though? Golly. Expect the Reds to look for pitching, both short and long-term help, next week and throughout the offseason.
I get the sense the Indians made their big move last offseason when they signed Edwin Encarnacion. That said, they are a World Series-caliber team, and their window isn't going to get any more open than it is right now. Adding a true center fielder rather than asking Jason Kipnis to continue faking it out there seems like an obvious spot to upgrade. The Indians also need to decide how to replace workhorse setup man Bryan Shaw, and the answer very well might be internally. This team needs tweaks more than major changes.
The Rockies are always good for one out-of-nowhere move, aren't they? Last year it was signing Ian Desmond. This offseason the goal is to bolster the bullpen, especially with Jake McGee and Greg Holland becoming free agents. Colorado reached the playoffs in 2017, it is deep in young starters and the lineup always scores a ton of runs. Figuring out the back end of the bullpen could be the difference between a return trip to the playoffs and golf in early October.
Now that Detroit is in full rebuild mode, the next move for Tigers GM Al Avila is trading Ian Kinsler, who will become a free agent next winter. That won't necessarily be easy -- Kinsler is 35 and he just had the worst offensive season of his career -- but it is doable. There is no sense in hanging on to him. Avila could also explore the market for Miguel Cabrera, though given his contract and down 2017 season, it's tough to think there will be many takers right now. Kinsler will assuredly be shopped around.
The defending World Series champions only had complementary players like Carlos Beltran and Luke Gregerson become free agents, with Beltran retiring. The core remains intact. And, truth be told, the Astros likely made their big offseason move on Aug. 31, when they acquired Justin Verlander. There is always room for improvement -- remember how shaky the bullpen was in the postseason? -- but, generally speaking, the Stros are not a team in need of major changes. Only a few tweaks. It could be a quiet Winter Meetings for Houston.
Kansas City Royals
With so many core players hitting free agency, the Royals almost have to take a step back and rebuild now. Would they put Salvador Perez or Danny Duffy on the trade block? I doubt it, though others like Ian Kennedy, Jason Hammel, Whit Merrifield, Scott Alexander and Kelvin Herrera should be made available. Depending how aggressive GM Dayton Moore wants to be, the Royals could be the center of attention. They have plenty of useful pieces to offer in trades.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels landed Shohei Ohtani after trading prospect Jacob Pearson, their 2017 third round pick, for additional international bonus money earlier this week. Beyond Ohtani, the Halos need to figure out second and third base, as well as add pitching reinforcements. Signing Justin Upton to an extension might have been their only big money offseason signing. The other moves might be low cost.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have yet to seriously engage the Marlins about Giancarlo Stanton even though he has made it crystal clear he would love to join his hometown Dodgers. That is definitely something that could pick up next week. There comes a point where it is impossible to ignore a player as good as Stanton wanting so desperately to wear your uniform. Aside from maybe trading away Yasmani Grandal, the Dodgers figure to focus on Stanton.
Obviously, their goal in Orlando will be moving Giancarlo Stanton and as much of his contract as possible, assuming it doesn't happen at some point this weekend. They've already traded Dee Gordon. Others like Marcell Ozuna, Martin Prado, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa could also be traded in cost-cutting moves. Maybe Christian Yelich too, though apparently he is the one player the Marlins want to keep long-term. Until he is traded, the focus with the Marlins will be Stanton, Stanton, Stanton.
The Brewers are an interesting team. GM David Stearns preaches discipline, yet they have a young roster ready to take the next step in 2018, and there is enough of a need for rotation help that making a big move would be justified. Could they swoop in to sign Jake Arrieta? What about Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb if they don't want to spend Arrieta money? Milwaukee is my sleeper team this winter. I could see them surprising everyone with a big move. For now, figuring out second base and adding pitching depth are the top priorities.
It has already been reported the Twins want an impact pitcher. They wanted Shohei Ohtani, but that won't happen. They could turn their attention to Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta next week. Minnesota has an excellent position player core and it's set basically everywhere on the field (adding a big DH bat wouldn't hurt), so the Twins' goal is to upgrade their pitching, both the rotation and bullpen. If that means signing Darvish or Arrieta, great. If it means going after lower-cost options, that's fine too.
New York Mets
The Mets insist they want to contend next season and I don't blame them. The only question is whether their much-ballyhooed rotation will hold up. It didn't this past season. GM Sandy Alderson has talked a lot about adding bullpen help this offseason, and also adding some corner infield depth. They want protection in case David Wright's injury problems continue, and protection in case Dominic Smith doesn't cut it at first base. The Mets leaving the Winter Meetings with a new relief pitcher is about as close to a sure thing as you'll find in baseball.
New York Yankees
They're out on Shohei Ohtani and the Yankees have their new manager. Where do they go next? Adding a starting pitcher is a must and re-signing CC Sabathia seems like the obvious move there. That is definitely something that could happen at the Winter Meetings. Aside from that, the Yankees don't have any pressing needs this winter. Don't be surprised if they get more heavily involved in the Giancarlo Stanton sweepstakes, however. He's reportedly open to joining New York, and while it would take some creativity to make it work financially, GM Brian Cashman -- with his own brand new extension -- has never been shy about adding stars.
The Athletics have been one of the more active teams in baseball this offseason. They traded Ryon Healy for Emilio Pagan and signed Yusmeiro Petit. That qualifies as being very active in this slow-moving offseason. The A's definitely want a right-handed-hitting outfielder to balance the lineup plus pitching depth in general. Oakland is always a tough team to gauge. It seems like the A's should tear it down and rebuild one of these years, yet they keep trying to make incremental upgrades.
GM Matt Klentak has made it clear he wants to add pitching this offseason. They could get it via trades -- both Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco have been rumored as trade chips -- or free agency, or a combination. Given where they are in their rebuild, it would be surprising to see the Phillies make a big splash in free agency. A big trade for a cost-controlled starter is more likely, as is a few lower-cost free-agent signings. They're looking to push the rebuild forward without throwing things off track.
I'm not sure there's a more confusing team in baseball than the Pirates. They have the talent core of a postseason team. I don't think there's any doubt about that. But the lack of quality supplemental players has caused the Pirates to slip from 98 wins in 2015 to 78 wins in '16 and 75 wins in '17. Trading Andrew McCutchen is very much on the table. Spending even a moderate amount of money on a free agent is apparently not. Are they going for it or rebuilding? We might get some clarity next week.
San Diego Padres
The Padres lost out on Shohei Ohtani. They've been rumored to have interest in Eric Hosmer, so much so that Wil Myers has already said he's willing to move back to the outfield to accommodate him. It is very possible San Diego won't end up with either player. Their big-league roster is mostly bare bones but their farm system is stacked. GM A.J. Preller, who is armed with a new three-year contract extension, is going to look for value buys during the Winter Meetings with or without Hosmer.
San Francisco Giants
I guess the sense for the Giants is on hold until the Giancarlo Stanton situation is resolved. The difference between getting Stanton and not getting Stanton is massive in terms of expectations and in terms of resources to make other moves. The Giants need more beyond Stanton to get back to the postseason. They need a third baseman, they need to improve their bench and they need pitching depth. If they don't get Stanton, they need all of that and an outfielder. The Giants are focused on Stanton until further notice.
Give GM Jerry Dipoto credit. He was laser focused on Shohei Ohtani -- albeit in a losing effort -- but has still been able to make other moves, most notably trading for Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon. The Mariners added lots of international bonus money to improve their chances of landing Ohtani. Their top priority now is adding some pitching. With Ohtani off the table, they still need another starter and maybe a bullpen arm. It could be a fun Winter Meetings for Mariners fans. Dipoto can't go more than a week without making a trade, it seems.
St. Louis Cardinals
Like the Giants, everything the Cardinals want to do this offseason is tied to Giancarlo Stanton. If they get Stanton, great. They'll then look to add some complementary pieces. If they don't get Stanton, they could pivot to another big-name trade candidate, like Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson. St. Louis wants a big middle-of-the-order bat. That much is clear. They would like it to be Stanton and will focus on Stanton during the Winter Meetings. If it's not Stanton, they'll improvise. A closer is also an offseason priority.
Tampa Bay Rays
It has been four seasons since the Rays finished above .500 and right now they're in both add and subtract mode. They figure to move pricey pitchers like Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, but also add some arms and possibly another bat as well, particularly at second base. The Rays always have to be creative given their budget limitations. Trading away players like Odorizzi and Colome while adding big leaguers is par for the course for them.
The Rangers was also in the Shohei Ohtani race. Texas needs rotation help -- which would have still been the case even with Ohtani -- and it could use another outfield bat as well. Ohtani would have addressed so many of their needs. Now that they know where he's heading, the Rangers can shift gears and begin to work on other things.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are in a weird place. They were a 76-win team in 2017 but have the talent to be better. Most of that talent is on the wrong side of 30, at least as far as the position players go, and that's a dangerous place to be. Josh Donaldson will be a free agent next offseason and it wouldn't be wrong of the club to see what trade offers are out there at the Winter Meetings. It never hurts to listen, after all. Either way, another corner outfield bat is an absolute must. That is likely at the top of the team's offseason shopping list.
This is a critical offseason for the Nationals, who are faced with the possibility of losing Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy to free agency next winter. They have those two now, plus Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon are all in their primes, so GM Mike Rizzo will very much go for it in 2018. Among the items on his Winter Meetings shopping list are an innings-eater to take over as the fifth starter, bullpen help, maybe a catcher, and bench players. Rizzo and the Nationals have a way of making surprise big moves. Don't be shocked if they connect with someone like Jake Arrieta at the Winter Meetings.