As things currently stand, we could argue that the St. Louis Cardinals are the best team in baseball right now. They were, technically, the second-best team in baseball at season's end as the World Series runner-up to the Boston Red Sox, who have several key hitters eligible for free agency.
And most other teams in baseball also head into the offseason with several holes to fill, so it's difficult to think any of them would jump ahead of St. Louis at this point.
The Cardinals are losing one of their best players, Carlos Beltran, to free agency, although there are multiple in-house solutions to potentially fill the void. Factor in the expected strides from a young pitching staff, and this 25-man roster is already in very good shape.
But I'm not quite ready to call them the best team in baseball. They have that potential. But they're not quite there at the beginning of the offseason.
It's clear that the team's biggest need is at the shortstop position after Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma combined on a pitiful .583 OPS during the regular season. While the free-agent market offers two solid options in Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta, the Cards could have their sights set much higher.
There are some obstacles to a potential deal, however, including Tulowitzki's no-trade clause. Rockies senior vice president of baseball operations Bill Geivett also suggested that they wouldn't be moving the 29-year-old, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.
But front-office executives aren't normally going to come out and tell the world that they'd consider trading one of their most popular players. In reality, every player has a price. Even if that price is ridiculously high, there's always a chance a team will meet it.
So there's no way we can rule out a Tulowitzki deal at this time, especially when a team like the Cardinals have the need and the resources to make it happen.
Landing a player of that caliber to upgrade a spot that has offered so little production would certainly give the critics plenty of reason to anoint them as the "MLB's best team."
But would they be right? Probably not. At least not based on that move alone, which would likely cost them at least two impact young players from their big league roster.
Realistically, a Tulowitzki-to-the-Cardinals deal doesn't get done unless the Rockies are getting back at least one of Carlos Martinez, Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal or Michael Wacha, and one of Matt Adams, Oscar Taveras or Kolten Wong.
How they fill those newly created voids in the offseason would likely determine how much better they are as a team and if they are MLB's best team.
In order to examine how a Tulowitzki acquisition would affect the roster, I'll suggest a trade package that would likely be enough to entice Colorado.
For Tulowitzki, the Rockies would acquire first baseman Matt Adams (pictured), along with starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez and a very good lower-level prospect. They could also throw in Kozma, just to give Colorado an extra option at the shortstop position.
In Adams, the Rockies would receive a power-hitting first baseman to replace Todd Helton, who retired after the 2013 season. Miller and Martinez, who have already had an impact at the big league level—Miller went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts as a rookie; Martinez dominated as the team's primary setup man throughout the playoffs—would give the team a pair of power pitchers with top-of-the-rotation potential.
Even if Martinez ends up as the team's closer for at least the next year or two before possibly transitioning back into a starting role, this deal has the potential to fill three holes for Colorado while freeing up nearly $20 million per season in salary through the 2020 season.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, would replace Beltran's offense with Tulowitzki, open up a spot in the lineup for Taveras, who has been considered one of the best prospects in baseball over the past couple of years and clear up a rotation picture that currently appears to have at least seven strong candidates for 2014 (Adam Wainwright, Wacha, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Martinez, Miller).
As a result, the team's offseason priority list would shift from the shortstop position to relief help and another outfielder to help bridge the gap to Taveras, who may need some more Triple-A time after missing much of 2013 with an ankle injury or possibly fill the regular right-field spot with Taveras' future role changing to center field. Or maybe they enter the mix for free-agent center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
This trade would certainly open up more possibilities this winter. For them to head into spring training as the popular pick for MLB's best team after acquiring Tulowitzki, though, here's what they'll need to do.
1. Sign right-hander Jesse Crain (pictured; 0.74 ERA, 36.2 IP, 31 H, 11 BB. 46, 19 holds in 38 relief appearances in 2013), the top setup man on the free-agent market, to a three-year, $18 million deal.
2. Sign outfielder Curtis Granderson (.829 OPS, 115 HR in 513 games since 2010) to a three-year, $45 million deal to be the team's starting center fielder or right fielder.
3. Sign first baseman/outfielder Luke Scott (.741 OPS, nine HR in 91 games in 2013) to a one-year, $2 million deal to fill bench role.
4. Sign right-hander Chad Gaudin (3.06 ERA, 97 IP, 81 H, 40 BB, 88 K in 2013) to one-year, $1 million deal to fill the swingman role.
The 25-man roster could then look something like this ...
1 Matt Carpenter, 2B
2 Oscar Taveras, RF
3 Matt Holliday, LF
4 Troy Tulowitzki, SS
5 Allen Craig, 1B
6 Curtis Granderson, CF
7 Yadier Molina, C
8 David Freese, 3B
Tony Cruz, C
Luke Scott, 1B/OF
Daniel Descalso, IF
Jon Jay, OF
Shane Robinson, OF
1 Adam Wainwright, RHP
2 Michael Wacha, RHP
3 Jaime Garcia, LHP
4 Lance Lynn, RHP
5 Joe Kelly, RHP
CL Trevor Rosenthal, RHP
SU Jesse Crain, RHP
SU Kevin Siegrist, LHP
MID John Axford, RHP
MID Seth Maness, RHP
MID Randy Choate, LHP
LR Chad Gaudin, RHP
Losing Beltran hurts, but replacing him with three potential impact bats in Granderson, Taveras and Tulowitzki would more than make up it.
The main concern then becomes rotation depth, with Jaime Garcia returning from May shoulder surgery and another lefty, John Gast, who pitched well in 2013 and would likely serve as the team's sixth starter, coming back from July shoulder surgery. Adding Gaudin, who pitched very well in a starting role with the Giants late in the 2013 season, would give them a veteran pitcher who could fill a long relief role in the bullpen and step right into the rotation, if necessary.
In addition to Crain, the bullpen could also get former closer Jason Motte back at some point in the season. He's currently recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in May.
Best. Team. In. Baseball. Agree or disagree?
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