Writing All 30 MLB Teams' Christmas Wish List
Christmas—that much-anticipated time of year when we all get greedy.
Why hold MLB teams to a higher standard? They too have shopping to complete this holiday season, and like the rest of us, they're looking to get top quality at a bargain price.
The following lists vary in terms of their length, specificity and practicality, but the common thread is that there would be rejoicing in the front office if these wishes were granted.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
Entering the offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks were fixated on adding a frontline starting pitcher.
Tanaka is one of the few remaining in free agency, and Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Arizona likes him more than the rest. The D-Backs have this very specific gift idea because the departures of highly regarded prospects Tyler Skaggs and Matt Davidson give them limited ammunition to trade for rotation help.
Agree to Contract Extensions with Core Players
The Atlanta Braves entered this offseason with an enormous class of arbitration-eligible players.
Retaining all of them through the end of the decade is unrealistic considering the team's less-than-stellar television contract. But reaching long-term agreements with at least two members from the group of Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson, Kris Medlen and Mike Minor would put the front office in a festive mood.
Scott Boras Scraps Kendrys Morales Plans
The Baltimore Orioles have several lineup voids to address, not much money available for doing so and hardly any free-agent targets who can adequately handle a bat. Morales would make a lot of sense as their designated hitter, but not if his super-agent continues haggling for a multi-year deal.
However, if Boras' priorities shift and he focuses on finding Morales a pillow contract for 2014 only, then the O's could get seriously involved. Their counter-pitch to Boras would revolve around the idea that Camden Yards is an ideal ballpark for Morales to boost his power numbers prior to re-entering free agency and truly cashing in.
Obtain a Low-Risk/High-Reward Starting Pitcher
According to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun, the O's nearly landed Gavin Floyd to meet this desire. However, he signed with Atlanta, and not a whole lot of the starters who are left on the market fit that description.
The club may need Santa's intervention.
Boston Red Sox
Distract David Ortiz from Contract Situation
Coming off a shockingly productive age-37 season, which he capped-off with World Series MVP honors, Big Papi has the leverage to get an extra year added to his deal that will pay him comfortably in the eight figures this season.
Based on Ortiz's conversation with WEEI.com's Rob Bradford, he seems well aware of this. Paying the icon through 2015 carries plenty of risk, however. We've seen countless examples of elderly sluggers abruptly deteriorating in their late 30s, so it's in Boston's best interest to handle Papi one year at a time. Hopefully, he calms down about it.
Agree to Contract Extension with Jeff Samardzija
As Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times reports, it's not looking like the Chicago Cubs will get what they perceive to be fair value by trading Shark this offseason.
Instead, they have initiated extension talks with his representatives and made an offer in the five-year, $55 million range, per Bruce Levine of 670 The Score. Unfortunately, the right-hander isn't inclined to take that discount.
The Cubs will be grateful to iron out a reasonable contract that deters him from exploring free agency after the 2015 season.
Chicago White Sox
Acquire Some Sort of Catcher
If the 2014 season kicked-off tomorrow, the Chicago White Sox would proceed with one of baseball's least dynamic catching duos: Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley. Neither maintained a .250 on-base percentage a year ago nor provided enough defensive value to distinguish themselves as anything other than replacement-level players.
Free agent John Buck would suit this rebuilding team. However, it will take some creativity to find an upgrade if the White Sox miss out on him.
Find a Center Field Stopgap
Billy Hamilton is going to be a lot of fun to watch for a lot of years, but not if he's rushed into everyday duty. His inconsistency at Triple-A in 2013 suggests that the speedster hasn't yet developed the hitting skills to justify placement atop the Cincinnati Reds lineup.
Recognition of that compelled the Reds to propose an exchange of Brandon Phillips for Brett Gardner to the New York Yankees, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. That specific deal no longer makes sense from the New York Yankees' perspective, but Cincinnati's front office will undoubtedly try elsewhere.
Bring Back Bronson Arroyo
With Homer Bailey extension talks put off indefinitely, it appears that the team will consider trading him before the season gets underway. Of course, were that to happen, somebody would need to fill the rotation void in order to keep the team's championship aspirations realistic.
Arroyo has given the Reds a handful of great years while becoming an important influence in the clubhouse.
John Axford Reverts to His Old Form
Pictured above is Axford from the best year of his career, when he was a two-win closer with a 1.95 ERA who kept balls in the ballpark. He had outstanding facial hair, too.
Although the right-hander is now approaching his 31st birthday, his velocity, pitch selection and workload have been remarkably consistent from season to season. The 2011 version of Axford is still contained somewhere within him.
Agree to Contract Extension with Justin Masterson
It's not surprising that the Cleveland Indians let Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir explore free agency this offseason. They've been painfully unpredictable throughout the past several years, and they were both undeserving of a long-term commitment from a small-market team.
But Justin Masterson is different, having just completed his fourth straight summer of 180.0 IP and less then 4.00 BB/9. The Tribe can't bear to watch him sneak away.
Compile a Competent Bench
The 2013 Colorado Rockies were too reliant upon their starting position players last season. When you're leaning on a zillion-year-old Todd Helton and chronically injured stars like Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, it doesn't matter how adequate the pitching staff is.
The Rockies have taken steps to build up their run prevention, but especially in the National League, prevailing in close contests won't be possible without decent reserves. Troy Renck of The Denver Post speculates that Michael Young could be a fit.
Agree to Contact Extension with Max Scherzer
The Detroit Tigers rid themselves of future payroll obligations by trading away Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers and Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals. They allocated some of those savings toward signing closer Joe Nathan, but there still ought to be enough coins in the couch cushions to convince Scherzer to stick around.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner is eligible for free agency next winter, and a compensatory draft pick would not bring the Tigers much comfort if he departed.
Find a First Baseman
The Houston Astros contended for James Loney, who was raised nearby, but now find themselves scrambling for the Mark Reynoldses and Lyle Overbays of this free-agent class.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wonders if Houston will chat with the Washington Nationals about Tyler Moore, who had an encouraging MLB debut (10 HR, .840 OPS in 2012) before rotting on the bench last summer.
Regain Some Respect
Regardless of who the Astros select for first-base duty, they're already significantly improved from the 2013 edition of the team. The inept pitching staff should be markedly improved thanks to Anthony Bass, Scott Feldman and Chad Qualls, and new outfielder Dexter Fowler brings much-needed plate discipline to the lineup.
Perhaps the club will finish in the AL West cellar again, but it won't be by a laughably wide margin.
Kansas City Royals
The window for the Kansas City Royals to legitimately contend for a championship is opening. Their lights-out bullpen remains intact and the signing of Omar Infante bolsters what was already a terrific defense.
But when examining Kansas City's starting rotation, it's tough to identify a true No. 2 option behind James Shields. Santana proved himself to be an excellent fit for Kauffman Stadium and the Royals clubhouse, and he can be retained without the loss of a future draft pick. K.C. can clear payroll space for him by shopping Billy Butler.
Los Angeles Angels
Sign Matt Garza
Although not necessarily the best free-agent starting pitcher, this southern California native is the most trustworthy. If we're judging by ERA-Plus, he's been an above-average rotation option for seven straight seasons, and the majority of that production came in the American League.
The Los Angeles Angels have a barren farm system and cannot afford to sacrifice another draft pick. Conveniently, signing Garza would not require them to do so.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Agree to Extension with Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw was definitively MLB's best starting pitcher in 2013, and entering his age-26 season, who's to say he can't continue to improve?
Whispers about a $200-plus million extension were a distraction last summer, and the early 2014 World Series favorites (h/t Los Angeles Times) want to get a deal done immediately to ensure that doesn't happen again.
Acquire David Price and Sign Him to an Extension
Rumored suitors for Price have been gradually dropping out, as the Washington Nationals acquired Doug Fister and the Arizona Diamondbacks turned their focus to the free-agent market.
Although the Los Angeles Dodgers lack the controllable, high-ceiling MLB-ready trade chips that the Tampa Bay Rays covet, they're motivated to empty the lower levels of their farm system. And paying Price what he's worth over the next decade wouldn't be a challenge for L.A.
Jeffrey Loria Abdicates Team Ownership
So long as the notorious art collector has a say in the decision-making process, the Miami Marlins will struggle. They'll never draw fans and impact free agents, forcing the club to sell tickets through Groupon and build around Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The Jose Reyes/Mark Buehrle/Josh Johnson salary dump last winter destroyed whatever credibility Loria still had, and the Fish cannot sustain success with him pushing the buttons.
The Return of Ryan Braun's Marketability
Yes, Braun took performance-enhancing drugs—allegedly a steady diet of them—to give himself an unfair advantage on the field. But he abused them to help the Milwaukee Brewers win, to elevate the franchise from obscurity.
He'll never fully regain the same international appeal following his cheating admission, but the Brewers are stuck with him for another seven seasons—during which time, he'll consistently earn eight-figure salaries.
The team hopes that local fans gradually begin to embrace the former NL MVP again.
Find a First Baseman
Corey Hart was expected to be Milwaukee's solution at first base following a season of non-production at the position. With him relocating to the Pacific Northwest, however, the Brewers are trusting...Juan Francisco?! Yikes.
Sign Bronson Arroyo
The Minnesota Twins didn't fool their fans last offseason when they "revamped" the starting rotation with acquisitions of Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Vance Worley. However, inking Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco while re-signing Pelfrey this time around has been considerably more newsworthy.
They just need to take one more step forward and agree to terms with Arroyo, who, if nothing else, will provide durability. The right-hander's former team is putting up a determined fight to retain him, though.
New York Mets
Acquire Some Sort of Shortstop
Scott Boras can say whatever he wants, but objective sources tell The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo that the market for Stephen Drew's services isn't very extensive.
That means the New York Mets have a chance to secure him for a reasonable price. But even if the club's pursuit of Drew falls apart, it must find shortstop help somewhere. Those who manned the position for the Mets last summer combined for a humiliating .215/.285/.276 batting line.
"True New Yorkers Are Mets Fans" Campaign Takes Off
Curtis Granderson uttered these words at his introductory press conference this offseason, and he rubbed some of the people across town the wrong way.
Perhaps this is the beginning of a power shift in the Big Apple, as the Mets already outbid the New York Yankees for one of their free agents and boast a much stronger farm system. Hopefully, this slogan survives the holiday season and draws fans to Citi Field next spring.
New York Yankees
Alex Rodriguez's 211-game Suspension is Upheld
A-Rod quietly gave the New York Yankees decent offensive production after he was activated for the final two months of the 2013 regular season, but he not so quietly brought a media circus everywhere he went.
This unprecedented suspension would give the club an extra $27.5 million to maneuver with in 2014. The Yankees could address the shaky back end of their starting rotation, trade for a reputable second baseman and still find someone to replace Rodriguez at the hot corner.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
Given the weak condition of their farm system, the Yankees are going to be extremely reluctant to sign a starting pitcher who's linked to a compensatory draft pick.
Fortunately, Tanaka has as much potential as any of them, and the $20 million posting fee required to negotiate with him wouldn't show up on New York's payroll.
Progress Toward a New Stadium
Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has already checked off all the boxes on his baseball-related wish list by replacing free agents Grant Balfour, Bartolo Colon and Chris Young on a team that coasted toward its second consecutive AL West title.
Looking forward, the best possible outcome for his team this Christmas is confirmation that their days at O.co Coliseum are numbered. Rather than continuing to share the rotting facility with the NFL's Oakland Raiders, Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of The San Francisco Chronicle have revealed a ballpark proposal that would move the A's closer to the water.
Ownership is skeptical about the site's feasibility, but any news on this tender subject is good news.
Find a Trade Partner for Jonathan Papelbon
Papelbon has been nearly as good as advertised during his two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies (2.67 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 67 SV in 131.2 IP). However, his criticism of the clubhouse and dramatically reduced strikeout rate in 2013 suggest that he won't be worth $13 million per year going forward.
CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury heard that the Phillies were aggressively shopping him during the Winter Meetings, and that they are even willing to eat a substantial chunk of his remaining contract to get a deal done.
Find a Trade Partner for Jimmy Rollins
ESPN's Buster Olney cautions us that it'll be trickier to move the veteran shortstop, considering his no-trade clause.
But getting rid of Rollins, in addition to Papelbon, around Christmas time would enable the Phillies to get involved with any starting pitcher who's left on the free-agent market. They aren't currently fit to contend with Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez occupying rotation spots.
Find Closure on A.J. Burnett Situation
Burnett continues to hold the Pittsburgh Pirates hostage, writes MLB.com's Tom Singer. They cannot complete their offseason shopping until the valuable veteran accepts or refuses their hometown discount.
Ideally, he'll decide to return, but the Bucs would be relieved to get any resolution at this point.
Safe Horseplay for Francisco Liriano at Home
The National League's Comeback Player of the Year was arguably Pittsburgh's most effective starting pitcher when healthy in 2013, but you may recall that he didn't debut until May 11. That's because on Christmas Day 2012, the talented left-hander fractured his non-throwing arm while attempting to scare his kids (h/t Dom Cosentino, Deadspin).
A handful of starts from him next summer could make the difference between the Pirates settling for another wild-card berth and upsetting the St. Louis Cardinals for their first-ever NL Central title.
San Diego Padres
Agree to Contract Extension with Chase Headley
The extension talks between Headley and the San Diego Padres have been on and off for more than a year now. He may never revert to his spectacular 2012 form, but even so, he's a better option at the hot corner than any player coming up through the farm system or approaching free agency.
The latest we've heard from general manager Josh Byrnes is that the Padres do not intend to trade him (h/t Adam Berry, MLB.com).
San Francisco Giants
Mark Mulder Comes Crawling Back
According to CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean wasn't amused when the former All-Star insisted on a major league deal.
Mulder hasn't been an adequate pitcher since 2005, but the Giants could sorely use the rotation depth. Newly signed Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong are both older than Mulder and coming off injury-shortened campaigns, and San Francisco's alternatives at the high minor league levels don't show much promise.
Extra Designated Hitter's Spots
Logan Morrison is coming off knee surgery, while Corey Hart just underwent a pair of them. The notion that either can roam the outfield with success for the Seattle Mariners in 2014 is ridiculous. Moreover, if Jesus Montero ever receives another MLB opportunity, he'll also be best-suited to serve as a DH.
It may require this sort of rule change to make the Seattle Mariners relevant.
Discover a Trade for David Price That Lets The Mariners Keep Taijuan Walker
General manager Jack Zduriencik clearly doesn't want to move the promising 21-year-old (h/t MLB.com).
He envisions a rotation that features Price and Walker to go along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, which would compare favorably to most others around baseball. Get it done, Jack.
St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Carpenter Accepts New Role in the Organization
The St. Louis Cardinals' offseason shopping is probably complete, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com explains, but general manager John Mozeliak isn't taking a vacation quite yet.
His club is trying to maintain a relationship with the newly retired Carpenter, who has spent the past decade with the Cards as a player. Only positive things could spawn from holding onto this fierce leader.
Tampa Bay Rays
Receive an Overwhelming Package for David Price
Reporting from Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer gives us a general idea of what the Tampa Bay Rays are seeking in return for their rotation ace. They asked the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Santana and Danny Salazar—both controllable potential All-Stars—and on top of that, several of the Tribe's top prospects.
Tampa Bay wants cheap players who can have an immediate impact, others who will dominate later this decade and at least two of both.
Sign Shin-Soo Choo
Although Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweets that the Texas Rangers have taken an interest in Masahiro Tanaka, Choo better suits their needs. Bringing an on-base machine to a hitter-friendly ballpark and limiting his defensive duties as a left fielder should work out wonderfully (at least for the first few years of his six- or seven-year deal).
All indications are that the Rangers are serious bidders for Choo, and they're just waiting for Scott Boras to lower his expectations slightly, with Jon Morosi of Fox Sports reporting on Twitter that the Rangers have offered a five-year deal.
Toronto Blue Jays
Acquire a Controllable Starting Pitcher
The name that's been constantly linked to the Toronto Blue Jays is Jeff Samardzija, who comes with elite strikeout ability and a tolerable salary.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos admits that other teams have tried to extract his top pitching prospects in exchange for an upgrade on the mound (h/t Gregor Chisholm, MLB.com). The club has a policy of limiting contracts to five guaranteed years, which could put Anthopoulos at a disadvantage in the bidding for Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza.
Find a Trade Partner for Adam Lind
This wish could be intertwined with the previous one.
Lind posted an uncharacteristically decent .288/.357/.497 batting line in 2013, and whomever has him going forward can pressure him to produce each year with club options for 2015 ($7.5 million) and 2016 ($8 million). In other words, his trade stock has probably peaked.
The Blue Jays would be ecstatic to dump him and reinforce their starting rotation in one blockbuster transaction.
Agree to Contract Extension with Jordan Zimmermann
Stephen Strasburg gets the headlines, but Zimmermann gets the results. No Washington Nationals pitcher has been more durable over the past two seasons, and his future is bright, as he's still only 27 years old.
Because Zimmermann isn't a Scott Boras client, there's actually optimism that he'll consider forgoing free agency.
Agree to Contract Extension with Ian Desmond
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post points out that the dearth of quality shortstops who could become available if the next couple years makes the Nationals more desperate to lock up their own.
Like Zimmermann, Desmond has two more remaining years under team control, but he might be tempted to test the open market if Washington waits too long to pay him.