1 Move Every Team Should (or Could) Still Make Before Spring Training Begins
Spring training is right around the corner! The Arizona Diamondbacks will be the first MLB team to hold a full-squad spring training workout on February 12, while the remaining teams will be in action no later than February 23, when the Colorado Rockies will have their entire team together.
In the meantime, teams continue to monitor the free-agent and trade markets, as well as the waiver wire, as they contemplate any last-minute wheeling and dealing.
A handful of moves that proved to have an impact on the 2013 season were made during this time period last season, including the Indians' signing of Michael Bourn, the Athletics' acquisition of Jed Lowrie, and the finalizing of Francisco Liriano's deal with the Pirates, which had been on hold because of an offseason injury to his non-throwing arm. Veterans Marlon Byrd and Kevin Gregg inked minor league deals, and Shawn Kelley was acquired by the Yankees after being designated for assignment by the Mariners.
Here is one move that each team should make before the start of camp.
All salary information provided by Cot's Baseball Contracts.
Thus far, the Arizona Diamondbacks have whiffed in their attempt to add another front-line starter this offseason. They offered $120 million to Masahiro Tanaka according to Nikkan Sports (via Arizona Sports), but that doesn't mean they're willing to pay big money to one of the remaining free-agent starters. If that were the case, Matt Garza would likely be with the D'backs instead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who gave him a four-year, $50 million deal.
David Price would be a nice trade acquisition, but the D'backs aren't likely to part with prized prospect Archie Bradley to make that deal happen.
They should still target a top-of-the-rotation starter with two years left of club control, one they've tried to acquire in the past and were expected to continue discussing this winter, per ESPN's Buster Olney. That would be Jeff Samardzija (pictured) of the Chicago Cubs, whose $1.8 million gap in salary arbitration proposal could be an indication that a long-term contract extension with the Cubs would be unlikely.
If talks are revisited now, the two sides could have an easier path to striking a deal, especially if the D'backs would include Chris Owings, who would be a huge offensive upgrade over Darwin Barney at second base.
Between Alex Wood and Freddy Garcia, the Atlanta Braves should be fine in the No. 5 spot of the rotation until Gavin Floyd (Tommy John surgery) could help late in the season. Where they might not be fine is at second base if Dan Uggla doesn't bounce back from his awful finish to the 2013 season.
In his last 36 games, Uggla went 10-for-101 with only one homer and 40 strikeouts. He's still due $26 million through next season, which is why he won't be released and why the team cannot afford to spend much more money for a backup plan.
The current in-house option to take over should Uggla struggle again is Ramiro Pena, who hit well in a small sample last season but has a career .606 OPS. Tommy La Stella, who had an .896 OPS in Double-A last season, could emerge as a candidate if he's playing well in Triple-A. The Braves needed a more reliable backup plan, though.
Approaching the Oakland A's, who currently have Alberto Callaspo (pictured), Eric Sogard and Nick Punto in the mix for playing time at second base, about a trade could set them up to be in a much safer position in 2014.
Callaspo will make $4.875 million, which could make him an expensive backup plan, but he'd give the team a solid bench player with the ability to play every day if necessary. For a team expecting to compete for a playoff spot once again, it would be a small price to pay to help fill what could be a gaping hole on the roster if Uggla can't bounce back.
Now that we know A.J. Burnett (pictured) will return in 2014 and is open to pitching for another team aside from the Pittsburgh Pirates, all signs point to the Baltimore Orioles as being the favorite to land the 37-year-old Maryland resident, as tweeted by Peter Gammons of Gammons Daily.
The O's need a reliable innings-eater at the top of their rotation for 2014, preferably one who won't block the path of the several young prospects expected to arrive in the majors over the next two seasons. Burnett, who averaged 191 innings while posting a 3.41 ERA over the past two seasons, is not likely to seek more than a one-year deal.
What appears to be a fit on both ends won't happen, though, unless the O's will pay Burnett what he's worth, which could be at least $12 million for the upcoming season. Since Dan Duquette took over prior to the 2012 season, the team hasn't made a free-agent splash and hasn't appeared to be too interested in breaking the bank on any player. They should make an exception for one year of Burnett, or it could be a rough season in a very good AL East.
Boston Red Sox
The world champion Boston Red Sox are set to begin spring training with a talented roster and a wealth of depth in the upper minors. Trading one of their major league starters could very likely happen, although there is no hurry to do so. A team that loses a starter to injury during spring training could be more willing to overpay for Felix Doubront or Ryan Dempster than they are right now, which is why they're likely to wait.
What they should do now is re-sign Stephen Drew (pictured), whose price tag could be dropping due to a lack of interest elsewhere. The move would not only solidify their infield with Xander Bogaerts shifting over to third base, it would put them in terrific position to pursue an impact player at the trade deadline.
Between Will Middlebrooks, who would become expendable if Drew were to re-sign, and several big-time arms in the upper minors, the Sox would be capable of putting together an enticing trade package for a team looking to shop a big-name player.
The 2014 Chicago Cubs look eerily similar to the 2013 Cubs, which isn't good news if you're a Cubs fan hoping your team can improve upon a 96-loss season. It's obvious that this organization has its eye on 2015 and beyond, which is why it needs to trade staff ace Jeff Samardzija (pictured) now, while his value is likely at its peak.
Instead of haggling over whether the 29-year-old should make $6.2 million or $4.4 million, which were the submitted arbitration proposals from each side, the Cubs should be looking for a solid trade offer that would bring back some more young talent expected to be on the team when they are perennial playoff contenders again.
Samardzija does not fit into that criteria as he will be a free agent after the 2015 season.
Chicago White Sox
There is a lot to like about the makeover that the Chicago White Sox have undergone since the middle of last season. But unless they want to spend big money on Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, it's hard to see this young team sticking around in the playoff race for very long.
Instead of heading into 2014 with a wishy-washy approach, they should focus on the future and look to trade a player who could be a valuable commodity for teams seeking outfield help.
Alejandro De Aza (pictured), who is under team control for two more seasons, could have a good number of suitors if the Sox made him available after he posted a .728 OPS with 17 homers and 20 stolen bases last season.
The acquisition of Adam Eaton likely takes away at-bats from De Aza and Dayan Viciedo, who'll share time in left field. Therefore, the 29-year-old De Aza will be more valuable to another team which could play him every day and is more capable of competing in 2014. The 24-year-old Viciedo could then play every day and show the Sox once and for all if he should be part of their future plans.
Only one of the Reds' current starting pitchers, lefty Tony Cingrani, is under contract past the 2015 season. Top prospect Robert Stephenson should capably fill one of the spots that will open eventually, but not signing at least one of the veterans to a long-term deal could be a mistake.
With Homer Bailey—who is set to hit the free-agent market next offseason as he enters his age 29 campaign—being a difficult pitcher to sign long-term, as general manager Walt Jocketty recently acknowledged, per Mark Sheldon of MLB.com, the team should look to trade him now for at least one young starting pitcher who will be around for the next six seasons and follow up by re-signing Bronson Arroyo (pictured) to a two-year deal with an option for a third.
In addition, they could then look to extend Johnny Cueto and/or Mat Latos, which would set up the team's pitching staff for many years to come.
The Cleveland Indians went 41-26 in the second half of the 2013 season, so following up with a relatively quiet offseason isn't a big surprise. But with one of the key performers of that impressive run, starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (pictured), possibly departing as a free agent and no capable replacement on the horizon, it's hard to see this team carrying over its success into 2014.
After Jimenez posted a 1.82 ERA with a 10.7 K/9 over his 13 second-half starts, he was seeking a big-money deal this winter, and the Tribe was not expected to compete for his services. But with only a few weeks before the start of spring training, the 30-year-old Jimenez is still available, and his price could be dropping down into Cleveland's range. If that's the case, they should pounce as quickly as possible.
Cleveland is also the only team that could sign him without surrendering a draft choice, which could make a reunion even more likely.
This Colorado Rockies team could surprise people in 2014. The rotation depth is strong, and two top pitching prospects, Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, could arrive at some point during the upcoming season.
A potential weakness, however, is in the guy they're counting on as the regular catcher.
Wilin Rosario has 30-homer potential as long as he's playing regularly. But defense is not his forte, which is why the team had discussed moving him to first base had it been able to sign Carlos Ruiz, who is a very good defender and handler of a pitching staff.
At the least, a veteran backup who could mentor the 24-year-old Rosario would be ideal. But penciled in to spell Rosario is Jordan Pacheco, who has caught 22 major league games in his career.
Yorvit Torrealba (pictured), who served in that role last season, is still a free agent but had a poor year at the plate and only played in 61 games due to injury. He did throw out 13 of 45 attempted base stealers, though.
At the least, the 35-year-old, if signed to a minor league deal, could continue tutoring Rosario in the spring even if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski says it would be a surprise if the team made any more major moves, according to Jason Beck of MLB.com, but it could be that the signing of Nelson Cruz (pictured) wouldn't be considered a "major move" if his price dropped low enough.
At this point, the lack of interest in the 33-year-old slugger could certainly result in him taking a one-year deal at a reduced rate. Hitting behind Miguel Cabrera has to be a strong selling point for the Tigers, who currently have several underwhelming candidates to hit behind the AL MVP and Victor Martinez in the middle of their order.
Comerica Park might not be the best fit for a player who would want to finish the season with a high home run total before heading into free agency again next offseason, but Cruz has a career .802 OPS with four homers in 28 games there.
It's not that the Houston Astros are expected to go from a 111-loss team to playoff contenders. But the roster has some talent and much more on the way.
The few obvious holes on the roster should be filled at some point in 2014 by top prospect Jonathan Singleton and George Springer, so it's not absolutely necessary to block their path by bringing in another hitter or two. Same for the pitching staff that will likely have youngsters Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock in the Opening Day rotation, along with several others who could get a chance in 2014.
The addition of veteran Scott Feldman will help, but his presence alone won't be enough to keep this team competitive very long. They could use one more reliable innings-eater, who could help bridge the gap.
If St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn (pictured) can be had in a trade because of their wealth of pitching, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow should use some of the minor league talent he's assembled to go after the 26-year-old, whom he drafted while he was a member of the Cardinals front office.
With four years left of club control, Lynn's acquisition would fit into the team's rebuilding plans while offering some much-needed stability for 2014.
Kansas City Royals
The re-signing of Bruce Chen, who gives the team rotation depth and another lefty arm out of the bullpen, could have very well been the final piece of a successful offseason for the Kansas City Royals. If there was one more move to be made, though, it would be to shop speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson (pictured) now before it becomes obvious that they have to trade him just before the start of the regular season.
With the bench all but set with Emilio Bonifacio, Danny Valencia, Justin Maxwell and whomever wins the backup catcher job, Dyson is likely to be the odd man out on the 25-man roster. Because he is out of options, he'll have to be placed on waivers if he doesn't make the team. They'll try to trade him first in this case, but the offers won't be great from teams knowing they could possibly acquire him for nothing on the waiver wire.
They could avoid this scenario if they shop him now.
Los Angeles Angels
As disappointing as the Los Angeles Angels' 2013 season may be perceived, they really aren't that far away from making some noise in the playoff race.
Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton staying off the disabled list and producing at least a good amount of what they've done throughout their careers would certainly help, but adding one more front-line starter to team with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson could prove to be the most significant move of the offseason.
Bringing Ervin Santana (pictured) back into the mix following his terrific 2013 season could be that move. While his tenure in Los Angeles didn't end well, as he was traded to Kansas City following a poor final season with the Halos, the 31-year-old may have turned the corner and could be ready to become the reliable pitcher he was last season over the course of a three- or four-year contract.
A reunion between the two sides could be even more likely now with Santana not expected to get anywhere close to the $100 million he was seeking earlier in the offseason, a number reported by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, and with the Angels having made significant improvements to their ballclub without adding much to their payroll.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite having the resources to do so, the Los Angeles Dodgers have yet to make a major splash on either the free-agent or trade markets this offseason. It's not too late, although a trade is much more likely now that Masahiro Tanaka is off the table.
Not many teams can put together a package of prospects that's good enough to acquire Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price (pictured), but the Dodgers are one of those teams. And because their big league roster is stacked with so many good players who are signed to long-term deals, they could be open to moving young talent.
For Price, it could take their top pitching prospect, 17-year-old lefty Julio Urias, and outfielder Joc Pederson, who would join Wil Myers in the Rays outfield later in the 2014 season, and a couple more complementary pieces to entice the Rays.
The Dodgers ownership group is committed to bringing a championship to town and is currently in a pretty good position to do so. But as the roster ages and becomes overpaid, they'll regret not going "all in" during what could have been their best chance to do so. Acquire Price and the Dodgers would be the clear favorite to win it all.
Between Tom Koehler, Brad Hand and Brian Flynn, the Miami Marlins should get enough production out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation until one of their top pitching prospects—Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino—is ready to make the jump to the majors.
But with a young and still inexperienced group of Nos. 1 through 4 starters in place, having a veteran to show them the ropes while pitching every fifth day would seem to be a better route for the Marlins.
The free-agent market has thinned out quite a bit, but there are some potential fits, including Tommy Hanson (pictured), who has 121 big league starts under his belt and the upside to become a bargain signing if he can rebound from a rough 2013 season.
The signing of Matt Garza would be a nice way to close out the offseason, but the Milwaukee Brewers shouldn't stop there.
With John Axford no longer in the mix and Jim Henderson entering his first full season as the team's closer, the club lacks an experienced setup man to get him the ball. Brandon Kintzler did a solid job in 2013 with a 2.69 ERA and 26 holds, but they'll need another no-name pitcher to step up or it could get ugly in 2014.
Signing free agent Francisco Rodriguez (pictured), who had a 1.09 ERA in 25 relief appearances with the Brewers last season before being traded to Baltimore, would take care of that problem and allow the inexperienced group of relief candidates to fight it out for a less vital role in the 'pen.
For a reliever looking to re-build value after missing two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitcher-friendly Target Field isn't a bad place to call home. Ryan Madson (pictured) posted a 2.37 ERA and saved 32 games for the Philadelphia Phillies when last healthy in 2011, but he has yet to find a job after the last two teams to sign him, the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Angels, couldn't get one appearance out of him.
That scenario is much less risky for a team that isn't expected to contend, like the Minnesota Twins, who would likely have a spot for him, if healthy, setting up for closer Glen Perkins. In a best-case scenario, he'd sign a low-base, incentive-laden deal, return to his pre-injury form and become a valuable trade chip in July.
New York Mets
They may be content with Bobby Parnell closing out games in 2014, but the New York Mets probably couldn't tell you who will be bridging the gap to him in the seventh and eighth innings. There are several candidates with good arms and a lack of experience in that role.
They could fill that void by signing one of the biggest bargains of last offseason, Kevin Gregg (pictured), who is still a free agent and could once again be had at a bargain rate.
The 35-year-old, who saved 33 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, would also give the team a reliable fallback plan in case Parnell, who is recovering from neck surgery, isn't ready for the start of the season.
New York Yankees
It's no secret that the New York Yankees bullpen has several question marks, and they are running out of free-agent options to fill the voids. If they were to turn to the trade market, the Washington Nationals could have a solution.
With one of the most expensive bullpens in baseball, the Nats could be willing to trade one of their late-inning relievers. Drew Storen (pictured), who will make $3.45 million next season, could be a prime target for the Yankees if he were made available.
The 26-year-old is coming off a disappointing season, so his price might not be extremely high. The Yankees' need is extremely high, though, so they should be willing to part with a pretty good minor leaguer to acquire a reliever who had a 2.96 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 8.4 K/9 through his first three big league seasons (2010-2012).
After having one of the most active offseasons of any team in baseball, the Oakland A's are likely done tinkering with their 2014 squad. But how about a look to the future?
With highly productive shortstop Jed Lowrie (pictured) set to become a free agent after the season, the A's would be wise to lock him up to a long-term contract extension now.
Top prospect Addison Russell could be ready to take over starting shortstop duties as early as 2015, but Lowrie might be a better fit at second base anyway. Signing the 29-year-old to a long-term deal could be costly, but his extensive injury history could cause him to give the A's a bit of a discount as his value would take a hit if he missed significant time due to an injury.
They'll have some stiff competition, especially from the Baltimore Orioles, but the Philadelphia Phillies could make a run at free agent A.J. Burnett (pictured) to form a formidable front line with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Despite securing a new 25-year, $2.5 billion television deal this offseason, the Phillies haven't made a big splash during the hot-stove period. Adding the 37-year-old Burnett on a one-year deal would qualify as an impact move and one that could help push the team back into playoff contention.
Unless the Pittsburgh Pirates want to give up one their cherished draft picks, don't expect them to sign free agent Kendrys Morales. They do need a first baseman, though, and a trade for Ike Davis (pictured) might be their best option at this point.
Despite an overall disappointing season in 2013, the 26-year-old Davis still posted a .727 OPS with eight homers in 248 at-bats against right-handed pitching. Team him with Gaby Sanchez, who had a 1.032 OPS against left-handed pitching, and the Bucs have a chance to get some pretty solid production out of their first base spot.
San Diego Padres
Another strong season and not only would Andrew Cashner (pictured) cement himself as the San Diego Padres' No. 1 starter, he'd also price himself out of their range when he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season.
Signing the 27-year-old after one relatively injury-free season would be risky, but it could also be the Padres' best chance to keep a front-line starter through his prime seasons without having to break the bank.
San Francisco Giants
On paper, the San Francisco Giants are ready to roll out a very solid 25-man roster for the regular season. But in reality, three of their five starting pitchers have to be considered questions marks heading into the year.
Tim Hudson is returning from ankle surgery, Ryan Vogelsong is returning after a terrible 2013 season, and it's just difficult to know which Tim Lincecum will be showing up from start to start. Having Yusmeiro Petit, who had an impressive rotation stint late in the season, as the sixth starter helps. But it gets thin after that, with a long list of top pitching prospects not likely to reach the majors in 2014.
While they should be fine for the start of the season, having another veteran starter to potentially add to the mix by midseason could give the team a necessary boost. That veteran could be Johan Santana (pictured), who is not expected to return to game action until midseason as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.
Adding Scott Baker to the rotation on a minor league deal has a chance to be one of the best values of the offseason, while the offense can't help but improve with the additions of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart.
There is no mistaking that this Seattle Mariners team is much improved. But there is still work to be done.
Heading into 2013, the back end of the bullpen looked promising with the hard-throwing trio of Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps expected to play a major role for years to come. A year later, Capps has been traded to Miami, Pryor will miss at least the first few months of the season recovering from lat surgery and Wilhelmsen will be trying to bounce back from a disappointing season.
That's a lot of pressure on Danny Farquhar, who solidified the closer's role down the stretch but still has only 49 big league appearances under his belt. It's no wonder the M's have shown renewed interest in Fernando Rodney (pictured), as was reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
With Rodney taking over ninth-inning duties, Farquhar can move into a setup role while Wilhelmsen could be eased back in with Yoervis Medina and Charlie Furbush, who are both capable of handling the seventh inning.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals showed off their impressive pitching depth in 2013 after several injuries that could've decimated either their rotation or bullpen.
Back at full strength heading into 2014, there should be a heated battle for a starting rotation spot, with Lance Lynn (pictured) and Joe Kelly the top contenders and Carlos Martinez a dark-horse candidate.
Having Martinez in a setup role once again, as well as Lynn or Kelly, would only help strengthen the roster. But if there's a team that can trade a pitcher like Lynn, who is 32-15 in 62 starts over the past two seasons, and not miss a beat, it's the Cardinals.
He's also under team control for four more seasons and isn't eligible for arbitration until next season. The Cardinals don't have to trade the 26-year-old Lynn, but it wouldn't hurt to find out if one of the many teams that would be interested is willing to pay a high enough price to acquire him.
Tampa Bay Rays
You can never count out the Tampa Bay Rays, but it's hard to see them remaining near the top of the AL East should they trade David Price (pictured) between now and the start of the season.
But even the Rays, coming off of their fifth 90-plus-win season in six years, might need to take a step back in order to continue their impressive run of playoff-contending seasons. Trading Price now, while he has two years left of club control, could be a key to doing that.
With Jake Odorizzi, Enny Romero and Alex Colome waiting in the wings, the team probably wouldn't even be in terrible shape if it traded Price and didn't receive a major league-ready starter in return. A bounce-back season from Jeremy Hellickson would help, but a rotation of Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Hellickson and Odorizzi is still pretty good.
Adding two top prospects and a couple other good young players that could help in 2015 and beyond would make a fourth- or fifth-place finish a much easier pill to swallow.
If the Texas Rangers starting rotation is going to hold up until Derek Holland returns from a knee injury late in the season, Matt Harrison will need to come back strong from back surgery that kept him out for most of last season. Alexi Ogando avoiding the disabled list after three stints in 2013 would help, too. So would a return to form for Colby Lewis, who hasn't pitched since mid-2012 because of hip and elbow injures.
That sure is a whole lot of question marks for a team hoping to make a playoff run in 2014. What they need is a reliable pitcher that they can pencil in for 30-plus starts.
While they wouldn't know what to expect performance-wise, Ubaldo Jimenez (pictured) has averaged 32 starts and 198 innings per season since 2008 and could be a difference-maker if he can carry over his success from last season.
There are much more cost-effective and less risky signings to add depth, but they might as well take a chance after adding Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder to what could be a very explosive lineup.
Toronto Blue Jays
For as much talk as there's been surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays' search for starting pitching this offseason, they aren't necessarily in that bad of shape. As long as Brandon Morrow can stay healthy for most of the season, one of Kyle Drabek or Drew Hutchison can return to form after Tommy John surgery, and one of their young prospects—Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin could see big league time in 2014—can contribute, they have a chance to stay in the race over the 162-game season.
The projected second base platoon of Ryan Goins and Maicer Izturis should be a bigger concern, in my opinion.
Adding Stephen Drew (pictured), as well as keeping him from signing with the division-rival Red Sox or Yankees, could make what is already a very good lineup on paper a very difficult task for opposing pitchers.
The 30-year-old Drew would have to be open to the possibility of a position change, which is why they'd not only have to give him a better offer than other interested teams, but one that is enticing enough where a move to Canada and a new position would be worth it.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the Washington Nationals were one of the teams in the mix for utilityman Jeff Baker, who was reportedly close to signing a couple of days ago.
This makes a ton of sense if you consider that the Nats had a .674 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2013. Baker, on the other hand, mashed lefties to the tune of a 1.073 OPS with 10 homers in only 101 at-bats.
Unless the 32-year-old is looking for a more expanded role than what he'd get in Washington—regular starts against lefty starters and the chance to be the first bat off the bench when he's not starting—the Nats would appear to be an ideal destination.