Here’s every team’s biggest offseason need
The Hot Stove will be ignited when more than 150 players hit the free-agent market at 5 p.m. ET on Monday, the fifth day after the Nationals' victory in the World Series. Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon figure to get the bulk of the attention, but the market will be filled with talented players, opening the door for teams to bolster their rosters for 2020 and beyond.
Whether they’re swimming in the deep end of the free-agent pool or wading in the shallow end, all 30 clubs should be involved to different levels. The beauty of free agency is that there are all types of players available depending on a team’s needs.
With that in mind, here’s a look at each team’s biggest need as they embark on another interesting offseason.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Baltimore Orioles: Starting pitching
The Orioles are entering year two of their rebuild, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be very aggressive on the free-agent market. But somebody will have to start games for Baltimore, so expect general manager Mike Elias to target some low-cost veterans to fill those spots.
Potential FA targets: Wade LeBlanc, Jhoulys Chacín
Boston Red Sox: Closer
The rotation needs to be addressed as well, but after letting Craig Kimbrel walk last year and struggling to find an answer in the ninth inning, Boston could try to address that spot this offseason unless newly-appointed chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom truly believes in Brandon Workman.
Potential FA targets: Will Smith, Aroldis Chapman (if he opts out)
New York Yankees: Starting pitching
The Yankees were unable to add an arm at the Trade Deadline, and while they’ll expect a full season of Luis Severino, the rotation could use another big starting pitcher. Let the Gerrit Cole talk begin. The Yankees' decision to decline their option on Edwin Encarnaction saves roughly $15 million and will only lead to more Cole speculation.
Potential FA targets: Cole, Madison Bumgarner
Tampa Bay Rays: Catcher
Mike Zunino was a disappointment and could be non-tendered, while midseason addition Travis d’Arnaud is a free agent. The Rays could bring back d’Arnaud, or they could look elsewhere to fill the spot.
Potential FA targets: d’Arnaud, Martin Maldonado
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting pitching
Toronto will likely tinker with the bullpen and look to bolster its young, talented lineup, but starting pitching will be the focus. The Blue Jays used 21 different pitchers to start games in 2019 (including openers) and only one pitcher (Trent Thornton) topped the 150-inning mark.
Potential FA targets: Rick Porcello, Wade Miley
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Chicago White Sox: Left-handed bat
This would likely come in right field, where Chicago’s collective .545 OPS was the worst in Major League Baseball by a wide margin (the next-lowest was the Marlins at .683.)
Potential FA targets: Corey Dickerson, Kole Calhoun
Cleveland Indians: Outfielder
Yasiel Puig was a good fit in Cleveland after he was acquired in late July, but he’s a free agent and seems unlikely to return. The Indians will need to replace his power (although he hit only two home runs for them) to fortify the lineup.
Potential FA targets: Nicholas Castellanos, Kole Calhoun
Detroit Tigers: Infielders
Like the Orioles, the Tigers’ list of needs is lengthy. Detroit scored fewer runs than any team in the Majors, which is not surprising given that its home run leader was Brandon Dixon with 15, and not one of the team's returning players who had at least 300 plate appearances in 2019 posted an OPS of at least .750. Gordon Beckham, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer are all free agents. But this team is still a few years away, so don’t expect a big free-agent splash this year.
Potential FA targets: Adeiny Hechavarría, Logan Forsythe
Kansas City Royals: Starting pitching
With some solid pieces in place (Adalberto Mondesi, Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield), the Royals’ need is on the mound, where the staff posted a 5.20 ERA (27th in the Majors). Don’t expect any big signings, however, as Kansas City is in rebuild mode.
Potential FA targets: Derek Holland, Michael Pineda
Minnesota Twins: Starting pitching
Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson and Michael Pineda are headed for free agency, while the Twins hold a $7 million option on Martín Pérez, making José Berríos the only member of the rotation guaranteed to return. The Twins’ lineup is loaded, so the rotation will be the focus this offseason.
Potential FA targets: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Houston Astros: Starting pitching
With Gerrit Cole headed for free agency and unlikely to return, the World Series runners-up will look to add a starter to fill that slot. Lance McCullers Jr. will be back from elbow surgery, though Wade Miley is also a free agent. Prospect Forrest Whitley could fill one of the two openings. It's easy to envision the Astros signing Zack Wheeler for a fraction of what Cole will get, and trying to make him the next Cole given their similarities.
Potential FA targets: Zack Wheeler, Jake Odorizzi
Los Angeles Angels: Starting pitching
The Angels already have the best player in the game (Mike Trout) as well as the most interesting player (Shohei Ohtani), but GM Billy Eppler must address a rotation whose 5.64 ERA ranked 29th in the Majors. There will be plenty of speculation about Gerrit Cole and a celebrated homecoming, though the Angels will face stiff competition for his services.
Potential FA targets: Cole, Stephen Strasburg
Oakland Athletics: Relief pitching
Oakland’s bullpen actually ranked seventh in the Majors with a 3.89 ERA, but its 31 blown saves tied the Red Sox for the most in the game. Liam Hendriks was a revelation in 2019, but the Athletics -- who could non-tender '18 All-Star Blake Treinen -- need more late-inning help.
Potential FA targets: Daniel Hudson, Will Harris
Seattle Mariners: Starting pitching
Félix Hernández, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone are all free agents, leaving some holes in Seattle’s rotation behind Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi. Up-and-comers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn could fill two of those spots, though it’s no lock that both will be ready to do that out of Spring Training. It should be noted that GM Jerry Dipoto tends to prefer the trade market to free agency.
Potential FA targets: Michael Pineda, Jeremy Hellickson
Texas Rangers: Starting pitching
Lance Lynn and Mike Minor return to lead the rotation, but the Rangers would use another veteran starter as they prepare to move into their new ballpark. Speaking of that new park ... there will be a lot of buzz that the Rangers will want to make a splash before moving into their new digs, and they are among the teams that will be linked to third baseman Anthony Rendon, a Texas native. The Rangers don't currently have an obvious long-term solution at third, so Rendon makes sense in that regard.
Potential FA targets: Michael Wacha, Matt Harvey
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Atlanta Braves: Catcher
Brian McCann has retired and both Francisco Cervelli and Tyler Flowers are headed for free agency, assuming the Braves don’t pick up Flowers’ $6 million option, leaving a vacancy behind the plate. Whether to bring back third baseman Josh Donaldson will be the biggest decision Atlanta has to make, though Austin Riley can step in and fill the position. But there’s no such answer at catcher as Shea Langeliers and William Contreras, the Braves’ Nos. 5 and 8 prospects, respectively, per MLB Pipeline, aren’t expected to be ready for at least another year.
Potential FA targets: Yasmani Grandal, Martín Maldonado
Miami Marlins: Power bat
The Marlins ranked 29th in the Majors in runs scored, while their .673 OPS was dead last. Miami has $26 million coming off the books as Martín Prado and Starlin Castro are free agents, so there will be some payroll flexibility. The feeling is that the club will spend on lower-cost veterans and some stopgaps as the Marlins continue their rebuild.
Potential FA targets: Justin Smoak, Todd Frazier
New York Mets: Relief pitching
The Mets’ 4.95 bullpen ERA ranked 25th in the Majors, thanks largely to the struggles of Edwin Díaz and Jeurys Familia. Those two will return in 2020, but GM Brodie Van Wagenen needs to add an arm or two in order to lengthen the relief corps and give his new manager more late-inning options.
Potential FA targets: Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler
Philadelphia Phillies: Starting pitching
The Phillies’ rotation posted a 4.64 ERA last season, ranking fifth in the difficult National League East. Philadelphia has shown a willingness to spend money, so while the club might not find itself in the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes, GM Matt Klentak to pursue a high-profile starter.
Potential FA targets: Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels
Washington Nationals: Relief pitching
This, of course, assumes that the club is able to re-sign free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon and that World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg doesn’t opt out and sign elsewhere. Because if Rendon and Strasburg both leave, the club has bigger issues than relief pitching. That said, it is unlikely Strasburg is playing anywhere else next year, and the Nats are as likely as anyone to sign Rendon.
As for the bullpen… Sean Doolittle will return at the back of it, but Daniel Hudson is a free agent. Though Washington won the World Series, the rest of the relief corps under-performed throughout the regular season, as its 5.68 ERA ranked 29th among big league bullpens, ahead of only Baltimore.
Potential FA targets: Will Smith, Will Harris
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Chicago Cubs: Impact outfield bat
Nicholas Castellanos proved to be a superb addition for the Cubs this summer, but he’s headed to the free-agent market and is no lock to return. The Cubs should be in position to spend, so bringing back Castellanos could be an option if they determine they like him more than some of the alternatives.
Potential FA targets: Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna
Cincinnati Reds: Relief pitching
It’s become an annual tradition to wonder if the Reds will trade Raisel Iglesias in the offseason. But whether they hold on to their closer or not, adding bullpen help should be a priority for Cincinnati, which ranked 13th in MLB in bullpen ERA (4.28).
Potential FA targets: Brad Brach, Chris Martin
Milwaukee Brewers: Third base
Mike Moustakas is headed for free agency, while Travis Shaw is a non-tender candidate coming off a brutal season in which he hit just seven home runs with a .551 OPS in 86 games. The Brewers might decide to re-sign Moustakas to take over at the hot corner, because the free-agent crop is top heavy (Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson) but relatively shallow.
Potential FA targets: Moustakas, Donaldson
Pittsburgh Pirates: Starting pitching
Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams return next season, but Jamison Taillon is set to miss the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the Pirates must make upgrades to a rotation that had a 5.40 ERA in 2019, ranking 26th in the Majors. They won’t be in the mix for the top starters, but there are some mid-level arms that could be in their sights as bounceback candidates.
Potential FA targets: Kyle Gibson, Michael Wacha
St. Louis Cardinals: Starting pitching
With both Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha headed for free agency, the Cardinals will need to add to their rotation this winter. St. Louis was unsuccessful it its bid to add a frontline starter before the Trade Deadline, but there are myriad of arms in this free-agent market that could help.
Potential FA targets: Madison Bumgarner, Jake Odorizzi
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
Arizona D-backs: Relief pitching
Arizona could go into the season with Archie Bradley as the closer, but it seems likely that GM Mike Hazen will look to add a piece or two for the back end of the bullpen.
Potential FA targets: Cody Allen, Brandon Kintzler
Colorado Rockies: Starting pitching
The Rockies’ 5.87 rotation ERA ranked 30th in the Majors, which is a problem even when you account for the Coors Field factor. They’re not likely to be in the mix for the top free agents, but the next tier could be within their sights.
Potential FA targets: Jake Odorizzi, Tanner Roark
Los Angeles Dodgers: Relief pitching
The Dodgers boasted the lowest rotation ERA in the Majors (3.11), and while their 3.78 bullpen ERA ranked fourth in the league, it appears to be the area most in need of a boost this offseason. Kenley Jansen should return as the closer, but adding an arm or two to help get him the ball would improve the 106-win team.
Potential FA targets: Will Smith, Dellin Betances
San Diego Padres: Starting pitching
Rookie Chris Paddack was a breakout star in 2019, but the rest of the Padres’ rotation struggled to provide quality. There are several good, young arms in the group, but adding a veteran starter to guide the rotation makes sense. That could come from the trade market, but there are free-agent names that fit the bill.
Potential FA targets: Madison Bumgarner, Adam Wainwright
San Francisco Giants: Starting pitching
Only the Pirates and Rockies had a higher rotation ERA than the Giants’ 4.77 in 2019, and with Madison Bumgarner headed for free agency, San Francisco will need to find a replacement for its long-time ace if he doesn't return. The Giants had the financial resources to take a run at Bryce Harper last year, so they’re capable of being big players in free agency. One intriguing name is Zack Wheeler, whom the club drafted in 2009 and then sent to the Mets at the '11 Trade Deadline for Carlos Beltrán.
Potential FA targets: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Wheeler