7 teams most likely to make big free-agent moves
Let's say up front that there's nothing more fun than telling other people how to do their business. For one thing, we have no skin in this game. We can recommend a team spends $200 million on a player, and if it doesn't work out, no fuss, no muss.
Yes, this is an inexact science. While there is a time for teams to be aggressive regarding big-ticket free agents, positive results are not guaranteed. If there was ever a time when teams could shell out enough money to buy a postseason berth, that time has passed. That's true of the Royals and Astros, but it's true of the Yankees and Red Sox, too.
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The Red Sox opened the checkbook for David Price and J.D. Martinez, but if their player development system hadn't delivered Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, et al., the 2018 World Series trophy would be elsewhere.
So with the free-agent marketplace having opened, let's look at seven teams that seem to be in a position to think big:
1. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are so close to being a playoff team. That's what we learned during a 64-49 start last summer. That they finished so poorly should not take away from the strides they made. This is that rare time in a franchise's history when it has both the financial flexibility and the justification to be aggressive. Would signing Bryce Harper and Manny Machado -- or, say, Josh Donaldson and Patrick Corbin -- guarantee anything? Absolutely not. But it certainly would close the gap in the National League East.
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2. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals would be poised to make some noise this offseason even if they hadn't missed the postseason three straight years -- or, to put it another way, even if they hadn't finished behind the Cubs three straight years. Beyond that, it's time. All those gifted young players -- Jordan Hicks, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader and lots of others -- give St. Louis a foundation from which to build. Harper? Sure, he'd be a great fit. Donaldson? Corbin? Yes to both.
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3. Los Angeles Angels
The Halos have one of the best players in baseball history in the prime of his career and have not won a playoff game in his seven seasons. Michael Trout is 27, so the clock is ticking. He's also two years removed from free agency. As difficult as the American League West is -- with the 103-win Astros and 97-win Athletics -- the Angels have to add pitching, pitching and more pitching. There's plenty of it out there. This is the time to go for it.
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4. San Francisco Giants
The Giants were once seen as a big-time player for Harper and still might be. But the hiring of Farhan Zaidi as president of baseball operations may signal a change, not a retreat so much as a different approach to allocating resources. His background is with the A's and Dodgers, two teams that pride themselves on efficiency and roster depth and flexibility. No team's offseason will be more interesting than this one as Zaidi attempts to shore up his new roster around Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey to see if the window of opportunity can remain open another year or two.
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5. New York Mets
The Mets have too much starting pitching to do anything except be active this offseason. This is a market deep in relievers, so new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen needs to load up, signing at least two. Three would be even better. More challenging will be finding a catcher and keeping his fingers crossed that Yoenis Cespedes is back from two heel surgeries early next season.
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6. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have accumulated so much prospect talent that winning seems inevitable at some point in the next season or two. That timetable has been delayed because of injuries to players like outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, but things can turn quickly as the top talent approaches the upper level of the Minor Leagues, and it seems to be the right time to upgrade the big league roster in preparation for the kids' arrival.
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7. Cincinnati Reds
It's not a question of whether the Reds will be aggressive this offseason. They will be. At least, they hope to be and will pursue starting pitching in both trades and free agency. Don't be surprised if Cincinnati signs multiple starters. Even if the contract demands of Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are out of the Reds' comfort zone, there are plenty of other options.
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