AL Hot Stove: Yanks, Schwarber, Kimbrel

November 11th, 2021

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The baseball offseason began in earnest this week at the annual General Managers Meetings, as executives from all 30 clubs gathered to begin the process of forming their rosters for the 2022 season and beyond.

The Hot Stove should heat up in the coming weeks, but here's a look around the American League at some of the more intriguing storylines that came out of the first two days of this year's meetings.

Shortstop remains Yankees' priority
General manager Brian Cashman made it clear in his season-ending press conference that he planned to address the shortstop position this winter. Having already met with the agents for multiple members of this year's mega free-agent shortstop class, it appears that's precisely what the Yankees have in mind.

Cashman hasn't been given an exact budget for his 2022 payroll, but the GM said he will have "some latitude" from managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner when it comes to spending.

Corey Seager would seem to be the best fit thanks to his left-handed bat, though Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Trevor Story and Javier Báez would all represent significant upgrades for the Yankees at the position.

"That's what I'm going through, to see what's realistic and what's not realistic for the free agents -- what are their hopes and dreams, not just financial but in terms of landing spots and comfort zone for them and their families," Cashman said. "Price point clearly will come into play and then we'll deal with what's available on the trade front. We're just trying to get more information so we can try to strategize better over the coming weeks."

Two of the Yankees' top three prospects according to MLB Pipeline are Anthony Volpe (No. 1) and Oswald Peraza (No. 3), both of whom play shortstop. Neither is projected to be ready for the big leagues next season, however, but their ascent through the system could allow Cashman to pursue a short-term solution -- Andrelton Simmons, perhaps? -- to bridge the gap until one of the youngsters is ready.

Sox still in on Schwarber
When J.D. Martinez decided not to exercise his opt-out clause for 2022, many assumed that meant the end of Kyle Schwarber's abbreviated stay with the Red Sox.

Not so fast, said Chaim Bloom, Boston's chief baseball officer, who remains hopeful that the club can find a way to bring Schwarber back into the fold.

"We like Kyle. He fits us," Bloom said. "We'll see how it all plays out, but we absolutely would love to have him back."

Martinez is penciled in as Boston's primary designated hitter, while Alex Verdugo will return in left field. Bobby Dalbec is currently at the top of the first-base depth chart, though sources around the league believe he could be a trade candidate, potentially opening the door for Schwarber to play the position for the Red Sox. Boston's No. 2 prospect, Triston Casas, is a first baseman, though it's uncertain whether he'll be ready to contribute at the Major League level in 2022.

"Obviously, we have to be mindful of what that fit would look like, and knowing that we have J.D. as a force in our lineup who is a primary DH, that obviously means something for how the roster comes together and the different possibilities we look at," Bloom said. "But they both fit. We got six wins from a title with them being key players for us, so there's no reason it can't fit going forward."

Is Kimbrel's future in Chicago?
The White Sox exercised Craig Kimbrel's $16 million option last week, but that doesn't mean the reliever will be in Chicago's bullpen on Opening Day.

General manager Rick Hahn said the club has had offseason conversations with Kimbrel, who is open to the idea of pitching ahead of closer Liam Hendriks. Still, with so many teams looking for an upgrade at the closer spot, Hahn wouldn't rule out the idea of trading Kimbrel this offseason.

"What we have to figure out is whether it makes the most sense to have Craig in a White Sox uniform going forward or is there a better use of that spot and him via trade," Hahn said.

The Phillies are one of the notable teams in search of back-end bullpen help, making them a potential destination for Kimbrel if he is traded.

Angels making their pitch
To nobody's surprise, Angels general manager Perry Minasian reiterated his club's need for pitching, hoping that this week's GM Meetings will help lay the foundation for moves this winter.

Free-agent starters including Robbie Ray and Eduardo Rodriguez are on Los Angeles' radar, as is Justin Verlander, who was scouted by the club at his recent showcase. The Angels could also look to the trade market to fortify their rotation.

"I wouldn't rule out anything," Minasian said. "Obviously, it depends on the marketplace and what's available. And we're continuing to gather information in that sense, but I wouldn't rule out a trade, or free agency. There's different avenues to acquire pitching."

The Angels will likely look to add at least two starters this winter, though three new arms are also possible. Minasian noted that "everybody has different definitions of a frontline starter," an indication that he could be looking at names aside from the obvious ones atop the market.

Mariners not coming up short
Seattle has been pegged as a potential destination for one of the five premier shortstops on this year's free-agent market, but general manager Jerry Dipto said that position belongs to J.P. Crawford, who was a Gold Glove finalist this season.

Dipoto said he had a conversation with Crawford early in the offseason to inform him that while Seattle might pursue one of the free-agent shortstops, it would be with the intent of moving them -- not Crawford -- to second or third base.

With only $70 million in payroll commitments, a strong farm system and a green light from ownership to spend in free agency, Seattle appears to be in prime position to make some noise this winter.

Royals on the bullpen hunt
Few teams understand the impact a deep, talented bullpen can have on a club as much as the Royals, who rode a rock-solid 1-2-3 bullpen punch to a pair of World Series appearances in 2014-15, winning it all in their second try.

General manager J.J. Picollo said this week that Kansas City has targeted relievers as one of the club's most pressing needs this offseason, so the front office is scouring both the free agent and trade markets in an effort to upgrade its relief corps.

"Big time," Picollo said when asked if the bullpen was the team's top priority. "We like a lot of our position players. Defensively, they were really sound. We've got a lot of promising starting pitchers that need to take that next step. But the bullpen is going to be what protects them."

The Royals are also hoping to add a veteran starter to join Mike Minor, who is the lone Kansas City starter with at least five years of big-league experience.