Every team has a ton of questions to be answered in the coming weeks and months: It’s the offseason, after all. Some teams have more questions than others, but every team has at least one. It’s usually a big one.
With that in mind, we provide you with One Big Offseason Question for Every Team. This is the most pressing unknown, the most vital question -- potentially among many -- that every team has to figure out. Come March, we’ll need all these answered -- if not sooner.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: How do they replace Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien?
Now, it’s possible the question is less, “How do they replace them?” and more, “How do they re-sign them?” But however it shakes out, two of the Blue Jays' best players in 2021 are free agents. They either find a way to keep one or both, or find some way to make up for their absence.
Orioles: When does the next step happen?
The Orioles obviously have holes on their roster, and while expecting them to floor it to try to win a World Series in 2022 is unreasonable, eventually they have to start building toward something, yes? The O's aren’t going to be a playoff team in '22. But you’d like to see some movement toward that. Will we?
Rays: Will they start talking to Wander Franco about an extension?
The Rays’ roster is always in flux -- they’re the Rays, after all. But Franco isn’t going anywhere. He’s the sort of generational talent that you have to build around. Talking him into an Evan Longoria contract is unlikely. But if the Rays aren’t going to secure a player like Franco, will they ever secure a player?
Red Sox: Are they done with the 'big splash' game?
The Red Sox under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom have been careful about bringing in the sort of big-ticket items the club has been known for, and that method has proven to be successful. But these are still the Red Sox, after all. You’d have to think there is a starting pitcher in their future; will they go big?
Yankees: Which shortstop?
Corey Seager seems the obvious choice, but considering some of the defensive issues New York's infield has had, Carlos Correa could be an even better one. But will Yankees fans ever accept Correa on their team? Would they “settle” for Marcus Semien? They’re getting a shortstop. But which one?
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland: Will José Ramírez ever wear a Guardians uniform?
The soon-to-be Guardians don’t look like a top-shelf contender, even in this division, and the best way to kick off a rebuild would be to trade their star third baseman, who is on what would be considered a club-friendly contract. But it’s also difficult to think of a more demoralizing move for the fan base. What’s the play?
Royals: When are the prospects part of the solution?
The Royals don’t have a lot of obvious holes, but they don’t have a particularly good roster, either. That should change when their crop of young players comes up, led by top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who should be ready to go whenever Kansas City calls him up. But when? The next Royals era begins when they do. Will they clear a spot for him on Opening Day?
Tigers: Is it time to make the move?
Some of the advanced metrics still aren’t sold on the Tigers for 2022, but they were feisty in '21 and certainly have the opportunity to make a move. Carlos Correa is everyone’s high-ticket pipe dream, but whatever they do, the Tigers look ready for an upswing. Will they make a move to kick-start the process?
UPDATE: Detroit got the Hot Stove going, agreeing to a five-year deal with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (11/15)
Twins: What’s the Byron Buxton plan?
We’ve all seen what the Twins are like when Buxton is in the lineup, and what they are like when he is not. But the clock is ticking (he can be a free agent next winter), and time is about to run out: Do they commit to him moving forward, or do they move on?
White Sox: How do you take the next step?
The White Sox look like the class of the AL Central again, but in the postseason, they still felt like they were a man or two short. Will they go big and go after, say, Marcus Semien? Or will they replace Carlos Rodón? (If they have to.)
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Can they find any pitchers?
There are questions about Mike Trout’s health, of course, but the biggest question is the same as it always is for the Angels: Can they cobble together even an average rotation? They’re essentially starting from scratch again, which is never a good sign.
A’s: So is this a rebuild?
The A’s aren’t the only team to tear down now and then, and all told, they’re better at it than most teams: They’re usually right back in contention sooner than anyone expects. But the loss of former manager Bob Melvin sure seems to point toward a period of considerable transition.
Astros: If Carlos Correa is gone, who plays short?
The Astros reportedly have already made an offer to Correa, one that looked fine on average annual value but sure seemed short on the years. Is that their final offer? Because they’re surely about to wave goodbye if it is.
Mariners: Will they hit the gas?
Marcus Semien looks like the perfect bridge signing, though Kris Bryant makes some sense, too. The point is that the Mariners still have the longest postseason drought in professional sports, but they also have a ton of young talent. Is it time to break through?
Rangers: Are they really going to be spenders?
You hear a lot of rumblings that the Rangers are looking to dip into the free-agent market this offseason. They seem a little too far out of contention for that, but spending big would surely signal a change of timelines. Are they ready to wade into those waters?
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: They’re bringing Freddie Freeman back … right?
Braves fans will still be happy if they lose Freddie Freeman: Winning a World Series puts a grin on your face for months to come. But in many ways, the Braves are Freddie Freeman. It’s a little surprising this isn’t done yet. Let it drag on too long, though, and other suitors start to creep in.
Marlins: What stage in the process are they at?
“For the first time really since we've been here as an ownership group, I expect to be pretty active,” chief executive officer Derek Jeter said earlier this month. Are the Marlins ready to back that up? The rest of the division is gearing up as always. Is this really time to make the big push?
Mets: Who’s in charge?
This is not an academic question: Seriously, who is running this team? The Mets' general manager job is a tough one. But the rewards are potentially quite great. Someone needs to take on the challenge for this organization to get moving.
Nationals: Will there be any movement on a Juan Soto extension?
The Nationals’ period of transition needs to have a solid foundation, and there’s no more solid foundation than Soto. His agent Scott Boras and the Nationals are set to be talking. Can they nail this down this winter? Soto will only get more and more desirable.
Phillies: Can they acquire another bat?
The Phillies’ bullpen is obviously always an issue, but the team fell short of the postseason despite a historic Bryce Harper season in large part because he had no protection in the lineup. Nick Castellanos -- or someone like him -- seems to be a clear priority. The Phillies have to break through at some point.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Are they really going to trade Josh Hader?
It feels like this is the third consecutive offseason where there have been Hader trade rumors, and he’s still here. Will he survive another Hot Stove?
Cardinals: Will they upgrade at shortstop?
The Cardinals have an obvious hole during the best shortstop market in years. But comments from the front office seem to imply they’ll stick with Paul DeJong and Edmundo Sosa. Will they really sit this one out when there are so many good shortstops out there?
Cubs: What kind of starting pitchers are they bringing in?
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer has already said the team is focusing on pitching. But it also seems unlikely they’ll jump into the deep waters of the top-shelf pitchers. The Cubs have to put together an entire rotation, mostly on the cheap. Are there enough hurlers out there to cobble one together?
Pirates: Who plays the outfield?
The Pirates have Bryan Reynolds and … well, it’s not clear who else. It will not be difficult to upgrade this outfield, and they probably won't have to spend much money doing so. And worst-case scenario, you can flip them at the Trade Deadline.
Reds: Will it really be a big step back?
The Reds, after a frustrating couple of seasons of going for it and falling short, appear to be signaling that they’d like to reconstruct this offseason. This still isn’t a tough division: Will they try to cut payroll and still try to contend?
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Is it worth shopping Ketel Marte?
His bounce-back season is great for him, and potentially useful for the D-backs, who appear to be a few years away from contention and thus eager for any infusion of young talent they can find. Marte -- who is on a team-friendly deal and could net a lot via trade -- might be the best way to get it.
Dodgers: How many free agents do they keep?
Remember that year when the Dodgers pretty much brought back everyone? That’s not happening this year. But will any of their free agents (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Taylor and Corey Seager among them) come back? Is it possible that the most likely one is … Scherzer?
Giants: Can they do with the rotation what they’ve done with the lineup?
The Giants’ incredible 2021 season was driven in large part by getting the most out of undervalued veterans. Can they do that with the rotation? Because looking at the way it's set up right now … they’re going to have to.
Padres: Can they get their mojo back?
The hiring of Bob Melvin sure feels like the biggest move of the offseason so far, a veteran skipper who would seem to bring exactly what the Padres need. All told, though: More pitching wouldn’t hurt, either.
Rockies: Can they find hitters ready to rake in Denver?
The rotation actually looks like the strength of this team, which means the big steps are going to come from the lineup. With Trevor Story looking like he might be leaving Colorado, the Rockies have some work to do.