10 needs for teams at Winter Meetings

Annual MLB gathering set to open today in Florida

December 9th, 2017

At long last, the Hot Stove is finally heating up.

Free agents have started to come off the board during the past week, none bigger than two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, who announced his decision to join the Angels on Friday.

(Cubs), Mike Minor (Rangers) and (White Sox) were also among those to find new homes, but many big names are still on the board. With the Winter Meetings set to open Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., players such as J.D. Martinez, , and should get a good sense of where they may land for 2018 and beyond.

Hot Stove Tracker

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2017 Winter Meetings beginning tonight at 6 p.m. ET with the Modern Baseball Era election results announcement from the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans will be able to watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft, on Dec. 14 at 9 a.m. ET.

Every contender has at least one hole to fill before Spring Training. Here's a look at the 10 most prominent needs among that group:

Red Sox: First baseman

The Red Sox missed David Ortiz more than they thought they would in 2017, ranking last in the American League and 27th overall in the Majors in home runs and 22nd in the game in OPS. Given their depth chart around the diamond, first base is the obvious move, which would allow them to shift to the DH spot.

Hosmer and lead a deep class of free-agent first basemen, and the smart money is on one of those two winding up in Boston. Another possibility: Trading , moving to center and going after Martinez to address their power shortage.

Cubs: Closer

Since the start of 2016, the Cubs have employed , and at the closer position, trading assets from their system to acquire the latter two. With no solid internal options to assume ninth-inning duties, filling the closer spot is a top priority.

The Cubs have said they prefer not to address the closer spot through another trade, and with options including Davis, Holland, Morrow and available in free agency, they won't have to.

Cardinals: Impact bat

Closer also remains a need for St. Louis, and given the smoke created by its reported talks with the Rays about Alex Colome, fire could soon follow in the form of a deal. But after Friday's decision to move on from their pursuit of -- who wouldn't waive his no-trade clause and approve a trade to St. Louis -- the Cardinals will now turn their attention elsewhere as they look for offensive help.

With Stanton off the table, the Cardinals will seek alternative bats to bolster an offense that ranked seventh in the National League in runs scored and eighth in both home runs and OPS. Whether they'll pay the price for either Martinez or Hosmer remains to be seen, but they could look into other trade options for players such as , or .

Twins: Starting pitcher

Minnesota shocked the league by winning the second AL Wild Card spot in 2017, but after ranking 19th in the Majors and 10th in the AL with a 4.73 ERA in the starting rotation, an upgrade seems logical. , and will return, while Phil Hughes is coming back from injury, but adding a frontline arm remains a priority.

The Twins have hinted that they could be aggressive this winter, and while they were shut out in the Ohtani sweepstakes, they remain in the mix for top free-agent arms including Darvish, Arrieta, and Alex Cobb.

Astros: Relief pitcher(s)

Despite his shaky October, is expected to return as Houston's closer, but the Astros are in need of some reinforcements to get him the ball. After all, manager A.J. Hinch can't call on and Brad Peacock for six months, can he?

It seems unlikely that the Astros would make a play for either Greg Holland or Davis, the top two closers on the market, but there are plenty of relief options on the free-agent market that would strengthen the bullpen, including , and , among many others. The trade market could also offer several opportunities in that area, giving general manager Jeff Luhnow a variety of possibilities to find relief help.

Indians: Impact bat

Santana and are both free agents, leaving a pair of holes in a Cleveland lineup that ranked third in the American League in runs scored last season.

Re-signing -- or replacing -- Santana at first base appears to be the easiest move to make, but the Indians' roster flexibility allows them an opportunity to add a corner infielder or corner outfielder to bolster the lineup. There are a lot of first basemen on the market who could be a fit in Cleveland, including , Matt Adams and , but they all hit left-handed, and the Indians would prefer a right-handed bat to balance their lefty-leaning lineup.

Mariners: Starting pitcher

Ohtani had been Seattle's clear-cut top target, but now GM Jerry Dipoto must pivot his attention elsewhere after the two-way star chose the division-rival Angels.

The rotation, which currently includes , , and Mike Leake (not to mention , and ), could use another arm at the top. Dipoto could opt to bolster his pitching staff by adding to the bullpen rather than spending big on a top-notch starter, though Darvish, Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb remain options.

Dodgers: Setup reliever

Unlike their World Series counterparts, the Dodgers have some returning arms that manager Dave Roberts can use with regularity in Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, , and , but none was as reliable as setup man Brandon Morrow.

Bringing back Morrow is the easy solution, but the 33-year-old may have opportunities to sign elsewhere as a closer. gives the Dodgers the most reliable ninth-inning option in the game.

Nationals: Middle relief

Yes, the Nationals are in the market for a No. 5 starter, but that spot tends to be fluid for most teams throughout the course of the 162-game grind.

and -- who were both acquired last July -- will return to the Nationals' bullpen, but Kintzler, Matt Albers, Joe Blanton and are all free agents, leaving several holes to fill to get the ball to the back end.

Yankees: No. 5 starter

The Yankees have spent the past month conducting their exhaustive managerial search, but now that Aaron Boone has been officially introduced, GM Brian Cashman can turn his attention to the roster even as he works to fill out Boone's coaching staff.

The good news for the Yankees? The majority of that roster is already set for 2018. With Ohtani no longer an issue, expect talks between the Yankees and to heat up with a reunion likely in the coming weeks. There are whispers that Cashman might try to sign two starters this winter, though 's emergence last season and the rise of top prospects Chance Adams and give the Yankees some depth.

Others of note:

Angels: They have Ohtani in the fold, but they still need a corner infielder and continue to be connected to Mike Moustakas.

Brewers: Milwaukee is in the market for a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, with Arrieta and Lynn on their radar.

D-backs: GM Mike Hazen is looking for a reliever to pair with in the late innings.

Rockies: With Holland likely leaving as a free agent, this team is looking for a closer. A Holland return isn't out of the question, while Davis is also a potential option. Jake McGee and Pat Neshek -- who both pitched well for the Rockies in 2017 -- are also free agents, so Colorado could look to add multiple relief arms.

Rangers: They missed out on Ohtani, but they will continue to look for another starting pitcher.

Rays: Morrison led the team with 38 homers last season, and they are looking for a replacement.

Blue Jays: Toronto is in the market for a right fielder to replace , though not necessarily a power bat.

Orioles: They need rotation help after ranking last in the Majors with a 5.70 ERA from their starters in 2017.