The Phillies clearly have some unfinished business, even with Spring Training just days away. So do the Marlins. Conventional wisdom says the Red Sox have some work to do as well, even if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski might disagree.Dombrowski being the architect of the defending champions and all,
The Phillies clearly have some unfinished business, even with Spring Training just days away. So do the Marlins. Conventional wisdom says the Red Sox have some work to do as well, even if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski might disagree.
Dombrowski being the architect of the defending champions and all, there's a chance he knows more than some of us offering free advice.
This is an awkward time for many teams. All those unsigned free agents create all kinds of opportunities for improvement. But rosters are getting younger, and so lots of general managers are eager to get to Spring Training and get a long look at their best prospects.
Teams are constructed in phases. First, there's one version of the roster at the beginning of Spring Training. There's another on Opening Day, and then clubs continue to evolve right up until the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
With all of that in mind, there's still lots of unfinished business. Let's check in on seven teams:
Need: Impact player
Look, when you add Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson, you've had a fine offseason. But when you've all but promised your fans that you're going to sign Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, you've got a daunting to-do list. The Nationals, Mets and Braves have had good offseasons, and beyond that, the race for the two National League Wild Card berths is going to be brutal.
Need: J.T. Realmuto trade
Give the Marlins credit for discipline. In the 18 months or so they've listened to offers for baseball's best catcher, they've never wavered on their asking price, one that no club has so far been willing to meet. Now, though, it would seem Realmuto's value has been established and that it's time to close the deal. Would the Marlins really bring him to Spring Training as trade discussions continue?
The Indians no longer need to trade ace Corey Kluber for payroll reasons, and he does give them a championship-caliber rotation. But Cleveland is going to need more offense from an outfield that lists Jordan Luplow, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin as its starters. Even with Bradley Zimmer on track to return from shoulder surgery in the first half of the season, that's not enough. So do the Indians trade Kluber for, say, Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo? Or for San Diego's Wil Myers? Or will they play it out a while longer and see what the market is for veteran free agents Adam Jones, Carlos González or Carlos Gómez? Whatever they decide, it's almost impossible to see the Indians standing pat.
Is it unfinished business if the club does not acknowledge it as unfinished business? If the asking price for Realmuto is Verdugo, the Dodgers seem willing to walk on down the road and open the season with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin behind the plate while keeping an eye on 20-year-old Keibert Ruiz -- who's No. 36 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects List -- in the Minors. Because the Dodgers have won six straight division championships and been to the World Series two years in a row, we tend to think they know what they're doing.
Need: Catcher, starting pitcher
The Braves would like to upgrade at catcher and land a No. 1 starter. However, they're unwilling to make the kind of long-term commitment that, say, Dallas Keuchel sought at the beginning of free agency. While they have a deep farm system, they've also been unwilling to meet the asking price for Realmuto (sound familiar?). So Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos appears to be willing to open the season with his current roster and see what other options come up.
Need: Center fielder
The Reds have had a great offseason, and if president of baseball operations Dick Williams doesn't do anything else, we would offer a large tip of the hat. But he's clearly not finished and continues to engage the Marlins about Realmuto despite having a solid catcher in Tucker Barnhart. But acquiring someone to play center field at a high level may be an even higher priority. Scott Schebler is penciled in to play there now, and while he's a more natural fit at a corner spot, he might end up there. But the Reds play in enough big ballparks that getting a top defensive center fielder is something Williams will continue to monitor.
Need: Starting pitching
Wait, what? Yes, the Mets may have the best front four in the majors. If they get to October with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz healthy, they could be a formidable postseason team. But last season, each team used an average of eight starting pitchers for at least five starts, and that's why Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen continues to shop for rotation depth even after a tremendous offseason. Veteran lefty Gio Gonzalez is one possibility.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.