LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The dozens upon dozens of remaining free agents will be relieved to hear that baseball's Hot Stove did not, in fact, get shut down when the Winter Meetings wrapped up on Thursday. Because this is a slow-moving market that still hasn't totally gained traction in
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The dozens upon dozens of remaining free agents will be relieved to hear that baseball's Hot Stove did not, in fact, get shut down when the Winter Meetings wrapped up on Thursday. Because this is a slow-moving market that still hasn't totally gained traction in the wake of the Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani deals, there remains a ton of heavy lifting yet to be done here in the thick of the holiday season.
So let's run through the 10 biggest remaining team needs in the wake of the Winter Meetings. Note that we are going to prioritize teams who view themselves as true contenders here (although it's safe to say the Marlins now have a couple holes in their outfield).
• Hot Stove Tracker
1. Red Sox: A bat
This is the domino we're all waiting to see drop. At this point, it feels like a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox will land one of Eric Hosmer or J.D. Martinez, though Dave Dombrowski has certainly surprised us before. He's already made it clear Boston isn't going to be burdened by the luxury-tax threshold, so there's a lot of ways the Red Sox can go about this. The Yankees' Stanton swap only amplified the pressure on Boston to bring in a bat after a season low on slug.
2. Giants: Lots of stuff
Until or unless the Giants meet their multiple needs -- a corner-outfield bat, a defensively viable center fielder, a third baseman and bullpen help -- it will be difficult to label them a true contender given that they're coming off such a disappointing season. They didn't reel in Stanton. They lost out on Ozuna. They're pushing up the luxury tax and don't have the deepest of farm systems. There are real challenges here, but San Francisco remains active in a ton of different talks. Two 2014 World Series opponents, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, would help here, as would Frazier.
3. Twins: Front-line starter
Michael Pineda, recovering from surgery, is not going to move the needle in 2018 for a Twins team with an encouraging offensive outlook and a new closer in Fernando Rodney. Minnesota has not been shy about playing in the deep waters of the free-agent market this offseason, and it might yet capitalize on GM Thad Levine's history with Darvish. The Twins don't have a lot of long-term entanglements on their books, so that possibility is an appealing one.
4. Cardinals: More relief help
The Cards got the impact bat they were seeking with the Ozuna trade, and they might reel in more offense before all is said and done. But while Luke Gregerson will help the bullpen, the full repair job there is far from complete. The Cardinals have been tied to trade candidate Alex Colome of the Rays from Day 1 of the offseason, and that's not changing now. This could be another Davis suitor.
5. Indians: A first baseman and bullpen depth
With a limited budget but flexible roster, the Indians will get creative in their approach to replacing the likely-to-depart Carlos Santana. They could add a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder (they did have discussions with the Marlins about Marcell Ozuna) and possibly employ Michael Brantley at first base to save the wear and tear on his body. Or they could simply look for value in a deep first-base market that includes the likes of Morrison, Mitch Moreland, Lucas Duda, Matt Adams, etc. They're going to have to get creative in the 'pen, too, because they lost a ton of quality innings with the departures of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith.
6. Brewers: Front-line starter
The Brew Crew fell a win short -- so very possibly a pitcher short -- of what would have been a shocking postseason berth in 2017. This organization has made significant strides in David Stearns' tenure, but he knows the pitching staff here needs a significant upgrade if it's going to hang around the postseason race again (one of the Brewers' best starters, Jimmy Nelson, is going to miss a good chunk of 2018 following right shoulder surgery). Outfielder Domingo Santana's name came up in trade talks this week, and maybe moving from an area of depth in the outfield would be a way to add pitching without paying the exorbitant free-agent price tags. The Brewers' deep system makes them a player for attractive trade targets like Chris Archer and Gerrit Cole.
7. Cubs: Still more pitching
The Tyler Chatwood contract was a really interesting upside bet, Steve Cishek is a solid setup option and maybe Drew Smyly will help them … in 2019. But the Cubs still need more in the realm of reliability on this pitching staff, both in the rotation and the bullpen. The possibility of a reunion with Arrieta or Wade Davis still exists, as does the possibility of the Cubs dealing from their position-player depth to land a controllable starter. (There were reports of interest in the Indians' Danny Salazar, but the Tribe is not actively trying to trade him at the moment)
8. Rangers: More pitching
The acquisitions of Mike Minor and Doug Fister didn't totally satiate a Rangers squad that knows all too well the large gap that exists between the Astros and everybody else in the American League West. They have often been tied to Texas native Jacob Arrieta, and obviously there's a built-in relationship with Yu Darvish. But the Rangers are leery of overpaying, and they've been active in trade talks (the idea of moving Shin-Soo Choo in a deal that brings in Zack Greinke is intriguing but hasn't gained true traction). But it's hard to decipher just how aggressive they'll actually get.
9. Mets: A right-hand side of the infield
The Anthony Swarzak signing is a potential boost to the bullpen, but the Mets still have work to do on the offensive end. In addition to trying to fill a clear hole at second base (they've inquired about Jason Kipnis, Jed Lowrie and Josh Harrison, and Neil Walker is the top free-agent option), they're looking for somebody who can both ease the pressure on young Dominic Smith, who struggled late in 2017, at first base and also provide an insurance policy in the outfield with Michael Conforto on the mend from left shoulder surgery. Jay Bruce would fit the bill, but he also comes with one. Someone like Logan Morrison would be a more cost-efficient option.
10. Yankees: A second or third baseman
They'll add to their rotation, and a bold strike for a controllable arm is a distinct possibility given the strength of the system here. But the very clear need is somebody to take over for Chase Headley/Todd Frazier at third or Starlin Castro at second. The hope is that top prospect Gleyber Torres proves ready to fill one of those spots. He could conceivably fill second with fellow prospect Miguel Andujar at third, but the Yanks will probably plug in at least one veteran option. They could bring back Frazier, but they don't want to commit to anyone at the position long term given that next year's free-agent class includes some guy named Manny Machado. Yunel Escobar, Brandon Phillips, Howie Kendrick and an Eduardo Nunez reunion are all potential fits here.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.