The 5 biggest team needs in free agency
With the deadline to accept qualifying offers having come and gone Friday, the free agency pool for this offseason is officially set.
All 30 teams now know exactly which positions currently need to be filled. Some teams certainly have more vacancies than others, not to mention some openings figure to carry more significance than others.
With that in mind, the following is a look at the five biggest holes that still need to be filled at some point this offseason, as well as some potential free-agent fits for each spot. Of course, teams can always find alternatives beyond free agency, just as the Red Sox did on Friday, when they acquired All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres in exchange for a quartet of prospects.
Trade possibilities aside, here's a look at how the top five current vacancies came about and some options for filling them.
Angels: Left field
The Angels used 10 starters in left field last year -- and not one of them was Josh Hamilton, who remains on their books despite now playing in Texas. Matt Joyce led that left-field contingent with 78 starts, while David Murphy and Shane Victorino combined to pitch in another 54 starts. All three, however, are now free agents, leaving the Angels in the market for a new left fielder -- just three offseasons after signing Hamilton to his five-year, $125 million deal.
Free-agent fits: Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes
Cubs: Center field
While much of the talk in 2015 centered around the young sluggers in the heart of the Cubs' order, it was veteran center fielder Dexter Fowler setting the table at the top. The 29-year-old outfielder started 149 games in center field, hitting leadoff in 146 of those, all while setting career-highs in runs scored (102), hits (149), home runs (17) and walks (84). Midseason acquisition Austin Jackson spelled Fowler in center field four times during September, though he has also entered free agency.
Free-agent fits: Fowler, Jackson, Denard Span
It's no secret that the Tigers are in the market for multiple relievers, as they attempt to shore up a bullpen that finished 27th last year with a 4.38 ERA. The focal point of that search will be finding someone to assume the closer role -- a vacancy the Tigers struggled to fill after trading Joakim Soria to the Pirates at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Though Detroit plans to add more than one arm to its bullpen, general manager Al Avila has stated his desire to bring in one designated closer, as opposed to entering the spring with a closer competition.
Free-agent fits: Soria, Darren O'Day, Ryan Madson, Antonio Bastardo
Orioles: First base
One of Baltimore's potential vacancies was filled Friday, when catcher Matt Wieters accepted his qualifying offer. That said, the O's are still facing a number of potential departures, none larger than first baseman Chris Davis. After hitting 47 home runs this past season -- and 159 over the past four years combined -- Davis figures to garner plenty of interest on the free-agent market. Baltimore will certainly make a bid to retain Davis, especially with the seeming lack of alternatives available in free agency. Utilityman Steve Pearce logged 25 starts at first base for the O's in 2015, though he, too, is a free agent. Wieters' return could help soak up some starts at first base, if needed, but he's not expected to transition into an everyday first baseman.
Free-agent fits: Davis, Pearce
Indians: Center field
After trading Michael Bourn to the Braves at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Indians leaned heavily on Abraham Almonte as the club's everyday center fielder the rest of the way. With that in mind, Cleveland already planned to pursue potential upgrades in center field this offseason -- and possibly right field, as well. Those intentions became all the more important following last week's news that All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley is expected to miss at least part of the first month of next season after undergoing shoulder surgery. The only healthy outfielders currently on the Indians' 40-man roster are Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Choice, Jerry Sands and Zach Walters.
Free-agent fits: Jackson, Nori Aoki, Alejandro De Aza, Gerardo Parra