10 biggest holes to fill at Winter Meetings
These teams have the most pressing needs this offseason
We've already seen quite a few instances of Major League needs being satisfied with some Hot Stove spending or swapping -- the most prominent move being the Red Sox's $217 million outlay for ace David Price and the D-backs beating out the Dodgers and Giants for Zack Greinke.
But with the Winter Meetings set to begin Monday in Nashville, Tenn., and several big free-agent fish and notable trade targets still being discussed, these are the 10 biggest needs yet to be met.
1. Giants and Dodgers: Starting pitching
Lumping these two love birds together after they were both spurned on Friday by Greinke, who has a six-year deal with Arizona. With both Price and Greinke off the table, these National League West behemoths might very well apply their ample financial might elsewhere (Greinke's decision could prove to be a beautiful thing for Johnny Cueto). It will be fascinating to see what ripples Greinke's decision causes.
If neither club is satisfied with the second-tier starting market, it's possible the likes of Brandon Belt or Yasiel Puig could be dealt in swaps for a significant starter. Stay tuned.
2. Cardinals: An impact bat
Yes, the Cards have lost Lance Lynn to elbow surgery. Yes, John Lackey's insanely team-friendly 2015 contract has expired. And yes, St. Louis lost out to Boston in the Price bidding. We all know the Redbirds will continue to search for an impact starter in an effort to extend the effectiveness of a rotation that was their signature strength in a 100-win season.
But a bat is an even bigger need here, be it an on-base threat like Jason Heyward, a bopper like Chris Davis or somebody else. I've argued (unsuccessfully, judging on the reaction from the average Cardinals fan) that Davis ought to be the key target here, because the Cards have had a sub-.400 slugging percentage each of the past two seasons and haven't even had a 30-homer hitter in the past three. Obviously, though, people in St. Louis were pretty happy with the lineup and defensive value Heyward provided in '15, so you can understand the argument for going all-in on him.
3. Orioles: You name it
Really, the Orioles need whatever upgrades they can get their hands on if they're going to be competitive in 2016 with a team built around Manny Machado, Adam Jones and a ton of question marks. With executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter at the helm, this team has done as well as any other at working the margins of a roster wonderfully. But there's a clear need here to do something dramatic to upgrade the effort in an American League East that, because of the rise of the Blue Jays and now the big splashes made by the Red Sox, isn't getting any easier.
Adding Mark Trumbo was a safeguard against the potential -- or perhaps likely -- loss of Davis, but it does nothing to achieve the need to improve the team-wide on-base percentage, and the O's have holes in both corner outfield spots. Alex Gordon makes a ton of sense for a club that places so much emphasis on defense. The Orioles also have spots to fill in their rotation (particularly if Wei-Yin Chen leaves) and the bullpen (particularly if Darren O'Day departs). This is a club with a ton of work to do at these Meetings.
4. Indians: An outfielder
The Tribe's outfield situation was loaded with uncertainty before the early November news that Michael Brantley will miss at least the first month of the season following shoulder surgery. Now, an outfielder -- preferably a center fielder -- is a high-level priority for a club with a legit chance to contend around its controllable pitching.
Will the Indians take advantage of the outlandish prices in free agency and use Carrasco, Danny Salazar or Trevor Bauer as trade bait? If they do, you can bet they'd be getting a controllable outfield bat back. Potential trade targets include Marcell Ozuna, Ender Inciarte and Jackie Bradley Jr., to name a few. In the free-agent market, the Indians are sure to monitor the prices of second-tier or third-tier options like Austin Jackson, Rajai Davis, Drew Stubbs or Will Venable. There is a slight chance Denard Span could fall to them if other teams are leery of his hip condition.
5. White Sox: A productive third baseman
The Sox offense cratered in a 2015 season that had been geared toward contention. If the South Siders are going to make that rise up the AL Central standings a year late, their huge hole to fill is at the hot corner, where neither Conor Gillaspie nor Gordon Beckham nor Tyler Saladino nor Mike Olt asserted himself last season. David Freese is a potential free-agent target and Brett Lawrie a potential trade target, though other options could materialize.
A key question here is whether the Sox will spend big bucks on a bat or use their left-handed pitching depth to obtain one. As a cost-controlled effective starter, Jose Quintana has a ton of trade value, but the Sox would obviously prefer to go into 2016 with Quintana, Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon guiding what could be a terrific rotation.
6. Pirates: Rotation help
The Bucs have amassed the second-best record in the sport over the past three seasons on a strict budget. But can they keep up with the Joneses in an NL Central in which the Cubs and Cardinals both have big talent and bigger budgets? It's an even more pressing question when you see a guy like J.A. Happ -- whose career was very much revived by the Pirates' pitching gurus midseason in 2015 -- sign for $36 million with the Blue Jays.
The exorbitant price of pitching puts the Buccos, who not only lost Happ but also the retired A.J. Burnett, in a bind, and GM Neal Huntington and Co. will again have to be creative in their pursuit of pitching. Perhaps Doug Fister will fall to them as a buy-low, bounceback option, or maybe the Pirates take a chance on a guy like Trevor Cahill, who had success out of the Cubs' bullpen down the stretch last season, but still wants to start.
7. Astros: Bullpen help
GM Jeff Luhnow successfully rebuilt the bullpen last offseason, but that 'pen began to wither late in the year and imploded against the Royals in the AL Division Series. With Tony Sipp, Chad Qualls and Joe Thatcher all free agents, the Astros have spots to fill in their relief corps, particularly from the left-hand side.
Of more intriguing note is Houston's ability to dip into its prospect-laded farm system to acquire a closer -- perhaps Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon or Brad Boxberger. The Astros could certainly stand to upgrade the firepower coming out of their 'pen, which rated as more of a finesse group in '15.
8. Angels: A left-handed bat
The Halos followed up a 98-win season by just barely missing out on October in 2015, largely because of a lineup that sagged beyond Mike Trout and bursts of brilliance from Albert Pujols. New GM Billy Eppler has already made one proactive move to improve the up-the-middle defensive effort with shortstop Andrelton Simmons. But the right-handed-heavy offense could still use some left-handed presence.
For that reason, Daniel Murphy might make sense for this team. It's possible the Angels could use him at third base or second (some scouts think he's better suited for the hot corner) or perhaps even to spell Pujols at first. Another realistic option here is Gordon, who could fill an obvious opening in left field.
9. Nationals: A remade bullpen
The bullpen was far from the only reason the Nats struggled in 2015, but it certainly didn't help. And the move Friday for lefty Oliver Perez could be the first of several renovations Mike Rizzo makes to his relief corps.
It's not exactly a state secret that Jonathan Papelbon could be had in the right trade. But even if the Nationals keep Papelbon and ultimately abstain from the trade market that could reunite Dusty Baker with Chapman, there's a clear need for more setup help here. O'Day could be signed as a closer or a setup man, really, and his preference is to remain on the East Coast. As the clear top option in a thin relief market, O'Day has a lot of leverage.
However it shakes out, completing the bullpen makeover is essential as the Nats look to recover from last year's nightmare.
10. Yankees: Creative, cost-effective upgrades
"Creative" and "cost-effective" haven't always been descriptors used with regard to Yankees transactions in various offseasons past. But with so many onerous long-term commitments -- and eight of nine positions, including DH, currently spoken for -- the Yanks are taking a very measured approach to free agency this offseason. But there is a question mark at second base, where Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder are currently slated to platoon, and there is a discernible lack of certainty, from a health standpoint, in the rotation, and it remains to be seen how active the Yankees get in either the open market or the trade market to address those issues.
What we could see, of course, is the movement of Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova or perhaps even Andrew Miller in the right deal, because the Yankees are generally trying to stock up on younger, controllable assets. With the big contracts of Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia staying put, the Yanks will spend these Meetings looking for financial flexibility elsewhere.