Top needs remaining as Hot Stove season winds down
Now that we know Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette isn't going anywhere, it's time to find out something else about the guy who earned multiple Executive of the Year Awards for his work in 2014.
Is he also a miracle worker?
It sure didn't take him long to swing into action after the Blue Jays extended Paul Beeston's contract as chief executive officer, which effectively ended Duquette's willingness to listen to offers to leave the Orioles. Baltimore on Tuesday acquired left-handed-hitting corner outfielder Travis Snider from the Pirates for left-hander Stephen Tarpley, who was ranked as the O's No. 14 prospect, and a player to be named.
Snider is a streaky hitter who can be impactful when he's on. The Pirates went with him over highly regarded prospect Gregory Polanco down the stretch last season, but they are clearing the decks to make Polanco comfortable for his role as a 2015 regular.
It's not clear how many good moves Duquette will have to make before he's again comfortable in Baltimore.
Along with manager Buck Showalter, Duquette guided the Orioles to a 96-win season despite losing two key players (Matt Wieters and Manny Machado) to injury and another (Chris Davis) to a suspension for taking Adderall without an exemption. But the O's have made only minor moves so far this offseason, and the clock is starting to tick loudly toward Spring Training.
Critics will point to Duquette's divided attention as he considered a potential opportunity to become the Blue Jays' CEO, but it was always going to be difficult, maybe impossible, to hang on to Nelson Cruz after his 40-homer season. Nick Markakis, an Orioles regular since 2006, also left as a free agent.
That left the late-blooming Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza, who was acquired midseason from the White Sox, as Showalter's corner outfielders. The only outfielder added before Snider was Alex Hassan, claimed on waivers after spending most of last season with Triple-A Pawtucket.
With a 2015 salary of $2.1 million, Snider represents less of a financial gamble than many other outfielders who could be available -- a list that includes the Brewers' Gerardo Parra, the Red Sox's Allen Craig, the White Sox Dayan Viciedo, the Dodgers' Andre Ethier and the Padres' Will Venable.
It wouldn't be a shock if the O's make another move of some kind, as their corner outfield question represents one of the biggest areas in need of upgrade, especially on a team motivated to build off recent success.
Here are other needs that remain as the earliest go-getters start to be spotted at camps in Florida and Arizona:
The D-backs' battery
Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart seem to see something that everyone else is missing about their starting pitching and catching situations. Miguel Montero, a 2014 All-Star, was traded to the Cubs for prospects and not replaced, unless you count the power-hitting Peter O'Brien, who was acquired from the Yankees at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year, or the cannon-armed Oscar Hernandez, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Rays who played in the Midwest League last year. One of them is likely to share the job with unsung veteran Tuffy Gosewisch. The rotation is equally problematic, and the three acquisitions there (Jeremy Hellickson, Robbie Ray and Yoan Lopez) are all risky. Arizona could give up a lot of runs next year.
The Tigers' bullpen
While the headline of the Hot Stove season in Detroit has been a shakeup of the vaunted rotation, general manager Dave Dombrowski has made no major moves to address his nagging weakness. The re-signing of Joel Hanrahan (out all of 2014 in a slow recovery from Tommy John surgery) and the additions of Tom Gorzelanny and Josh Zeid show how much the Tigers are expecting from Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque and Ian Krol. The good news for Detroit is there are still a lot of quality arms on the free-agent market, including Casey Janssen, Alexi Ogando, Burke Badenhop, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Villanueva.
A Red Sox ace
General manager Ben Cherington seems determined not to pay the price for Cole Hamels (in terms of prospects) or James Shields (money plus a Draft pick). He either thinks he can adjust on the fly at midseason or he is supremely confident in the mix of starters on hand, which includes some high-end prospects (lefties Henry Owens and Edwin Escobar, and right-hander Matt Barnes) behind veterans Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson. The quantity of quality arms coming fast is giving the team a sense of patience when fans clamor to know who is going to win big games in August and September.
Blue Jays, Marlins, Cardinals in similar situations
They feature deep rotations but would be greatly strengthened by adding Shields or Hamels. There are whispers about Toronto and Miami, but St. Louis seems set with its starters, as GM John Mozeliak is confident Adam Wainwright will be his old self after his elbow was "cleaned up," to use the phrase often attached to his arthroscopic surgery.
A Blue Jays closer
Janssen handled the role a year ago. Barring an addition, manager John Gibbons could wind up using rookie Aaron Sanchez, who compiled a 1.09 ERA out of the bullpen in 24 games last year but might be more valuable as a starter.
The Dodgers' bullpen
In getting knocked out of the playoffs by the Cardinals for the second consecutive year, it was clear the Dodgers needed to address the depth in front of elite closer Kenley Jansen. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acted quickly to get Joel Peralta and massive lefty Adam Liberatore from his old team, the Rays, but otherwise only added 30-year-old Chris Hatcher in the Matt Kemp trade. Friedman could be looking at moving Juan Nicasio into a late-inning role but must be tempted to add another experienced reliever or two.
The Rangers' bullpen
No team that has heavily invested to win is counting on more comebacks from pitchers than Texas, with Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers as the late-inning arms. Ross Detwiler was acquired from Washington but is expected to start, leaving Kyuji Fujikawa (back from Tommy John surgery) as the biggest addition to the bullpen. GM Jon Daniels could make multiple additions before the equipment truck arrives in Arizona.
The Athletics' rotation
General manager Billy Beane would love to shock the baseball world by returning to the playoffs after trading away guys like Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, Derek Norris and John Jaso since last July. The return of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin could give the rotation a major boost, but one more proven arm in a mix including Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz would lessen the significance of getting immediate returns from four young starters acquired this winter -- Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman.
The Astros' rotation
The emergence of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh created stability behind Scott Feldman last year. But the rotation inventory took a hit when GM Jeff Luhnow traded Michael Foltynewicz (Braves) and Nick Tropeano (Angels), and so far Dan Straily is the only arm added to the mix. One more starter could make a difference in reaching .500 next season, and there are still plenty of options available, both through free agency and trades.
The Nationals' bullpen
A strength of the team in recent years, the Nats are down three guys (Rafael Soriano, Tyler Clippard and Detwiler) who threw 195 1/3 innings for last year's 96-win team. The rotation overload created by the Max Scherzer signing could mean 15-game winner Tanner Roark moves to the bullpen. But it wouldn't hurt to add another closer option in case Drew Storen is unable to bounce back from the postseason struggles against San Francisco.
A Rockies ace
Yes, this is probably a pie in the sky, but why shouldn't a Colorado fan be able to dream. Dan O'Dowd did new GM Jeff Bridich a small favor by extending Jorge De La Rosa's contract, but it seems like the wait for De La Rosa or Jhoulys Chacin to emerge as a true No. 1 has gone on for a while. Could the Rockies pay Shields enough to go there? Dubious. Given the harsh climate for pitching, Bridich will have to get his front-of-the-rotation guy through trade or development. Jon Gray has the right stuff to fill that need, and he will be watched closely this spring.