5 teams that could be aggressive this winter

November 8th, 2018

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The deliberate pace of last offseason's free-agent market saw many notable players go into March before signing with new teams.
Many of those players faced abbreviated Spring Training programs, possibly leading to sluggish starts on the field in the 2018 season. Players were frustrated by their performances, while teams were not getting the type of returns they expected when they handed out those deals.
Will both sides learn from history?
"It can be disruptive when there's a winter of uncertainty and things get settled that late," said one American League general manager. "It doesn't necessarily benefit either party."
The Twins were one of the teams that capitalized on the slow-moving market, signing to a one-year, $6.5 million deal on Feb. 28, and to a one-year, $12 million pact on March 12.
Lynn threw seven innings over two starts before Spring Training concluded, making about three or four fewer starts than he would have during a typical spring. He got off to a rough start in the regular season, going 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in his first eight outings.
Lynn recovered nicely in late-May, pitching to a 3.74 ERA over his next 12 starts before being traded to the Yankees prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He allowed three or fewer runs in six of his nine starts with the Yanks, helping them secure a playoff berth.
Morrison posted a .644 OPS in 95 games with the Twins, a 224-point drop from his 2017 season with the Rays.
Might each player have benefited from a regular Spring Training? Lynn had a 3.38 ERA during his six-year career prior to 2018, while Morrison's career OPS was .763 over his first eight seasons.
"I think about Lance's experience last Spring Training; he probably didn't get as many starts as he would have had under his belt [otherwise]," said Derek Falvey, the Twins' chief baseball officer. "You see Lance at the end of the year, what he did in New York, the aggregate of the year, he really pitched well. We all saw that as potentially problematic. Looking back on it now, I think both players and teams will be more sensitive to that this year, is my assumption."
Two popular opinions about why last year's market was slow to develop are the bidding for and the uncertainty surrounding 's status before the Marlins dealt him to the Yankees. But those deals were both wrapped up by Dec. 11, pouring some cold water on that theory.
Some are predicting that the market won't heat up until this year's two premier free agents -- Manny Machado and -- sign deals, though as another AL GM points out, the vast majority of teams aren't expected to be swimming in the deepest end of the free-agent pool.
"There are only three or four teams that will likely be in on each of those two guys," the GM said. "Not everybody can afford them, and those that do have to have the need for them. It would be surprising if they were dragged out, and once they sign, things should start moving."
So which teams might be poised to pounce on the free-agent market or get aggressive with trades in order to assure their team is in place before their scheduled report date? Here's a look at five to watch.

The Yankees have already been one of the faster-moving teams this offseason, re-signing their two longest-tenured players, and . General manager Brian Cashman has indicated he plans to add two more starting pitchers, be it through free agency or a trade, while he also intends to trade after the right-hander's rocky season and a half in New York. The Yanks have historically identified their primary targets early and tried to wrap up their big business by mid- to late December. Don't be surprised if Cashman continues that approach this offseason.

New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows he has work to do this offseason, so it would be no surprise to see him hit the ground running. The Giants are in search of an impact bat, with Harper representing the most popular option among the available hitters. Could San Francisco try to blow Harper away with an offer he can't refuse?

GM Jerry Dipoto called reports of an imminent teardown overstated, but it's clear the Mariners plan to make some serious moves this offseason. Seattle was close to trading catcher Mike Zunino to Tampa Bay in a deal involving outfielder on Wednesday night, while and could also be among the players on the move. Dipoto is the most aggressive executive in the business when it comes to trades, so don't expect him to hold back if he sees an opportunity to bolster the Mariners' underwhelming farm system.

Tampa Bay has only one player on its roster with a guaranteed contract -- , who will earn $8.1 million in 2019 -- so there is plenty of financial flexibility for the executive duo of Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom to work with. The Rays -- who were on the verge of acquiring Zunino from the Mariners on Wednesday night -- were incredibly creative during the 2018 season with the utilization of their pitchers, and while they may add a starter or two this offseason, it's just as likely that they move to add versatile arms that can fill a variety of roles.

With several needs (namely the bullpen and outfield) to address this offseason and limited funds to go after big-time free agents, the Indians let it be known they are willing to listen to offers for starters and . Cleveland could fill some of its needs by dealing one or both of the pitchers, though shedding Kluber's $13 million salary next season (he also has club options for $13.5 million and $14 million in 2020 and '21, respectively) would free up some salary to go after a free agent or two.