Major League Baseball free agency is officially open, and teams can begin looking at trades and new signings to fill needs on their roster. Some teams are committed to rebuilding, while others are seeking one piece to put them over the top in the chase for a championship.
Here’s a list of priorities each MLB team might have as they try to fill needs and shore up weaknesses this offseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks — Bullpen help
Arizona slugged their way to offensive success in 2017, and that offense was backed by a strong starting rotation with four players posting sub-4 ERAs. The one place where they could stand to get a bit better is in closing those games out. Archie Bradley, a former starter, was the dominant arm out of the bullpen for the Diamondbacks, but the rest of their relievers weren’t particularly reliable. Fernando Rodney, the closer, had a 4.23 ERA, while the likes of Andrew Chafin and J.J. Hoover were merely good enough. A second quality arm back there would make Arizona’s life a lot easier.
Atlanta Braves — Starting pitching
No Braves starter had an ERA below 4 in 2017. Julio Teheran, who was supposed to be the team’s ace, posted a disappointing 4.49 mark. The team may rely on him to get it together again, and they may hope some of their young arms progress, but a more solid option may be preferable (they reportedly sought one before the deadline). The Braves want to contend in the next few years, so a younger, high-quality starter could be of interest to them.
Baltimore Orioles — Starting pitching
And how. If the Orioles had even one or two competent starting pitchers, they could have snuck their way into the playoff race. Instead, they posted the second to worst ERA in the American League, with most of the responsibility for that falling on the starters. They also may hope that one of their pitchers with a track record, like Chris Tillman (a free agent), can rediscover something. But if the Orioles invest, it will likely be in a starter or two. They badly need one.
Boston Red Sox — Power hitting
The Red Sox bid farewell to David Ortiz after the 2016 season, and then watched as their slugging percentage crashed to 14th in the American League the next season. Boston’s need is glaring; they get on base often enough and they have the pitching, but they need some added punch in the lineup to drive runs in after not having a single 30 home run hitter in 2017. Based on whom they plan to target, the Red Sox are well aware of their weakness, too.
Chicago Cubs — Starting pitching
Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Kyle Hendricks are the only three starting pitching regulars who are under contract for 2018, with John Lackey likely out the door and Jake Arrieta seemingly bound to follow on account of his hefty price tag. Lester didn’t look himself for parts of last season, and Hendricks had some injury issues, which left the Cubs somewhat shallow in the pitching department. At minimum, they will have to find a way to either bring back Arrieta or, more likely, replace him.
Chicago White Sox — Veteran starters
The White Sox probably won’t be investing heavily this winter, nor should they. Their top prospects are just breaking through into the majors, but they’re not quite far along that the front office should be prepared to really go for it and make big splashes. Instead, the team should look to finding some lower-priced veterans, both pitching and position players alike. Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito will need solid examples if they want to progress to the next level, and it’s a smart time to go that route.
Cincinnati Reds — Pitching
Any bit will do, but the Reds had a hard time getting outs in 2017. Raisel Iglesias is a quality closer, and some starters — Luis Castillo in particular — showed flashes of a bright future. But both the rotation and the bullpen were below average on the whole last season. The Reds probably aren’t counting on contending, so they may go for low-risk trades or cheaper options. They need to plug at least some of the holes on their pitching staff this winter.
Cleveland Indians — Outfielder
The Indians will have to find a permanent solution to their outfield issue this winter, however they choose to do it. Perhaps they commit to putting Jason Kipnis out there for good. Jay Bruce is headed for free agency and likely won’t be back. Cleveland did decide to pick up the option for the oft-injured Michael Brantley, who should be back in left field. Right field is a question, though they have options on the roster, such as Lonnie Chisenhall. They may have to look for something more permanent, though.
Colorado Rockies — Closer
Having Greg Holland to close out ballgames at the back end of the bullpen was a major factor in Colorado’s renaissance in 2017. They knew that if he succeeded, though, it was going to end up being a one-year commitment. Sure enough, Holland has more or less priced himself out of Colorado’s plans. That means the Rockies will have to find another late-inning reliever, as setup options weren’t always airtight. Colorado will have to do it without breaking the bank, in all likelihood.
Detroit Tigers — Pitching
In reality, the Tigers need a bit of everything, and since they’re headed into a major rebuild, it’s unlikely they’re going to do much to bring in any impact players in the winter. They will, however, have to add some pitchers who can get outs. They’ll probably look for a fifth starter and some bullpen help, which they always end up needing. More importantly, they might just need mentors and stabilizing influences as a young team goes through major growing pains.