1. Boston Red Sox –
Biggest Need: Keep Kimbrel
The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions in 2018. I never in my life thought I’d feel so comfortable saying that, but I suppose I can respect their all-time team status and it does help that my pride as a sports analyst was on the line when I picked them several times over on The No Bull Just Ball Podcast. This team dominated for an entire season, and more impressively managed to run through the Playoffs to the tune of an 11-3 record against the second, third, and fourth best teams in baseball in the Astros, Yankees, and Dodgers respectively. Speaking of which, I don’t think that has been talked about even close to enough in all of the post-fall classic hype…the Red Sox man-handled a pair of 100 game winners and did the same to baseball’s biggest payroll. That’s never been done before…ever…
So what do you get somebody who already has it all…
Simple…the knowledge and wherewithal to not change a damn thing. This team needs to stay in tact at all costs. You might have to spend a pretty penny more than you would’ve hoped to re-sign role players like Nathan Eovaldi and Steven Pearce who earned a raise through potent postseason performances. But also ponying up to retain baseball’s premier closer. I don’t agree with Kimbrel’s all-time claim, especially 2 months before Mariano Rivera is set to hit Hall of Fame ballots…but I can acknowledge that he is the best 9th inning guy in baseball today. So don’t cut corners and in the process cut yourself off at the knees, spend what you have to spend to retain the man that has made your anemic bullpen, bearable.
2. New York Yankees –
Biggest Need: The Smart Move, Not the Flashy Move
Do I, as a lifelong Yankee fan, want to see Manny Machado and Bryce Harper dawning the pinstripes? Hell yea. Either of those guys added to an already legendary lineup would make for something special to behold without question. But that being said, spending big on a want rather than a need isn’t the way to go if you’re the Yankees. I want to buy a Ferrari, but I need to move out of my mother’s house…believe it or not, one of those things is a bit more pressing.
For the Bronx Bombers, Machado and Harper are their Ferrari. A spoil of riches that they can’t really afford and don’t really need. Top tier starting pitching though, that’s their new mother-less apartment. Focus your efforts on surprisingly available trade targets like Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Madison Bumgarner, or Jacob DeGrom (<—- especially him). Look for a good deal on a guy like Patrick Corbin or resigning JA Happ.
If you can work out a deal for Bryce Harper to play first base at a fraction of what he’d get elsewhere, then hell yea you need to jump on it instantly. First base is another need for the Yanks that could definitely be filled by a slugger like him or a more realistic option in free agency like a Logan Morrison or a transitioning Mike Moustakas. Also, make it a point to check the price tag of Paul Goldschmidt on an imploding Diamondbacks squad. Take it from longtime Yankee faithful Spike Lee: Do The Right Thing.
3. Tampa Bay Rays –
Biggest Need: Spend?
What the hell just happened in the land of the forgotten, Tampa Bay? I mean this team sold out in 2018 in the hopes of building for the future, and somehow finished with a 90-win season and a record akin to that of the NL East Division winning Atlanta Braves. I’m not sure if this speaks more to the potential and unrealized talent that they put on the field this season, or the complete incompetence of this franchise as they’re not even able to lose correctly. If it’s the latter, than might I suggest just going ahead and firing Manager of the Year candidate, Kevin Cash. I mean obviously the man wreaks of winning, as one of only 12 players in history with a Red Sox (’07) and Yankees (’09) World Series ring.
If you’re interested in building a winner today though to chase down a Wild Card spot in 2019, then might I suggest bolstering this roster a bit more. The Rays are never going to spend the kind of money that their AL East foes will, but bringing in the right kind of veteran role players might be just enough to bring about a postseason berth next year. Guys like Jed Lowrie, Yasmani Grandal, or Nick Markakis might not provide much flash, but can provide solid contributions at positions you have holes in. Also, take a long look at a few of these top tier bullpen arms, perhaps giving the likes of Brad Brach or David Robertson a nod to sure up your bullpen.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
Biggest Need: Test The Trade Waters
The Toronto Blue Jays are in something of an uncomfortable middle-ground in baseball. They’re too talented to tank but not talented enough to contend. They teased something of a firesale this summer when they moved JA Happ to the Yankees and former MVP Josh Donaldson to the Indians. But they haven’t fully committed to a rebuild in the North just yet…
But with a good-not-great starter market in this years free agency, and a number of teams likely to ask for far too much for their top tier pitching talent, this could be a great opportunity for the Blue Jays to name drop some of their young guns. Teams clamoring for talented and controllable starters on team-friendly contracts would likely pay a pretty penny to bring in Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez. Imagine the Yankees striking out on a DeGrom deal and not totally in love with Patrick Corbin as a replacement due to his price tag…suddenly they might be a little mean to talk top prospects for Sanchez or Stroman. And with so many teams in the market for pitching this year, it makes sense to sell high on your arms and start gearing up for a new era of Blue Jay baseball.
5. Baltimore Orioles –
Biggest Need: Tend The Farm
Ouch, the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 were a tough watch. I mean even before trading away Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, this team was bad…
The Orioles amassed baseball’s worst record since the depressing Detroit Tigers in 2003. This isn’t anything that a couple big signings can fix, nor do you really have any assets to trade away right now. So the answer for Baltimore is simple this winter, sow the seeds for the future and wait for them to bloom. Invest wholeheartedly in scouting and player development in your minor league system. Perhaps trade the likes of Tim Beckham, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis for whatever you can recoup in international signing money and use it to pull in some overseas talent. It’s going to be a long time before we see a contender in Baltimore again, but if you build the right foundation now, perhaps one day the Orioles will fly again.