1. Cleveland Indians –
Biggest Need: Addition By Addition
You know the old adage “addition by subtraction”, such nonsense should not apply to the Cleveland Indians in the offseason. The logic is fairly sound I suppose, regardless of how much talent you shed there’s still a legitimate opportunity for you to win your division because of how bad the other teams are. That being said, if the Indians do in fact start selling off assets for a potentially brighter future at this juncture, all that we’re going to get in 2019 is another very weak division winner getting bounced in the opening round. By frequently facing the other teams in the AL Central, the Indians were capable of padding their record heavily with wins. In 2018, many thought they should have easily joined the ranks of the Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees as 100 games had it not been for the fact that they’re ineptitude was brought to light when facing teams from other divisions. The answer shouldn’t now be selling, but rather buying…forcing your way back into legitimate contender-ship and not just accepting a playoff participation ribbon.
A top the Indians’ list of targets should be one Bryce Harper. I understand that you’re not going to be able to match wallets with the Yankees, Cubs, or Phillies…but what you can offer Harper is protection in the form of 2 legitimate MVP candidates (Francisco Lindor & Jose Ramirez). Bryce fits your offensive and defensive needs as a corner outfielder, and your other star players will make a man, no longer looking to be “the man”, excited. If you whiff on Bryce, then don’t get too discouraged. There are plenty of other solid options to plug into your lineup who won’t break the bank.
The Cavaliers lost Lebron…the Browns are still the Browns…the city of Cleveland needs the Indians to keep their spirits high right now. And first round sweeps aren’t going to do that for anyone!
2. Minnesota Twins –
Biggest Need: Find An Identity
The Minnesota Twins were baseball’s surprise standouts in 2017, coming from seemingly nowhere to nearly bouncing the Yankees in the Wild Card game. Think Oakland A’s this year, just with way less media coverage as they did it. Many suspected that in 2018, with some moves being made to continue building, the Twins would be challenging the Indians for the divisional crown in Central. Or at the very least, maybe they were Wild Card shoe-ins. But instead, the baseball world watched the Twins sputter out of the gates, trade away assets at the deadline, and ultimately end up with a sub-.500 record.
Now the Twins find themselves in November, mourning the retirement of homegrown legend, Joe Mauer. They’re Brian Dozier-less and have so many questions to answer about who this team is supposed to be built around. So that is their offseason goal. Develop an identity around someone on that franchise. Whether it be building up the offense with Miguel Sano as your powerful centerpiece…or forging the foundation of a dominant pitching staff headlined by young-gunslinger Jose Berrios. Even if you’re not confident in what you have as foundation pieces (which I understand with Sano), then make it a point to seek out the kind of franchise cornerstone you can take pride in. The Twins have money to spend and minor-leaguers that’ll draw trade interest.
Winning might not be in the cards for Minnesota in the immediate future, but with the right moves today they can see themselves on the cusp of contention when the Cleveland stretch of dominance subsides…
3. Detroit Tigers –
Biggest Need: Move Michael, Move Miggy
The Detroit Tigers are in a weird spot right now for all intents and purposes. They’ve done an excellent job of drafting and international signing in their past few down years…coming away with some pretty sensational talents to titillate their fan base with. But those talents are still very raw and lacking in the MLB-ready department. Guys like 2018 1st-Overall draft pick Casey Mize are sure to turn heads in their development in the farm system, but aren’t quite ready to make a jump to the big leagues in 2019 with out jeopardizing their longterm success and confidence because of a bad early run of things.
So the Tigers could choose to either build a jigsaw puzzle of mid-tier talent as something of a bridge to 2020 through free agency, or further fund the farm and make roster room for future phenoms with the right kinds of trades. The two big pieces for the Tigers offer two very different things both in value and what they can get you in return. On one hand you have 2016 AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, a still very young and controllable top of the rotation-caliber starter. By openly shopping him this winter, you’ll create an alternate avenue for contenders who lose bidding wars on some of the other top pitching targets. Great teams love great players on great contracts, and that is what Fulmer presents. In moving him you’re guaranteed a number of quality youngsters who can play a part in your future plans. On the flip side, you have the only Triple Crown winner of the 21st Century, Miguel Cabrera. Injuries, age, and a hefty contract drastically negate some of the positives otherwise associated with this generational talent. For the right team however, he offers the ideal upgrade (in moderation to preserve him) at first base or in the DH role. In return, Detroit shouldn’t expect much else besides relief from his poison-pill contract and more at-bats for some of their quicker developing prospects who are ready to wet their feet in big league waters.
4. Chicago White Sox –
Biggest Need: Build to Win Today, Build to Win Tomorrow
Here’s the deal with the Chicago White Sox right now, looking up and down their roster and minor-league subsidiaries…few teams (if any) can boast such an impressive cast of “all-time potential” prospects. This team is currently set up to breakout in a big way in the not so distant future, and that is a claim most of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams wish they could be making right now.
Under the right tutelage and precise front office maneuvers however, this team very well could shock the world in 2019 while still preserving their future front-runner status. The first and most important rule here…NO TRADES! This core foundation is promising but still incredibly fragile. I understand that there’s several young talents ideally suited for the same position and conventional wisdom says that you should look to trade one, but hold tight to your youth for now and let sustained on-field performance weed out the keepers. Truth be told I’d even be hesitant to move big time trade target, Jose Abreu. His bat is built to contribute to immediate success and he has already built up something of a leadership rapport with the young Chi-Sox core. So if no trading is to take place, what can you do?
We already know that the Sox are hot on the trail of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. Either of them instantly making this a lineup formidable enough to challenge other contenders…other secondary options on shorter and cheaper contracts could work too like Michael Brantley, AJ Pollock, Josh Donaldson, or Mike Moustakas. The merit of the White Sox front office will truly be tested though in their ability to sign the right kinds of veteran arms. This team is bursting at the seems with young pitchers high on potential but low on experience. Starters like JA Happ, Charlie Morton, and Anibal Sanchez could slot in as mid-to-late rotation pieces to eat innings today but also teach your bright stars of tomorrow about sustaining big league success. Also with the wealth of bullpen arms available in free agency, don’t shy away from getting in on the spending spree to rope in some talent who will be around for at least a couple of years to close the door and keep morale high for your youngster that just went 6-strong innings.
5. Kansas City Royals –
Biggest Need: Walk Away from Yesterday
I feel like this is the New York Mets conversation all over again…just slightly more painful because almost all of that Kansas City core already jumped ship. I mean the stars of the 2015 Championship team were: Mike Moustakas (traded to the Brewers), Lorenzo Cain (signed with the Brewers), Wade Davis (traded to the Cubs), and Eric Hosmer (signed with the Padres). The only reminiscence of that title team are Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez & Alcides Escober. Plus in all of that win-now hype, they’ve managed to terribly neglect their farm system and didn’t manage to get much in return for the core talent that departed.
In 2018 the Royals sunk to the bottom of baseball’s worst division, a sobering fact seeing the greatness that many thought they’d be in store for after a promising 2014 & successful 2015. So the only thing to do now is embrace a full-scale rebuild ASAP. The best way to go about it is to make some moves with the legitimate contributors already on your roster. Guys like Gordon, Whit Merrifield, Abraham Almonte, and Jake Junis can get you decent returns because of their production on reasonable contracts. The cash cow for the Royals though is the presumably untouchable Perez. A lot of teams are in desperate need of a catcher, and Salvy leads the charge behind the plate as one of the best and brightest in the game today. Nearly every team in baseball would see Salvy as their backstop salvation… so it’s within reason to believe that a sizable prospect package in exchange for his services could be forth coming.
The Royals fall from grace was swift yet painful…now that they’re hovering in baseball’s cellar, it’s time that they start building a new foundation.