The offseason is officially upon us, and now a whole new level of excitement can kick in for every team and fanbase who has grown weary of the Washington Nationals victory parade already.
This Winter is sure to be an interesting one, with an upper echelon of talent that includes a man who is bound to set records as baseball’s highest paid pitcher…ever. Throw in the fact that pretty much every big name on the open market this offseason is represented by Scott Boras, and it becomes obvious that we’re also going to be in for a ton of painstakingly delayed signings (a la the Harper/Machado fiasco from a year ago).
Every team has needs this Winter though, and at least for the time being we can evaluate those needs and fantasy pair players with the teams we see as a good fit. That’s exactly what I tried to do here.
The rules of this piece are simple, only one player can be deemed the “must add” piece, regardless of how many pieces the team needs. This player can come via free agency, perceived trade options, or simply by re-signing an integral part of your current roster. Now since obviously all 30 teams in baseball have a need for a guy like Gerrit Cole, I went with the same rules that apply to real life: only one team can actually sign him. So for players who will draw big interest from several different organizations, I selected the team with the greatest need for them and who is most willingly to pay/trade the price.
So without further ado:
Houston Astros –
Let’s begin with something of a sobering fact for the team who has represented the American League in two of the last three World Series: Gerrit Cole will not be returning. There’s undoubtedly mutual interest, and their time together has been incredible, but as a soon-to-be 30 year old pitcher, this is likely Cole’s first and last opportunity to get paid. Houston would love to retain him, but with their homegrown stars like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman coming of age (to get paid), they can’t internally justify getting into a bidding war with the Yankees or any Cali team in order to keep him. The good news is, the Astros have a pension for creating incredible pitchers where others couldn’t; enter Zack Wheeler. The career Met has been something of a quesiton mark for the entirety of his professional career. Now entering his age 30 season, he’s still viewed as something of a raw talent arm, whose talents haven’t been harnessed consistently by a coaching staff to date. The Astros toyed with a deal for the righty back in July, but recognized that rather than shell out prospects to the Mets, they could just wait to sign him in the Winter. Other starter-hungry contenders will drive up the price a bit, but its something of a given that no other team could help him succeed the way the Astros can.
Alternatives: Gerrit Cole (RHP), Stephen Strasburg (RHP), Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP)
Important Re-Signings: Joe Smith (RHP), Will Harris (RHP)
Oakland A’s –
Here’s a nice little piece of trivia for you, the Oakland A’s from 2018-2019 set an MLB record for the most wins in a two year span without winning their division in either year. Now I’m not sure if that’s more a testament to how good they’ve been (194 wins), or how good the Astros have been to keep a 97-win team at bay in consecutive seasons. Regardless, this Oakland A’s team isn’t big on spending, so their improvements and upgrades will have to come via trade if they’re to gain ground on Houston in the West. There’s two paths to improvement that the A’s could look to build on: upgrading their starting rotation or adding another big bat. Considering that Oakland never pays for pitching, and have seemed unwilling to acquire external arms to aid its cause via trade in the past, I say they look to add a cost-effective big bat for their lineup to offset the departure of Khris Davis. ‘Krush’ was the AL leader in homers in 2018, but faltered mightily this past year, and it has seemingly led to he and Oakland mutually agreeing to part ways this Winter. So who will be their new slugging corner outfielder/DH? Clint Frazier. Yes this is hurting the hearts of many Yankees fans who have longed to see the perenial top prospect get his moment in the sun in the Bronx, but their outfield logjam is only set to worsen with the superior glove and lefty bat of Estevan Florial joining the big league club soon. So Frazier will be moved to a new home for pitching in the offseason, and Oakland has a pair of options to offer. If the Yankees seek a starter, Oakland can offer controllable lefty Sean Manea. If the Yankees are looking to replace the departing Betances, how about getting Blake Treinen as a return. Either way Oakland has the farm depth to overcome either loss as well as a bunch of mid-tier prospects that can sweeten the deal a bit further if needed.
Alternatives: Willie Calhoun (UTL), Michael Taylor (OF), Brian Anderson (UTL)
Important Re-Signings: Tanner Roark (RHP), Brett Anderson (RHP)
Los Angeles Angels –
Like most of the baseball world, I agree that landing Joe Maddon as their new skipper, was a huge get for the Los Angeles Angels. The man exudes winning and playoff baseball, and quite frankly he’s become baseball’s marquee mind in a post-Joe Torre managerial landscape. He captains the ship of an Angels crew who have some individual standouts, but lack any semblance of sustained group success. Mike Trout is a perennial MVP candidate, and unquestionably the best baseball player on the planet, and Shohei Ohtani (though not as fun since he stopped pitching) is a great heart of the order guy. Ex-All-Stars Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, Zack Cozart, and Albert Pujols still provide varying levels of quality at the plate and on the field. And the Angels for the first time in a long time, seem to have a few young upstarts like Brian Goodwin and David Fletcher who can fill in where needed. I suppose the Angels could go all-in on offense and try to splurge on Anthony Rendon or maybe lure Edwin Encarnacion to the west coast, but truthfully their focus needs to be on pitching. Stephen Strasburg is the guy they need to pursue adamantly. He’ll be a lot less expensive than Gerrit Cole, but has proven to be of the same makeup, especially in the playoffs. The Angels will be in the market for Cole, but while other teams pay him way too much time (and money) the Angels could sneakily come away with only the second starter in baseball history to win five games in a single years’ playoffs. Strasburg is a dynamic arm, who has long been capable of leading a staff. With the Angels, he’ll be asked to do just that as he tries to become the franchises’ best arm since a young Jared Weaver.
Alternatives: Gerrit Cole (RHP), Madison Bumgarner (LHP), Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP)
Important Re-Signings: Yusmeio Petit (RHP), Kole Calhoun (OF)
Seattle Mariners –
The Seattle Mariners have historically only rivaled the New York Mets, as the most erratic and unpredictable franchise in baseball. The Mariners own baseball’s longest standing postseason drought, and at least for the time being that seems like its very much inclined to stay the same. Seattle got off to a blazing start last Spring, and once they saw the writing on the wall as they began to fall back down to earth, they unloaded damn near every piece that they could for farm depth. I expect something similar in 2020, which will actually be a great thing for a certain slugger desperate to reclaim some value. Marcell Ozuna was once thought of as the surefire breakout star of a Marlins outfield that included Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Since then, both of the other two have won MVP awards, while Ozuna proved to be something of a mid-tier talent for the Cardinals. He’ll be insearch of a fresh start. So why not try to partner with a team in which you’ll instantly be the best bat, ride their anlalytics department to a huge uptic in first half home run numbers, and then get dealt to a contender who’ll need your bat as they push towards playing meaningful baseball in the Fall.
Alternatives: Yasiel Puig (OF), Starlin Castro (INF), Nicholas Castellanos (OF/DH)
Important Re-Signings: N/A
Texas Rangers –
Add the Texas Rangers to the list of teams looking to add starting pitching this offseason. Their current roster outlook won’t be quite enough to entice Cole, Strasburg, or any other bigtime starter looking to contend in 2020, to their new stadium. So rather than shell out more unnecessary dough to a Lance Lynn-type, why not use the free agency frenzy as cover to get a steal via trade. Robbie Ray went from being one of the most talked-about trade candidates at the deadline, to being something of a forgotten man. The Rangers have the minor league depth to pull together a sweet package for the rebuilding Diamondbacks, perhaps a combination of still-young but MLB proven, Rougned Odor and the bigtime power bat of Sam Huff, which will give Arizona a sweet longterm 2B/3B option that’ll work for a window of contention opening up circa 2023.
Alternatives: Corey Kluber (RHP), Sean Manea (LHP), Michael Fulmer (RHP)
Important Re-Signings: Nate Jones (RHP)