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:
Atlanta Braves –
The Atlanta Braves’ biggest need is on the mound. No way around it, the team needs to try and go out and grab a starting pitcher who makes sense for their win-now approach. I’m not sold on Atlanta being able to sign Stasburg or Cole who both seem destined to head West unless the Yankees are able to outbid everyone for their services. It shouldn’t be this hard to get a pitcher to want to suit up for a team that can provide this level of offensive firepower, almost guaranteed to be there for the next half decade at least. But because the Braves have never been the pay-to-win types, I can’t really see them being anything other than “interested” in the free agent class. So they’ll have to turn to the trade market to find their next big splash, and I think Corey Kluber will be the guy for them. If they’re able to re-sign Dallas Keuchel, they’ll have a 1-2 punch capable of going to war with most of baseball. More importantly they’ll be able to have at least a pair of veterans with postseason experience to draw upon. Kluber was the AL Cy Young in 2014 and 2017, and his numbers only really took a hit in 2019 due to injury. Having a fresh start on an Atlanta team that brings the fire and intensity once reserved for his Indians, will do wonders for Kluber. Dangling a prized outfield prospect like Drew Waters will be more than enough for a soon-to-be rebuilding Indians squad hoping to begin the process with the strong outfield they could never asseemble while trying to contend.
Alternatives: Robbie Ray (LHP), Madison Bumgarner (LHP), Zach Wheeler (RHP)
Important Re-Signings: Dallas Keuchel (LHP), Josh Donaldson (3B), Nick Markakis (OF)
Washington Nationals –
In a perfect world, the Washington Nationals will be able to hold tightly to as much of the roster that just won them a World Series as possible this Winter. But because of how incredible they played, two of their top dogs are in line for tremendous paydays. Washington has proven its desire to spend big to win, and I can genuinely see them spending the money and retaining their free agents. What it comes down to though, at least for the sake of this article, is which player should Washington prioritize in re-signing? Anthony Rendon, has become the heir to Ryan Zimmerman’s thrown in more ways than just his manning of the hot corner. Rendon is the consumate professional in DC, his clutch home run to put Game 6 out of reach solicited a reaction from everyone in baseball, except him. In his head he was already thinking about trying to do it again in Game 7. The Nationals have done the whole “two-aces” thing for the better part of the last decade, and while it has definitely produced some success, it wasn’t until their lineup began flowing through Rendon (without Bryce Harper) that they saw the gawdy offensive stats that have gotten them this far. Strasburg has decided to opt out and get his big payday, the Nats would be wise to try and retain him too, but ultimately it’s Rendon that has proven himself more valuable, regardless of what Strasburg’s new hardware reads.
Alternatives: Josh Donaldson (3B), Jose Ramirez (2B/3B), Francisco Lindor (SS)
Important Re-Signings: Stephen Strasburg (RHP), Howie Kendrick (UTL)
Philadelphia Phillies –
The Philadelphia Phillies somehow came out the biggest losers of the 2019 season, despite the fact that they made some massive moves to bring in talent last Winter. Their window of contention is very much right now, and it’ll be on them to continue to spend to capitalize on that in the coming months. Their farm system is in relatively rough shape after last Winter, so once again all eyes will be on them as they try to lure the biggest stars of the free agent class to Philly. For my money, they and the Dodgers provide the only real threat to swipe Rendon, but they’ll be hurt by the anti-Harper mentality that’s been adopted by the National’s fanbase and their players. So Joe Girardi’s new squad will have to further their cause with a different big bat who plays the same position: Josh Donaldson. Truthfully I think Donaldson is likely to stick around in Atlanta on another short contract, allowing him to continue to maximize his earning potential, a strategy we’ve almost exclusively seen used by NBA superstars. What could lure him away to Philly though is a gross overpay along with that financial stability well into the later years of his career. The Phillies have shown that they’re more than willing to offer up just that.
Alternatives: Anthony Rendon (3B), Mike Moustakas (3B), Starlin Castro (INF)
Important Re-Signings: Corey Dickerson (OF), Brad Miller (UTL)
New York Mets –
Baseball’s favorite question mark. Trying to understand the New York Mets’ moves since their trip to the Fall Classic back in 2015, is like trying to understand an abstract painting…fans are saying that they get it, but they’re all pretty much in denial at this point. Every indication is that the Mets should go into some semblance of a soft rebuild or a retool, getting rid of aging vets on bad contracts, and bringing in young talent that can help them to sustained success a couple of years down the line. Instead though the Mets keep trying to go all-in, but with seemingly less success every year. There’s no sense in arguing over what the right answer here is anymore, so why not just tell them what to do to help them contend now. Mychal Givens is a strong bullpen arm currently in his final year of arbitration for the Orioles. He gives the Mets a bit more credibility beyond their starters, and can play the Closer role should the collapse of Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia continue in 2020. The New York Mets are blessed with a minor league system that has an overabundance of infielders, but they lack a need for them at the big league level. Flipping the perceived lesser of Brett Baty, Andres Gimenez, or Mark Vientos, should be more than enough to pry Givens loose from a rebuilding O’s squad that has no intention of re-signing him to a long-term deal next Winter.
Alternatives: Will Smith (RHP), Dellin Betances (RHP), Craig Kimbrel (RHP)
Important Re-Signings: Zack Wheeler (RHP)
Miami Marlins –
Derek Jeter has run the Miami Marlins very similar to how someone might run them in a GM version of MLB the Show. He gutted the underperforming roster assembled by the old regime, and has gotten flack for trotting out rosters of barely-MLB talent in an effort to tank. Well, we’ve now com to the part of the process where you go out and make a surprising splash. I think Miami should go all-in on trying to lure in top talent to South Beach. Why not offer mega-millions deals to guys who are almost definitely not going to accept them. But maybe the fish can angle one player desperately looking for a forever home. Yasiel Puig has fallen from grace since his breakout years with the Dodgers. Since then he’s been shipped out to Ohio, and then shipped to a different part of Ohio. He wants to be in the sun again, both figuratively and literally. Let him takeover South Beach, where the enormous Cuban population can cling to their prodigal son, as he becomes an overnight celebrity once again. Puig will fill an immediate need for the Marlins both in Right Field and in the heart of their order. They’ll be able to tout him as the superstar he wants to be, while seeing relative improvements from their crop of youngsters who will be inching closer to their competitive primes fairly soon. Having Puig also makes Miami something of a more desirable location for free agents in the years to come as the Marlins will have shown a willingness to pursue talent and have something of an established star on their roster.
Alternatives: Marcell Ozuna (OF), Nicholas Castellanos (OF), Jose Abreu (1B)
Important Re-Signings: Starlin Castro (INF), Yadiel Rivera (INF)