With the winter meetings coming to a conclusion, let’s take a look, division by division, and see where each team stands at this point in the off-season.  Fantasy implications abound with player movement and potential landing spots.  Many are starting to draft already and projections can change for players who are moved or impacted by a signing/trade by their own team.

 

The NL EAST

Washington Nationals

The World Series champs had two of their major players enter free agency this year and they both signed before the conclusion of the winter meetings.  They retained Stephen Strasburg and lost Anthony Rendon to the Angels.  Signing Strasburg allows the Nats to strut out a strong starting pitching staff in Max Scherzer , Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez .  Their top three rival any top three in the majors.  The loss of Rendon will hurt their lineup as Carter Kieboom is expected to take his place for now.  Kieboom and a step up by Victor Robles will be needed to surround Juan Soto with some protection in the lineup.  They also re-signed Howie Kendrick , but Kendrick is 36 and although his production was outstanding last year in just 334 at bats, can they expect him to repeat that type of season? 

Last season their bullpen was a mess until the addition of Daniel Hudson stabilized it and he ended the season as their closer but is now a free agent. Can Sean Doolittle handle the job again? This could be their weakness and eventually prevent them from overtaking the Braves in the division.

Off Season needs: Bullpen, First Base, 5th starter.

Key Free agents remaining: Ryan Zimmerman , Brian Dozier , Asdrúbal Cabrera , Daniel Hudson , Fernando Rodney , Matt Adams , Greg Holland , Jeremy Hellickson

 

Atlanta Braves

The Braves finished first in the division with 97 wins led by a resurgent Josh Donaldson , the consistency of Freddie Freeman , and the breakouts of Ronald Acuna, Jr and Mike Soroka .  Donaldson is now a free agent and it seems his preference would be to return to the Braves but no doubtedly will take the best deal possible at this stage in his career.  Other potential suitors include the Rangers, Dodgers, Twins and Phillies.  The Braves offense would take a hit if they don’t sign him or replace his bat with something equivalent.  Last year we saw the rise and then fall of Austin Riley , who potentially could replace Donaldson at third base. 

They have been active in the off season and have signed Travis d’Arnaud, Cole Hamels and Will Smith . They have also re-signed Chris Martin , Tyler Flowers , and Charlie Culberson .  Smith fortifies their bullpen which was inconsistent last year after the loss of both their closers early in the season. Luke Jackson took over but eventually was replaced by Mark Melancon .  Hamels adds an experienced arm to young guns Mike Soroka and Max Fried .  They will look to Mike Foltynewicz to bounce back and if he does return to his 2018 form, the Braves could have a rotation to rival both the Nationals and Mets starters.

Off Season needs: Retain Donaldson

Key Free Agents remaining: Julio Teheran , Josh Donaldson , Dallas Keuchel , Adeiny Hechavarría , Billy Hamilton

 

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies made a splash in free agency by signing Zack Wheeler away from the Mets.  Did they overpay? When compared to what Gerrit Cole and Strasburg received, maybe not.  Wheeler joins a rotation that boasts Aaron Nola and not much else.  Expected big years from Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin never materialized and Jake Arrieta has seen his best days go by.  Is Wheeler enough to make the Phillies contenders?  Maybe not, but they also added to their offense by signing Didi Gregorius to a one year deal.  This should move Jean Segura to second base, if he’s not traded, and leave third base to Scott Kingery .  Both César Hernández and Maikel Franco were non-tendered and are now free agents.  Rumors have the Phillies interested in Josh Donaldson and potentially trading for the available Kris Bryant .  The return of Andrew McCutchen should also help the offense make up for the pitching deficiencies that may continue to plague them. 

The bullpen currently projects to have Héctor Neris and Seranthony Domínguez as their closer candidates.  The bullpen was sometimes used in strange ways by former manager Gabe Kapler, and we’ll see what Joe Girardi has in store.  There may be a lot of work for the bullpen if the rotation doesn’t step up on the days Nola and Wheeler don’t pitch. 

Off Season needs: Bullpen, Third Base

Key Free Agents:  César Hernández , Maikel Franco , Corey Dickerson , Drew Smyly

 

New York Mets

The Mets off-season has seen the main contenders in the division seemingly improve, although the Nats so far get a net loss by losing Rendon, and the Mets remain stagnant.  They lost Wheeler as mentioned earlier to a division foe, and replaced him with the duo of Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello , neither of which can replace the production of Wheeler.  The rotation is not as strong as the one that took them to the brink of the playoffs from the end of July through September.  According to GM Brodie Van Wagonen it’s the deepest rotation in the majors.  That’s great if you’re digging for oil, but they need to strike gold with one of these free agents.

Offensively they added Jake Marisnick to replace Juan Legares in CF.  More of a lateral move and not something that is earth shattering.  They re-signed Brad Bach but haven’t added any bullpen help to a corps that struggled and ultimately cost them a playoff berth early in the season. Dellin Betances is the name the Mets fan base is clamoring for. They have been rumored to be looking at trades with names like Starling Marte , José Leclerc and others mentioned.  It remains to be seen if they’ll get anything out of Yoenis Céspedes , but if they do, will it be enough?  Can Pete Alonso be expected to match his record setting season? Will Robinson Canó continue to decline?  The Mets offense and bullpen may keep them from contending.

Off Season Needs: Bullpen

Key Free Agents: Todd Frazier , Juan Lagares , Luis Avilán

 

Miami Marlins

The Marlins continue to attempt to rebuild after the stripping of their club after the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The trades of Giancarlo Stanton , Dee Gordon , Christian Yelich , Marcell Ozuna and JT Realmuto have resulted in a few players such as Sandy Alcantara , Zac Gallen (who was moved to Arizona), Jordan Yamamoto , Isan Díaz, Lewis Brinson , and prospect Nick Niedert.  Of course if you look at what they gave up, you could say they would have had one of the best offenses in baseball with that crew. 

They acquired Jonathan Villar from the Orioles and Jesús Aguilar from the Brewers this off season.  Villar is coming off a good year but may see his production decrease due to an inferior surrounding lineup and more pitcher friendly home field (the Marlins did announce they’ll be moving in the fences this year).  Aguilar comes off a horrendous season after a tremendous 2018.  They hope he’ll be their everyday first baseman this season.  It’s an effort, but with a young inexperienced starting rotation and prospects who have not lived up to expectations, the Marlins are expected to be buried in the fifth spot of one of the toughest divisions in baseball.

Off Season Needs:  Just about everything

Key Free Agents: Starlin Castro, Neil Walker , Martín Prado ,  

 

The NL CENTRAL

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals come off their division crown, defeat of the Braves in the NLDS, and loss to the Nationals in the NLCS with their team mainly intact except for the projected loss of Marcell Ozuna .  Ozuna has been rumored to have several suitors, with the Cards re-signing him as one of them.  They have re-signed Adam Wainwright to continue as a back end starter and lost Michael Wacha to the Mets.  Tyler O’Neill is projected to take over LF if Ozuna signs elsewhere and this would most likely be the only change in their lineup from 2019.  The lineup could use some punch but they were quiet at the winter meetings and it appears they are content to stay put for now.

The rotation is led by Jack Flaherty who is a true number one.  Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas provide solid but not flashy starters and they have Adam Wainwright to hold up the back end.  Closer Jordan Hicks had Tommy John surgery last season and is not expected to be back until after the All-Star break if at all.  Carlos Martínez is expected to fill that role and will be backed up by a bullpen that ranked 5th in the majors last year in bullpen ERA.

Off Season Needs: Replace Ozuna’s production, #4 or better starter

Key Free Agents: Marcell Ozuna , Matt Wieters

 

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers finished on a roll last season and made the playoffs as the second wild card, losing the one game battle to the Nationals in dramatic fashion.  They have had a busy offseason so far and continue to be rumored to make additional moves.  On the offensive front they lost Yasmani Grandal to the White Sox and Mike Moustakas to the Reds.  They traded for Eric Lauer and Luis Urías from San Diego, who is expected to take over 3rd base, giving up Zach Davies and Trent Grisham.  The outfield of Christian Yelich , Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun remain, but Braun is expected to take over at first base. To fill that gap the Brewers are expected to sign Avisaíl García to a two year contract. He will probably split time with Ben Gamel in LF.  To replace the loss of Grandal they acquired Omar Narváez from Seattle.  Ryon Healy was signed to a one year deal to provide depth in the infield.

The rotation is going to be vastly different.  Brandon Woodruff and Adrian Houser are the only ones remaining as they have added Lauer and signed Brett Anderson .  They lost Jordan Lyles to Texas, who was a boost after his acquisition from the Pirates, Junior Guerra to the Diamondbacks, and Davies was in the deal with San Diego.  Freddy Peralta remains in the mix and Jimmy Nelson could be re-signed.  Rumors of a Josh Hader trade remain and maybe they can add to their starting rotation.  The Yankees are part of those rumors and after the Cole signing, the Yankees have starters they can move including J.A Happ, although I don’t see the Brewers picking up his 17 million dollar salary for 2020.  If Corey Knebel is healthy, he can replace Hader as the closer.

Off Season Needs: Starting pitching, Bullpen depth, Bench depth

Key Free Agents: Jimmy Nelson , Jeremy Jeffress , Travis Shaw , Hernán Pérez

 

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs core may be on the verge of a break up.  The team that won the World Series in 2016 has since been mediocre.  They have parted ways with manager Joe Maddon and are looking to trade Kris Bryant as Theo Epstein looks to rebuild the team.  They have remained quiet in actual moves thus far, but the rumor mill has churned.  There have been no extension talks with Anthony Rizzo , Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras are trade candidates, and no rumored free agents are heading their way.  Can they compete with their current lineup?  Yes. They have a potent lineup if all are healthy and play to their potential but there just seems to be something missing.  Nick Castellanos, who was acquired from Detroit, could be signed and this would offset the potential loss of Bryant. 

The rotation lost Cole Hamels to the Braves, but he missed significant time last year with an oblique injury. Yu Darvish regained his old form and was dominating in the second half of the season. Kyle Hendricks , John Lester, and José Quintana form an unspectacular yet solid rotation after Darvish.  Brandon Morrow was penciled in as closer last offseason but health issues continued to plague him and he never recovered for 2019.  He was signed to a minor league deal for 2020. Craig Kimbrel was signed last year and will be the closer.  The bullpen depth will suffer unless free agents Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek are re-signed. 

Off Season Needs: Second baseman, Bullpen depth, 5th Starter

Key Free Agents: Nick Castellanos, Pedro Strop , Steve Cishek ,

 

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have put themselves in the mix to contend in the division with the signing of Mike Moustakas and the moves they made last season.  The offense has potential but needs the outfield of Jesse Winker , Nick Senzel and Aristides Aquino to continue to mature and hit.  Joey Votto ’s decline can hurt if they continue to expect more from him and not move him to a more appropriate spot in the lineup.  Eugenio Suárez continues to mash and Moustakas adds power to the lineup. Offensively they can match up with the teams in the division if the outfield comes through. They lost José Peraza to the Red Sox but they were not expected to keep him.

The rotation is anchored by Luis Castillo who had another solid season.  The resurgence of Sonny Gray provided a second above average starter.  The performance of Trevor Bauer was a disappointment and they hope he returns to his 2018 version.  Anthony DeScalfani performed well and was a solid 4th starter. There was a need for a 5th starter and the Reds signed Wade Miley to a 2 year contract.  Miley’s signing gives the Reds a solid rotation and they may sneak up on the leaders in the division. The bullpen is led by Raisel Iglesias who struggled at times last season.  They have some depth with Michael Lorenzen and Amir Garrett .

Off Season Needs: Overall roster depth

Key Free Agents: Alex Wood , José Iglesias

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have a new manager in Derek Shelton.  Should we go on? The Pirates are unfortunately known more for who they gave up rather than who they’ve acquired and in typical Pirates mode, they have done nothing in the off season so far.  Starling Marte continues to be included in trade rumors but nothing has happened yet with the Mets being the most talked about suitors.  The team has some bright spots but overall will struggle again in 2020.  Josh Bell will anchor the lineup after he finally reached his potential last year.  Can Gregory Polanco reach his potential and avoid the injury bug that has plagued him? 

On the pitching front, Jamison Taillon will miss the season after Tommy John surgery.  Joe Musgrove will anchor the staff and his name is usually not mentioned with the likes of Kershaw, deGrom, and Scherzer.  Chris Archer continues to be a major disappointment and will be forever the wrong end of a disastrous trade by the Pirates with Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows going to Tampa.  Prospect Mitch Keller struggled in his debut but will be part of the rotation.  The bullpen is led by Keone Kela who has also been rumored to be available in trade talks.  This is a staff that will struggle in all aspects in 2020.

Off Season Needs:  Starting pitchers, bullpen depth, catcher, bench depth

Key Free Agents: Elias Díaz , Melky Cabrera

 

The NL WEST

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers fell short last year after dominating in the regular season with 106 wins.  Their off season has been littered with rumors but they did not sign any of the big free agents that they seemingly pursued in Rendon and Cole.  What does a team need who won 106 games last season?  Offensively they have been rumored to be trading for Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant .  A Lindor trade would be a blockbuster and Gavin Lux and Dustin May have been mentioned as to what an offer may have to include.  Bryant would be an upgrade over Justin Turner at third, but at what cost?  The outfield of AJ Pollack and Joc Pederson could be a spot that they look to improve.  Alex Verdugo is rehabbing his back and will look to take a spot if he’s healthy enough.  Joc Pederson has been part of trade rumors which will open up a spot for Verdugo. 

The starting staff continues to be a strength but Hyun-Jin Ryu is a free agent and the Dodgers appear to be letting him go but they are said to still be in the mix.  With Gerrit Cole going to the Yankees and Strasburg staying with the Nationals, Ryu may be the next best option out there.  Walker Buehler and Kershaw make a dominating one two punch.  Dustin May’s debut last year was a good one and he should be part of the rotation. Julio Urías will also join the rotation after spending some of the year in the bullpen after his suspension.  Kenta Maeda is penciled in as the fifth starter.  The bullpen continues to be a strength and the addition of Blake Treinen , if he can regain some of his 2018 form, will make it even better. 

Off Season Needs:  The addition of Treinen provided the depth in the bullpen, replacing Ryu

Key Free Agents: Ryu, Rich Hill

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks surprised us last year finishing in second place in the west.  Outstanding years by Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar helped them overcome some deficiencies in the rotation.  The early injury to Jake Lamb led to the call up of Christian Walker who also had a solid campaign.  They haven’t made any moves this off season yet but are rumored to be looking to add a center fielder so Marte can play more at second base.  A second baseman would not be out of the question, but a CF option is preferred.  They have lost Adam Jones who signed a contract to play in Japan and they are not expected to bring back Steven Souza Jr.   Catcher Alex Avila signed with the Twins.

The pitching took a hit last year with the trade of Zack Greinke but they just upgraded with the signing of Madison Bumgarner for five years on a relatively cheap annual hit of 17 million. Will they look to trade Robbie Ray or allow him to slide into a more suitable number two role?  They are joined by Zac Gallen, Merril Kelly, Mike Leake and Luke Weaver in the rotation. Someone will be the odd man out.  The bullpen is anchored by Archie Bradley and they signed Junior Guerra for depth, but they are not deep. 

Off Season Needs: Second base, Outfield, bullpen depth

Key Free Agents: Yoshihisa Hirano , Steven Souza Jr. , Jarrod Dyson , Taijuan Walker

 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants came into the off season needing a manager and hired Gabe Kapler to lead the team.  The team has set a course and seems intent on building up controllable assets and not diving deep into long term contracts for free agents.  Buster Posey ’s contract has far exceeded his worth as his offensive production has plummeted over the last three years. Brandon Belt does his best but his production is limited by being left-handed in Oracle Park.  Evan Longoria is 34 and his best years are behind him.  The outfield has youth but there are no top prospects in the group.  Kevin Pillar , Pablo Sandoval , Stephen Vogt and Scooter Gennett were allowed to enter free agency.  They added Zack Cozart and touted prospect Will Wilson in a trade with the Angels and this is consistent with their plan.  They took on Cozart’s salary for a year in order to add Wilson. 

On the pitching front they allowed Madison Bumgarner to go.  Bumgarner is only 29 but he seems to have been around forever. They have signed Kevin Gausman to help fill the starting rotation void.  Gausman bounced around last year after finding some success at the end of 2018 with the Braves.  He ended the season in the bullpen, but will likely start for the Giants.  The rotation has Jeff Samardzija at the helm and a returning Johnny Cueto from Tommy John surgery, Tyler Beede and Logan Webb.  The bullpen lost closer Will Smith to the Braves via free agency and the closer job is up for grabs. 

Off Season Needs: Closer, Outfield power bat, bullpen depth second base

Key Free Agents: Kevin Pillar , Pablo Sandoval , Scooter Gennett

 

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies were supposed to contend last year and failed miserably.  They signed Nolan Arenado to a long term deal before the season started and now are rumored to be listening to offers for his services.  Considering the contract that Anthony Rendon signed, Arenado may be seen as being at market cost if a team was interested.  The Rockies offense was never thought to be an issue, but Daniel Murphy had a down year, Garrett Hampson was disappointing, David Dahl was limited due to injury, and Charlie Blackmon did not run at all  Trevor Story and Arenado were the bright spots in the lineup. The only activity they’ve had are the rumors about Arenado.

It’s Colorado and the issue has always been pitching in this altitude.  The high expectations for the Rockies in 2019 were the performances of the starting staff in 2018. German Márquez was one of the most debated pitchers in fantasy circles last year and he regressed with an ERA a full run higher in 2019.  He managed to go 12-5, but his strikeouts were down as well, making him a fantasy disappointment.  Jon Gray had a bounce back season after his down 2018 that saw him sent down to AAA but broke his foot in August and was limited to 150 innings.  The rest of the rotation was a disaster and the bullpen no better.  Wade Davis who had 43 saves in 2018 couldn’t get anyone out and the closing carousel begun.  Scott Oberg took over towards the end of the season and was just signed to a three year contract.

Off Season Needs: Outfield depth, Bullpen depth and starting pitching

Key Free Agents: Chris Iannetta , Mark Reynolds

 

San Diego Padres

The Padres have been active and appear to be trying to climb their way out of the basement of the division.  They’ve acquired Tommy Pham , Jurickson Profar , Trent Grisham, Zach Davies and Drew Pomeranz so far and are looking to do more.  Offensively the addition of Profar could have the biggest impact as they were weak at second base last year.  Pham should improve their run production as he can get on base ahead of Profar, Tatis Jr, Machado  and Hosmer.  This lineup has some depth but could probably use one more consistent bat.  They are looking to move Wil Myers but his contract is making it tough.  If Profar has a decent year to go along with top production from Machado and Tatis Jr., the Padres lineup will score some runs.

The rotation is young but very talented led by Chris Paddack .  The Padres were in on Strasburg but ultimately lost out.  They have added Zach Davies , hope to have a healthy Garrett Richards and look for the continued development of Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchesi Kirby Yates leads the bullpen and Pomeranz will help the depth there.  If the rotation stays healthy and develops further, this team may be ready to contend for a wild card spot. 

Off Season Needs:  They’ve addressed them with the additions of Pham, Profar, Davies and Pomeranz. 

Key Free Agents: None

 

The AL EAST

New York Yankees

The Yankees made the biggest splash at the winter meetings signing Gerrit Cole to a nine year, 324 million dollar contract.  Their rotation is currently projected to be Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Paxton and a 5th starter among Happ, German, Garcia and Montgomery. They would like to move Happ and his $17 million salary and hope German’s suspension isn’t substantial.  Montgomery is coming off Tommy John and Garcia could use some time in AAA.  Severino’s health is a question even though he came back at the end of the year.  Is this the major’s best rotation?  Cole solidifies it, but there are some questions.  The bullpen is deep and they signed Aroldis Chapman to a three year extension.  They are also in the mix for Milwaukee’s Josh Hader whose acquisition would make this staff very difficult to beat. Dellin Betances , who was out for the majority of last season, is expected to sign elsewhere.

Offensively they lost Didi Gregorius to the Phillies which means Gleyber Torres will slide over to short and DJ LeMahieu to second.  Luke Voigt will probably be the first baseman barring another move. Will they move Miguel Andújar and keep Gio Urshela at third?  The outfield is set with Judge, the re-signed Brett Gardner , Giancarlo Stanton , and Aaron Hicks .  The 5th outfielder will come from Mike Tauchman , Clint Frazier , and Tyler Wade Gary Sánchez is set at catcher and Kyle Higashioka will take over the backup role for Austin Romine who signed with the Tigers.

Off Season Needs:  backup catcher, middle infield depth, lefty hitting first baseman

Key Free Agents:  Dellin Betances , Edwin Encarnación

 

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox didn’t do much as they seem to be handcuffed by salary.  Mookie Betts is still on the team with rumors of a trade swirling since the end of the season.  JD Martinez opted in on the remainder of his contract and will be the team for 2020.  They made a minor move by signing José Peraza Dustin Pedroia continues to believe he can play again, but his balky knee will prevent him from playing.  Look for Michael Chavis to compete with Peraza for time at second and Pedroia to eventually hang it up.  Both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are free agents so you could see Chavis move over to first if they don’t make a move there.  Xander Boegarts and Rafael Devers combine for one of the best left side of the infield tandems in the majors. 

Boston’s problem is their pitching depth and bullpen.  A healthy Chris Sale will go a long way in getting them to compete with the Yankees.  They have been rumored to be looking at moving David Price which would weaken the rotation.  Eduardo Rodríguez won 19 games last year and is a solid 3rd starter.  Martín Pérez was just signed after an up and down year with the Twins after they lost Rick Porcello to the Mets.  The bullpen was a mess last year after they decided not to re-sign Craig Kimbrel .  Injuries and poor performances plagued them throughout the year.  They have not been rumored to be in on any of the higher profile relief pitchers that are available.

Off Season Needs:  Starting rotation, Bullpen, First Base

Key Free Agents:  Mitch Moreland , Steve Pearce , Brock Holt , Tyler Thornburg

 

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa won 96 games last year as they continue to find ways to win with their low budget roster.  They have already started to tweak their roster by trading away Tommy Pham in exchange for Hunter Renfroe Austin Meadows , Brandon Lowe , Nate Lowe , Yandy Díaz , and Willy Adames are the young guns looking to lead the Rays on offense in 2020.  Renfroe offers power, but will the Rays miss the ability of Pham to set the table for them?  If the young guns continue to mature, this team has the ability to make another wild card run and do damage in the playoffs. Travis d’Arnaud who found life once he arrived in Tampa, signed with the Braves leaving the catching duties to Mike Zunino and his sub mendoza line batting average.

The pitching staff is where the Rays excelled last year with the emergence of Tyler Glasnow and the signing of Charlie Morton who continued his late career resurgence.  If Blake Snell can stay healthy and the opener strategy continues to work for them, the staff is one who can again lead the Rays to 90+ wins.  The bullpen doesn’t have a dominant force, but as a whole they’ve been able to get the job done.  Emilio Pagán and Diego Castillo shared the closer duties last year.  The acquisition of Nick Anderson from the Marlins gave them a fireballer who had a K/9 of 15. 

Off Season Needs: Catcher, OF depth

Key Free Agents: None

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays saw the future come to age last year with the takeover of their infield by the trio of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio , and Bo Bichette .  With the infield seemingly set for years to come, the Blue Jays now have to turn to improving their outfield corps.  They go into 2020 with Randal Grichuk , Teoscar Hernández , Derek Fisher and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. expected to man the OF. Gurriel moves there from second base after being displaced by Biggio.  There is definitely room for an upgrade here, but they don’t appear to be pursuing any of the top OF free agents.  This lineup will be led by the infield and the Blue Jays can only hope that they live up to their expectations.  Justin Smoak is a free agent after a decline in production from 2018.

They did make a move in their rotation by signing Tanner Roark to a two year, $24 million deal.  They reportedly made offers to Kyle Gibson and Rick Porcello , but had to turn to Roark. Hyun-Jin Ryu is being pursued and having lost out on some of their other targets they may make a strong push for him.  The rotation is a weak spot and Ryu would be a major upgrade.  They have a long way to go if they want to compete with the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox.  The bullpen is anchored by Ken Giles who had a strong season but dealt with some elbow issues.  They re-signed Anthony Bass to a one year contract to be the setup man. 

Off Season Needs: Starting pitching, Bullpen depth, First Base, Outfield depth

Key Free Agents:  Justin Smoak , Clay Buchholz

 

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles continue to be quiet and were expected bystanders during the winter meetings.  They traded Jonathan Villar to the Marlins at the tender deadline, losing one of their bright spots of the 2019 season.  It’s going to be another long year for the Orioles as they continue to attempt to build their roster from the minors in order to keep their budget low.  Look for the Orioles to sign someone like Starlin Castro , José Iglesias , or Adeiny Hechavarría to give their fans someone to watch.  Trey Mancini stands out as either their best player or best trade chip.  Don’t expect much activity from the Orioles.

One bright spot for them was John Means who finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.  Means won 12 games with a 3.60 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  The rest of the starting staff and the bullpen have a lot to be desired. They traded Dylan Bundy , who never lived up to expectations, to the Angels for four minor league pitchers. Closer Mychal Givens started the season off slowly, came on in July and August and faded in September.  It’ll be seen if he retains the job going into the season.

Off Season Needs: What don’t they need?

Key Free Agents: Mark Trumbo

 

The AL Central

Minnesota Twins

The Twins won 101 games last season with a solid lineup that included the signing of Nelson Cruz , the return of Jorge Polanco from suspension, the further development of Miguel Sanó and the breakout years of Max Kepler and Mitch Garver .  The lineup will pretty much remain intact except for the possible loss in free agency of C.J. Cron .  They are rumored to be in the mix for Josh Donaldson which would allow them to move Sano to first and replace Cron in the lineup.  Byron Buxton had shoulder surgery but is expected to be back in the spring.  Can he reach the potential everyone has expected from him?  Look for the Twins to either sign Donaldson or find someone to man first base.

José Berríos will lead the staff and the Twins hope he continues to develop.  He lowered his ERA and WHIP to career lows but still was inconsistent during the season.  Both Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda were re-signed.  Odorizzi on a qualifying one year deal and Pineda on a two year deal.  The Twins continue to be in the mix for the free agents that remain including Ryu and Keuchel with Keuchel seemingly more likely to land here.  They also signed Sergio Romo who will be returning after being traded last season. He will provide depth behind Trevor May , Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey .

Off Season Needs: Corner infielder, Starting pitcher

Key Free Agents: C.J. Cron , Jason Castro , Jonathan Schoop , Trevor Hildenberger , Sam Dyson

 

Cleveland Indians

There has been a lot of talk about the Indians this off season.  For a team that won 93 games last year after losing two of their top pitchers to injury/illness, you would think they were the Marlins and trading everyone away.  Francisco Lindor has been rumored to be dealt to several teams, especially the Dodgers.  So far the only significant loss to the offense is the departure of Yasiel Puig to free agency after he was acquired for their playoff run last year.  As part of the Corey Kluber deal they received Delino DeShields Jr who should slot in as their leadoff hitter and center fielder.  They hope for the continued development of Oscar Mercado and Jake Bauers . They did not re-up Jason Kipnis and will be looking for a second baseman.  They signed Sandy León to back up Roberto Pérez at catcher. With the trade of Kluber, will that allow them to keep Lindor and sign him long-term?

Last season despite losing Kluber to a broken arm, Carlos Carrasco to leukemia, and Mike Clevinger for the first 10 weeks of the season to strained muscle, they won 93 games.  They have now traded Kluber to the Rangers in a move that left some scratching their heads wondering if they could have gotten more in return.  Clevinger will lead the staff which will most likely be similar to the one that ended the season last year.  Can they repeat their performance? It appears the Indians front office believes so.  As part of the Kluber trade the Indians received hard throwing 21 year old reliever Emmanuel Clase who is expected to have a 7th/8th inning role.  Brad Hand is expected to return as the closer and this move adds depth to the bullpen.  We’ll see if there are any other moves up the front office’s sleeve.

Off Season Needs: Second base, Outfield depth, 5th starter?

Key Free Agents: Yasiel Puig , Dan Otero , Leonys Martin

 

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have made several moves and are rumored to be looking to make more.  The team took care of José Abreu re-signing the first baseman to a three year deal.  They made a splash by signing Yasmani Grandal to a four year, 73 million dollar contract.  Nomar Mazara was acquired via trade from the Rangers for top prospect Steele Walker.  They also have prospects Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert waiting in the wings to join Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada in the lineup.  This is a team that is developing and could join the ranks of the contenders soon.

The front office has made it clear they are looking for pitching and have been rumored to have offered a competitive contract to Zack Wheeler that was in excess of what he agreed to with the Phillies.  It remains to be seen if they will jump in on the Ryu and Keuchel fronts.  Lucas Giolito led the staff in 2019 and the Sox hope that Micheal Kopech can make an impact in 2020. Dylan Cease made his debut last year and his development is crucial.  If they want to compete for a playoff spot this season, a free agent signing appears to be necessary.

Off Season Needs:  Addressed many, Starting Pitching

Key Free Agents: Iván Nova , Yolmer Sánchez

 

Kansas City Royals

As expected, the Royals remained quiet at the meetings.  They continue to be a low budget team and the lack of interest in free agents continues.  There are rumors of them shopping Whit Merrifield who would be an asset to most teams with his versatility.  Last season they saw the tremendous breakout from Jorge Soler who hit 48 homers and drove in 117 runs.  Hunter Dozier also had a breakout year.  They form a good core along with Merrifield and Aldalberto Mondesi, but there is little else in this lineup.  Salvador Pérez is coming off Tommy John and may need some time before starting the season.  A move to first base is also not out of the question.  The Royals are not expected to be in the running for any of the major free agents.

The pitching staff will remain intact after they re-signed Mike Montgomery , who was acquired from the Cubs in July, to a one year deal.  Danny Duffy , Brad Keller and Jacob Junis are all expected to return.  The bullpen will be led by Ian Kennedy who established himself as the closer during the season.  After him, there isn’t much to be confident in.

Off Season Needs:  Bullpen depth, Outfield, Starting pitching upgrade

Key Free Agents:  Lucas Duda , Alex Gordon , Wily Peralta

 

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers were one of the worst teams in the league last year and looking at their current depth chart, there isn’t much hope for 2020 either.  They signed catcher Austin Romine who was stuck in NY behind Gary Sánchez Miguel Cabrera returned from an injury plagued 2018, but at age 36, his production declined and what should we expect this year?  They are in a rebuild and their hopes will ride on a lot of young players.  It’s going to be a long year in Detroit. 

Matthew Boyd leads the staff into the season along with Spencer Turnbull , Jordan Zimmerman, and Daniel Norris .  It will need more improvement in order for the Tigers to win a few more games as the offense will struggle.  It’s hard to imagine any of the top free agents wanting to go to Detroit this year or in the near future.  Joe Jiménez is a hard throwing reliever who should be the closer this year.  After him the bullpen is not deep and an upgrade here would be helpful.

Off Season Needs: Everything could use help...pitching and power hitters especially

Key Free Agents: None

 

The AL West

Houston Astros

The Astros may be known more for sign stealing than what they do on the player front this off season. Offensively they haven’t made any major moves but there have been rumors of a potential Carlos Correa trade. This is probably unlikely to happen but it’s out there. They traded OF Jake Marisnick to the Mets in a minor move. Barring any surprises the Astros lineup will remain the same as it was in 2019. A full season from Yordan Alvarez and a healthy Correa will keep the Astros a World Series contender.

The loss of Gerritt Cole will leave a void in a rotation that will now be led by Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke and neither one of them is getting younger despite their strong seasons. The rest of the rotation will have to rely on young starters including Lance McCullers Jr, playoff star Jose Urquidy and others. Will Josh James join the rotation? Will Forrest Whitley emerge after a disappointing 2019 campaign? The bullpen is solid led by Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressley. They re-signed Joe Smith to a two year deal.

Off Season Needs: Replace Cole with a reliable option

Key Free Agents: Robinson Chirinos , Martín Maldonado , Collin McHugh , Will Harris , Aaron Sanchez

 

Oakland A’s

The A’s continued their small budget success in 2019 with 97 wins and a wild card berth. They appear to be set for a few years at first and third with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman . A solid season from Marcus Semien at short and Ramón Laureano in CF offset a down year by Khris Davis . Their major move so far has been the trade of Jurickson Profar to the Padres. Chad Pinder is currently penciled in as the starter but there are a few free agent options out there that they may go after.

The starting staff will see some changes going into 2020. Lost to free agency were Brett Anderson and Tanner Roark . Mike Fiers will lead the staff that will get Frankie Montas back from suspension and Sean Manaea back from injury. Jesús Luzardo and Chris Bassitt currently round out the rotation. Blake Treinen who had a down year after a tremendous 2018, signed with the Dodgers leaving the closer role to Lance Hendricks. The bullpen has some depth and they signed T.J. McFarland to be their lefty specialist.

Off Season Needs: Second base, bench depth

Key Free Agents: Ryan Buchter , Josh Phegley , Homer Bailey , Matt Harvey

 

Los Angeles Angels

Anthony Rendon became an Angel signing a seven year deal worth $35 million a year. Rendon joins a lineup that needed an upgrade despite having Mike Trout . The core is solid with them, Justin Upton and Shohei Ohtani . Albert Pujols has declined but is still productive. Kole Calhoun is a free agent leaving a hole in the outfield. Will super prospect Jo Adell be ready to take over in RF? By his performance in the Arizona Fall League, I’d venture a guess yes, but he may be held in the minors for a few weeks for contract control purposes. Tommy LaStella had a breakout first half before fouling a ball off his leg and sustaining a fracture. Can he follow that up? Before last year, he had only hit 10 career homers so his 16 were a major surprise. They are also looking for catching help with Martín Maldonado and Jason Castro in the mix.  Joe Maddon takes over the team after Brad Ausmus was fired, and the Angels hope he can do what he’s done in Chicago and Tampa.

Their pursuit of Gerrit Cole fell short to the Yankees mega offer and this leaves the Angels still looking for an upgrade to the starting staff.  They traded 4 pitching prospects for Dylan Bundy who has never lived up to expectations but a move out of Baltimore may help him finally develop into that pitcher.  Returning are Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning who had decent seasons last year, but neither of which should be counted on as a number one starter.  The loss of Cole hurt and the Angels should continue to be in the mix for Ryu and Keuchel.  There are rumors that they may also be in the mix for David Price in a trade with the Red Sox, but that remains to be seen.  Price would immediately elevate the staff, but he’s been inconsistent and the Angels can only hope he has something left in the tank.  The move to Hansel Robles as closer stabilized the bullpen last year after the disaster that was Cody Allen .  Late in the season, former closer, Kenyan Middleton returned from Tommy John and looked good in September. 

Off Season Needs: Starting Pitching, Catcher, OF depth

Key Free Agents: Kole Calhoun , Cody Allen

 

Texas Rangers

One of the most active teams has been Texas.  They will be moving into a new stadium and they are upping the ante with an aggressive off season.  Most of the moves have been on the pitching front, but they continue to be in the mix for Josh Donaldson to help bolster the lineup and fill the void at third base.   The breakout of Danny Santana and promotion of top prospect Willie Calhoun allowed them to trade Nomar Mazara to the White Sox for OF prospect Steele Walker. Joey Gallo and his prodigious power will round out the outfield and Shin Soo Choo continues to get on base at the top of the lineup at age 37.  Will they continue with Ronald Guzmán at first or look to upgrade there?  It’s a good lineup, but they can definitely use Donaldson’s bat and thus their continued pursuit.

The Rangers have made a major splash on the pitching front.  They traded OF Delino DeShields Jr. and relief pitcher Emmanuel Clase for Corey Kluber .  Kluber is coming back from a fractured arm suffered early in the season and will provide a huge boost to the staff. Returning from 2019 are both Lance Lynn and Mike Minor who had excellent seasons.  The Rangers also signed free agents Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles to complete the staff.  If Kluber returns to form and Lynn and Minor have similar seasons, Gibson and Lyles give them a deep staff.  The bullpen saw 2018 star José Leclerc lose the closer job in April after signing an extension in the off-season but return to the role in August.  He has been rumored in trade talks and we’ll see if anything comes of them. 

Off Season Needs:  Third baseman, First baseman, Relief pitching depth

Key Free Agents: Hunter Pence , Welington Castillo , Shawn Kelley

 

Seattle Mariners

Last off season the Mariners were very active but they haven’t done much thus far this year as you would expect from GM Jerry Dipoto.  They traded Omar Narváez to the Brewers for minor league pitcher Adam HillKyle Seager may also be on the move as there are several teams looking for third base help and the Mariners would be interested in moving Seager’s contract.  He bounced back in the second half of 2019 and this has helped garner some interest.  Don’t expect the Mariners to do much else.  They will lose Tim Beckham , Domingo Santana and Ryon Healy to free agency. 

On the pitching front they have signed SP Kendall Graveman and RP Carl Edwards, Jr.  Pitching is not a strong suit and the Mariners hope that last year’s acquisitions Justus Sheffield and Yusei Kikuchi can further develop and Justin Dunn can join the rotation after being included in the Edwin Díaz deal.  The bullpen was not a strong point as the departure of Diaz left a major void.  Edwards may end up as their closer, as he joins Matt Magill who was used in that role at the end of the season after he was acquired from the Twins. 

Off Season Needs:  Starting Pitching, Bullpen Depth, Roster depth to replace free agent losses

Key Free Agents: Tim Beckham , Domingo Santana , Félix Hernández , Wade LeBlanc

 

There are many moves still to be made, but unlike last year, the major free agents are off the market before the new year.  Donaldson remains the top name still available along with Ryu, Keuchel, Ozuna, Castellanos and Puig.  Trade rumors that include top players like Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts continue to swirl.  With two months to go before spring training, there is plenty of time for some interesting things to happen. 

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