Offseason Outlook Rumors

Offseason Outlook Series

Ever since the regular season ended I’ve been previewing teams' offseason needs, outlining potential solutions and challenges along the way. Each piece offers an overview of a team’s commitments before previewing the months ahead. The resulting series provides a comprehensive look ahead to the offseason from the perspective of all 30 clubs. Here’s the team by team breakdown:

AL East

AL Central

AL West

NL East

NL Central

NL West

Full Story | Comments | Categories: Offseason Outlook

Offseason Outlook: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies will seek pitching in their first offseason under the joint leadership of Bill Geivett and Dan O’Dowd.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

As Bill Geivett begins his first offseason leading the Rockies' baseball operations department, the organization faces an intimidating challenge: find a way to improve the worst pitching staff in MLB. If Geivett accomplishes this goal, the Rockies will be that much closer to contending in the increasingly competitive NL West. It's not an easy task.

Dexter Fowler - Rockies (PW)

The Rockies have already completed one of their biggest offseason additions, hiring manager Walt Weiss. The longtime MLB shortstop had been managing his son’s high school team in the Denver area, but the leap isn’t as great as it first sounds. Weiss spent years working as a special assistant to GM Dan O'Dowd after his 14-year playing career ended in 2000.

Now that the Rockies have a field boss in place, they can focus on obtaining rotation help. No team allowed more runs than the Rockies in 2012 and while part of that can be attributed to Coors Field, this team could certainly use more pitching. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin have had success pitching in Colorado and pitchers such as Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White offer some promise. Still, the Rockies must obtain another starter this winter. It probably won’t be a top free agent pitcher — luring the game’s best arms to the thin air of Coors Field has never been easy — but there are still lots of potential targets for the Rockies.

Ricky Nolasco and Gavin Floyd could be trade targets for Colorado. I believe the Rockies should also pursue Jon Niese and Rick Porcello in case there’s a trade to be made for either starter. Free agent starters such as Kevin Correia, Ervin Santana, Roberto Hernandez and Francisco Liriano are some of the low-risk free agents who could appeal to Geivett. These pitchers would provide support in the short term, a worthwhile goal given the team's struggles in 2012. However, it also makes sense for the Rockies to pursue pitchers who project as long-term members of their staff.

The Rockies are deepest in the outfield, meaning players such as Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin could surface in trade talks this winter. At this point it doesn’t sound as though the Rockies will move Carlos Gonzalez.

Interest in Fowler would likely be strong, even at a time that there are many center fielders available via trades and free agency. The Braves seem like a fit for the Atlanta native, since they have enough depth to send a young pitcher to the Rockies. Fowler remains under team control for three more seasons, and he’ll earn considerably less than a free agent during that time. For that reason, the Rockies could look to extend him on a deal that covers his arbitration seasons and some years of free agency. I suggested in August that a five-year, $42MM extension could work for both sides.

Cuddyer and Colvin wouldn’t have as much trade value as Fowler. Still, teams interested in adding offense could inquire about the outfielders. Both Cuddyer and Colvin can play first base, a bonus for teams seeking versatility. Plus, the Rockies could part with offense more easily than most teams. Even without much production from Troy Tulowitzki the Rockies ranked third in the National League in runs scored this past season.

Giambi, a fixture on the bench since 2009, hasn't decided what his next step will be. The Rockies clearly like Giambi lots — enough to sign him as a free agent three times and consider him for their managerial opening — but he's not a logical fit on the roster. They already have one aging, left-handed hitting first baseman in Todd Helton, so there could come a time when Giambi’s skillset simply doesn’t fit.

The Rockies will also need relief help, though none of their most relied upon relievers are departing as free agents. That said, it doesn't make sense for the mid-market Rockies to invest a significant portion of their budget in relief help. Relievers Kyle Farnsworth, Ramon Ramirez and Brandon Lyon might be among the free agent options available on short-term contracts.

Colorado's class of arbitration eligible players includes two non-tender candidates: Josh Outman and Jonathan Herrera. It's possible Herrera and other Rockies infielders will draw trade interest this offseason given the lack of free agent infielders available. Other than Fowler, the group doesn't include any obvious extension candidates.

The Rockies will pursue pitching this offseason in an attempt to restore some balance to their roster. They don't have to have an elite pitching staff, but they must make significant improvements before they can expect to win more games than they lose.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Miami Marlins

The Marlins already completed one blockbuster trade, and they probably aren’t done making moves yet.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The current version of the Marlins doesn’t look anything like the roster that generated so much excitement leading up to the 2012 season. Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and manager Ozzie Guillen are gone, and it seems highly unlikely that their replacements will contend for a playoff berth next year.

Giancarlo Stanton - Marlins (PW)

Last week's trade strips the Marlins of two quality starting pitchers, an All-Star shortstop and two others who belong on MLB rosters. No team could replace that assortment of talent easily. The Marlins lost 93 games even with those players, so they project as a poor team in the short term. That could change within a year or two, when some of the Marlins’ prospects reach the MLB level along with some of the players obtained in the trade with Toronto. However, unless owner Jeffrey Loria decides to invest in the sustained on-field success of this club, it’ll remain hard for Miami to contend consistently.

As presently configured, the Marlins project to have one of the lowest payrolls in the game just one year after raising payroll past the $100MM threshold. It means president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill probably won’t have much financial flexibility in the coming winter. And if Loria indicates that he wants payroll to dip even further, then established players such as Ricky Nolasco and Yunel Escobar could be the next ones traded. 

The Marlins will apparently consider trade offers for Nolasco, Escobar and Logan Morrison this winter. Each player has trade value, though none of them had particularly strong seasons in 2012. Nolasco, who has one year remaining on his contract with Miami, could appeal to teams seeking rotation help such as the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins. 

Escobar, the Marlins’ projected third baseman, would also generate interest on the trade market. The Diamondbacks, Athletics and Cardinals are among the teams that could be looking for help on left side of the infield this offseason. Escobar has a team friendly contract, and there’s simply not much out there for teams seeking infield help.

If the Marlins trade Morrison this offseason, they'd definitely be selling low. The 25-year-old dealt with a knee injury this past season, and was limited to just 93 games. He hasn't yet qualified for arbitration, so he's affordable for now. In the event that the Marlins do listen to offers for Morrison, clubs like the Rays, Red Sox and Indians could check in.

As a consequence of the Marlins' recent trades, the second half of their lineup includes four inexperienced players. Projected starters Justin Ruggiano, Donovan Solano, Rob Brantly and Adeiny Hechavarria have combined for fewer than 1,100 career plate appearances. This isn't to say the Marlins need more experienced players, but they must establish contingency plans in case Hechavarria doesn't hit, or Ruggiano can't replicate his 2012 success.

By acquiring Juan Pierre, they obtained a useful, affordable player who just completed a strong season in Philadelphia. The addition of Pierre means the Marlins won't have to count on someone like Gorkys Hernandez for immediate production. That said, the signing won't prevent the Marlins from finding playing time for player in the process of breaking out.

The Marlins will need to add starting pitching this coming offseason. While Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner all have promise, the Marlins should add some certainty to the rotation, especially if they move Nolasco. Otherwise, they'd be poorly positioned if one of the starting five experienced a setback. Even if the Marlins aren't going to spend on top tier free agents again, they could look to sign one or two starters like Kevin Correia, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Roberto Hernandez and Francisco Liriano. Miami could appeal to free agent pitchers looking to restore value on one-year deals, since the Marlins play in a pitcher-friendly park and in the National League. Beinfest might be able to take advantage of this and sign at least one intriguing free agent starter to a low-risk contract.

Though it's difficult to imagine the Marlins spending big on a free agent starter, it's even harder to imagine another Heath Bell-like free agent addition. The Marlins do need relief help since their bullpen, like most of their roster, includes lots of uncertainty. Even if the team limits itself to waiver claims, minor league deals and short-term free agent signings, it'll be possible to obtain a number of useful arms affordably.

The Marlins have just one arbitration eligible player, Ryan Webb. The reliever has a projected salary of less than $1MM, so this year's arb class will be as light as it gets for Miami.

Giancarlo Stanton narrowly missed qualifying for arbitration, which saves the Marlins millions in 2013. Still, they might want to sign him to a long-term deal given his status as one of the game's premier young players. Unfortunately for Marlins fans, Stanton has expressed frustration with the team's decision making, an indication that he could be reluctant to commit to the organization long-term. That said, the Marlins could give him tens of millions of reasons to reconsider. The Marlins, who don't give out no-trade clauses, could theoretically increase Stanton's trade value by extending him to a reasonable long-term contract.

With the hiring of manager Mike Redmond, the Marlins addressed one of their most significant offseason needs. The former catcher has a formidable task. He'll be working with a relatively young roster and under the notoriously fickle Loria.

The Marlins probably won’t be a good team in 2013. In fact their offseason moves so far suggest that winning in 2013 isn’t the organization’s top priority. Still, they can stay somewhat competitive by supplementing their young talent with some depth moves for affordable players.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox must pursue answers at multiple positions and address needs on their pitching staff this offseason, and they should have resources at their disposal.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

Following a season that was at best forgettable and at worst embarrassing, the Red Sox have a number of major offseason needs. Ben Cherington will seek answers in the outfield, at first base and in the rotation in his second full offseason as Boston’s GM. Ownership should be able to bid aggressively on free agents but whether the team will choose to do so remains an open question.

David Ortiz - Red Sox (PW)

The Red Sox added a manager considerably sooner than they did a year ago, acquiring John Farrell from the Blue Jays in a deal that sent Mike Aviles to Toronto. They get a known commodity in Farrell, someone who has strong ties to the Red Sox and, now, experience managing at the MLB level. If Farrell can manage this team while limiting distractions, the Red Sox will be much better off than they were under Bobby Valentine.

Cherington has already addressed two other major needs, re-signing David Ortiz and signing David Ross. Not only was Ortiz the top designated hitter available in free agency, he’s an icon in Boston. His two-year, $26MM contract seems reasonable for both sides.

Ross, Brian McCann’s longtime backup in Atlanta, also obtained a two-year deal from the Red Sox. The 35-year-old should provide some offense in a reserve role. Now it’s a question of who he’ll be backing up. Jarrod Saltalamacchia appears to be a trade candidate with Ross and Ryan Lavarnway also on the 40-man roster. If the Red Sox listen to offers for Saltalamacchia, the Mets, Rangers, Astros and Mariners could express some interest. Otherwise, Lavarnway can simply start the 2013 season in the minor leagues — it’s not as though he hit MLB pitching particularly well in 2012. 

It's possible the Red Sox will add another catcher, as they've maintained interest in free agent Mike Napoli since signing Ross. Napoli could also play first base and address another one of Boston's needs, so the club's interest might simply be a result of the relatively weak first base market. James Loney, now a free agent, was never regarded as a long-term answer at first base when the Red Sox acquired him from the Dodgers this past summer. The Red Sox must find another solution at a time that the free agent market for first basemen appears weak. Kevin Youkilis could return to play first, and the Red Sox also appear to have interest in Adam LaRoche. While Youkilis and LaRoche don’t project as elite hitters for 2013 and beyond, they’re the top options available at the position.

The Red Sox could also listen to trade offers for Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s now just one year away from hitting free agency. The timing could be better for Boston. Center fielders Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, B.J. Upton and Angel Pagan are available in free agency, which reduces Cherington’s leverage in potential trade talks. Still, the Rangers have liked Ellsbury in the past and many others would express interest given Ellsbury’s youth and MVP-caliber 2011 season. If the Red Sox keep Ellsbury, they could discuss the possibility of an extension. However, Scott Boras appears to believe his client should be paid like a premium player, even after a disappointing season that saw Ellsbury miss months with a shoulder injury.

Regardless of what happens with Ellsbury, the Red Sox will be pursuing outfielders this offseason. Cody Ross has hit free agency, and could be a fit in Boston going forward. He might not replicate his 2012 numbers, but he does hit well at Fenway Park. Ross has a case for a multiyear deal, and as long as he’s commanding an annual salary worth less than $10MM, he’s worth considering.

In case Ross signs elsewhere, the Red Sox will presumably check in on the likes of Nick Swisher and Victorino. Swisher's versatility would be a plus for the Red Sox given their opening at first base. Even Josh Hamilton, the top free agent position player of the offseason, should be a consideration. Hamilton could cost upwards of $20MM per season on a long-term deal, which will dissuade many owners. However, he’s an elite talent who would undeniably make the Red Sox better in 2013. At this point it’s still unclear whether the Red Sox will use their recently obtained payroll flexibility on top free agents, or take on payroll more gradually.

If the Red Sox prefer to rely on Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney as backups, they’ll be pursuing multiple free agent outfielders. They’ll want to consider impact trade candidates such as Shin-Soo Choo and Justin Upton in the coming months as well.

Though Jose Iglesias adds value on defense, it’s not yet clear that he’ll hit at the MLB level. Earlier this month Cherington told me the Red Sox are confident in the shortstop’s ability to handle the bat. Still, the Red Sox are looking at alternative shortstops. Stephen Drew and Asdrubal Cabrera, two considerations for Boston, would both offer more certainty and offense than Iglesias.

Boston’s needs don’t end there, as the club has weaknesses to address on its pitching staff. The Red Sox figure to pursue starting pitching to be sure there’s enough depth to get through a six month season. They appear to have interest in Anibal Sanchez, Hiroki Kuroda and Ryan Dempster. Any of those pitchers would be solid additions to a staff that ranked 12th in the American League with 5 runs allowed per game in 2012. Dan Haren, Joe Blanton and Jeremy Guthrie are among the other free agent starters Cherington could pursue to solidify his rotation.

Boston’s projected bullpen could look considerably different in a couple of weeks, once the non-tender deadline passes. The club could let Hill, Aceves and Atchison go instead of tendering them contracts through the arbitration process. So far Jason Grilli, Joakim Soria and Kyuji Fujikawa have been linked to the Red Sox. Each of those pitchers would be an intriguing addition to the 2013 staff.

Other than Ellsbury, Boston’s arbitration class doesn’t include obvious extension candidates. It’s possible the club could inquire about the possibility of locking Will Middlebrooks, but early career extensions are typically the domain of smaller market teams. While the Red Sox will discuss an extension with Dustin Pedroia at some point this winter, there’s limited urgency with two years remaining on Pedroia’s contract.

The 2013 Red Sox won’t arrive in Spring Training with the expectations that have surrounded recent teams — after this past season the confidence of Red Sox Nation has faded. But there’s talent on this roster and flexibility with respect to payroll, so Cherington could mold the Red Sox into a team capable of contending by Opening Day.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Toronto Blue Jays

While the Blue Jays have already addressed many of their offseason needs, they're probably not done making changes just yet.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

  • Cory Wade, RP: $700K (first time eligible, non-tender candidate)
  • Bobby Wilson, C: $600K (first time eligible, non-tender candidate)
  • Colby Rasmus, OF: $4.5MM (second time eligible)
  • J.A. Happ, SP: $3.8MM (second time eligible)

Free Agents

The Blue Jays made one of the biggest trades in franchise history this week, re-shaping their roster and restoring hope for a fan base that has grown tired of mediocre results. Two weeks into the offseason, this team looks much different — and much stronger — than the one that took the field under John Farrell for the final game of the season last month. Much of Alex Anthopoulos’ work is done, but he still has many needs to address before Spring Training.

Jose Reyes - Marlins (PW)

The 2012 season opened with no-so-cautious optimism only to unravel because of injuries and limited pitching depth, and end with the revelation that the manager wanted out. While the disappointment has faded, the shortcomings of the 2012 team will inform Anthopoulos’ decisions as the rest of the winter unfolds.

Now that the GM Meetings are over and the trade with Miami has been agreed upon, Blue Jays executives can resume their managerial search. They appear to have selected two finalists for the position, so a decision could come soon. Whenever they do select a manager, they must be certain their selection wants to be in Toronto. Farrell’s interest in Boston became a serious problem toward the end of his tenure in Toronto.

The Blue Jays had one of the worst starting rotations in baseball this past season. Pick a metric — innings, ERA, wins above replacement, strikeout rate, walk rate — and Blue Jays starters were among the worst in MLB. That should change in 2013, when Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson join the rotation. By acquiring the former Marlins starters, Anthopoulos addressed the team's most pressing need in a meaningful way.

Still, the Blue Jays shouldn’t stop adding pitching depth now. They don’t need to spend on a prominent free agent starter, especially after taking on so much payroll in their trade with the Marlins. Free agents such as Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum and Scott Feldman would strengthen Toronto’s depth and prevent injuries from being so costly when they inevitably occur. Free agents might even be more inclined to sign with the Blue Jays now that they’ve made such a significant trade. If not, the Blue Jays could pursue trades for pitchers such as Trevor Bauer, Gavin Floyd and Jon Niese.

The Blue Jays have enviable catching depth at a time that many MLB teams figure to have interest in upgrading at the position. The club could trade either John Buck or J.P. Arencibia if the right deal emerges. In fact both catchers bat right-handed and hit left-handers better than right-handers, so to an extent they're redundant on the same roster. Anthopoulos could look to engage the Rangers, Yankees, White Sox, Mets, Mariners and Astros in trade talks for the catchers this winter.

The depth of the Blue Jays’ bullpen will depend on whether Darren Oliver returns for another season. The Blue Jays exercised their 2013 option for the veteran left-hander, but he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll play another year. He’d be an asset for the Blue Jays, even at age 42. He struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings pitching last year, lowering his ERA for the fifth consecutive season.

Though right-handers Jason Frasor and Brandon Lyon are hitting free agency, the Blue Jays did complete a trade for Esmil Rogers. Sergio Santos and Luis Perez both underwent surgery this past July, and could join the Blue Jays late in the 2013 season. It'd still make sense for the Blue Jays to pursue another reliever to be sure they have enough pitching depth for the first half of the season.

The Blue Jays' decision to sign Melky Cabrera makes lots of sense, since the team didn't have a clear answer in left field. Now Rajai Davis stays on the bench and Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra presumably return to the minor leagues, where they'll provide depth. Cabrera, the most expensive free agent addition the Blue Jays have made under Anthopoulos, costs $16MM over two years, a reasonable sum for an All-Star caliber player in his prime. There are lingering questions about Cabrera, who served a 50-game suspension for having elevated levels of testosterone. Still, he has considerable upside, so paying him at the same level as Jason Kubel and Coco Crisp seems reasonable.

Two new additions, Bonifacio and Izturis, can both handle second base. Though it's possible the Blue Jays will consider other options at the position, there's not much available in free agency and the trade market doesn't seem much more promising.

The Blue Jays' class of arbitration eligible players consists of just four players. Two of them, Cory Wade and Bobby Wilson, could lose their roster spots. Colby Rasmus and J.A. Happ will be tendered contracts, but neither players seems like an obvious extension candidate at this stage.

Since the season ended last month, the Blue Jays have already traded a manager, completed a franchise-changing blockbuster deal, signed two free agents to multiyear contracts and claimed six players on waivers. Some teams don’t do as much in an entire offseason. For Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays there’s still work to be done between now and Opening Day.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Texas Rangers

The Rangers will seek a catcher, pursue outfielders and add pitching in the coming months.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

In the aftermath of a respectable but ultimately disappointing season, the Rangers find themselves on the threshold of a potentially transformative winter. Their franchise player could sign elsewhere and they have a number of significant needs around the diamond. Yet there are enough impact players assembled on this roster for GM Jon Daniels to focus on their few pressing needs and continue winning in 2013.

Josh Hamilton - Rangers (PW)

To say the Rangers' offseason revolves around Josh Hamilton wouldn't be accurate. Now that the Rangers have made him a qualifying offer and he has rejected it, the team's involvement with its former star could be over. The Rangers could pursue Hamilton, but they seem to have reservations about making him a long-term offer. Instead, they're expected to pursue other outfielders.

With corner outfielders David Murphy and Nelson Cruz under team control for another year, the Rangers are a potential match for center fielders. Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Angel Pagan are among the center fielders headlining a deep group of free agent outfielders. Perhaps the Rangers will bid on one of these players to replace Hamilton as the club's primary center field option. If the Rangers prefer not to rely on Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in center field, pursuing free agents at the position makes sense.

The Rangers are also interested in corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Justin Upton. Manager Ron Washington could move Nelson Cruz to DH and make Michael Young a utility player if Daniels acquires a right fielder such as Swisher or Upton. The Rangers attempted to acquire Andrelton Simmons from the Braves for Mike Olt in order to flip Simmons to Arizona in a deal for Upton. However, it doesn't appear that the Rangers will trade Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar to acquire the Arizona right fielder.

Even so, I'm sure this isn't the last time we'll hear the names Andrus and Profar in trade rumors this winter. Teams in need of shortstops figure to call the Rangers about the possibility of making a trade for one of their talented, young infielders. Few players have more trade value than Andrus, an All-Star caliber 24-year-old signed to a reasonable contract through 2014, or Profar, the switch-hitting 19-year-old regarded as one of the top prospects in MLB. Expect the Rangers to keep Andrus and Profar unless they obtain an equally talented player in return.

If anyone could persuade the Rangers to part with Andrus and Profar it's Andrew Friedman. The Rays executive could move David Price or James Shields this winter, and Tampa Bay could use a shortstop. Price will earn a substantial raise through arbitration and the Rays have starting pitching depth, so both sides could be motivated to complete a deal structured around Price and a Texas shortstop.

It's also possible the Rangers could move Andrus or Profar to second base and move Kinsler to another position, likely the outfield. This could push an outfielder such as Murphy or Cruz to DH and shift Young into a reserve role.

Alternatively, the Rangers could continue using Olt as a trade chip to acquire a starting pitcher. As a controllable player who posted excellent numbers throughout the minor leagues, Olt has considerable trade value.

If the Rangers don't like opposing teams' asking prices in trade talks, they could bolster their rotation via free agency. Zack Greinke, MLBTR's top ranked free agentinterests Texas' front office executives. He'd be an excellent fit alongside Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The Rangers have expanded payroll in recent years, and if they intend to continue spending $120MM-plus on payroll, Greinke could be a long-term fit. Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson are among the other free agent starters who could interest the Rangers. Expect Ryan Dempster to sign elsewhere.

The Rangers also need to add middle relief at a time that Koji Uehara, Mike Adams and Mark Lowe are hitting free agency. The team could pursue some of its own free agents or look to others such as Joakim Soria, Jason Grilli, Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel. It'd make sense to stay in touch with right-hander Scott Feldman. The free agent could provide depth at a reasonable salary, as Dave Cameron recently explained at FanGraphs.

Now that Mike Napoli has hit free agency, the Rangers are without a clear solution at catcher. They're expected to non-tender Geovany Soto given the former Rookie of the Year's projected $4.6MM salary, which means it'll soon be time to consider free agents and trade candidates. A.J. Pierzynski could appeal to the Rangers, and they're considering Russell Martin. Those are the most appealing free agents out there unless they circle back to Napoli. They won't find a catcher with more power than Napoli, who missed time with a quad injury this past season. The trade market could include J.P. Arencibia and former Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has spent the past two and a half seasons with the Red Sox.

The Rangers' class of arbitration eligible players includes just one non-tender candidate — Soto. The club could look to extend Harrison or Murphy later on in the winter.

Losing Hamilton would be a blow, especially in the short term. And Daniels has an extensive to-do list, there’s no question about that. But the Rangers have adapted on the fly before. With their roster and resources, there’s reason for optimism as the offseason begins.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: New York Yankees

The Yankees must address a number of needs on offense and on the pitching staff — all while looking to avoid the MLB luxury tax by 2014.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

In his tenure as Yankees’ GM, Brian Cashman has often strengthened his team with free agent additions. It’s time for some role reversal: the Yankees could lose their catcher, their closer, both corner outfielders and a dependable starter to free agency this offseason. As the Yankees prepare to lower payroll for 2014, Cashman must retain some of New York’s free agents and pursue outside help for the Yankees to hold onto top spot in the AL East.

Mariano Rivera - Yankees (PW)

The Yankees have more needs than usual this offseason. They must address their starting lineup, their rotation, their bench, and their bullpen on an apparently limited budget. Let's start with the spending restrictions, since there's something jarring about the notion of the Yankees lowering payroll.

There are significant financial incentives for the Yankees to avoid the luxury of $189MM for 2014. They have committed less than $70MM to the '14 team, so avoiding the tax seems simple enough until you realize that they still have to pay Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and about 20 others. The way I see it, it'll be challenging for the Yankees to lower payroll below $189MM as long as they continue to rely so heavily on baseball's most expensive commodity: established stars. If their reliance on star players diminishes, and they evolve into a team that’s built around younger players, capping costs will be easier. And that, according to Cashman and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, has become the plan for sustained success in New York. Still, the Yankees have downplayed their interest in free agency before only to spend big, so many observers will have to see this team show restraint to believe it.

The rotation always seems to be an area of need for New York. The Yankees wisely offered Hiroki Kuroda a qualifying offer only to have the veteran right-hander decline. He'd be an excellent addition given his effectiveness. As a bonus, he'll consider one-year deals. If Kuroda signs elsewhere, the Yankees will have to look at alternatives. Ryan Dempster and Dan Haren are among the starters who might accept the kind of contracts that won't compromise the team's ability to avoid the luxury tax. The Yankees have never seemed convinced Zack Greinke could thrive in New York, but the point is moot, since he appears to be too expensive.

The Yankees might get another season from Andy Pettitte, who returned from retirement to make 12 strong regular season starts and two more in October. Re-signing Pettitte would be advisable, even if he doesn't pitch a full season. The 40-year-old has a history of playing well in the postseason, a bonus for any team that threatens for championships annually.

Some speculative trade targets for the Yankees: Brett Anderson, Gavin Floyd, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano. I'm taking the team at its word and excluding Felix Hernandez from this list because he's now earning close to market value.

Mariano Rivera, arguably the best reliever of all time, and Rafael Soriano, the Yankees' top reliever in 2012, are both free agents this offseason. Assuming Rivera continues pitching, the Yankees should bring him back, perhaps for one year at $15MM. While spending on relievers often seems unnecessary, these are exceptional circumstances: the richest team in baseball needs relief help and its Hall of Fame closer is available on what will presumably be a short-term contract. Expect the sides to reach an agreement.

If the Yankees bring Rivera back, Soriano will presumably leave in search of a closing job elsewhere. The Yankees would obtain a 2013 draft pick in that case, since they made Soriano a qualifying offer. It's possible the Yankees will decide to pursue a setup reliever. Joakim Soria seems interested and could be one option. 

Russell Martin finished the season strong, improving his free agent stock in the process. Naturally, the Yankees aren't eager to overpay. Still, they're interested in Martin, one of the top free agent catchers out there. Mike Napoli, another free agent catcher, has also drawn interest from New York. He'd be an intriguing fit, since the Yankees could keep him in the lineup most days by using him as a part-time designated hitter.

That's another one of the positions Cashman must address this offseason. Playoff hero Raul Ibanez has hit free agency along with Andruw Jones. The Yankees might prefer to keep the DH spot open for days when Jeter, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira could use a rest, so they won't necessarily target a high-profile bat for the position. Re-signing Ibanez as a platoon bat could make sense, since he provided power all year long before his postseason heroics.

Nick Swisher will probably sign elsewhere, which means the Yankees will be seeking at least one corner outfielder. They showed interest in Torii Hunter and could now turn to free agents such as Cody Ross and Shane Victorino. I think the Yankees should target Shin-Soo Choo in a trade, since he'd add lots of value in right field on a limited one-year commitment. Andre Ethier makes less sense given the Yankees' interest in avoiding the luxury tax. 

Meanwhile, Brett Gardner projects as the starter in left field. If the Yankees are concerned about the health of Gardner's elbow, they could become more aggressive in their search for outfield depth. The Yankees haven't ruled out the possibility of re-signing midseason acquisition Ichiro Suzuki.

Granderson has a case for a long-term extension now that he's just one year away from free agency. The Yankees will almost surely want to sign Cano long-term as well. The team has policy of waiting until players hit free agency to negotiate new contracts, but Cashman could allow for an exception or two this winter. If he does, he'll have to be prepared to spend. Cano has a case for a deal worth in excess of $200MM.

The Yankees have a substantial class of arbitration eligible players that includes much of their bullpen. The group includes three non tender candidates in Jayson Nix, David Herndon and Eli Whiteside. It seems unlikely that any arbitration eligible players will obtain extensions given the Yankees' team policy.

Cashman faces a challenging offseason — perhaps his toughest assignment in recent years. At a time that his stars are aging and his resources are diminishing, the GM must address multiple major needs.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Chicago White Sox

The White Sox will look for solutions at a number of positions this offseason, and they could trade pitching depth.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The White Sox weren't able to reach the playoffs in 2012, but they have enough above average players to project as contenders in the American League going forward. They have clear needs at third base and catcher in Rick Hahn’s first offseason as Chicago’s GM. 

Kevin Youkilis - White Sox (PW)

Longtime White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski has hit free agency, which means the White Sox need to address their catching depth. It's been reported that Pierzynski will likely sign elsewhere, and if he does leave the White Sox could pursue a free agent replacement. Russell Martin and Mike Napoli are the top backstops available, but Hahn won't necessarily be pursuing a starter. Tyler Flowers could become the team's everyday catcher, in which case Chicago could pursue a backup. The trade market could include players such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia and J.P. Arencibia should Hahn wish to avoid free agency altogether.

The White Sox acquired Kevin Youkilis midseason, when his value was at a low point. He has since restored his value with 80 solid games in Chicago, hitting 15 home runs and posting a .771 OPS. Youkilis, the top free agent third baseman available this offseason, he has already drawn the interest of six teams. Even though he'll turn 34 before Opening Day, Youkilis could be a fit on next year's White Sox team. There's no clear alternative within the organization, and the trade market at third base doesn't seem strong.

It'd make sense for the White Sox to monitor extension talks between David Wright and the Mets and Chase Headley and the Padres just in case. If one of those players becomes available in a trade, it'd be an opportunity worth pursuing. Chicago's offense ranked fourth in the American League in runs scored this past season and it'd look even better with an All-Star at third base. Though the asking price would be high, the White Sox have pulled off many major trades before. 

One player they acquired in a memorable trade recently re-signed with Chicago. The White Sox got their offseason started early, signing Jake Peavy to a two-year deal. Peavy would have been one of the top free agent starters available after his bounce-back season, so keeping him in place through 2014 makes sense. The White Sox didn't get a major discount, but expecting one wasn't realistic considering Peavy's 2012 numbers (3.37 ERA, 194 strikeouts, 219 innings).

Hahn has suggested the White Sox might actually have starting pitching to spare. The club exercised Gavin Floyd's option, which gives them a projected starting five of Peavy, Floyd, Chris Sale, John Danks and Jose Quintana. Non-tender candidate Philip Humber could be traded, or the club could part with a veteran such as Floyd and rely on a less experienced pitcher like Simon Castro or Nestor Molina. Floyd should have good value even though elbow injuries limited him to 168 innings this past season. 

Hahn and Kenny Williams have expressed interest in bringing Brett Myers back as a free agent. Myers apparently prefers to start, so he could be a more realistic option if the White Sox complete a trade involving one of their starters. Francisco Liriano, another midseason acquisition, doesn't seem to be a fit for a relatively deep rotation that already includes three left-handers.

With the exception of Myers, the team's top relievers will return for another season. The White Sox won't need to spend on elite relievers, though, like every team, they should continue looking for pitching depth on low-risk deals. After all, that's how they added Quintana and Donnie Veal a year ago.

Chicago's class of arbitration eligible players consists entirely of first timers. Dan Johnson and Humber could be non-tendered given that they project to have salaries above $1MM. Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza project as starters on next year’s team, yet they don’t seem like obvious extension candidates at this stage.

If the White Sox aren't convinced that De Aza will replicate his 2012 success, they could pursue outfield depth in free agency. There's been no indication that the White Sox have serious interest in high profile free agent outfielders so far. Perhaps Nate McLouth and Reed Johnson will be viewed as part-time players who could help the 2013 White Sox. A left-handed hitter such as McLouth could mask Dayan Viciedo's struggles against right-handers.

Obtaining help at third base and catcher won’t be easy in this market. If these needs have been addressed by Spring Training, the White Sox should again challenge the Tigers for the AL Central title.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: San Francisco Giants

The Giants need to obtain an outfielder and find an answer at second base.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

Every team has offseason needs — even the defending World Champions. But the Giants will project as a contender again in 2013, assuming Brian Sabean addresses center field and second base this winter.

Buster Posey - Giants (PW)

Sabean has stayed in contact with Marco Scutaro about a possible deal since the season ended, and it does seem as though there's a potential match here. Scutaro thrived after arriving in San Francisco and the Giants need someone to play second base. Scutaro, who turned 37 last month, has a strong case for a multiyear deal. Three years ago, after a comparable offensive season, the contact hitter obtained a multiyear deal that guaranteed him slightly more than $6MM per season. A two-year deal has the potential to work for both sides again this year.

If the Giants don't re-sign Scutaro they won't find much in free agency. One option, Jeff Keppingeris a Scutaro-like player in that he makes lots of contact, hits for limited power and plays multiple positions. It's possible Keppinger could appeal to Sabean and his fellow Giants executives. If the Giants look to the trade market they won't necessarily find more appealing options. Skip Schumaker of the Cardinals would be one affordable trade candidate worth considering (by the way, I know I've mentioned Schumaker repeatedly as a target for teams in need of second base help, but he's a useful, affordable player who's not a major part of the Cardinals' plans — why not check in on him?).

The Giants will need at least one outfielder, since Angel Pagan has hit free agency. Sabean elected not to extend a qualifying offer to Pagan, a move that was debatable though not surprising. One year and $13.3MM for a center fielder who contributes on offense seems reasonable, especially since Pagan will generate interest on multiyear contracts. Pagan has said he'd like to return to San Francisco, and the sides have had some preliminary talks about possible contracts.

While the free agent market features few starting second basemen, there's lots of outfield depth in free agency this year. Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and B.J. Upton join Pagan in center field. The corner outfield market seems just as intriguing with Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher and Cody Ross available. The Giants could pursue some of these players, depending on their talks with Pagan and ownership's willingness to boost payroll.

Some see Hamilton as a potential fit in San Francisco. He'd add left-handed power to the middle of a lineup built around two right-handed hitters (Buster Posey and Hunter Pence) and a switch hitter (Pablo Sandoval). He'd also cost a ton of money, and though the Giants have steadily increased payroll in each of the past four seasons, they might not want to spend on Hamilton. After all, many questions surround the 31-year-old and there are a number of quality alternatives in free agency.

Pence won't be non-tendered despite some speculation about the possibility. His history of production (.285/.339/.475 career line) and age (29) outweigh his expected salary ($13.8MM) and relatively ordinary 2012 numbers. In fact, you could make the case that the Giants should offer Pence a two or three year deal worth $10MM or so per season to see if he's interested in staying in San Francisco.

Brian Wilson, however, should probably be non-tendered given his projected salary of $8.5MM — that's too much for a reliever coming off of Tommy John surgery. Clay Hensley could also be non-tendered at the end of November.

San Francisco's formidable pitching staff will be back for another year. The complete rotation will return in 2013: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. The group started all but two of the team's regular season games in 2012, and counting on that kind of health again would be unreasonable, so it'd make sense to pursue rotation help if possible. Few free agent starters would want to sign in San Francisco, which means Sabean's search may be limited to trades and minor league free agency.

Jeremy Affeldt already agreed to terms with the Giants on a three-year, $18MM contract that will keep him in San Francisco through 2015. The Giants are spending at the top of the market for Affeldt, who had lots of leverage after another season of strong relief pitching. The Giants now have three capable left-handers in their bullpen, so it won't be surprising if teams inquire about possible trades. Most teams in baseball let Jose Mijares go through waivers this past summer, yet he’d be a fit in many bullpens.

The Giants are expected to discuss the possibility of a long-term deal with Posey. By January, when extension talks of this nature typically start unfolding, Posey could have an MVP trophy on his resume. Whether he wins the award or not, he’s going to be expensive. Back in August, Mark Polishuk explained Posey’s case for a deal in the $85MM range, and in the three months since then his leverage has grown considerably. He's an elite player about to be paid as such. From a team perspective I wouldn’t endorse any deal that doesn’t extend the Giants’ control of Posey beyond his four years of arbitration eligibility.

The Giants’ best players will return in 2013, so, health permitting, they already have the makings of a strong team. They can remain one of the National League’s elite clubs if Sabean supplements his roster with a pair of position players this offseason.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

Offseason Outlook: Washington Nationals

The Nationals will pursue at least one position player while seeking rotation help.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

Much has changed for the Nationals in the last 12 months. A year ago the team had yet to finish better than .500 since moving to Washington, Bryce Harper was playing in the Arizona Fall League, and Gio Gonzalez was still a member of the Athletics. Now, as the Nationals prepare to defend their NL East title, their offseason plans are closely tied to a player — Adam LaRoche — who seemed all but forgotten a year ago this time.

Adam LaRoche - Nationals (PW)

If the Nationals sign LaRoche, they could rely on Michael Morse, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in the outfield and bypass a deep class of free agent outfielders to focus on other needs. If the Nationals don't re-sign LaRoche then Michael Morse and Tyler Moore would become the team's primary first base options, and the search for outside outfield help would intensify.

It's also possible that the Nationals could re-sign LaRoche and pursue a free agent center fielder. GM Mike Rizzo could elect to create roster space by trading Morse at a time that many teams are seeking offense. The Rays, Indians and Red Sox are among the many teams that could have interest in trading for the first baseman.

A robust center field market includes B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino, Michael Bourn and others, so the Nationals figure to stay informed in case the right deal emerges. Though Harper handled center field nicely this past season, moving him to right field might make more sense long-term. However, they have some interest in Nick Swisher, an indication that they'd be comfortable spending at a corner position and relying on Harper in center field. The Nationals are also interested in Bourn, who has seemed like a fit in D.C. for a while.

LaRoche, the lone Nationals free agent to obtain a qualifying offer, has had talks with the team about returning for 2013 and beyond. Because of the weak class of free agent first basemen LaRoche has considerable leverage, even though he's tied to draft pick compensation. Still, there's no reason for Washington to spend desperately to retain him given their in-house alternatives.

The Nationals also need help in the rotation, so I found it somewhat surprising when they decided not to make Edwin Jackson a qualifying offer. He pitched well this past season, earning $11MM on a one-year contract. The Nationals could have created the possibility of draft pick compensation by offering a modest raise to $13.3MM on a low-risk one-year deal. Instead Jackson hits free agency and the Nationals' search for starting pitching continues.

The Nationals had a tremendous rotation this past season and with the exception of Jackson it'll stay together in 2013. Still, the Nationals need another starting pitcher this offseason. Ryan Dempster seems like a fit for the Nationals if he doesn't require a long-term commitment. Even though he's 35, the right-hander continues pitching effectively. Dan Haren and Hiroki Kuroda are among the veteran starters who could be available on short-term contracts this winter. Let's not forget about Zack Greinke, who would give Washington a formidable rotation if they could overcome the odds and find a way to sign him. Though there's always the possibility of a trade, the asking price for quality starting pitching figures to be high this offseason.

Washington's bullpen remains relatively young and affordable for now. Most of the relievers will return, yet left-handers Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez are free agents. While Rizzo could rely on southpaws such as Tom Gorzelanny, it makes sense for the Nationals to add a lefty specialist if possible. That would add depth and allow Gorzelanny to continue as a multiple inning reliever.

Rizzo addressed one of the team's biggest needs earlier this month when he brought Davey Johnson back for another season. It's possible owner Ted Lerner could look to extend Rizzo, who has just one guaranteed deal remaining on his contract with Washington (the deal includes options for 2014-15).

The Nationals have a large class of arbitration eligible players that includes two non-tender candidates. John Lannan figures to be cut loose after earning $5MM to play at Triple-A in 2012 and Jesus Flores could also lose his roster spot.

After extending three players last offseason the Nationals could pursue more long term deals with their top players. Tim Dierkes has suggested a five-year deal in the $45MM range could work for Jordan Zimmermann. Such a deal would resemble Gonzalez's recent extension and preserve the Nationals' rotation depth long-term. Ian Desmond also has a case for a multiyear deal following a breakout season at shortstop. Some will wonder about the possibility of an extension for Harper, but to me the timing doesn't seem right given the contract he signed after Washington drafted him.

The Nationals project as a scary team in 2013, assuming Rizzo adds a position player and obtains depth for his pitching staff. After years of building, this franchise's time to contend has arrived.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.