While this winter has been notably thin on major transactions, several clubs have already made big strides to shore up the positions that plagued them last season. Baseball Reference breaks down how all 30 teams fared in 2017 on a position-by-position basis, as ranked by bWAR. Here’s a rundown of what each team has done to address its most glaring weak point…
Angels (DH, -1.3 bWAR): Shohei Ohtani’s attempt to be a two-way player in the big leagues will be one of baseball’s most fascinating stories in 2018, and the Angels are intent on giving the Japanese star some DH at-bats on days he isn’t pitching. Even if it takes a while for Ohtani to adjust to MLB pitching, there’s really nowhere to go but up for the Angels at the DH spot in the wake of Albert Pujols’ career-worst year. The Halos can only hope that the slugger (owed $114MM through 2021) still has something left in the tank as he enters his age-38 season. One plus is that Pujols has enjoyed a normal offseason this year, as opposed to surgeries and rehabs in the previous two winters, and L.A. hopes to even deploy Pujols at first base for a couple of games per week to accommodate Ohtani at designated hitter.
Astros (DH, 0.5 bWAR): Age finally caught up with Carlos Beltran in 2017, as the veteran struggled in what ended up being his final Major League season. With Beltran now retired, the Astros plan to use Evan Gattis as their primary designated hitter, though you could see several players rotated through the DH spot to provide rest and at-bats to Houston’s wide array of talented hitters.
Athletics (Catcher, -0.2 bWAR): Bruce Maxwell, Josh Phegley, and Stephen Vogt (who is now a Brewer) didn’t give the A’s much behind the plate last year, and the position was further complicated after Maxwell was arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. While GM David Forst said in November that the team still expects Maxwell to be its primary catcher next season, Oakland stands out as a potential dark horse candidate for a catching upgrade. Jonathan Lucroy and Alex Avila are notable names on the free agent market, and J.T. Realmuto seems to be available if the A’s are willing to meet the Marlins’ very high asking price.
Blue Jays (Right field, -1.4 bWAR): The Jose Bautista era ended on a sour note, as the longtime slugger delivered sub-replacement numbers in his final season in Toronto. Teoscar Hernandez is the favorite for the right field job after his strong late-season debut with the Jays, though it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Toronto make a big acquisition for either corner outfield slot, especially since the team’s contention window is already closing. The Blue Jays have reportedly checked in on several notable outfielders, including J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, and Jay Bruce.
Braves (Left field, -1.6 bWAR): This was the lowest bWAR of any left field situation in the game last season, largely thanks to Matt Kemp’s sub-replacement level performance. Kemp, however, is no longer in the mix after a unique five-player trade with the Dodgers that re-arranged both teams’ salary commitments and created a much-needed opening in Atlanta’s outfield for star prospect Ronald Acuna. It isn’t clear if Acuna will play in left or right field when he arrives in the bigs, so veteran Nick Markakis (if he isn’t himself traded) could be taking over for Kemp in left field on Opening Day.
Brewers (Center field, 1.0 bWAR): Keon Broxton is the incumbent with Brett Phillips on hand as a platoon option, though star prospect Lewis Brinson is expected to work his way into the lineup in 2018. While Milwaukee’s young center field mix didn’t produce much in 2017, therefore, the team is still quite comfortable with the position going forward. Broxton has even received some trade attention, so it’s possible the Brew Crew could clear a path for Brinson to make an even earlier impact.
Cardinals (Right field, 1.4 bWAR): The Cards were looking to both acquire and move outfielders this winter, as they looked to land a big bat while dealing from their surplus of young and/or struggling younger outfielders. After getting in deep with the Marlins on the Giancarlo Stanton talks, St. Louis ended up landing another Miami outfielder in Marcell Ozuna. His addition will shift Tommy Pham to center field and Dexter Fowler into right, as even Fowler’s middling 2017 numbers provide a marked upgrade over what Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk provided last year. The team dealt from its surplus by trading Piscotty to the A’s, though the Cardinals have enough depth in both the outfield and infield that they still have the pieces for another big swap.
Cubs (Left field, 1.0 bWAR): It’s too soon for Chicago to give up on Kyle Schwarber, especially now that the slugger is another year removed from major knee surgery. The Cubs pride themselves on multi-positional roster depth, so if Schwarber needs to be spelled, Ian Happ or Ben Zobrist can also handle left field, though Zobrist is also looking for a bounce-back year.
Diamondbacks (Left field, 0.4 bWAR): With J.D. Martinez unlikely to return to Arizona’s outfield, the D’Backs are hoping that Yasmany Tomas is healthy (after groin injuries and core surgery) and finally primed for a true breakout season. The team really has no choice but to be patient, as Tomas is owed $42.5MM through the 2020 season and has little trade value.
Dodgers (Center field, 1.4 bWAR): “Weak spot” is kind of a relative term on a stacked Dodgers roster. Breakout star Chris Taylor got more and more time in center as the season went on, and Taylor looks to get the bulk of the playing time up the middle this season with Joc Pederson shifting over to left field. The Dodgers have a lot of platoon depth on hand to further augment their outfield, plus the impending arrival of top prospect Alex Verdugo. A big trade can’t be ruled out, as Taylor’s versatility allows L.A. to potentially shift him elsewhere around the diamond.
Giants (Center field, -1.7 bWAR): San Francisco’s outfield was an overall disaster in 2017, with all three positions delivering negative-bWAR totals. The Giants have been aggressively searching the market for all sorts of outfield help, and made one potential addition-by-subtraction move by trading Denard Span to the Rays as part of the Evan Longoria deal. Span’s inclusion in the trade was mostly due to offset salaries, though his declining center field glove made him a liability in spacious AT&T Park. The Giants have checked in on numerous trade and free agent options for center, though they could end up going with defensively-gifted prospect Steven Duggar as long as they can find at least one big bat for the corner spots.
Indians (Right field, 1.1 bWAR): The Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer platoon looks to be in effect for 2018 at the moment, though the Tribe has multiple other outfield options (Abraham Almonte, Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, and maybe even minors signing Melvin Upton) to provide depth not just in right field, but also for the injury-plagued Michael Brantley in left.
Mariners (First base, 0.7 bWAR): GM Jerry Dipoto made a play for what he hopes is a long-term asset at first base by acquiring Ryon Healy from the A’s in mid-November. Healy has shown little plate discipline but some solid pop during his brief big league career, and he’ll now get a clear everyday opportunity in Seattle. Dan Vogelbach and Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Ford could provide a left-handed hitting complement to Healy at the position.
Marlins (Bullpen, -0.9 bWAR): Miami’s relief corps was the worst in the game by the bWAR metric, though with another rebuild underway, the Marlins are unlikely to do much in the way of high-profile additions. The bullpen will be the testing ground for whatever young arms don’t make the starting rotation, plus maybe a couple of low-cost veterans added on minor league contracts.
Mets (Third base/shortstop, 0.2 bWAR): The left side of the infield was a problem spot for the Mets all season, though they already seem to have the two positions settled for next year. Top prospect Amed Rosario will be the everyday shortstop, while New York exercised its $8.5MM club option on Asdrubal Cabrera and will use him regularly at third base. David Wright could also be a factor at the hot corner, though it isn’t known if Wright will ever be able to take the field again given his injury history.
Nationals (Catcher, -1.7 bWAR): No team got less from its catching situation in 2017, as Matt Wieters delivered a terrible year both offensively and as a pitch-framer. Wieters exercised his $10.5MM player option for 2018, leaving the Nats stuck with a major hole in their lineup unless Wieters can get on track after three seasons of steady offensive decline. The team may need to get creative to upgrade at catcher given Wieters’ salary, though the Nats have already asked the Marlins about Realmuto’s availability.
Orioles (Right field/DH, 0.0 bWAR): Baltimore’s much-maligned rotation managed a cumulative 0.1 bWAR, so the right field and designated hitter positions were actually the Orioles’ biggest weak spots last season. Mark Trumbo’s poor season factored into both positions, while Seth Smith could hit but wasn’t much of a fielder, and Joey Rickard flashed a strong glove but provided nothing at the plate. Top prospect Austin Hays is expected to provide help in right perhaps as early as Opening Day, while the Orioles will hope Trumbo (owed $26MM over the next two years) can rebound.
Padres (Catcher, -0.5 bWAR): Austin Hedges’ outstanding defense wasn’t enough to offset the severe lack of offensive production from both Hedges and backups Hector Sanchez and Luis Torrens. San Diego is committed to Hedges as its catcher of the future, and is certainly willing to allow him some growing pains at the plate if he keeps displaying such excellent glovework.
Phillies (First base, -0.2 bWAR): Rhys Hoskins’ late-season explosion came too late to save the Phils’ woeful first base production, plus Hoskins also spent half his time as a left fielder. The team’s right fielders were next on the list with a cumulative -0.1 bWAR, so both positions were upgraded by Philadelphia’s surprising move to sign Carlos Santana. The longtime Cleveland slugger instantly provides a big boost at first, while Hoskins’ move to left field and Aaron Altherr becoming the regular right fielder will reinforce both corner positions, and keep shaky defender Nick Williams as a part-timer.
Pirates (Right field, -0.5 bWAR): Gregory Polanco’s injury-riddled season left both the outfielder and his team wishing for better health in 2018. While the Bucs could add another outfielder either as a backup or as a starter if Andrew McCutchen is traded, Polanco’s spot is safe.
Rangers (Second base, -0.3 bWAR): After Rougned Odor signed a six-year, $49.5MM extension in late March, he took an enormous step back at the plate, hitting just .204/.252/.397 over 651 PA despite 30 home runs. The Rangers can only hope that his 2017 was just an aberration after making such a big financial commitment to the young second baseman.
Rays (Catcher, 0.6 bWAR): This is hardly the first time that catcher has been the weakest spot on the diamond in Tampa, though the team has at least a short-term solution in place in Wilson Ramos. His recovery from knee surgery kept him from making his 2017 debut until late June, and the Rays are hoping another offseason of rest and recovery will get Ramos back in his 2016 form.
Reds (Starting pitching, -1.8 bWAR): After posting the lowest cumulative bWAR of any rotation in baseball, the rebuilding Reds won’t be making any big signings, aside from maybe an inning-eating veteran on a minor league contract. Instead, Cincinnati is counting on better health and continued development from its young arms.
Red Sox (DH, -0.1 bWAR): Shoulder problems bothered Hanley Ramirez for much of the year, and the Sox are hoping that surgery can help the slugger return to his excellent 2016 form. There continue to be rumblings that Boston is interested in landing a big bat, however, so Ramirez could potentially find himself in a DH timeshare or, health permitting, seeing more time at first base depending on what other hitter the Red Sox may or may not add.
Rockies (Left field/right field, -0.5 bWAR): Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond’s struggles are well-documented, though it’s worth noting that while Gerardo Parra hit .309/.341/.452 over 425 PA, that still worked out to a below-average 90 wRC+ for a player who called Coors Field home. It doesn’t seem like CarGo will return and, with the option of using Desmond at first base, Colorado could still make a big splash for corner outfield help.
Royals (Shortstop, -0.2 bWAR): Alcides Escobar’s glove has always bailed out his subpar bat, though since his fielding was only decent in 2017, it led to an overall poor season for the veteran and it gave K.C. the lowest bWAR total of any team at shortstop. With Escobar now a free agent, the Royals will go with young Raul Mondesi Jr. as their new shortstop. Mondesi may be able to top Escobar’s bWAR based on defense alone in 2018, and his impressive Triple-A numbers suggest a lot of upside at the plate.
Tigers (DH, -0.3 bWAR): The chief concern is that Victor Martinez is healthy after twice suffering irregular heartbeat issues last year and undergoing chronic ablation surgery in September. The hope is that V-Mart is able to return without any further issues, and if he displays some of his old hitting form, the Tigers could then potentially shop him at the trade deadline. The rebuilding team could also give Martinez extra rest to give Miguel Cabrera some DH days or to give at-bats to some younger players.
Twins (Bullpen, 1.6 bWAR): Minnesota will take part in the Fernando Rodney Experience after signing the veteran closer to a one-year, $4.25MM deal with a club option for 2019. Rodney steps into the closer’s job while newly-signed Zach Duke will add another left-handed element (along with Taylor Rogers) to the pen. Some more moves are likely to come, and a reunion with free agent Matt Belisle can’t be ruled out. While the Twins certainly needed to upgrade their bullpen, it’s worth noting that no team had more bWAR from its “worst position” than the Twins received from their relief corps. This high talent floor on the roster may explain how the Twins made their surprise run to a wild card berth.
White Sox (Center field, -0.8 fWAR): Injuries shortened Leury Garcia’s season and kept Charlie Tilson off the field entirely in 2017, while Adam Engel provided speed and defense but no hitting whatsoever. Garcia looks like the favorite for the bulk of action in center to begin the year in Chicago, though this position is very much in flux depending on Tilson’s health.
Yankees (First base, 0.0 bWAR): After missing all of 2016 and most of 2017 due to injury, Greg Bird showed enough down the stretch to reinforce the Yankees’ confidence in him as their first baseman of the future. It’s possible that a veteran could be signed to a minors deal to join Tyler Austin as the primary backups at the position, as Chase Headley is no longer around to provide cover at first base.
Note: Designated hitter was technically the weakest position by bWAR for several National League teams, though those weren’t counted since NL teams so rarely have a DH in the lineup.