With the new year upon us, MLBTR is going through all 30 teams’ remaining needs by division. We’ve already checked in on the NL East, AL West, AL Central, NL Central, and NL West. That leaves the American League East …
Baltimore Orioles [Offseason Outlook]
Outside of dealing away Dylan Bundy, it has been a quiet winter for sophomore GM Mike Elias. There just isn’t much pressing roster-building work to be done for a club that was badly in need of a full rebuild when Elias took the helm.
More than anything, the O’s will spend the next few weeks exploring further trade possibilities. Reliever Mychal Givens and slugger Trey Mancini are obvious candidates to be dealt. Hanser Alberto and a few others could also conceivably be of interest elsewhere.
Other than filling in for any further departures, the O’s still need to add a few pieces — both to keep some standard of MLB capabilities and to seek upside that might be turned into trade capital. The departure of Jonathan Villar leaves an opening at shortstop that hasn’t yet been filled. (Last year’s Rule 5 pick, Richie Martin, ought to get some dearly missed Triple-A seasoning.) The O’s could easily find space for a buy-low option at third base or the corner outfield as well. Adding Kohl Stewart and a pair of Rule 5 hurlers helps the pitching depth picture, but there’s still plenty of room to add arms onto the roster.
Boston Red Sox [Offseason Outlook]
Incoming chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was tasked with getting the Sox beneath the luxury line but staying competitive. He has taken several steps towards that goal by buying low on Martin Perez and Jose Peraza. Standing alone, however, those deals only add salary to the MLB roster.
It’d be a big surprise at this point if the Boston organization doesn’t swing a significant trade or two over the next several weeks. David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr. seem likeliest to be dealt, though Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and others probably can’t be ruled out entirely.
Back-filling for any departures will be a top priority. No matter who leaves, Bloom will be hunting for value in the bullpen, eyeing up rotation depth, and exploring bench improvements. The Sox could still stand to add another piece to the first base mix (perhaps a left-handed hitter to pair with Michael Chavis) and are hurting for catching depth. Just how much flexibility Bloom will have to pursue new adds will depend upon how much salary he sheds via trade.
New York Yankees [Offseason Outlook]
The one massive priority of the offseason was achieved when Gerrit Cole went rooting around his parents’ basement to dig up the sign he brought to Yankee Stadium as a kid. (“Mom! Where’s my sign?!?!”) Retaining Brett Gardner and adding Erik Kratz for depth also checked boxes.
Any follow-ups to the Cole signing will surely feel like lesser events. But they could yet make a big impact. The Yanks don’t really need anything, but have dabbled with some elite relievers and may have a major strike up their sleeve. There’s some amount of roster pressure involving young power hitters Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier, but they are assets the Yanks will surely put to use on the field or via trade. Moving J.A. Happ would help with payroll management.
Tampa Bay Rays [Offseason Outlook]
The Rays have not only exemplified, but driven baseball’s de-formalization of roles. Scanning their present roster really drives this fact home. The team is laden with multi-functional players and situational possibilities. This applies to both pitchers and hitters.
In theory, the Rays could add just about any player they like and make it work. Value is paramount. Those considerations explain the team’s pursuit of left-handed-hitting center fielder Shogo Akiyama despite the presence of Kevin Kiermaier, not to mention the addition of countrymate Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who joins a roster with quite a few other quality lefty bats.
Without any glaring need, per se, the Rays can perhaps be expected to keep doing what they do. We’ve see this organization hammer out somewhat complicated trades involving under-the-radar players time and time again. But we’ve also seen targeted gambles, such as last winter’s wise inking of Charlie Morton. With the powerhouse Yankees cresting, the Rays will need to press hard — and consider going outside of their comfort zone — to add a finishing piece or two to this roster. Given the versatility on hand, just about any high-value opportunity seems plausible.
Toronto Blue Jays [Offseason Outlook]
Public pressure can’t be the sole explanation for the Jays’ big strike for Hyun-Jin Ryu, but it surely played a role. Now that Ryu, Tanner Roark, and others have been installed in a revamped rotation, the front office can breathe a bit easier.
That’s a far sight from declaring this roster a potential winner. But it does seem to have a fair bit of upside in the form of young, elite talent and post-hype bounceback candidates. The position-player unit is littered with names that populated top prospect lists. It’s an ultra high-variance mix, which seems generally appropriate for this stage of the organization’s rebuild.
It’s certainly arguable the Toronto org ought to grab an open-market option or two in favor of some of its preexisting players. The corner outfield seems particularly susceptible of improvement, though the Jays would rather not fully block some of the guys they’ve picked up in recent years. The other interesting area is the bullpen, which is loaded up with uncertainty … and which includes one of the top trade candidates on the market. It’d obviously hurt the team’s 2020 outlook to move Ken Giles, but it’s awfully tough to bypass a return — especially with what appears to be a favorable market situation — for a guy who’ll reach free agency at season’s end.