Quite a few of MLBTR’s top 50 free agents have already signed, though there are still a host of players available on the open market. We’ve seen somewhat less action on the trade market, which still features a number of stars and other useful targets.
Those links provide lots of info on the supply side. But what about demand? We’ll run through each division to identify the biggest-remaining needs of each team.
Atlanta Braves [Offseason Outlook]
As they did last time around, the Braves sprinted out of the gates to address multiple key needs. But the club’s biggest question entering the winter — what to do about the departure of star third baseman Josh Donaldson — remains unanswered. It’s a good roster as-is, but the lineup would look a whole lot better with another big bat in the middle of it. If Donaldson can’t be retained, the Braves could look to the trade market at third base or pursue one of the remaining corner outfielders and re-shuffle their internal deck accordingly. The club seems quite settled otherwise but could still explore opportunistic rotation additions.
Miami Marlins [Offseason Outlook]
The Fish have spent the winter plugging in one-year veterans and jettisoning unwanted relievers. The idea was to create a mix that will improve the results a bit in the near term while simultaneously aiding the development of and avoiding undue pressure on young players. Much of that work is already done, but the team is reportedly still looking to add a power-hitting corner outfielder who’d supplement (or supplant?) recent minor-league signee Matt Kemp. Perusing the roster, it seems there’s also room to pick up a veteran pitcher or two to join the bullpen or perhaps the rotation. That’d become a clear priority in the event of a trade involving Caleb Smith, Jose Urena, or some other pitcher. Presumably, the club will continue to explore trade opportunities involving those and other players while keeping an eye on the waiver wire.
New York Mets [Offseason Outlook]
Aided by a renegotiation of the Yoenis Cespedes contract, the Mets have placed a series of expensive (a combined $25MM+) single-season bets on high-variance veteran pitchers. Having picked up two new starting-capable hurlers, a pair of bullpen pieces, and a part-time center fielder in Jake Marisnick, the New York org has already ticked the boxes it needed to.
So … why doesn’t it feel like GM Brodie Van Wagenen is finished? With a forthcoming ownership transition underscoring the need to win now, the club’s top baseball exec can’t afford to leave any stones unturned in his sophomore offseason. Installing a top-flight center fielder — Starling Marte looks like the best bet — would be at the top of the list, but the club can also explore blockbuster scenarios at other positions. It’s possible to imagine further improvements to the bench and bullpen mix, too. The Mets will be most keen to utilize blocked first baseman Dominic Smith as a trade chip — whether to bring back prospects, shed the Jed Lowrie contract, or deliver a different MLB piece — but younger big leaguers J.D. Davis and Steven Matz could also conceivably be dangled.
Philadelphia Phillies [Offseason Outlook]
The Phils landed two of MLBTR’s top dozen free agents, and they did so for lesser commitments than were necessary to secure quite a few other top players. That’s a nice start, but hardly sufficient to stand out from the other three contending teams in this division. Improving the bullpen remains an unfulfilled priority. While the rotation no longer stands out as a problem, it’s susceptible of being bettered. And the position-player mix doesn’t feel quite finished. The Phillies could choose to utilize Adam Haseley in center field and Scott Kingery at third base. But the lineup would look better with a newly installed regular for at least one of those positions, freeing Kingery to function as a super-sub and reducing the team’s reliance upon the still-unproven Haseley. It’s a tough scene in free agency unless the club reimposes itself in the market for Josh Donaldson. Creative trade exploration seems advisable. The Phils also still must figure out what to do with Odubel Herrera, who’ll be returning from a suspension.
Washington Nationals [Offseason Outlook]
Having finally completed a summit attempt, the Nats face new challenges in a repeat bid. Not unlike the Braves and Phillies, the D.C. roster would look much better with Josh Donaldson added in at the hot corner. If they miss on Donaldson, the Nats could be forced into some difficult and high-stakes trade talks. There’s an opening at second base as well — especially if the club intends to utilize the recently re-signed Howie Kendrick at first base, which is partially dependent upon its decision with regard to Ryan Zimmerman — which creates both need and opportunity.
Youngster Carter Kieboom could be cast into a big role, but the organization probably prefers to see him force his way up rather than relying on him out of the gates. It’s possible to imagine the addition of multiple veteran infielders from a large remaining pool, with a plan to mix and match and adapt over the course of the season. Any of the team’s internally developed reserve players could be supplanted over the next few months. Ditto the holdover fifth-starter and middle-relief options. Another rotation piece (if only for camp competition) and one or more relievers (preferably including a legit setup option) also remain on the list of needs for president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo, who’s overseeing a huge amount of roster turnover while trying to recover from a (literal and figurative) championship hangover.