We covered the NL list on Sunday, and now let’s look at what the American League’s 15 teams have thus far done to upgrade their weakest positions (as gauged by the bWAR metric) of the 2021 season…
Angels (Shortstop, -1.0 bWAR): No team in baseball had a lower non-pitching bWAR than the Angels’ 7.1 number in 2021. Beyond Jose Iglesias’ woes at shortstop, Los Angeles also received sub-replacement production in left field (-0.7), right field (-0.2) and third base (-0.1). Considering Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon spent much of last season on the injured list, their returns should instantly shore things up, and top prospects Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh are also expected to play bigger roles in the outfield mix. This leaves shortstop as the biggest problem area, and while Tyler Wade was acquired from the Yankees, Wade might be better suited for a utility role — the Angels also continued to have interest in Chris Taylor after Wade was acquired, and before Taylor re-signed with the Dodgers. With the Halos continuing to focus on pitching, it remains to be seen if they’re also willing to make a big investment in the shortstop position.
Astros (Catcher, 0.6 bWAR): Houston isn’t likely to tinker with the defensively-sound Martin Maldonado/Jason Castro tandem, yet more will be expected at the plate, particularly from Maldonado. While never even a league-average hitter during his career, Maldonado particularly struggled last year, batting only .171/.272/.300 over 426 plate appearances.
Athletics (Designated hitter, 0.5 bWAR): Between league-average offense from Jed Lowrie and subpar production from Mitch Moreland and Khris Davis, the DH spot was a weak link in Oakland’s lineup. All three players are free agents are may not return, and this may just be part of the forthcoming roster overhaul as the A’s are reportedly looking to cut payroll. In this regard, the DH spot may be on the back burner to some extent, as the A’s might just use in-house options or a low-cost veteran or two to rotate at-bats in the position. The DH barely edged out shortstop (0.6 bWAR) as the Athletics’ weakest position of 2021, but Elvis Andrus is currently expected to return at shortstop, given the difficulties involved in trading him.
Blue Jays (Third base and center field, 1.5 bWAR each): A healthy season from George Springer should take care of the center field spot, leaving the Jays to deal with third base and the second-base vacancy that now exists due to Marcus Semien’s departure. The consensus feeling is that Toronto will deploy a Cavan Biggio/Santiago Espinal platoon at one of the two infield spots and find another everyday player for the other, and the Jays are open to thinking big, as they were reportedly interested in Corey Seager before Seager signed with the Rangers.
Guardians (Catcher, -0.3 bWAR): Cleveland chose to decline its $7MM club option on Roberto Perez, leaving the Guardians with a tandem of Austin Hedges (who was tendered a contract and is projected for a $3.8MM salary) and minor league signing Sandy Leon. While there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the Guardians have traditionally prioritized defense and game-calling ahead of offensive production from their catchers, so it’s possible they might only add another veteran on a minors deal to provide Leon some competition.
Mariners (Center field, -1.0 bWAR): The M’s only got 1.6 total bWAR from their outfield, the second-lowest total of any team. Left field produced only 0.2 bWAR, while right field was a much more respectable 2.4 bWAR (thanks in large part to Mitch Haniger). With Kyle Lewis hopefully healthy, Jarred Kelenic hopefully adjusted to big league pitching after a tough rookie season, and uber-prospect Julio Rodriguez hopefully ready for his MLB debut in 2022, Seattle’s outfield issues may resolve themselves. However, since that’s a lot of “hopefully” for a team intent on ending its playoff drought, the Mariners have been linked to such major outfield free agent targets as Kris Bryant and Seiya Suzuki.
Orioles (Second base, -2.0 bWAR): With the bullpen delivering -1.5 bWAR and third base -0.9 bWAR, it took some doing for the Orioles’ second base revolving door to take the backhanded top prize as the least-productive position on a 110-loss team. Rougned Odor was signed to be at least a placeholder at the position, though if the former Ranger does enjoy any first-half success, the O’s could certainly flip him at the trade deadline. Recent international signing Cesar Prieto is an intriguing wild card for the second base job later in the season, if Prieto is able to make a quick transition from Cuban baseball to affiliated ball.
Rangers (Left field, -0.7 bWAR): For all the money they’ve spent this winter, the Rangers haven’t directly addressed the left field spot, though the signing of Kole Calhoun (likely slated for regular right field duty) should improve the outfield mix as a whole. Texas is another team known to be in the Seiya Suzuki race, and given how aggressive the Rangers have already been, pursuits of Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, or other major bats or trade targets can’t be ruled out. 2021 All-Star Adolis Garcia could be an option in left field if the Rangers don’t use him in center, and beyond Garcia, the Rangers’ internal left field options include Nick Solak, Willie Calhoun, and Eli White. Beyond the left field spot, Texas has already signed Jon Gray, but pitching stands out as another major need on the to-do list — Rangers starters combined for a -0.1 bWAR in 2021, while the bullpen was an even 0.0.
Rays (First base, 1.6 bWAR): As deep and versatile as the Rays were in 2021, it isn’t surprising that they had the highest bWAR of any of the “worst” positions on this list. The Yandy Diaz/Ji-Man Choi platoon was unspectacular but solid, though it is interesting that Tampa Bay has already traded away other infield depth options (Joey Wendle, Jordan Luplow, Mike Brosseau) in respective deals with the Marlins, Diamondbacks and Brewers. This could be a hint at a forthcoming move, or perhaps the Rays were just shuffling the deck as always with their roster depth. For instance, Brandon Lowe could be used at first base more often now that Vidal Brujan and Taylor Walls are ready for bigger roles on the MLB roster.
Red Sox (First base, 0.1 bWAR): If Bobby Dalbec’s second-half surge truly represents a breakout, then the Sox may already have their answer at first base. Nonetheless, it stands to reason that the Red Sox will add depth in the form of a (probably left-handed hitting) multi-position player, as that player could then contribute elsewhere on the diamond once top prospect Triston Casas makes his expected MLB debut at some point in 2022. There have also been some whispers that the Red Sox might have a bold move up their sleeves, so we can’t rule the possibility that Boston could acquire someone like Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson, or maybe land a third baseman and shift Rafael Devers over to first base.
Royals (Right field, -1.2 bWAR): Kansas City didn’t get much from right field or the corner infield spots, as third base (-1.0 bwAR) and first base (-0.7 bWAR) were also sub-replacement level positions. Hunter Dozier is a key figure in this equation, as he dragged down all three positions with his rough showing in 2021. Carlos Santana also contributed to the first base woes with the worst season of his career, but the veteran slugger believes he can rebound now that he is past the leg injuries that hampered him last year. The Royals have help on the way in star prospects Bobby Witt Jr. and Nick Pratto, and with Pratto a defensive standout at first base, Santana might find himself relegated to DH or part-time duty unless he can recapture his old form. Witt is primarily a shortstop but he has played some third base, giving the Royals some flexibility in handling third base and right field depending where any of Witt, Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, or Whit Merrifield are lined up on a regular basis. It’s possible K.C. might pick up a relatively inexpensive veteran bat to lessen the pressure on the young kids, but the Royals aren’t likely to make a big position-player investment until they see what they really have in Witt, Pratto, and Kyle Isbel.
Tigers (Shortstop, -0.5 bWAR): It was widely expected that the Tigers would make a play for one of the big shortstops in the free agent market, and that box was checked when Javier Baez was signed to a six-year, $140MM deal. With star prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene on the cusp of the majors, their arrivals should boost some other weak positions in Detroit’s lineup. Tigers second basemen accounted for -0.2 bWAR, but with Torkelson playing first base, Jonathan Schoop can move over to the keystone. Likewise, Greene is expected to play center field, which allows for a cleaner fit of Akil Baddoo as a left fielder, which will help the Tigers’ collective 0.3 bWAR in left last year. Of note — Detroit had the lowest designated hitter bWAR (0.1) of any American League team, as even seven NL teams got a little more from their DH position in interleague competition than the Tigers did over 81 home games. It makes for a bit of a conundrum with Miguel Cabrera, as his knees won’t allow him to take regular duty at first base, yet Cabrera hit decidedly better as a first baseman than as a DH last season.
Twins (Starting pitching, -1.4 bWAR): Dylan Bundy was signed to a one-year/$5MM contract, but given Bundy’s own struggles in 2021, Minnesota still has a lot of work to do in rebuilding its rotation. A big splash can’t be ruled out, considering the Twins did express some interest in Robbie Ray prior to Ray signing with the Mariners, but it doesn’t seem likely that the Twins will make a major long-term commitment to more than one new pitcher. Beyond that hypothetical addition, any other new arms will likely take the form of shorter-term acquisitions (such as trade targets with one or two remaining years of control) or rebound-candidate free agents like Bundy.
White Sox (Right field, 0.6 bWAR): While second base is seen as Chicago’s biggest problem area, the Sox at least got 0.9 bWAR out of the keystone last year. Then again, between Adam Engel, Andrew Vaughn, and Gavin Sheets, the White Sox have a lot more options to at least make do in right field, whereas the depth chart at second base is the re-signed Leury Garcia and not much else. A free agent like Josh Harrison or Jed Lowrie could at least be a stopgap, but with not much second base help remaining on the open market, the White Sox certainly seem like a team that would be looking to swing a notable trade.
Yankees (Left field, -0.1 bWAR): Powered largely by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees combined for 7.4 bWAR from the right field and DH positions in the 2021. The other seven non-pitching positions combined? Only 5.4 fWAR, with left field standing out as the one sub-replacement total of the group. New York hasn’t done much in general this winter, but in regards to the outfield, they parted ways with Clint Frazier and added Ender Inciarte as minor league depth. Many of the Yankees’ outfield questions circle around Aaron Hicks’ health or whether or not Joey Gallo hits better over a full season in the Bronx, and another return for Brett Gardner can never be ruled out. However, the outfield certainly stands out as a spot for the Yankees to make a splashy addition, if they’re willing to move beyond their recent modest (at least by Yankees standards) spending output.
The Yankees biggest weakness is actually up the middle ( catcher, shortstop and center field) and I don’t see them doing nothing major to fix any of those positions until the trading deadline. Hopefully Volpe can fix shortstop.
Fever Pitch Guy
Marwin Gonzalez or Jose Iglesias would be an ideal stopgap, as in one year or less. Marwin can’t hit, but the Yanks already have plenty of offense.
I think it’s a moot point anyways, I think they sign Story.
Can Marwin even play SS? He doesn’t seem like a realistic option — let alone an ideal one — to be an everyday SS, even as a stopgap.
No, there’s no way Marwin could be an everyday shortstop. He was barely passable there as a fill in years ago.
Yeah, LF as the Yanks biggest weakness actually caught me off guard because there are four – six definitive positions of weakness that need to be addressed before LF: SS, C, 3B, 1B, CF, SP. LF is not only easier to address internally, but externally as well (both trades and FA).
C is the most difficult due to lack of available talent; SS is the most expensive to fix immediately in both money or trade assets; then, 1B is virtually vacant, but is the easiest to fix at this point; CF has Hicks who is a part-timer at best, but incredibly expensive to address, and lacks available talent; and SP is always a need, and always expensive, ie, Castillo.
All more necessary and important than LF, imho.
Catcher will be fine. Sanchez is going into his contract season. He has said more than once he doesn’t enjoy the game and considers it a job. Whenever he needs to show his talent he does. Expect a better than 2017 season from him and some team (hopefully not the Yankees) will severely overpay him next winter. Cashman was a fool for failing to protect Torrens a few years ago. To let a catcher like him go over a 40 man spot was dumb. He’s only 25 and starting to figure it out. He could have stayed on the 40 man and developed in the minors a bit more. Then he could backup Sanchez this year and take over next year. Unfortunately he didn’t learn because he let Frazier go this winter over money. If he is finally healthy next year he will finally show why he kept getting chance after chance.
The Yankees should sign Rizzo. Trade Voit and whichever prospects Oakland wants outside of the top 3 for Manaea. Then sign Simmons as a placeholder for the prospects at SS. Let Florial break camp with the team as the 4th (and Hicks eventual replacement when he gets hurt). Finally sign Gardy as the 5th OF and let him retire a Yankee.
Torrens isn’t very good defensively (he was relegated to mostly DH down the stretch) so I imagine they needed better D from whomever was going to be Sanchez’s caddy.
I agree they will probably go with a LHH for 1B, possibly back to Rizzo if they can’t get Olson or won’t break the bank for Freddy. Voit going back to Oakland plus parts for Olson makes sense. I’d love to see Voit in Cleveland in exchange for some pitching though.
Any ideas who might be reasonably considered a trade candidate at shortstop?
Just spitballing here but Kyle Farmer of the Reds seems possible. Maybe Rojas from the Marlins. Certainly Ahmed from the D’backs. Walls from Tampa?
Would love the input of the staff and posters here.
DeJong, maybe Ahmed Rosario? I like the idea of Walls
Rosario for Rengifo and one of the island boys (Devaux or Knowles) makes a lot of sense for both teams.
Rosario is pretty bad at SS though. His future may be at a different position.
Look at each team and determine who would play short, if this player was traded to the Angels. Farmer is not going anywhere as Cinci doesn’t have a replacement ready. Walls has six years of control and may move Franco to 3B. Rojas was just signed to an extension. Teams don’t tend to trade players they just signed. I’m sure Ahmed is available but why would you want him? Goodrum was a finalist for a GG two years ago, and will provide more bat for less as a FA.
Ahmad is signed for two years so I do not see him in The Bronx. Maybe Simmons or another stopgap type option.
I’ve been looking at guys on shorter term contracts other than Walls. BB-ref shows Rojas as a free agent after this season, which is why I included him.
DeJong is obvious. Goodrum is interesting. We definitely need to prioritize glove (although his metrics were bad last year).
The other possibility is moving Fletcher to short for a year. Maybe signing Villar for second. That would give us multiple guys capable of playing each INF spot.
Everyone keeps throwing around this idea that Goodrum was a finalist for a gold glove as if it means something. He’s not a good short stop. Whatever the story behind that finalist stuff is, he’s not a starting shortstop.
Niko Goodrum was a finalist for a GG because it was based solely on defensive metrics in a pandemic shortened seasons. Defensive metrics take lots of data to be reliable and there wasn’t enough of it.
He played 5 other positions besides SS last year, he was outrighted off their 40 man, and no team thought enough of him to claim. Tells you all you need to know.
You’re asking people to do research and then you type this absolute garbage.
The Reds have a former top 100 prospect in Jose Barrero who is ready. Nick Ahmed is 100x the defensive SS Niko Goodrum is. Niko Goodrum is so bad he was just outrighted and unclaimed off of a 40 man roster….
That is what makes me think Farmer might be in play. In fact, I wrote a piece suggesting the Angels trade for him a couple months back.
What would the Angels be looking to give up for a SS?
Interesting question. I was trying to work the equation the other way around, find some potential targets then see what the cost might be.
I play around on the simulator way too much. Farmer nets either mlb bullpen piece Warren or decent prospect Adams.
Rojas is one of our higher rated SS prospects like Kyren Paris or Arol Vera
I could also see a package deal where maybe Adell is moved to add a SS and pitcher. Or something like that.
Really, I’m spitballing here.
I agree about using Adell as a trade piece, JJ. We might get a decent SS and maybe a bull pen arm in return. Adell still has value because he hasn’t been back to the majors to show that he was overrated as a prospect.
I wonder if Adell for Mckenzie and Arias would work. Maybe through in Rengifo or one of the Devaux/Knowles prospects too?
Adell did play well the last month he played. I believe he even led the team in RBIs. There was no Trout or Rendon but Showtime was there and he looked good both with the bat and glove. I think it would be a mistake to trade like that. Him and Marsh are both low cost players at positions that will be needed to be filled going forward. You have to have some low cost positions to have money for an Ohtani.
I’d only trade Adell for another cost controlled piece at SS and/or pitcher.
If we did pull off, say Farmer and a good bullpen arm those two would offset the cost of a replacement RF’er.
The Angels could always sign Zach Cozart. He should finally be healthy again and he only played 2 weeks for them for $38m the first time.
D*ckin the dog
Sign Suzuki to play short!
Here’s a thought: Red Sox do with Dalbec what they did with Travis Shaw: trade him to make room for the more acclaimed prospect.
Maybe something like…Dalbec and a lower prospect to the Pirates for a relief pitcher like Chris Stratton (or if you want to throw in a couple more prospects, someone like David Bednar who is younger and is more controllable). This may involve some more prospects going one or both ways…but I think Dalbec and Stratton or Bednar as the centerpieces would benefit both sides. Then you pick up a veteran (i.e. Brad Miller) on a one year deal to keep the seat warm, so hopefully Casas will be ready for 2023.
Casas will be up in the summer barring any major struggles or injury. Brad Miller has been a target for the last two seasons from the “informal” Sox pundits (soxprospects, RedSoxStats on twitter)
He could fill in at first or third to give Devers/Bob a turn at DH but could be cut loose a la Marwin Gonzalez if he’s struggled by the time Casas is looming.
You don’t trade Dalbec aka Renfroe so soon after he showed his bat unless you believe he can’t continue or have a deeper plan. He needs to learn to hit the fast ball and if he can will become a young star with years of controllable interest. That said, if you don’t believe he will adjust, listen now because his return may never be as high.
NY_Yankee has it right. Large glaring hole up the middle of the diamond. You can add 2B to this as Torres is going to fail to hit.
Second is not as bad because DJL could play there. The absolute worst position is catcher. Yankees have usually had excellent catchers. Dickey, Berra, Munson, Posada to name a few ( even Rick Cerone was decent). But Gary Sanchez is a disaster hitting: calling a game, handing pitchers and throwing runners out
Ducky Buckin Fent
I am as disappointed in Gary Sanchez as anyone on the board.
But. He needs to be compared with the *current* catching in MLB. Not the past. The hard reality is, Sanchez is not all that easy to upgrade. He still knocks the snot out of the ball, only elite base stealers run on him anymore, & the dugout/front office calls the games now anyway.
The Astros & Braves didn’t have all that good of catching. For goodness sake, Baker was batting Maldonado behind the pitcher (yeah, yeah, “strategy”…but he can’t hit).
It doesn’t look like Phat Sancho is going to be the Next Great Yankee Catcher, or whatever. But he & Higashioka are serviceable if nothing else. We definitely have a gaping hole at short, & we could definitely use a better Plan B in CF.
Cashman was never going to Revenge-DFA him. No matter how much Yankee fans gripe about him. I really think Gary would have been better off not starting his career so strongly. It made for some pretty difficult (impossible?) expectations.
I think it’s more about getting defense. a guy who can block baseballs in the postseason. Sanchez’s offensive ceiling is as high as anyone’s in baseball. It’s anyone’s guess if he’ll get there.
BUT you are right that finding a decent catcher readily available is tough
I agree with Ducky, as usual. My opinion is that Cashman needs to address SS now. But he also needs to address C for the future. We needs to draw from our excess and acquire young C prospects that have high potential to put in our system and stop drafting them (because that’s obviously not working). There are C prospects in the low minors that we could trade for to set us up in the future, but we can’t sit around and wait. One example would be glove-first C Drew Romo (also a switch-hitter).
I wrote a summary above of positions we need to address and why we can/can’t at this time. Ultimately, C is as near to impossible to improve as is gets. SS is going to be a stopgap failure, and our only true hope for significant improvement is 1B, if Cashman loves Freeman or Olson enough.
Sanchez makes the most sense as a DH backup C. When the NL adopts the rule there will be a lot more openings. He’s both too big and too disinterested to carry on over a long season.
Fever Pitch Guy
NY Yankee – One of those catchers most definitely doesn’t belong in your list.
Posada was a decent hitter, but not a very good catcher. If he had been, he’d have done a lot better with HOF voting … especially with all his rings. There’s a reason why he dropped off the ballot after getting less than 4% in his first year of eligibility. To include him with two HOF’ers and another who would have been if not for tragedy, that’s a disservice to those three guys.
And I’m pretty sure nobody else you mentioned, along with other guys like Mike Stanley (a class act) and Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli, had ever spit in the face of an umpire or anyone else for that matter.
Yeah, I miss those catchers… and they were back-to-back for the greats. Dickie, Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson? Wow.
Don’t forget about a brief hope in Matt Nokes for a year or two there in the early nineties as well. He hit like a 160 OPS+ and had good defensive numbers too. But then we had Stanley, Joe G/Posada, heck even Jimmy Leyritz had a decent year with some clutch bombs.
Then Cashman’s Crew of misfit toys……..
Angels & NL West
I was surprised to see SS identified as the Angels weakness position last season, not SP or RP. What were the Angels SP and RP bWAR’s last year?
Angels were 15th for SP and 17th for RP in wins above average last season. They’ve addressed those concerns with Thor, Lorenzen, Loup, Iglesias, and some minors deals, though I agree they should go for another 7th/8th inning option. Health plays a big factor as well.
Surprisingly, they were dead last in WAA for position players, with SS, OF, and 3B being the biggest needs. Trout and Rendon being healthy will massively help, as well as potential steps forward from Marsh and Adell. Also, Jose Iglesias had -21 DRS in Anaheim despite being released with a month left in the season–he was the equivalent of a scarecrow out there. SS is probably the most important defensive position, especially with the groundball rates of some of the Halos’ starters, so they need a solid defender out there
I’ve say it repeatedly in regards the Jays!
Bryant, Kikuchi and either trade for J-Ram or sign one of Seiya Suzuki, Freddy Freeman or Anthony Rizzo.
I would say Bryant, Kikuchi and either Suzuki or a trade for Ramirez.
Its completely unrealistic
Fever Pitch Guy
to – So you think the Jays will pump up the payroll to $300M within a couple years? Because that’s how much it would be if they sign three players from your list, then sign Vlad and Bo to extensions.
I just don’t see that kind of expenditure, especially in a hockeytown where baseball takes a backseat to at least two other sports at all times.
to4, If the Jays were to sign Bryant there would be no need to trade for JRam, Suzuki is not needed, i think the Jays try to get Chapman and Kikuchi and possibly try for Tepara (spelling?) done for the offseason!
Basically the Rays have no weakness then. Jays should trade from their stocked system, for Jose Ramirez.
Ramirez plays for Cleveland.
MLB (Commissioner, -162bWAR) Easily the biggest problem position in baseball right now.
Kole Calhoun was -0.1 bWAR last year. How is that helping?
Are you expecting Calhoun to have the same injuries in 22?
Why use the combined bWAR of Judge and Stanton and compare it to the combined fWAR of the other non-pitching positions on the field? Why not use the same statistic?
It’s a very strange and unusual way to determine a team’s weakness. And, it doesn’t address it adequately, imo. They have several needs before LF.
lumber and lighting
Mondesi 4 Marsh…Story via FA either or both.Mondi & or Story hitting in front of Ohtani,Trout,Rendon & Walsh.You have to throw more fastballs and you can’t bounce chase pitches.If you throw junk, or you try picking around that fab 4 of mashers very carefully will net 80-100 SBs for those two.Halos will be dangerous if they incorporate a speed game.
Saddest part of this: “Rougned Odor was signed to be at least a placeholder at the position, though if the former Ranger does enjoy any first-half success, the O’s could certainly flip him at the trade deadline.” Because, if you are the Orioles, you are in constant going out of business sell down to the displays and fixtures mode. I know they have some prospects. But, we are going to get through another CBA negotiation with nothing done about competitiveness
Would be happy to see the Rays make a splash to sign someone to play first. Yandy and Choi are great defensively. But I’d like to see a bit more pop coming from the position. But moving Lowe over and letting Brujan or Walls get more time in the majors would be a nice move considering they have so much potential. Could even see Meadows play first more if they bring up Josh Lowe.
How can you not list either of the corner OF slots when you’re talking about Cleveland? CF was addressed with a defense first Myles Straw acquisition midseason but LF-RF are puny pickings.