American League Teams’ Christmas/Winter Meetings Wish List
With baseball’s Winter Meetings starting next week and X-mas just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to look at what is on every team’s wish list this December. If a team is expected to make any significant signings or trades I’ll feature them. But if they are likely sitting on the sidelines this winter, then they only have three wishes: good health, development by their prospects, and bargain shopping in 2011 before the season starts.
First up American League:
New York Yankees:
Cliff Lee: There is little surprise on what tops their wish list, as landing an ace starting pitcher is their top priority.Lee is really the only guy available who fits the bill. New York needs to hope their money and winning reputation sway Lee away from his other suitors.
Derek Jeter: The Yankees negotiations with their ‘Captain’ haven’t been too pretty and have in fact served as more of a distraction than anything else. The Yankees need Jeter to come to his senses quickly and sign his deal, before it looks any worse than it already is.
A.J. Burnett: New York invested big money into Burnett two years ago and already they are regretting their decision. Burnett needs to figure out his issues quick, as he can’t afford to start off the season badly. Not only will it hurt the Yankees playoff hopes, but a bad start will doom him in New York, meaning the Yankees may have to eat his contract just to appease the fans.
Boston Red Sox:
Crawford or Werth: Boston is in hot pursuit of the top two free agent outfielders and they need to land one if the Yankees make a big move (i.e. signing Lee). Either OF will fit in well in Boston and continue to make that lineup one of the best in the league.
Gonzalez or Fielder: While it is a bit quite of late, I still think the Red Sox will end up with either Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder from the trade market this offseason. Both are impending free agents and likely to be dealt by their current team. Gonzalez is a better fit for Boston given his defense, and higher likelihood of negotiating a more team friendly extension. If Boston lands one of them, plus one of the top outfielders, they should pass the Yankees for the best lineup in baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays:
Trade Jason Bartlett: This could happen in the next few days, as Tampa does not want to pay Bartlett’s arbitration salary this coming season. While Bartlett won’t bring back a major haul, they should expect to get back a solid middle reliever, who is young and cost controlled.
Rebuild Their Bullpen: The Rays have a number of free agent defections from their bullpen and given their budget, they will likely have to build from within or through trades. In addition to the likelihood of a Bartlett for middle reliever swap, I’d look for Tampa to make a bigger deal with their considerable prospect depth to add a back of the bullpen arm.
Add a Quality Bat: With holes at 1B, LF (could be filled by rookie Desmond Jennings) and DH, the Rays could use at least one bat to keep them on the cusp of contention. Since the free agent market is likely too expensive, the Rays will likely look for a bat on the trade market. I would count them out of the Gonzalez/Fielder markets given their salary price tags, and what it would cost in terms of prospects. Names like Billy Butler, Josh Willingham, Luke Scott could all be on their radar this offseason.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Make a Splash: The Blue Jays might be rebuilding, but this team was competitive without any of their top prospects making a significant impact. I think Toronto will make a bold move such as trading for Greinke or Justin Upton (Billy Butler could be on their wish list as well). Trading for a star caliber player could really make this team a threat in the East, though I don’t think they should give up too much in the way of young talent.
Find a First Baseman: While Adam Lind is a distinct internal possibility, I would expect the Jays to find a new first baseman for next season. Trading for Billy Butler should be high on their list, but if they decide to move some of their young talent for a different star, the Blue Jays still have options on the free agent market (though they are dwindling fast). Adam LaRoche or Derek Lee would be good fits in Toronto, as could Carlos Pena if they expect a bounce back year.
Add a 3B/2B: Right now the Jays have a hole at 3B that they could fill by moving 2B Aaron Hill there, but that would only create an issue up the middle. The free agent market won’t yield any great 3B (unless they buck up to sign Beltre), so a trade could be an option. They could also look to bring back Orlando Hudson to fill 2B and move Hill over. Hudson wouldn’t be a long term fix, but he’d be a solid short term addition.
Add some relievers: The Jays are losing a couple quality relievers in the free agent market and will either need to add some arms via trade or from the market. Given their young staff, and the likely ascension of some young prospects, they could use a good bullpen to help protect their young arms.
Add a 1B/DH bat: The O’s have struck out with two of their top free agent options, Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn so far this offseason and they are likely to miss out on another one, as Paul Konerko is likely to resign with the White Sox. The 1B/DH market is drying up fast with Adam LaRoche, Carlos Pena, Derek Lee and Lance Berkman the only real options left. The O’s need to land one of them, but at this point they need to make sure they aren’t overpaying, since none of them are true stars. Baltimore should look to focus their money on their other needs such as 3B.
Go Hard After Adrian Beltre: At this point the O’s are going to have to overpay to land a star, and Beltre is probably the best chance the O’s have at landing one. Now they aren’t alone in the market and it will cost quite a bit, but Beltre could be worth it. He is a very good defender at 3B, and at 32 should be productive for another couple of years. It still could be a pipe dream, but Baltimore needs to be aggressive.
Add Some Relief Pitching: The Orioles have a promising young staff, but their bullpen was a mess last year. They need to add a couple free agent arms to turn that into a strength and help protect their rotation.
Add a Shortstop: It is not a good year to be needing a shortstop, but the Orioles need to find someway to get better production out of that position. Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy head their list, but other options could become available. Who ever they find, Baltimore needs to ensure they offer some production from that area.
Chicago White Sox:
Bring Back Konerko: With the addition of Adam Dunn, the White Sox finally have the hitter who can help protect Paul Konerko in the middle of the lineup. Now they just need to ensure Konerko is in that lineup. I fully expect a deal to get done in the next couple of days, which will fully cover their DH/1B positions.
Find a LF: I know a lot of people like Juan Pierre for his speed and defense, but he is a bit of a liability in LF. He just doesn’t get on base enough or have any power to speak of to justify a corner outfield spot. While his defense was exceptional in LF, you have to get better than a .312 wOBA from your LF if you want to be a contender. There aren’t any real free agent options available, but don’t be shocked if the White Sox target someone like Josh Willingham or Luke Scott. Alex Gordon could also be an option if they go for a more unproven player.
Add Relief Pitching: In their pursuit for adding Dunn and Konerko, the White Sox made a tough choice by releasing long time closer Bobby Jenks to save some money. While fiscally it makes some sense, it leaves that bullpen a little short right now. A couple relievers should be acquired by trade or through free agency to help offset the loss.
Kansas City Royals:
Make the Best Deal(s) Possible: The Royals are in an enviable position with the best farm system in baseball, and a number of quality trade-able pieces. The Royals have the best SP (Greinke), Closer (Joakim Soria) and one of the top bats (Butler) on the trade market. In addition to their big names, the Royals have Alex Gordon and Robinson Tejada, who are both good 2nd tier trade targets. Now I wouldn’t expect to see all 5 dealt before the start of the season, but at least 2 should be moved by then, and all of them could be gone by the start of 2012. The Royals need to make the best trades possible and should target middle infield help, outfielders (in particular center fielders), frontline starting pitching, and maybe a 3B. Kansas City can basically name their own price.
The Tigers have already done most of their heavy lifting this offseason, with Victor Martinez their top prize. I don’t think they are done just yet, but they might not make any more major moves. If they do here is what they might target:
OF help: The Tigers are rumored to still be in the Werth and Crawford sweepstakes, but I’m not too sure they can swing a deal. My guess is they will look to the trade market for a quality OF bat (usual suspects, Willingham, Scott etc.) to fill their need.
Relief Pitching: They have already added Benoit, but my guess is they add another solid arm before the start of the season. I don’t see them adding a starter, but I think their staff could use some help.
The Twins aren’t supposed to be too active this offseason beyond resigning Jim Thome and agreeing to a deal with the Japanese middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who can play either SS or 2B. The Twins could be trading J.J. Hardy, though that is far from being set in stone. The one thing the Twins could be looking at is making a big trade:
Make a Splash: In back-to-back years the Twins have gotten swept out of the Playoffs by the New York Yankees, so they need to find a way to get better if they want to advance further in 2011. The Twins have a quality system, so they do have the pieces to swing a major deal or two. Given their depth across the board, they could target any number of positions. Starting pitching is a top priority, but I don’t see them getting in the Greinke sweepstakes (more because I really don’t see the Royals trading him in the division unless the Twins vastly overpay).
Cleveland falls into the category of teams who are really not expected to do anything significant this offseason, and they will be bargain shopping this year.
Sign Cliff Lee: The Rangers are the Yankees toughest competition in the Lee Sweepstakes and if the money is close enough he could prefer to stay in Texas. If the Rangers land Lee, then they won’t have much additional money to spend, but they should be pretty well set for another World Series run.
Trade for Zack Greinke: If the Rangers fail to land Lee, they should be one of the favorites to land Greinke. It will cost quite a bit in prospects, but his team friendly contract will allow the Rangers to add another free agent or two.
Add A DH: Vlad is gone, so it is time for Texas to find another decent designated hitter to insert into their lineup. The usual 1B suspects could be options, though most likely could find an actual 1B job. Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui could fit, but neither would have any impact in the field. The could go down the trade route for a Billy Butler (especially if they sign Lee) or a Luke Scott. Both are fairly cheap, while having the ability to help in the field as well.
Los Angeles Angels:
Carl Crawford: The Angels are expected to go all-in for Crawford and basically make him an offer he can’t refuse. Crawford would be a huge free agent signing for the Angels and it would drastically improve their chances for reclaiming the AL West. If they miss out on Crawford, they will go hard after Werth, but he seems to be not nearly as high on their wish list.
Adrian Beltre: Whether they get Crawford or not, Beltre figures to be high on the Angels wish list. They need more power in their lineup and 3B is an issue for them. He won’t come cheap and it is possible that he and Crawford would cost to much, but the Angels should be a serious suitor for him.
Add Bench and Relief Depth: The Angels have a good lineup and starting rotation, but they need to add better depth to ensure that injuries don’t sink their season like last year. I’d look for them to have a couple known players on the bench/bullpen, as they look to build a playoff contender.
The A’s have already done some of their hard work this offseason by adding David DeJesus to their outfield, but they still have a ways to go. For the most part I’d expect them to fill their needs from within, but they could make at least one significant move.
Add a DH: The A’s seem poised to try power hitting 1B/DH prospect Chris Carter in the outfield (not too sure if that will work), and add a legitimate designated hitter this offseason. It is no shock that the A’s need to generate power, but it might make more sense to play Carter at DH and add an OF. Right now I don’t see that happening, so I’m guessing they end up signing one of the 1B/DH types on the market this year.
Outside of that 3B and RP could be an issue, but one that might not be fully addressed this offseason.
The Mariners are expected to sit quietly this offseason as they look to rebuild. One of two moderate signings may occur in January, but I think that is all you will see right now.
Check back later as I look at the NL’s X-Mas/Winter Meetings Wish List!