Now that the World Series has concluded, the Hot Stove will be ignited when more than 100 players hit the free-agent market. The biggest headlines will center around Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but only two teams (or maybe one if all this “The Phillies can actually get both of them!” talk is for real) will be fitting those superstars for uniforms.
But the coming weeks and months will be an opportunity for all 30 teams to make themselves better for the 2019 season, whether they’re swimming in the deep end of the free-agent pool or wading in the shallow end. The beauty of free agency is that there are all types of players available depending on what a team’s needs are.
With that in mind, here’s a look at every teams’ biggest need as they embark on another interesting offseason.
American League East
Blue Jays: Starting pitching
Toronto starters ranked 28th in the Majors with a 5.14 ERA, and although prospects Thomas Pannone and Sean Reid-Foley could get a look in the No. 5 spot, the Blue Jays figure to add at least one starter from outside the organization this offseason.
Potential FA targets: Wade Miley, Derek Holland, Jeremy Hellickson
Orioles: Starting pitching
Orioles starters posted a 5.48 ERA last season, the worst in MLB. Although Baltimore figures to be in the beginning stages of a rebuilding process, the Orioles will still need to send a starter to the mound every five days. Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner will occupy the first three spots, leaving two holes in the rotation. And that’s assuming none of them are traded, which is a bold assumption.
Potential FA targets: Hellickson, Holland, Jaime Garcia
Rays: Versatile arms
Given Tampa Bay’s frequent use of an “opener” rather than a traditional starter, what would be surprising this offseason would be for the Rays to go out and spend money on traditional starters, especially with prospects Brent Honeywell, Jose De Leon and Anthony Banda all slated to return from elbow surgery by the second half of the 2019 season.
Potential FA targets: Bud Norris, David Phelps, Adam Warren
Red Sox: Closer
Craig Kimbrel is a free agent, though his asking price might be higher than president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is willing to pay given the arbitration raises due to Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., among others.
Potential FA targets: Kimbrel, Zach Britton, David Robertson
Yankees: Starting pitching
The Yankees are believed to be enamored with Patrick Corbin, who ranks as the No. 1 free-agent starter on the market (unless Clayton Kershaw opts out, of course). The Yankees could bring back free agents J.A. Happ and/or CC Sabathia. A trade for a controllable starter also remains in play.
Potential FA targets: Corbin, Happ, Dallas Keuchel
The bullpen could be a priority given the free-agent status of both Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, but with Michael Brantley also headed for the open market, the Indians will be on the lookout for his potential replacement.
Potential FA targets: Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones, Brett Gardner
Royals: Relief pitching
The Royals’ 5.04 bullpen ERA ranked 29th in MLB, ahead of only the Marlins. Considering that Kansas City’s 2014-15 World Series teams were built largely on the strength of strong bullpens, it would make sense for general manager Dayton Moore to bolster his relief corps, rather than spending on starters.
Potential FA targets: Cody Allen, Joe Kelly, Justin Wilson
Tigers: Starting pitching
Detroit needs a new shortstop and possibly another outfielder, but adding a starting pitcher or two would appear to be the Tigers’ most glaring need. Just as they did last offseason with Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano, the Tigers could target rebound candidates.
Potential FA targets: Clay Buchholz, Lance Lynn, Marco Estrada
Twins: Relief pitching
Say this much for the Twins: Their pitching staff was consistent in 2018. Minnesota’s rotation ranked 22nd in the Majors with a 4.54 ERA, while its bullpen ranked 22nd with a 4.45 ERA. After trading Ryan Pressly and Fernando Rodney, the bullpen needs a makeover, so expect the Twins to be active on that front.
Potential FA targets: Allen, Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera
White Sox: Pitching
Chicago could be a year away from really making a splash on the free-agent market, though it’s possible GM Rick Hahn takes a run at a big-ticket item such as Machado. Still, adding one or two starters, one or two relievers — or all of the above — are believed to be the priority.
Potential FA targets: Keuchel, Anibal Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez
Although the Angels will be in the market for both a first baseman and a catcher, the most pressing need is clearly pitching. With no true No. 1 starter as Shohei Ohtani recovers from Tommy John surgery, the Angels could take a run at either Corbin or Keuchel. Corbin was drafted by the Angels in the second round in 2009 before being traded the following year in a deal for Dan Haren.
Potential FA targets: Corbin, Keuchel, Happ
The Astros are one of the few teams that won’t be desperately looking to add pitching. Who will be behind the plate to catch those pitchers, on the other hand, is an unanswered question. Martin Maldonado is a free agent, while Brian McCann‘s $15 million option figures to be declined by Houston. The Astros could try to pry J.T. Realmuto away from the Marlins in a trade, or pursue one of the available free agents.
Potential FA targets: Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki
Athletics: Starting pitching
The Athletics boasted the third-best bullpen ERA in the game last season at 3.37, though midseason acquisitions Rodney, Familia and Shawn Kelley may all leave via free agency. The rotation will be without ace Sean Manaea following Tommy John surgery, while Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson and Brett Anderson are all free agents.
Potential FA targets: Sabathia, Gonzalez, Holland
Mariners: Center fielder
Wait, didn’t the Mariners acquire Dee Gordon last winter to play center field? Yes, though things changed when Robinson Cano was suspended last season, prompting the club to move Gordon to second base, where he looked far more comfortable. Cano is back, but Seattle could move him to first base or DH, depending on whether Nelson Cruz returns with a new contract. The Mariners liked what they saw from Denard Span during his 94 games with the team in 2018, making him a possibility to return.
Potential FA targets: Span, Gardner, Jones
Rangers: Starting pitching
The rotation is the top priority for Texas, which currently has Mike Minor slotted into one spot and questions concerning the other four. GM Jon Daniels could look to both the trade and free-agent market to fill those holes, though the Rangers seem unlikely to spend big money for another year, as their new ballpark is slated to open for the 2020 season.
Potential FA targets: Nathan Eovaldi, Gonzalez, Hyun-Jin Ryu
National League East
The Braves have made no secret of their desire to add a starting catcher, namely Realmuto, whom they tried to acquire both last winter and again in July. Atlanta has money to spend, with both Harper and Kimbrel lining up as potential targets. But Realmuto remains the apple of Atlanta’s eye, while other free-agent catchers could serve as consolation prizes.
Potential FA targets: Ramos, Grandal, McCann
Marlins: First baseman
Last summer’s trade of Justin Bour left the Marlins with no firm plan at first base for the short- or long-term, with Peter O’Brien and Garrett Cooper representing the current options. None of MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Marlins prospects are first basemen, so Miami figures to target a stopgap at the position until they can either develop one or find one in a trade.
Potential FA targets: Lucas Duda, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds
Mets: Relief pitching
When the Mets dealt Familia to Oakland last summer, it left a big hole at the back end of the bullpen. With several top-tier relievers available on the free-agent market, the Mets could make a splash with a new ninth-inning specialist. Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman and Anthony Swarzak represent for the only certainties in the bullpen, so it’s likely the Mets will target more than one established relief arm this winter.
Potential FA targets: Kimbrel, Britton, Miller, Familia
Nationals: Starting pitching
The Nationals’ entire offseason plan likely hinges on what happens with Harper. If Washington signs him, it may be tough to spend a lot elsewhere. If Harper leaves town, the Nationals should be able to pursue one or two other free agents, namely starting pitchers to insert behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark.
Potential FA targets: Corbin, Happ, Keuchel
Phillies: Impact bat
The Phillies are expected to be one of the most active teams in this winter’s free-agent market as they look to upgrade both their lineup and their defense. The Phillies will be swimming in the deep end of the free-agent pool, so expect to hear plenty of talk about the two biggest names out there: Machado and Harper.
Potential FA targets: Harper, Machado, A.J. Pollock
Brewers: Relief pitching
The Brewers’ bullpen was certainly a strength despite falling short of the World Series, and while it might make more sense to pursue a top-notch starter such as Corbin, Milwaukee might be better served by adding another relief arm or two to the relatively low-cost trio of Josh Hader, Corey Knebel and Jeremy Jeffress.
Potential FA targets: Kimbrel, Familia, Joakim Soria
Cardinals: Impact bat
The Cardinals need a big bat in the middle of the lineup, ideally at third base or in right field. Of course, the two most prolific players on the market are Machado (a shortstop who has played most of his career at third base) and Harper, a right fielder. Harper is a better fit given his left-handed bat, though it remains to be seen whether St. Louis will be willing to shell out the kind of money it will take to land either superstar. Then again, the Cardinals were willing to take on Giancarlo Stanton‘s contract a year ago via trade, so anything is possible.
Potential FA targets: Harper, Machado, Josh Donaldson
Cubs: Starting pitching
This might seem strange after the Cubs spent $164 million on Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood last winter, but Chicago was forced to make a midseason trade for Cole Hamels to bolster their rotation for the second half of the season. Hamels has a $20 million option, which would lock him up for one year, but one way or another, Chicago will target a starter.
Potential FA targets: Hamels, Eovaldi, Miley
Infield prospect Kevin Newman didn’t appear ready for primetime during his six-week stint in the Majors (.478 OPS), so Pittsburgh will surely look for a veteran stopgap to help ease the transition for the 25-year-old. Longtime shortstop Jordy Mercer is a free agent, but he could be re-signed to fill that role.
Potential FA targets: Mercer, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jose Iglesias
Reds: Starting pitching
The Reds appear primed to spend some money on the rotation this offseason as they seek their first winning season since 2013. With a number of mid-rotation options available in free agency, Cincinnati should be able to upgrade without breaking the bank.
Potential FA targets: Matt Harvey, Sanchez, Lynn
D-backs: Starting pitching
Most expect Corbin to move on from Arizona, leaving a huge void atop the D-backs’ rotation. Unless they can somehow move a huge portion of Zack Greinke‘s contract — he’s still owed $104.5 million — it seems far-fetched that the D-backs would shell out big bucks for a pitcher, especially if they opt to let Corbin walk.
Potential FA targets: Happ, Miley, James Shields
Dodgers: Relief pitching
The Dodgers didn’t do much to replace Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson after they left last season via free agency, but Los Angeles is likely to address its bullpen this offseason. Having reset their luxury tax by keeping the payroll beneath the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, the Dodgers will have plenty of money to spend if they so choose. Note: Should Kershaw exercise his opt-out clause, he’ll immediately become the team’s top priority.
Potential FA targets: Miller, Adam Ottavino, Britton
Giants: Impact bat
The Giants have been mentioned as often as any team this side of D.C. any time Harper’s name has come up, making San Francisco a popular pick for the former NL MVP’s eventual landing spot. The Giants need to add an impact bat, and few are as impactful as Harper. The one snag? The Giants have more than $150 million committed to nine players.
Potential FA targets: Harper, Pollock, Donaldson
Padres: Starting pitching
All five spots in the rotation are pretty much up for grabs, so Padres GM A.J. Preller has his work cut out for him this offseason. With 10 players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list, San Diego could try to make a big splash on the trade market — Noah Syndergaard, perhaps? — though the Padres figure to look for a mid-level free-agent arm or two, as well.
Potential FA targets: Hellickson, Holland, Gonzalez
Rockies: Impact bat
Ian Desmond‘s versatility means the Rockies can look for a bat in the outfield or at first base, though Ryan McMahon is hoping to get his shot at the latter. DJ LeMahieu is also a free agent, meaning second base could be in play, as well.
Potential FA targets: Brantley, Marwin Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy
Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.