Which MLB Teams can Help Their Chances Most this Offseason?
Major League Baseball Offseason
Cubs and Twins looking to make a splash
After only two 2013 American League playoff teams were able to return to the postseason in 2014, there are plenty of teams that believe they have a chance in 2015 with a good offseason. Both the Twins and Cubs finished last place in their divisions last season, but after each found an ace for their pitching staff they are within a couple key moves of being able to compete in 2015. With plenty of useful players available on the free agent market as well as the trade market, baseball could be in for another season that features more changing of the guard. The Toronto Blue Jays went all in before the 2013 season, but without the right mix of players they were not able to put it together. This offseason they have brought in and continue to look for players that will provide leadership to go along with great production. Teams that did not make the playoffs last season, are not the only teams out there that can help their chances this offseason though. A further look at some of the needs for teams knocking on the door to the postseason, and teams looking to return to the postseason, will paint a clearer picture of how this Major League Baseball offseason could unfold.
The Cubs head into a pitching rich offseason with starting pitching as their primary need. The Cubs playing in a large market works to their advantage this offseason, as they have very few budget limitations to be concerned with as they pursue the marquee starting pitchers on the free agent market. With the Theo Epstein connection from Boston, the Cubs are expected to pursue free agent ace Jon Lester. Since the Cubs are a team that values draft picks, players that received qualifying offers are less likely to be pursued by the Cubs. However, once the Cubs have one player who received a qualifying offer, under contract with their team, they likely will not hesitate to pursue others since the next draft pick they lose would not be a first round pick. With the Cubs likely to acquire one frontline starter in free agency or on the trade market this offseason, they could make it two frontline starters if they sign one that received a qualifying offer. All three of the top free agent pitchers are in play for the Cubs to pursue, with Lester being the most likely for them to acquire of him, Scherzer and Shields. The Cubs could also get one of the second tier free agent starters such as Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, Brandon McCarthy or Francisco Liriano. With the Cubs having quality young position players they are putting place, they could really help their chances to compete by adding starting pitching.
The Miami Marlins have a couple of needs this offseason, and both could be addressed in free agency. The Marlins would like to upgrade their first base situation, along with acquiring a starting second basemen. They have been linked to veteran free agent first basemen Adam LaRoche, who has been an everyday player for years and would help to provide the Marlins with leadership as well as production. With another recent Cuban defector about to hit the open market in MLB free agency, the Marlins are a team that are likely to be interested. Second basemen Andy Ibanez would be a great fit for the Marlins, and he would help to draw more fan interest from Miami's Cuban population. If one or both of these players do not end up on the Marlins, they do have a couple good trade chips to look for upgrades at first and second base on the trade market. Closer Steve Cishek and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi are the two players that the Miami Marlins have as depth on the trade block this offseason. With the addition of a first basemen and a second basemen this offseason, the Miami Marlins are in great position to compete in 2015 behind the strength of a great starting rotation.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays already made a splash this offseason when they signed catcher Russell Martin to a five year 82 million dollar deal. The Blue Jays still need a left fielder however, and they could use another starting pitcher with starting pitcher Brandon Morrow hitting the free agent market. Both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera are free agents for Toronto this offseason, and while they could retain one of them to play left field, if they both depart then the Blue Jays will need to find a replacement. With Michael Cuddyer already off the market, the Blue Jays might be left to pursue the latest Cuban outfield phenom in Yasmani Tomas. The Blue Jays are also one of the candidates to pursue Jon Lester, as they are scheduled to meet with him and his agent soon. With the Jays have an array of talented position players, the addition of Russell Martin should help their pitching staff. Young pitchers like Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez can help the Jays to compete in 2015, but the addition of more starter and a left fielder would put the Blue Jays in the driver's seat to control their own destiny for the 2015 playoffs.
New York Mets
The Mets have done a good job of filling holes on their roster recently, but one significant hole remains at the shortstop position. The Mets could look to pursue a free agent shortstop like Jed Lowrie, but they have their sights set on something bigger as they are in negotiations with Colorado for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. The Mets could pursue shortstop Hanley Ramirez as well, and with the options out there it could be a big offseason for them leading up to the 2015 season. With Matt Harvey returning from injury, and the Mets having an array of talented young arms around him in their starting rotation, the Mets are in great position to compete in 2015. Adding Tulowitzki or another big name at shortstop would just be the move that puts the Mets over the top as a playoff contender on paper.
The Mariners were in playoff contention for all of 2014, but they fell short of a playoff spot at the very end of the season. They have the pitching to once again be in contention in 2015, but their lack of offense especially in the outfield was a problem again for them last season. There has been speculation that the Mariners could pursue Nelson Cruz this offseason, but with him fitting more of a designated hitter role the Mariner's interested could be limited. Melky Cabrera is a player that the Mariners should have significant interest as they look to upgrade their outfield situation this offseason. Cabrera has hit well in the past few seasons, but he does not hit for so much power that he is out of Seattle's price range. The Mariners could also look to upgrade their infield by pursuing a player like Hanley Ramirez to pair with Robinson Cano up the middle. Adding any of these players would make a good team from last year even better, as they look to qualify for the postseason in 2015.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays traded David Price at last season's trade deadline, but going into 2015 they once again should be able to put a fantastic young starting rotation on the field. The Rays still need to improve their pitching staff, and those additions are likely to happen in the Rays bullpen. The Rays are also in need of a designated hitter, so by adding two or three players to complete their roster. While the Rays are unlikely to spend big on a relief pitcher, they could possibly target former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen. The Rays likely will add one or two relief pitchers this offseason, but the biggest name they are likely to acquire would be a player to be their new designated hitter. Mark Reynolds is one of the first available names that comes to mind, and his defensive flexibility would allow the Rays to give other players the day off from playing infield while keeping all their big bats in the lineup. Other available hitters with outfield and first base flexibility include right handed batter Mike Morse, and left handed batter Mike Carp. With both players putting up solid production at the plate recently, and not having a defensive home, the Rays could acquire one of them at an affordable price to add stability to their lineup in the designated hitter's role. Former Tampa Bay Rays player Johnny Gomes is on the free agent market, and could also be an option for the Rays to sign. With an array of talented position players to back a quality young rotation, the Rays are a couple of good offseason moves from returning to the playoffs in 2015.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are a last place team from 2014 that also does not have much limitation with their budget this offseason. Like the Cubs, they plan to pursue Jon Lester after they traded him for Yoenis Cespedes at last year's trade deadline. The Red Sox want to upgrade their third base situation, and they are pursuing free agent third basemen Pablo Sandoval as a result. Signing Pablo Sandoval along with getting free agent Hanley Ramirez, will be just what the Red Sox need to put their lineup on the map again. After bolstering their lineup, the Red Sox will then be free to pursue the necessary pitching to rebuild their rotation to a competitive level. This may come via trade, but it is likely that Jon Lester decides to return to Boston because that is where he began his career that has included so much success.
After the Blue Jays already addressed some of their needs quite efficiently when they traded centerfielder Anthony Gose for the Tigers Devon Travis. Moves like this are what allow teams to turn the course of their franchise around all in one offseason. With plenty of options out there on the free agent and trade markets, the teams with a strong core in place have a chance to put the finishing touches on strong rosters. As the dominoes fall into place this offseason, a clearer picture will emerge of who has what it takes to compete, and who does not. As of right now, the Minnesota Twins are on the border of those that have and those that do not. They could change their fortune though, if they are able to cash in their depth for the pieces they need on their roster to compete. For the younger teams looking to break back into the playoff picture, it is always interesting because of the variety of outcomes in production that these teams could get from their highly rated first and second year players. Overall all of the teams listed and mentioned above, are in great position to try unseat and incumbent for playoff position in MLB's 2015 season.