We could start this post by telling you the Major League Baseball offseason is upon us. But you probably already know that, so we won’t insult your intelligence.
We also could add something witty about the MLB hot stove heating up in the coming weeks and how this offseason is littered with intrigue. But again, you probably have a good head on your shoulders — you’re reading NESN.com, after all — so we’ll spare you the ridiculous puns.
Instead, we’ll just cut to the chase.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle tend to have a lot of thoughts on a lot of things, and the MLB offseason is no exception. To make sure their rambling doesn’t disturb the rest of the office, we decided to ask the two-man, not-so-expert panel to unload their thoughts in written (or typed) form.
Following an intense coin flip in which both men almost forgot who called what, it was decided that Mike would give his two cents on the American League while Ricky would shoot from the hip with his thoughts on each team in the National League.
Take it away, Mike…
Baltimore Orioles: If Baltimore’s (mostly) young pitching staff can take the next step, the Orioles will be right back where they were last season: contending for a playoff spot. Re-signing Mark Trumbo — whom they gave a qualifying offer — should be a priority if he turns down the QO.
Boston Red Sox: Obviously, the offseason revolves around what the Red Sox do to replace David Ortiz at designated hitter. Edwin Encarnacion is the player everyone keeps talking about, but it might make more sense to sign a cheaper DH option — Trumbo, Carlos Beltran or Mike Napoli to name a few available — and put the rest of the Ortiz money toward pitching or contract extensions for the team’s young stars. Oh, and a blockbuster trade would surprise no one.
New York Yankees: The Yankees’ plan seems fairly obvious: Sign a starter (Rich Hill?) and circle back on Aroldis Chapman. They also need young hitters like Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin to progress and help improve an offense that ranked 12th in the American League in runs.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tampa Bay is “open to everything” this offseason, as it should be. There are holes up and down that roster.
Toronto Blue Jays: Toronto has a handful of free-agent decisions to make, and it sounds like the Jays might make Edwin Encarnacion a priority. Aside from that, the Blue Jays do have plenty of starting pitching if they want to get crazy and make a blockbuster trade.
Chicago White Sox: Trying to get a read on the White Sox’s offseason plan is nearly impossible. Rick Hahn has no shortage of options, and it could be a wild winter if Chicago decides it wants to trade one or both of its top-of-the-rotation starters in Chris Sale and/or Jose Quintana.
Cleveland Indians: Cleveland obviously has the talent to contend, and most of that talent is still relatively cost-controlled for the small-market Tribe. Really, the Indians’ biggest concern should be getting healthy. Imagine how good they could have been if Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar had been healthy in the playoffs? And does the emergence of players like Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez make others on the roster more expandable?
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers’ No. 1 priority has to be improving the bullpen. Detroit can score runs, and the emergence of Michael Fulmer and Justin Verlander’s comeback solidified a very good starting rotation. Detroit doesn’t seem willing to spend, so the fix might have to come within.
Kansas City Royals: Kansas City is an under-the-radar team this winter with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Wade Davis and Danny Duffy all set to hit free agency after the 2017 season. Is a blockbuster trade in the Royals’ future?
Minnesota Twins: Whether lowly Minnesota deals All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier is probably the biggest storyline of the Twins’ winter, but finding a trade partner might be difficult.
Houston Astros: Houston can contend again in 2017 if Dallas Keuchel bounces back and if the Astros add some offense after finishing 13th in batting average and eighth in runs. Sounds like Brian McCann could be an answer.
Los Angeles Angels: The good news: The Angels have $40 million coming off the books as Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson hit free agency. The bad news: This is one of the worst free-agent starting pitching classes in recent memory.
Oakland Athletics: Oakland might as well trade Sonny Gray at this point. The farm system is on the upswing, and despite a down season in 2016, Gray still could bring a strong return for the seemingly ever-rebuilding A’s.
Texas Rangers: Texas probably wasn’t as good as its record indicated last season, but the Rangers are one pitcher away from being an AL favorite. Getting that pitcher in this market, however, might take some creativity.
OK, Ricky, what do you got for us?
Atlanta Braves: Well, Braves fans. I’d like to sit here and tell you that signing R.A. Dickey makes you World Series contenders. But it does not. Fortunately, the Braves have some nice young pieces — Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Julio Teheran, etc. — and more help coming up from the farm, so it might not be too long before Atlanta starts competing again in the NL East. The Braves should use this offseason to acquire a couple of stopgaps, particularly on the pitching side, with an eye toward contending in 2018.
Miami Marlins: It’s still hard to focus on baseball when talking about the Marlins, who lost ace Jose Fernandez to a deadly boating accident in September. But at some point, we must, and the harsh reality is that Miami’s rotation took a huge hit. Fernandez was one of the most valuable commodities in baseball, and while he’s irreplaceable, the Marlins need to pursue starting pitching help to supplement a talented offensive core centered on Giancarlo Stanton.
New York Mets: The Mets need to re-sign Yoenis Cespedes. It won’t come cheap, but he’s arguably the best free agent available this offseason and New York needs the offense to back its extremely deep (yet often banged up) starting rotation. Make it happen.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are positioned very well financially. The problem is this offseason’s free-agent market is weak, so Philadelphia is better off maintaining its flexibility in the hopes of making a splash in the future, especially since it’ll then coincide with a more developed core. Then again, what do I know? It’s not my money.
Washington Nationals: All of the offseason rumor fun seemingly went out the window when the Nats signed Stephen Strasburg to a contract extension in-season. The Nationals already have the pieces in place to make a run at another NL East title, though I’d love to see them jump into the mix for one of the big three closers — Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon — in free agency.
Chicago Cubs: They’re the defending World Series champions. They’re stacked with a controllable core. I’m not going to waste my time nit-picking. Party on, Chicago.
Cincinnati Reds: This squad has “middle of the pack” written all over it. The Reds have some workable pieces, but they also traded away several key veterans over the last two seasons and it’s unlikely they have enough talent around franchise cornerstone Joey Votto. In fact, they should consider trading Votto, though that could be difficult given that he’s owed close to $180 million through 2023.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trade Ryan Braun and move along. Let’s face it. The Brew Crew aren’t going anywhere this year, especially within the stacked NL Central. Continue the rebuild and keep on trucking toward the future.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Bucs underachieved in 2016 and the sudden decline of Andrew McCutchen was a big reason why. Pittsburgh should hold off on trading its star center fielder, though. His value took a hit, so why not bank on a bounce-back performance in 2017? The Pirates have enough talent to contend for a wild card spot, and a long-term rotation trio of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow looks good on paper.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals have a knack for being able to slowly turn over their roster without skipping a beat. It’s admirable, really. They’ll be tasked with doing the same in the short term, but a new nucleus already is forming. And while St. Louis could use an outfielder — think Dexter Fowler — it’d be surprising if the Cards didn’t contend again next season.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs cleaned house, welcoming in a new general manager (Mike Hazen) and a new manager (Torey Lovullo). That’s a step in the right direction, and Arizona could be a sneaky sleeper going into 2017 based on the amount of talent that underperformed in the desert last season. The Diamondbacks should at least float Zack Greinke in trade talks given the weak free-agent market and the allure of gaining extra financial wiggle room at the beginning of Hazen’s tenure.
Colorado Rockies: Rox owner Dick Monfort said the club will have its highest payroll ever in 2017. Whether that means big changes is unclear, but it seemingly is a sign the Rockies are looking to make noise sooner rather than later. Maybe Carlos Gonzalez won’t be traded after all.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Trade Yasiel Puig. Lock down a closer. Add a starter. The Dodgers aren’t afraid to get creative, so why not consider a blockbuster for someone like Chris Sale? Let’s get wild.
San Diego Padres: There isn’t much for the Friars to hang their hats on going into this season. It’ll be a long one in which the Padres evaluate what exactly they have in the way of future contributors.
San Francisco Giants: Simply put, the Giants need a closer. Sign Chapman, Jansen or Melancon and take a whack at the NL West.
Thumbnail photo via Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports Images