1103 OffseasonPriorities

The offseason is the time for every organization to analyze its strengths and weaknesses, and then take action. Five days after the World Series ends, free agents can begin signing, so front offices already know what they need to do to improve this winter.

We asked The Athletic’s MLB staff to tell us each team’s top priority. Here is what they said for all 30.

The bullpen, the bullpen, the bullpen. The Diamondbacks were surprisingly competent in many areas last year, and their young core poises them for a leap in 2023, but they’ll have to iron out their issues in the final third of games. Signing veteran closers has mostly backfired, as Mark Melancon did this past year, and the farm isn’t brimming with immediate closer solutions, so a trade might be the most likely route. -Zach Buchanan

The Braves must decide, and perhaps already have decided, whether to make a fair-market offer for Dansby Swanson or move on. If they don’t re-sign the free agent, they might have a difficult time filling the void, given what Swanson brings both on and off the field — strong defense, streaky but potent bat with a penchant for coming through in big situations, leadership, unofficial team captain with most tenure of any current Brave. There is no one in the organization who can fill his shoes, so the Braves either would settle for considerably less production in-house from the likes of Orlando Arcia (unlikely) or young Vaughn Grissom (more unlikely) or seek a replacement via trade or free agency, with the latter likely to cost more than Swanson would on an AAV basis. -David O’Brien

There are two camps here: A top-of-the-rotation starter or a run-producing power bat in the middle of the lineup. An argument can be made for both, but I’m all about pitching, and so that’s where I would lean first. This rotation sorely needs an ace that can compete with top starters from other teams in the American League. The Orioles hope that Grayson Rodriguez can one day be that guy, but until then, they should focus on acquiring a No. 1. -Dan Connolly

The team has said that re-signing Xander Bogaerts is the priority, but a Rafael Devers extension might be even more important. Devers should be a foundational piece for the next decade, securing both long-term stability and short-term impact (and thus threading the needle of Chaim Bloom’s dual objectives). If the team can lock up its left side of the infield, it can shift focus to actually improving the pitching staff and perhaps finding an ace. -Chad Jennings

The Cubs have multiple holes to fill with a strong desire to return to the postseason. They need another strong starter to pair with Marcus Stroman, but if there’s a “top” priority, it’s adding a star-level position player who ideally adds some pop to their lineup. -Sahadev Sharma

Now that the White Sox have finally filled their manager vacancy with Pedro Grifol, filling out a staff that reestablishes a high defensive standard and offensive approach to maximize their ample talent on hand becomes their next big task. This roster needs tweaking but should be talented enough to win if properly prepared. That work begins now under Grifol. -James Fegan

Everything the Reds do this offseason is not for 2023, but 2024 and beyond. At this point, it’s just filling out a roster with one-year deals for another trade deadline sell off (i.e. Brandon Drury, Tommy Pham). -C. Trent Rosecrans

Cleveland Guardians: Prospects vs. free agents

This sounds simple on the surface, but: solidifying the lineup. Mind blown? I know, that’s some super-analytical, in-the-weeds stuff. Where it actually gets complex, though, is attempting to determine whether they can rely on their abundance of major league-ready (or close to it) prospects or if there’s an established free agent or trade target who fits better. They need more power and they could use another body to soak up some C/1B/DH at-bats. There’s a lot to sort out, in part because they’ve declined over the last year to clear their upper-level prospect logjam with a trade or two. But they have the pieces to land almost anyone they want to fortify their lineup. -Zack Meisel

The Rockies’ top priority should be prioritizing what their many priorities should be. They need more home runs, a bullpen infusion, starting pitching depth, speed, a leadoff hitter, some new coaches, a bigger analytics presence, better food at Coors Field, and so on. But they could start with a center fielder. They need a center fielder who can ably patrol their enormous outfield while also hitting home runs. Colorado has never seen this two-way unicorn, not exactly. Charlie Blackmon and Ellis Burks came closest. And if they found that person in a leadoff hitter, well, jackpot. That’s why Brandon Nimmo’s name has popped up. -Nick Groke

We don’t yet know exactly which positions new executive Scott Harris views as focal points, but we do know the Tigers have a long list of needs. Finding a way to add production to what was baseball’s worst run-scoring offense should be the overarching goal for any offseason moves. -Cody Stavenhagen

Chas McCormick has played admirably in center field throughout the postseason. But the Astros might still want a different option at the position long-term, especially since McCormick isn’t a natural center fielder. Jake Meyers struggled this season, and it isn’t clear if he’ll be a long-term solution. The Astros might also need to consider first base if they don’t bring back Yuli Gurriel, who will be 39 years old next season. So there are a couple spots to fill. -Sam Blum

When Royals owner John Sherman fired Dayton Moore and promoted J.J. Picollo to lead the club’s baseball operations department, he delivered a mandate to become more data-driven and reliant on the team’s research and development department. You could see the new philosophy in the hiring of new manager Matt Quatraro, who comes over from the Rays and also had experience working for the Guardians. It’s likely just the beginning. The Royals need to shore up their pitching development infrastructure — at all levels — and hire a new major-league pitching coach. Quatraro’s background is on the hitting side — he was a minor-league hitting coordinator and assistant hitting coach in the big leagues — but his experiences in Tampa and Cleveland could offer a nice network to tap into as he looks to fill out his staff. Former first-round pick Brady Singer experienced a breakout 2021 season, but the Royals still have a number of young pitchers who have struggled at the major-league level. If a new pitching coach — and a new staff as a whole — is able to even marginally improve performances across the board, it could go a long way in helping the Royals’ rebuild turn the corner. -Rustin Dodd

Los Angeles Angels: Triple-A depth

Honestly, the Angels don’t have an awful roster when healthy. They could probably use a better left fielder and shortstop. But the real issue is when even one of those players gets hurt. There’s been no one to come up. As a result, the offensive production falls off a cliff and the team suffers greatly. It happened after Anthony Rendon got hurt. The same for Jared Walsh’s injury. Or Mike Trout’s injury. They need players in Triple A. Good minor league free agents that can produce if called upon. -Sam Blum

First is restoring their depth in the starting rotation, which looks much thinner with Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson as free agents, and with Walker Buehler not expected to pitch in 2023 as he rehabs from a second Tommy John surgery. Next is figuring out who the heck is playing shortstop, and if it’s not Trea Turner then how will they make up for his absence from the lineup that was baseball’s best during the regular season in 2022. -Fabian Ardaya

It’s no mirage because of their pitching-friendly park, even metrics that adjust for park factors had their lineup as 25th-best in baseball last season. Only four teams struck out more, and only three teams walked less, so a player that commands the strikes zone should be at the top of their list, in particular. Their outfield was 29th in park-adjusted offense! Their infield has some interesting parts that can be moved to different positions, and the outfield is generally a place that teams can easily improve in free agency and with smaller trades. That’s the only good news. -Eno Sarris

Sure, the starting pitching wasn’t as good as it was in 2021, but it was still in the top dozen or so in ERA, FIP and fWAR. There are bigger problems, even if the team believes it should still be built on run prevention. They need a better bridge to closer Devin Williams, with Taylor Rogers a free agent and Matt Bush, among others, a candidate to be non-tendered. Importantly, they need to make improvements to their lineups, including making key decisions on Hunter Renfroe (will be due around $11 million through arbitration) and trade candidates Keston Hiura and Rowdy Tellez. It doesn’t stop there. They need to find catching help — Omar Narvaez is a free agent. They could need a new second baseman or third baseman — Kolten Wong has a club option, and Luis Urias would be a candidate to slide over from third. And, while they’re at it, they need to decide on center field, where their best answer could be rookie Garrett Mitchell. -Will Sammon

For the third straight offseason, the Twins will have an opening at the position once Carlos Correa opts out, with top prospect Royce Lewis not ready to fill it yet as he comes back from a second torn ACL. -Aaron Gleeman

New York Mets: Nothing compares to the rotation

Yes, the Mets can use some more power in their lineup, but that doesn’t compare to the amount of work to be done with the pitching staff. In the rotation, Max Scherzer will be back at the front of it, but beyond that, nothing is guaranteed or in solely their control. Carlos Carrasco can be retained via a club option. David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi could compete for back-end spots to varying degrees with Peterson the likeliest to claim a spot. In the bullpen, right-hander Drew Smith (44 games) is the only pitcher in the Mets’ system under contract for 2023 who appeared in at least 20 games for them as a reliever in 2022. -Sammon

The Yankees have to re-sign Aaron Judge. There’s no one on the free agent market who can replicate the level of production he brings. His star power for the franchise is also immeasurable. He’s the most popular Yankee since Derek Jeter. The Yankees are so deeply tied to the game’s most iconic players. You know them by just one name. Ruth. Gehrig. Mantle. DiMaggio. Jeter. Rivera. If Judge can stay healthy and continue on his current trajectory, there’s a chance he, too, can be on that list when his career is over. The Yankees can’t afford to lose someone like him. -Chris Kirschner

Until proven otherwise, the assumption is that the A’s will continue to reduce payroll and replenish a below-average farm system. There isn’t much they can do, however, because they traded everyone who made at least $5 million per year either before or during this past season. Chad Pinder is the only 2023 free agent who made more than $1 million last season — he’ll sign elsewhere (perhaps the Padres, if Bob Melvin has any say). They also have six players eligible for arbitration. Tony Kemp, Sean Murphy and Ramón Laureano are projected to get between $3 million and $4 million; Kemp is the only one who they might not tender. -Steve Berman

The Phillies will have decisions to make on the middle infield. Do they exercise a $17 million option on Jean Segura? If they do not, do they pursue a new second baseman, or slide Bryson Stott over there while targeting one of the big-name shortstops? The Phillies have different paths toward improving up the middle. -Matt Gelb

Starting jobs at first base, second base, catcher and two outfield spots are up for grabs as the Pirates go into the offseason. Catcher figures to be a short-term gig, as either Henry Davis or (more likely) Endy Rodriguez could be ready to make his big league debut by midseason. Finding a long-term first baseman is the bigger priority. Last season, the Pirates got a combined minus-3 fWAR from their first basemen — poor offense and sub-par defense. GM Ben Cherington said he will try to fill the job this winter via free agency or a trade. -Rob Biertempfel

San Diego Padres: Acquire multiple starting pitchers

The Padres have Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove under contract for 2023. For now, they don’t have much else besides a host of questions. Will Nick Martinez exercise his right to test free agency? How much of a workload jump can be expected from Adrian Morejon? Should the team consider re-signing Sean Manaea or Mike Clevinger if the price is low? Can Ryan Weathers and Jay Groome be counted on to supply major-league-quality depth? Will Darvish, Snell and Musgrove enjoy the same kind of health they had in 2022? At any rate, San Diego needs to bring in at least one starter from outside the organization. -Dennis Lin

The Giants must replace Carlos Rodón in the rotation, they must upgrade a porous defense that contributed to so many losses last season, they need a middle-of-the-order presence and they’ll need a few new choices in a bullpen that got eaten by the regression monster. But mostly, they need sizzle. They need to make a statement acquisition, stoke a disaffected fan base and recapture their place in a crowded Bay Area sports marketplace. Golly. I wonder which free agent could do that? -Andrew Baggarly

Seattle Mariners: Is luring a free agent to play second possible?

It will be important for the Mariners — coming off a dreamy 90-win season and their first postseason berth in two decades — to add some offense this winter if they want to remain relevant. Second base would be a good spot to start. The team remains committed to J.P. Crawford at shortstop. Can they convince a free-agent shortstop to come to Seattle and then move to second base? That feels like a big ask. -Corey Brock

The Cardinals will be tasked with doing the impossible: replacing Yadier Molina behind the plate. Now that they’ve officially locked up Nolan Arenado (who elected to forego his final opt-out clause) for the next five years, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak can shift to finding a starting catcher. The organization has made it clear they view Andrew Knizner as a reserve and the internal belief is top catching prospect Iván Herrera needs more fine-tuning in the minors. The Cardinals will likely aggressively approach the starting catcher market, and since that market is relatively thin in terms of free agents, that includes potential trades. -Katie Woo

Tampa Bay Rays: Veteran presence

This team needs a couple of veterans. Not for their presence, but because they’ll come on short-term deals and could help lengthen the lineup and the rotation. A corner bat near the end of their career and a starting pitcher who will take a one-year deal — those are the priorities for a team with a good young core in place, where all the upside comes from their young stars taking steps forward. In order to free up the cash, expect the Rays to part ways with long-time centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier by declining the club option. -Sarris

Texas Rangers: Stop me if you’ve heard this before

Have we mentioned starting pitching? Starting pitching, followed closely by starting pitching, and if there is any money left, more starting pitching. And maybe an outfielder, just for fun. -Levi Weaver

This is the first offseason in a while that there is not a major glaring roster hole to fill for the Blue Jays, unless you consider filling the mid-rotation role Ross Stripling occupied as major. This winter will more likely be about shoring up some weak spots and maybe mixing up the team’s composition via some trades. Their bullpen needs more late-inning swing and miss, so that’s a priority. Diversifying the lineup with some left-handed hitters should be, as well. The Blue Jays could still make a splash on the free-agent market as they have the past three winters, but adding to their team via the trade route might be a viable option, as well. And while they don’t need to necessarily add an ace, they do need to add at least one starting pitcher. -Kaitlyn McGrath

Honestly, the No. 1 priority remains the sale of the team which will understandably change the direction of the entire organization. A group led by Washington Wizards, Capitals and Mystics owner Ted Leonsis is emerging as the clear front-runner to buy the Nationals, according to sources within the organization and Major League Baseball who were not authorized to speak publicly on the subject, but the sale is not likely to be completed before Winter Meetings in December. -Brittany Ghiroli

(Top image: John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos: Elsa / Getty Images, Jim McIsaac / Getty Images, Greg Fiume / Getty Images)



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