Gauge the market for Ketel Marte. They have to do it, right? The Diamondbacks lost 110 games in 2021 and they’re stuck in a division with several big-market powerhouses. I’m not sure a quick turnaround is possible. Marte is signed affordably for another three years and he remains an elite performer (when healthy). Realistically, his trade value only goes down from here because he’ll inch closer to free agency, so listen and seriously consider offers. The D-Backs don’t have to trade Marte right now, but it would be silly to make him off-limits given their current situation.
Re-sign Freddie Freeman. It should have happened before the lockout, but late is better than never. This is a situation that will have to get sorted out fairly quickly after the lockout too. If he’s not going back to the Braves, Freeman will want to pivot to other teams and find a new home, and the Braves will have to pivot to other first base candidates. But yeah, just pay the man, Braves. He’s great, he’s the face of your franchise, and you just won the World Series. Don’t pinch pennies with this guy.
Approach Adley Rutschman about an extension. Rutschman, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, will be the centerpiece of the next contending Orioles team. I don’t know when that next contending Orioles team will arrive, but it will arrive at some point, and locking up Rutschman now ensures he’ll be a part of it. We’ve seen several players sign long-terms contracts before making their MLB debuts (Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez, etc.). The O’s should try to make Rutschman the next, even if it means offering $100-plus million. He is that good.
Bring in another outfielder. For better or worse, the Red Sox went quantity over quality with their pitching (Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, James Paxton, etc.), and now they need to bolster an outfield that currently includes Enrique Hernández, Alex Verdugo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Jarren Duran, and possibly JD Martinez . Maybe Bradley bounces back and maybe Duran lives up to the prospect hype after last year’s rough debut. Seems to me there’s room for improvement there. A Kyle Schwarber reunion would make sense, but even someone like Tommy Pham would be a nice depth addition.
Get a shortstop. There’s something to be said for giving Nico Hoerner an extended opportunity. I just think that, when guys like Carlos Correa and Trevor Story are available, you should sign them and upgrade a key up-the-middle position. There is room on the roster for both Correa/Story and Hoerner. I promise. The Cubs were smart and opportunistic when they signed Marcus Stroman to a three-year deal before the lockout. With so many big-market teams seemingly sitting out the shortstop market, the Cubbies have another chance to be opportunistic here. Don’t pass it up.
Find a second baseman or right fielder. The White Sox are in a bit of a weird place at those two positions because Adam Engel and Leury García played well enough the last two years to warrant more playing time, but also their track records are very short, and I feel like a team that fancies itself a World Series contender should aim higher. Ketel Marte would be the ideal addition since he can play second and the outfield. I’m a fan of A’s utility guy Tony Kemp, who can also play second and the outfield. He’d add depth in case Engel and/or García don’t repeat their 2020-21 performances but also not stand in their way if they do.
Find a shortstop. The Reds still don’t have a shortstop, huh? Give Kyle Farmer props for holding his own at the position last year, though that can’t be the plan again. Top prospect José Barrero has been overmatched in his limited MLB time and should be allowed to develop properly in the minors. By projected future WAR, this is the greatest free-agent shortstop class in history. Carlos Correa and Trevor Story are the only ones left unsigned, and if the Reds aren’t going to go there, then you at least have to make calls about trade candidates Paul DeJong and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Shortstop is not a position to punt.
Get another outfielder. Myles Straw is a solid everyday center fielder and Steven Kwan is a personal favorite. The Bradley Zimmer / Oscar Mercado platoon in the other outfield spot does nothing for me though. The Guardians have been short an outfielder (or two, at times) since Michael Brantley left and ownership has to spend some money eventually. José Ramírez is the only player on the roster with a guaranteed contract! Bring in an outfielder and try to make a run in a not-great division with the postseason field likely to expand.
Take trade calls about Germán Márquez. The Rockies are impossible to figure out. They didn’t trade Trevor Story, they didn’t make Jon Gray the qualifying offer, and they’re giving out extensions that suggest they want to win now. I don’t get it. They went 74-87 a year ago with Story and Gray, and they’re stuck in a tough division. Márquez is one of the most valuable trade commodities in the game given his durability, performance, and affordable contract. Cash him in as a trade chip before his value plummets due to injury or Coors Field, and infuse the organization with young talent.
Beef up the bullpen. The Tigers quietly went 68-61 in their final 129 games last year, and they’re poised to be even better this year after signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez, and eventually incorporating top prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson into the lineup. The AL Central isn’t exactly a powerhouse division and the new collective bargaining agreement is likely to expand the postseason field. Detroit has a few weak spots in the bullpen. Even mid-range free agent relievers like, say, Ryan Tepera and Collin McHugh would be big upgrades. It’s a cheap and easy enough way to improve the team’s postseason chances.
Re-sign Carlos Correa. Look, I like Jeremy Peña as a prospect, but Correa is one of the best players in the world, and the Astros would be crazy to let him walk. Their World Series window is as open as it’s going to get and Correa is an elite producer at an up-the-middle position who just turned 27. It is far, far more likely the Astros regret letting him leave than regret paying him. Correa should be an Astro for life. Owner Jim Crane’s unwillingness to spend on the player his team tanked to draft No. 1 overall — a player who has certainly lived up to his lofty draft status — is at best befuddling and at worst embarrassing.
Approach Bobby Witt Jr. about an extension. The Royals aren’t that far away from making noise in the postseason race. Witt is one of the best prospects in the game, and not only will he arrive in 2022, but so will breakout sluggers MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto. Get the pitching figured out and Kansas City could push for an expanded postseason spot real quick. By all accounts Witt is a budding superstar, and if the Royals want to keep him long-term and make him the face of the franchise, they should approach him about an extension right now. Others have signed pre-MLB debut extensions and this is the kind of talent you pay even before seeing him on a big-league field.
Sign Carlos Rodón. Even after signing Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen, the Angels still need more pitching, and Rodón is such an obviously good fit. He brings considerable upside, first and foremost, plus the Halos intend to use a six-man rotation again this year (in part to manage Shohei Ohtani’s workload). That would ostensibly help keep Rodón, who has a long history of arm injuries, on the field. Chances are Rodón won’t require a long-term contract either. A one-year prove yourself contract, similar to Syndergaard and Lorenzen, could be in the cards. It’s such a great fit.
Bring in another starter. Re-signing Clayton Kershaw would be neat (and should happen), though his ongoing forearm woes mean it’s tough to count on him in 2022. The Dodgers shouldn’t expect Trevor Bauer back anytime soon, so right now the rotation behind Walker Buehler and Julio Urías includes Tony Gonsolin, Andrew Heaney, and David Price. Los Angeles got by with bullpen games essentially every fifth day last season. I’m not sure the Dodgers want to do that again. A trade with the A’s for one of their rental starters (Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea) makes all the sense in the world.
Trade for Ramón Laureano. The Marlins don’t really need to do anything after the lockout. I’m not sure they’ll contend in 2022, but don’t have any glaring weaknesses, and have either a proven veteran or a promising youngster at every position. I just think that, with Brian Anderson’s shoulder surgery and Monte Harrison seemingly following the Lewis Brinson path, adding another outfielder would be a smart move. Laureano is under team control through 2024, so he’s not a rental, and he’d further upgrade what was one of the lowest-scoring offenses in baseball last year. Miami has a ton — a TON — of MLB-ready starting pitching and trading one or two arms for a bat is sensible. Pitchers break and you can’t keep everyone.
Bring in another bat. I am also willing to accept “sign Omar Narváez to an extension.” But since we know Narváez will be around this year, and the Brewers currently have Tyrone Taylor and Keston Hiura penciled into the DH spot, yeah, they need another bat first and foremost. Milwaukee’s offense was at best middleof the pack last year and the National League is all but certain to get the DH with the new collective bargaining agreement. That gives the Brewers a chance to add a difference-making hitter while their championship window is open. Kyle Schwarber would be a nice get. If they’re not willing to spend that much money on a DH, how about a trade for Luke Voit? He looks like Barrelman come to life, and I mean that as a compliment.
Find a few starters. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober and Dylan Bundy are the 1-2-3 starters right now when they should be more like the 3-4-5 starters. The Twins badly need rotation help — Kenta Maeda is expected to miss the season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, remember — and not just depth starters. They need guys who can move the needle and do more than chew up innings. They didn’t give Byron Buxton all that money only to cobble together a rotation of mid-to-back-end starters while he’s still in his prime, did they?
Bring in more pitching depth. The Mets did most of their heavy lifting prior to the lockout. Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, and Mark Canha upgrade the offense and of course Max Scherzer strengthens the rotation. The Mets could still use a reliable No. 5 starter, someone they can reasonably count on to eat innings given Scherzer’s age and Jacob deGrom’s and Carlos Carrasco’s injury concerns. Another reliever, particularly a lefty, would be nice too. Might I suggest Tyler Anderson and Andrew Chafin?
Get a shortstop. For whatever reason the Yankees seem unwilling to spend big on a shortstop this offseason. I don’t get it, but it’s not really up to me to get. Andrelton Simmons isn’t moving the needle and trade candidates like Paul DeJong and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are only going to leave the Yankees wishing they’d spent on Carlos Correa or Trevor Story. I don’t know who will be at shortstop for New York on Opening Day, but it seems pretty obvious that player is not in the organization right now. Shortstop is the Yankees’ top post-lockout priority.
Begin the rebuild. It’s no secret it’s coming. The Athletics have a long history of trading their best players when they begin to get expensive through arbitration and approach free agency, and almost all their core players are a year or two away from hitting the open market: Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, etc. I have no doubt the A’s fielded trade calls about all those players (and more) prior to the lockout. Once the work stoppage ends, it will be time to act on those trade offers, and begin the rebuild process in earnest. It’s a bummer and no one wants it to happen, but it does seem inevitable.
Sign Kris Bryant. I’m not sure whether Phillies ownership has the appetite for another big contract, but if they do, Bryant would be the perfect target. He’d provide them coverage at third base (where Alec Bohm has struggled defensively) and in left field (where the Phillies have no one of note), and even center field as well (see left field comment). Bryant and Bryce Harper are good buddies from their time growing up in Las Vegas, though that’s not why I would sign him. He’s a good hitter and he plays multiple positions of need. The Phillies would never have trouble fitting Bryant in the lineup.
Shop Chris Stratton. Stratton has long been a stathead favorite thanks to his sky-high spin rates. He’s finally put it together and became a reliable reliever these last two seasons. The problem? He’s already 31 and two years away from free agency. Stratton won’t be part of the next contending Pirates team, and the last thing a rebuilding team needs is a good reliever approaching free agency. Pittsburgh would be smart to move Stratton now, while his trade value is the highest its ever been, to advance their rebuild.
Sign Trevor Story. Do I expect it to happen? No. Should it happen? Absolutely. Edmundo Sosa is a nice player, but not someone I’d let stop me from signing Story, and Paul DeJong seems like he’d benefit from a fresh start with a new team. Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have said they’re planning to retire after 2022 and the Cardinals presumably want to do as much as possible to give them a shot at one last ring. Bringing in Story would be a big upgrade and push the team closer to the finish line. Honorable mention goes to adding bullpen depth. St. Louis really needs a reliable late-inning reliever. Someone to keep everyone’s blood pressure down
Sign Nelson Cruz. It is all but certain the DH is coming to the National League this season and the Padres quietly had a league-average offense last year. Cruz is 41 now, so he’s at the age where he could fall off a cliff at any moment, but we haven’t seen any real signs of it yet, so I’d be happy to bet on him. Not only would he bring a big bat, Cruz would also bring a strong clubhouse presence, something San Diego seemed to lack at times last year. Anything he brings off the field is gravy. The Padres need a bat and Cruz is the best available free-agent hitter who won’t require a multi-year deal.
Find a righty-hitting outfielder. The Giants could still use one more starting pitcher, just for depth, though I think they need a righty hitting outfield bat even more. They currently have an all-lefty outfield (Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar, LaMonte Wade Jr.) with Darin Ruf and Austin Slater the only righty complements. Seiya Suzuki would be ideal . What about Marlins slugger Garrett Cooper as a Plan B? He’s a sneaky good hitter, he’s passable in the outfield, and he’d give San Francisco first base depth should Brandon Belt get hurt again. Cooper or otherwise, another righty bat who can play the outfield is in the post-lockout cards for the Giants.
Add a righty bat. How about a Nelson Cruz reunion? He’d give the club a power righty bat to help balance the lineup and also provide veteran leadership to a young team. Cruz has a history with the club and would surely treasure being part of the Mariners team that ends the postseason drought. Absent Cruz, a righty-hitting outfielder makes the most sense. Kyle Lewis missed most of last year with injury and Jarred Kelenic really stumbled during his MLB debut. Who’s to say Julio Rodríguez won’t do the same? The Mariners could also use another starting pitcher. I think they need the bat more.
Find a trade partner for Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays don’t have to trade Kevin Kiermaier, but this might be their last chance to do it. He’s entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and given his history of injuries and below average offense, you don’t have to try too hard to see Tampa declining his $13 million club option for 2023. Several contenders need a center fielder (Astros, Phillies, Yankees) and the Rays could replace Kiermaier with Manuel Margot, Brett Phillips, and top prospect Joshua Lowe. Kiermaier has been on the trade block for years now. It’s time to pull the trigger.
Add more pitching. Jon Gray was a nice pre-lockout start, but gosh, the Rangers need a lot more rotation help than that. Texas has to thread the needle a bit, because the team will want someone who can chew up innings but also not stand in the way in case young starters like AJ Alexy, Spencer Howard and Glenn Otto really break out. I wouldn’t worry about that last part though. Innings are always available. Michael Pineda strikes me as a nice fit given his upside and potential value as a trade chip at the deadline. The Rangers didn’t give all that money to Corey Seager and Marcus Semien just to spend the first year or two of their contracts sifting through young pitchers, did they?
Think big. The Blue Jays are in pretty good shape. There’s always room for improvement, but if they went into the season with their current roster, they’d be a serious postseason contender. So why not get a little greedy and think about, say, José; Ramírez? Or Ketel Marte? Or Matt Chapman? Toronto has the maneuverability to fit any of those guys on the roster (and into their payroll) and prospects to trade. Upgrading the infield (second or third base, most notably) is the most obvious way the Blue Jays can get better, so aim high. No need to settle for something less when you’re in their position.
Approach Juan Soto about an extension. I know this is the team that let Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon walk, but the Nationals couldn’t seriously let Soto go too, right? He is a savant, a historically great hitter for his age, and exactly the kind of player you build your franchise around. The Nationals are probably going to be bad in 2022, maybe even in 2023 (and 2024?), and Soto is only three years away from free agency. You don’t want him to sit through another bad season and start thinking the grass is greener is somewhere else. Make him the game’s first $400 million player. He’s worth it.