Top Five MLB Teams That Need To Take Out Their Checkbook For 2014
By: Sam Breiter
Baseball in 2013 was a season to remember to say the least. Whether you are talking about the unbelievable breakout season from Chris Davis, who led major league baseball with 53 homeruns, or if you are discussing the legacy of a man named Mariano, you can clearly see how extraordinary this year in baseball was. Just three days ago, the Boston Red Sox organization gained the title of World Series Champions. For now, they will be noted as the best team in baseball, but April is just around the corner and now every team will have fair game to work on improving their team to become potential champions for 2014. Some teams may look at their 40-man roster today and feel a sense of comfort and confidence for next year, knowing that they may be one small signing or trade away from being contenders. Other teams may look and find that there are many holes that need to be covered, and they have a lot of work cut out for them this winter. Noting, there are some organizations that have more available money for the elite free agents than others. For example, the Houston Astros may need an outfielder, but do not expect them to spend $20 million on a five tool superstar, but rather a player with mediocre talent since they are many years away from being competitive. What I am about to review is the top five teams who need to make moves this offseason in order to have a fighting chance in 2014. I took into consideration the available funds the team has, what they need, and their desire to improve to stand a chance next year.
#5 Kansas City Royals- After being regarded as one of the worst teams in baseball after their great run in the 70’s and 80’s, the Kansas City Royals in 2013 really found themselves as a team. Prior to the 2013 season, the Royals had not been over .500 since 2003, and before that 1993. After spending the last couple of years trading away talent to improve their farm system, the Royals have reached that essential milestone where they have developed a group of young prospects into MLB superstars. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Eric Hosmer, to name off a few, had a key role in allowing the Royals to win their 86 games this year. The Royals were just seven games back of the division-winning Tigers, and missed a wild card spot by five and a half games. So what’s it going to take to get over that hump? What do the Royals need to do to go back to the glory days of when they were one of the most feared teams in baseball? I have one answer to that question and that is pitching. If we look at the pitching rotation for 2014, for the team right now you see the names James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Bruce Chen, and two question marks. Ervin Santana, who had an above average year, is now a free agent, and the Royals never really had a true number five guy. Shields and Guthrie provide a great one two punch, yet it is fair to note that Chen has always time after time proven himself to be unreliable with injuries and inconsistent success. With this said, the Royals, in order to get over that hump, need to sign two starting pitchers that will work long innings and keep the rotation intact. The best fit for the Royals would include pitchers who have shown their talent such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Haren, A.J Burnett, Matt Garza, or Hiroki Kuroda. Additionally, they might want to try to get back Santana, and maybe go for some of the lower demand pitchers including Scott Baker, Mike Pelfrey, Ricky Nolasco, or even Jason Vargas. With this added pitching help, the Royals can easily run away with a wild card spot, or perhaps even be the American League Central Division champs.
#4 Texas Rangers- Ever since 2010, the Texas Rangers have always been looked upon as, if not the best, one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. Their dominance in hitting the long ball, getting on base, and sustaining an above average pitching rotation and bullpen has allowed their success to last. In 2010, the Rangers made the World Series and fell flat on their face against the San Francisco Giants. The following year, after one of the most dramatic World Series ever, the Rangers fell just short losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven game series. The following year, they won the wild card and missed their shot of going anywhere in the playoffs, and this year they did not even get a wild card spot. Clearly it may look as if this team is declining, but do you really expect the Oakland Athletics to come up with another 96 win season considering their best player is not even considered a superstar. If the Rangers brought back the same team they had this year, next year it looks pretty likely they would be the favorite to win the division, but down in Texas these fans expect more than a division title. Matt Garza, Nelson Cruz, A.J Pierzynski, and David Murphy, to name a few, are players who will be free agents this year and may just not be a part of the team next year. With this said, pitching (both starting and relief), a left fielder, and a catcher need to be acquired if the Rangers do not want to fall short yet again. In terms of pitching, look for the Rangers to attempt to sign one big name pitcher. I believe Garza will return and they will look to bring Alexi Ogando into their rotation and maybe even sign Roy Holladay if the Phillies part ways with the old ace. In terms of the bullpen, whatever happened to Neftali Feliz? From 2010-2011 Feliz combined for 72 saves, but from injuries the past few years people tend to forget about him. Expect Feliz to be their number one closer in 2014, but do not be surprised if Chris Perez comes in to become either the setup man or closer assuming Feliz does not work to his expectations. Behind the plate, the Rangers have always had power, if we go back a few years to Mike Napoli, or the more current days of Pierzynski. Do not be surprised if either of these players are brought back to the organization, yet I predict Brian McCann will be wearing a Texas Rangers uniform in 2014 because he will get paid the money he deserves, and the Rangers have a better resume of getting deep in the playoffs compared to the Braves. The Rangers have always had big time sluggers in the outfield. The Josh Hamilton/Nelson Cruz combo was one of the best power hitting outfields ever seen on one team. With Hamilton enjoying his money in L.A, and Cruz doubtful to return, do not be surprised to see the Rangers spending huge on a new outfielder. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Mike Morse are the best fits for the Rangers if they are willing to spend big on a new outfielder.
#3 New York Mets- Even though it may be a scary thought to think about, it is that time again where the Mets need to be aggressive during the offseason. The Mets have had the worse luck in terms of free agents the last couple of years. It all started a few seasons ago with a four years, $66 million contract to Jason Bay. The man could not even start for the Mariners this year after being released by the Mets just last year, due to the fact he could barely hit the ball out of Citi Field. How could anybody forget about the $36 million deal to Oliver Perez who proved to be one of the worst pitchers in the major leagues during his time with New York having an ERA nearing 7.00, and walking more batters than he struck out on a regular basis. The point is, the Mets have spent millions of dollars with high hopes to bring a new name to the stadium that will hopefully produce and help them achieve their goals. With that said, you cannot believe that the Mets have some unordinary curse, but rather you need to be optimistic about the new opportunities. With the massive Jason Bay and Johan Santana contracts paid off this year, the Mets now have available money to spend. Although, rather than spend $30 million on a Robinson Cano, the Mets should be more conservative and look to sign a couple of good players rather than one main superstar. The last two years, rather than spending big on free agents like in the past, the Mets have taken the farm system approach and have dropped current talent for future talent. This was definitely a success for the Mets, to say the least, as just this year the Mets discovered the true abilities of Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, and Travis D’arnaud. So what do the Mets really need based on the honest fact that they have some strong sides to their team (although most people might not look at it that way)? The first step is in the outfield. Eric Young Jr. broke out this year for the Mets providing great defense and speed at the top of the lineup, but Juan Lagares, and Lucas Duda definitely do not bring fans to the stadium. There has been talk about Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jacoby Ellsbury for the Mets, but I believe the Mets should sign two outfielders that have shown strong ability in the past that might not be as costly. Look for the Mets to run after Jason Kubel, Delmon Young, Nate McLouth, or maybe even bring back Jeff Francoeur. At first base, some people may argue the need to sign Paul Konerko, or Corey Hart, but the Mets are not in as bad shape as it may seem at that position with Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, or maybe even Daniel Murphy most likely filling in that role for next season. Zach Wheeler, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee are what the Mets pitching rotation is looking like right now. After fans were disappointed when it was revealed that Harvey needed to receive Tommy John surgery, the rotation went from looking terrific to desperate for help. The Mets will most likely find someone who is already a part of the organization. If Noah Synderguard is ready or if Jenry Mejia can stay healthy, expect to see one if not both of their names in the starting five. Additionally, they will most likely spend a small amount on a number five pitcher, such as an Aaron Harang or Jason Marquis. At shortstop, Ruben Tejeda and Wilmer Flores look like they will compete for the job right now, but do not be surprised if the Mets bring in Rafael Furcal, or Yunel Escobar to take over. As hard as it might be to believe, the Toronto Blue Jays are looking to rebuild, and Jose Reyes ironically just bought a million dollar mansion in one of the wealthiest towns in all of Long Island, NY, called Brookville. Maybe, just maybe, Jose is tired of playing in Canada, and wants to come back to the Big Apple. Yet, with the amount Reyes is getting paid at the moment, it would not be worth it for the developing team. Ever since the departure of Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets have not had a guy that stepped to the mound and you just knew he would save the day. Bobby Parnell, in 2013, put up some nice numbers when healthy, but the Mets really need to bring some guys in to hold a lead after a dominant pitcher performance from one of their starters. Joel Hanrahan or Edward Mujica would be a great addition to the team if they want to demote Parnell to setup, but expect the Mets to bring in a couple of middle relievers, such as Jesse Crain, Eric O’Flaherty, or Matt Thornton. Yet, odds are that based on the team’s history they will bring in a reliever that you never heard of so do not be upset if my predictions are wrong. The Mets have the available money and dreams to be successful next season, they just need to sign the right players and gain some depth into their roster. Do not be shocked if the Mets sneak in to get a wild card spot in 2014, it may be hard to believe, but they actually came in third this year with the team as mediocre as ever.
#2- Pittsburgh Pirates- In the last 20 years the Pirates did not know what it meant to play baseball in October. Finally, after one of the worst runs in sports history, the Pirates found themselves over .500 and in the playoffs for the fist time since 1992. Through Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez leading the offense and strong pitching performances from Francisco Lirano, Gerrit Cole, A.J Burnett, and Jason Grilli, the Pirates found themselves getting a wild card spot after winning an incredible 94 games. Unlike some of the other teams mentioned, the Pirates really do not need to sign a lot of players, but rather add some strengths where it was looked at as weaknesses. The NL central is always one of the most competitive divisions in baseball with the Cardinals and Reds always putting a tough fight up until September in last few seasons. With that said, in order for the Pirates to separate from those two rival teams and lead the divisions themselves, the team needs to spend some big time money on high value players. In terms of pitching, the Pirates do not need to do much of anything, as the rotation is very stable, but with the chance of A.J Burnett leaving, they may want to either find a way to bring him back or replace him with Dan Haren or even Ubaldo Jimenez. At first base, Justin Morneau once an MVP of the league, was traded and became a part of Pittsburgh in late August right before the team secured a wild card spot. The Pirates need to find a way to resign Morneau or look towards replacing him with Kendry Morales for 2014. After acquiring Marlyon Byrd from the Mets to fill in some gaps, the Pirates should avoid bringing back the 35 year old, and look at this offseason as an opportunity to replace him with one of the leagues top outfielders available. Nelson Cruz and Mike Morse are younger replacements for Byrd, and would definitely have a large impact in the lineup. Finally, with the chance of Clint Barmes finding a new home, the Pirates should look into another shortstop with equal or higher talent. Stephen Drew seems like a great fit, as he is the top shortstop on the list of free agents. Will the Pirates be aggressive this offseason and spend some more cash to replace good players with great players? If they want a world series, you better bet your money that in April, on paper, the Pirates are going to look a heck of a lot better then what it was in April of 2013.
#1- New York Yankees- When you think of the word Yankees what do you think? I think 27 rings, playoffs every year, and a royalty in sports. The Yankees have distinguished themselves as the closest thing to a monopoly in sports. Whenever there is a setback they either find a way to trade or sign a player that brings them wins. This year was a little bit different. With the new rule of the luxury tax the Yankees feared spending major money in the 2013 offseason to improve their roster. As a result, they found themselves in fourth place in A.L East, and didn’t make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Additionally, they saw a significant drop in attendance, which had not been that low since 2001. The Yankees have already made a statement with reports saying that they will be spending some $300 million on their players, and will be better than ever. But, the Yankees find themselves in a position where they can’t just make two mega deals, or one blockbuster trade, but rather they need to change a good portion of their team around. With both Mariano Rivera and Andy Petite both retiring, and the question marks of the return of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees really have their work cut out for them this offseason. Looking into next year out of the starting rotation, you only see C.C Sabathia and Ivan Nova. Besides them, it’s in the hands of new contracts being given out. The Yankees will attempt to bring back Kuroda, and also look to bring in the top pitchers on the market as they have always done. Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, and Bronson Arroyo, all seem like suitable fits to fill the holes in the rotation. Ever since Jorge Posada left the team, the Yankees have not really had someone they know will get the job done day after day behind the plate. Brian McCann and A.J Pierzynski will be the two guys the Yankees will try to bring in and most likely spend the most money for. At center field, Curtis Granderson was well known for striking out daily, having a low batting average, and also dealing with injuries this season. The Yankees will most likely be able bring back the slugger for a 1-2 year inexpensive deal. Yet, if the Yankees are looking to move on, Jacoby Ellsbury would be the perfect new lead off batter. Robinson Cano has talks about his desire to make $30 million starting next year, and to continue bringing in the big bucks for many years to come. Do not expect the Yankees to spend that type of money on him, especially when you look at the history with Alex Rodriguez. But it does not seem like the Yankees will be letting anyone beat them out to sign the league’s best second basemen. In the bullpen, there will be no more Enter Sandman, but rather the Yankees will most likely look to put David Robertson into work during the ninth. The Yankees will also need to add some solid middle relievers with Joba Chamberlin and Boone Logan becoming free agents. The Yankees will no doubt bring in the best relievers that are willing to join the team. The Yankees are not the number one team on my list because they have a bad team or they need players. The Yankees have always been known as the best team in baseball, and for them to see David Ortiz hold that trophy must of destroyed them on the inside.