The crystal ball for this MLB offseason is cloudy. Several top free agents — beginning with Shohei Ohtani — will command eye-popping deals.
There are a few high-quality starting pitchers available, and then a significant dropoff. The offensive free-agent market is below average.
Therefore, in talking to those in the game, there is a sense there may be more trades this offseason than in previous years. Or at least the possibility of a few blockbusters, given some of the All Stars that are reportedly on the block.
Here’s a look at one move each team should make this offseason — not necessarily will, but in my opinion should — starting today with the American League.
Trade for Logan Gilbert or George Kirby
Reasoning: The Orioles won 101 games in 2023 but were swept in the playoffs. They have an exciting young offense but need another upper echelon starting pitcher to join Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and John Means. They match well with the Seattle Mariners, who have plenty of starting pitching but need pop, particularly from the right side. To get a pitcher with contractual control such as Gilbert or Kirby, the price will be hefty, and the Mariners want to win now. The Orioles potentially could offer a package that would include first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who isn’t a free agent until after 2026, as a centerpiece and maybe a highly rated prospect, such as infielder whiz Joey Ortiz. Gilbert is likely more available than Kirby.
Tampa Bay Rays
Trade Yandy Díaz
Reasoning: It’s hell on Rays fans, but the organization is tremendous at knowing when to pull the trigger on deals that replenish the organization. Díaz was tremendous in 2023, winning the AL batting crown with a .330 average. He’s also relatively cheap, guaranteed $18 million total over the next two seasons. But Díaz is 32 and his 22 homers and 78 RBIs were career highs. He could be a huge lift for a team needing an upgrade in on-base percentage and at first – Giants, Reds, Mariners, Cubs – and could fetch a couple younger pieces that eventually will turn into All Stars, because that’s what the Rays do.
Toronto Blue Jays
Re-sign Matt Chapman
Reasoning: The Blue Jays don’t have a lot of obvious holes on the roster; they just seemingly underachieve annually. The offense, though, was highly disappointing in 2023 and that was partially Chapman’s fault. His homer production slipped dramatically, from 27 the previous two seasons to 17 last year. Still, his batting average, on-base percentage and doubles were his highest since his outstanding 2019 season in Oakland. And his defense remained outstanding, earning him his fourth Gold Glove. Given what their offense and pitching should be, the Blue Jays shouldn’t mess with a strong defensive unit if his price is manageable.
New York Yankees
Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Reasoning: I really wanted to put, “trade for Juan Soto” here. And these are the Yankees, maybe they’ll do both. But Yamamoto, who is Japan’s best pitcher, is my No. 2 free agent in this class behind only Ohtani. Although the Yankees should have a good rotation, only Gerrit Cole made more than 10 starts with an ERA under 4.25 last year. Yamamoto is 25, has multiple plus pitches and has been tested on the international stage. The Yankees set the record for a Japanese free agent in 2014 by signing Masahiro Tanaka to a $155 million deal. Yamamoto may smash that, and this could be the Yankees big splash.
Boston Red Sox
Sign Aaron Nola
Reasoning: The Red Sox finished last in the AL East for the second consecutive year and that’s where they are staying in this recharged division unless they improve their roster. Their rotation’s ERA was 22nd in the majors. Chris Sale is no longer an ace, and he’s probably no longer making 30 starts, either. Boston needs a veteran workhorse who stays healthy and leads a rotation. Nola, 30, is probably the most durable bulldog available on the open market. He’s made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 180 innings in five consecutive full seasons. He had a disappointing 4.46 ERA in the regular season but rebounded with a strong postseason.
Trade for Yandy Díaz
Reasoning: The Twins will have to replace Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda in the rotation, and maybe that will be the priority for the Twins front offense since Minnesota’s offense bashes. It also whiffs at an alarming rate and so adding a hitter with contact skills would be welcomed. Díaz plays first base, gets on base and doesn’t whiff much. His 94 strikeouts in 2023 were a career high but that’s still just 15.7 percent of his plate appearances. He’s relatively inexpensive and has been in the playoffs every year since 2018. Given this division, the Twins should be a playoff contender in 2024 and have some intriguing young pieces that could entice the Rays.
Sign a stop-gap starter for one year
Reasoning: This one is tricky. If the Tigers improve their roster a little, they’d be in the thick of the AL Central race. But these Tigers are more than a player or two away from making real playoff noise. Club president Scott Harris has a plan to improve from within and stay patient. That means try to compete but don’t waste money and block positions. Instead of chasing down Eduardo Rodriguez again, the Tigers should find a stop-gap veteran to eat some innings, tutor the youngsters and be used as a midseason trade chip, such as Frankie Montas, Kyle Gibson or, yes, old friend Michael Lorenzen. It’s boring but sensible for where the Tigers are right now.
Trade Shane Bieber to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Reasoning: The Dodgers need starting pitching, and they always have the money to take on salaries. The Guardians are among the best at developing pitching, but often pull the plug before salaries rise too high. The Dodgers do an excellent job in targeting amateur pitching – six of their top 12 prospects this year are pitchers. Bieber, who is somehow only 28 and still effective when healthy, is approaching his final year of arbitration. It’s a match made in unbalanced baseball heaven. The Dodgers get a former Cy Young Award winner for a year and the Guardians get a few more cheap pieces – including at least one young pitcher — to develop.
Chicago White Sox
Trade Dylan Cease for a boatload
Reasoning: The White Sox need to be honest. They are rebuilding. And their best trade chips are either players they want to keep or those with limited value. If they want to step on the gas of a rebuild, however, they must make Cease available to the highest bidder. Cease, 27, had a rough 2023, walking four batters per nine and posting a 4.58 ERA, more than double his 2.20 mark in 2022. He struck out more than 200 batters for the third straight year, though, and can fit into almost anyone’s top of the rotation. White Sox new GM Chris Getz needs to get the Braves, Orioles. Phillies, Dodgers and others on the phone and find the best package.
Kansas City Royals
Extend Bobby Witt Jr. through this decade
Reasoning: This is a bad team. It will probably be a bad team for a while. It has a tremendous bright spot, however, in Witt, who hit 30 homers and stole 49 bases in 2023. Only 23, Witt can be a free agent after the 2027 season at age 27. If he continues his ascent, he’ll be in ridiculously high demand by then, meaning he’ll price himself out of the Royals’ future. So, they should make sure that doesn’t happen by breaking a small bank now and locking him up into his 30s.
Sign Josh Hader
Reasoning: This is the easiest call of the 15 AL clubs. Hader is the best available closer on the market, by far. The World Champion Rangers, in order to repeat, could use bullpen help. Pushing de facto closer Jose Leclerc into a set-up role and Josh Sborz into the seventh inning makes a really good team even better. Enough said.
Make Jose Altuve a lifetime Astro
Reasoning: Initially, my transaction here was to promote Joe Espada to manager. The Astros have done that, rewarding one of the top assistants in the game with his first MLB managerial job. Now, they should continue their pattern of maintaining consistency by extending Altuve three or four more years, essentially making the 33-year-old a lifetime Astro. It’s rare when a player can stay with one team for his entire career, and no one has been a bigger part of Houston’s tremendous success during this run than the diminutive Altuve. He is a free agent at season’s end (as is Alex Bregman) and, when healthy, he is still a major force in the game.
Sign Shohei Ohtani
Reasoning: The Mariners need an offensive boost and could acquire that by trading one of their young starters. But they also could do it by pushing the rest of baseball on its ear and signing Ohtani to a record deal. The Mariners obviously have a strong connection to Japanese players and would be the one club that wouldn’t need to rush Ohtani as a pitcher, given its current depth. This also could be a wonderful narrative. A franchise that’s never been to the World Series finally gets there by adding the game’s best player who has never appeared in an MLB playoff game.
Los Angeles Angels
Re-Sign Shohei Ohtani
Reasoning: I don’t think this happens (read above). But this club, given its current roster, may be the most insignificant in baseball. The Angels have future Hall of Famer Mike Trout and a few promising young players in a division that boasts the two most recent World Champions. Nothing rescues this club from mediocrity except a blow-it-up rebuild. But that hasn’t been owner Arte Moreno’s style. So, instead of adding a solid starting pitcher and an outfield power bat, he should put all the money into re-signing Ohtani. It likely won’t get the Angels their first playoff win since 2009, but it will keep them relevant as they look to improve from within. Because Ohtani’s mere presence makes a club intriguing to watch.
Sign Tim Anderson to a short deal
Reasoning: The A’s are going nowhere, except, you know, away from Oakland, one of the saddest MLB storylines in recent years. This club lost 112 games in 2023 and won’t be getting much better soon. Still, they have some exciting youngsters — Zack Gelof, Esteury Ruiz, Shea Langeliers — worth watching. One of baseball’s most exciting players, Tim Anderson, is now looking for a job after the White Sox failed to pick up his $14 million option. Anderson, 30, had a rough year in 2023, but is a former batting champ and could be a great, one-year, make-good candidate, which is perfect for Oakland, where players can go to turn things around then get dealt to a contender.
Dan Connolly is an MLB Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.