The 2018 MLB season has concluded and the playoffs are now upon us. Front offices across baseball will soon begin contemplating roster moves that they would like to make this offseason. Teams will have to decide which players to keep on the 40-man roster, which pending free agents they are alright with departing for another team, and which players and prospects they might be willing to trade in the right deal. However, one of the most important decisions every team will have to make is deciding which players to pursue in the offseason - via trade, free agency, or both. We keep seeing large contracts get handed out every offseason and this winter will be no different, especially with the deep free agency market we'll have in comparison to most years.
Every team will approach acquiring players differently this offseason. Teams that are looking to contend for a playoff spot next season will be more likely to pursue players who will help fill an immediate need for them. On the other hand, non-contending teams often look to acquire younger controllable players or veterans who they hope to trade at the trade deadline. Regardless of a team's motivations for making moves, every team will have spots to fill as they look to develop their rosters for the 2019 season.
For this article, we will be taking a look at one player each team should look to acquire this offseason. For their purpose, these players would be exactly what they need to take the next step as an organization.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks - Wilson Ramos
The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to find themselves in a bit of a predicament this offseason. They were a contending team most of the year, and will likely find themselves in the playoff hunt yet again in 2019. However, they will be losing several big pieces to free agency in AJ Pollock, Patrick Corbin, and Eduardo Escobar.
The Diamondbacks will have to find someone who can support Paul Goldschmidt in the middle of the batting order.
Arizona should ideally pursue Wilson Ramos in free agency, as the 31-year-old is solid offensively and defensively. The Diamondbacks also could desperately use an upgrade at catcher, as their current 2018 catchers have been below average for much of the season.
29 Atlanta Braves - Michael Fulmer
The Atlanta Braves surprised many by winning the NL East fairly convincingly. Much of their success has been attributed to their strong and talented hitters, most of whom will still be with the Braves in 2019. Atlanta is fortunate to have plenty of young starting pitchers, but it remains to be seen just how many of them will develop into quality starting pitchers next season. The Braves would do well to truly solidify the front end of their rotation by landing an impactful starter via trade. Michael Fulmer is still relatively young and has shown the ability to be a quality top of the rotation starter in MLB.
28 Baltimore Orioles - Adam Jones
Baltimore Orioles fans are probably quite glad that the season is over for them, after Baltimore had one of the worst seasons in franchise history. They lost 115 games even though they had Manny Machado for half the season, so 2019 could be even worse. The Orioles could be pretty unrecognizable, so they could look to bring back Adam Jones for at least one more season. Jones is not the player he once was and might not receive much interest from contending teams.
Having Jones return to Baltimore would at least give Orioles fans someone to cheer or.
For what it's worth, Jones does seem to really love Baltimore - even refusing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a better team.
27 Boston Red Sox - Craig Kimbrel
The Red Sox do not really have many holes to fill this offseason. Their impressive lineup will remain intact in 2019, unless Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski surprisingly decides to trade one of his hitters for a pitcher. Similarly, the Red Sox should feel content with their starting rotation.
However, the Red Sox will be seeing their star closer Craig Kimbrel testing the market in free agency. Losing him would be a big blow to their bullpen, so it would make a lot of sense for the Red Sox to aggressively pursue a reunion with Kimbrel in free agency.
26 Chicago Cubs - Trevor Rosenthal
The Cubs have a very solid batting lineup, even if they were shockingly knocked out of the playoffs when they lost the NL Wild Card Game to the Colorado Rockies. The Cubs will probably have a couple of holes to fill on their roster, but perhaps the most noteworthy position they need to fill is their bullpen. Brandon Morrow yet again succumbed to injuries in 2018, and extra insurance would likely be appreciated in Chicago. Acquiring Rosenthal would provide them with a fairly high-upside relief pitcher with closing experience, and should not come with a high price tag.
25 Chicago White Sox - Keon Broxton
The White Sox likely still have a couple more seasons to go until they can look to make a push for the playoffs. As a result, this means they can continue to provide meaningful everyday playing opportunities to young players who might not have an opportunity elsewhere. Outfielder Keon Broxton fits this description, as he has fallen down the depth chart in Milwaukee.
With the Brewers acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in recent years, there is not much room for Broxton there.
A change of scenery might be good for Broxton, who would benefit from playing everyday and batting atop the lineup.
24 Cincinnati Reds - Sonny Gray
The Yankees will almost certainly be looking to move on from Sonny Gray this offseason, even if it means getting back less than what it took to acquire him. They will look to remain competitive with the Red Sox in 2019, and Gray has struggled frequently for them - even being demoted to the bullpen. The Yankees cannot afford to hope Gray will figure out how to become a quality starter pitcher in 2019.
The rebuilding Cincinnati Reds can afford to work with Gray and hope he can revert back to 2015/2016 Sonny Gray by the time the Reds have a hope of contending. In addition, the Reds could also use some starting pitching depth to protect some of their young arms.
23 Cleveland Indians - David Robertson
The Cleveland Indians have had one of the best bullpens in the league for the past few seasons, thanks mostly to the presence of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen occupying the 8th and 9th inning slots. Unfortunately for the Indians, both of those relievers will be entering free agency this offseason. That will leave Cleveland with some big holes to fill, even if they do still have Brad Hand on the roster. There is a good chance the Tribe will look to bolster their bullpen by targeting a quality late reliever, and someone like David Robertson would fit their needs quite nicely.
22 Colorado Rockies: DJ LeMahieu
The Rockies surprised many baseball fans by surging to the top of the NL West division and finding themselves in the playoff race for much of the second part of the season.
The Rockies have a good farm system but they ought to go all in and try to keep as many of their core players intact for 2019 as they can.
The Rockies should have plenty of money to spend, some of which has to be allotted to extending Nolan Arenado. This offseason, however, the Rockies should make every effort at bringing back second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who has been a large part of their success in 2018.
21 Detroit Tigers - Tyson Ross
2019 will be yet another rebuilding year for Detroit, and they will likely be having a very young and inexperienced starting rotation apart from Michael Fulmer. It would be prudent for the Tigers to acquire a veteran pitcher so that they can provide some depth and innings to protect the younger arms, and possibly flip at the trade deadline. Tyson Ross would be a very intriguing name, as he is still relatively young (only 31) and was a very good starter as recently as 2015.
Injuries have been the biggest thorn in his side, but he also still holds quite a bit of upside. This would be a high-upside move for Detroit, especially if he reverts back to at least half of what he was in 2015.
20 Houston Astros - JT Realmuto
The Astros will probably have one of the top teams in all of baseball yet again in 2019. Most of their lineup will be returning and they will still have a strong starting rotation. While they could use some upgrades in the bullpen, the Astros could really use an upgrade behind the plate. Current catchers Martin Maldonado and Evan Gattis are headed for free agency, so the Astros could look to solidify their catching spot.
Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto will be top catcher available, and the Astros would have plenty of incentive to pursue him in the offseason.
19 Kansas City Royals - Domingo Santana
The Brewers have plenty of outfielders, which has left Domingo Santana as the odd man out. Milwaukee will probably be open to moving Santana in the right deal, and the Royals should view him as an ideal acquisition. Santana would be able to be around for a couple of more seasons and has the potential to turn into a building block for the next great Royals team.
The Royals and Brewers have already matched up on the trade that sent Mike Moustakas to the Brewers, so they are already familiar with each other.
Santana could slot in nicely as a middle of the order bat for the Royals and receive regular playing time in the outfield, while also taking over for Alex Gordon when he leaves.
18 Los Angeles Angels - Patrick Corbin
The Los Angeles Angels have got to do something to build a playoff-calibre team while they have Mike Trout under contract. The Angels are running out of time to do that and 2019 could be their make-or-break year. They should have a pretty good offense, but their starting rotation is filled with question marks.
Shohei Ohtani will likely be unable to pitch for at least much of 2019, so the Angels should look to free agency. Patrick Corbin would be an ideal upgrade to an Angels rotation that urgently needs quality starting pitching.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers - Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw might technically be under contract for two more seasons, but he holds an opt-out clause this offseason. It should be safe to assume that Kershaw, one of MLB's elite pitchers, will opt out this offseason in favor of landing a more lucrative long-term deal that could surpass $150 million. The L.A. Dodgers know they cannot afford to lose Kershaw to another team, so look for them to do whatever it takes to keep Kershaw a Dodger for the forseeable future. The Dodgers would not be as dominant a team without Kershaw at the top of the rotation, even if he did suffer some injury woes earlier this year.
16 Miami Marlins - J.B. Bukauskas
Last offseason, Miami's new ownership absolutely tore apart the roster. It remains to be seen what the Marlins will do this offseason, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see J.T. Realmuto finally get traded. Realmuto had a very strong 2018 season, so acquiring him will not be cheap.
Since we previously mentioned Houston should acquire Realmuto, it makes sense for Miami to target a high-upside prospect from the Astros' farm system.
Pitcher J.B. Bukauskas would be a realistic but solid return for Miami, who would be ready for the majors in a few seasons and has legit upside as a front of the rotation starter.
15 Milwaukee Brewers - Gio Gonzalez
The Brewers have really taken a big step forward, thanks in large part due to last year's acquisitions of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. Those pickups have paid huge dividends for the Brewers, who have advanced to the NLCS for the first time since 2011. Moving forward, the Brewers should look to upgrade their starting rotation.
Veteran starter Gio Gonzalez will be a free agent this offseason and would be a solid player to pursue this offseason. While he would not be a top of the rotation starter at this point in his career, there is no doubting he will provide several quality innings as a mid-rotation starter on a contending team.
14 Minnesota Twins - Trevor Cahill
Coming off a surprising 2017 season in which the Twins made the playoffs, they were hopeful they could replicate that success in 2018. The Twins felt they had a strong chance in the AL Central, but 2018 was a year to forget for the Twins. They completely fell apart, in large part due to the poor performances from their starting pitchers. Ervin Santana has struggled considerably in 2018, and the Twins still have several unproven pitchers. Trevor Cahill will be a free agent, will not cost too much, and would be a nice boost to their starting rotation in 2019.
13 New York Mets - Cody Allen
The Mets are in disarray right now. They don't have a GM which makes it hard to tell if the Mets will buy or sell this offseason. The Mets have plenty of talent but for one reason or another, they struggled considerably throughout 2018. Ideally, the Mets should target a quality young player who can help the Mets in 2019 as well as for the next few seasons after that.
The bullpen is easily the biggest area the Mets should prioritize upgrading.
Cody Allen would represent a perfectly solid upgrade to the back of the Mets' bullpen given his experience as the longtime closer for the Cleveland Indians. He struggled a bit in 2018, which may lower his asking price just enough for the Mets to truly get involved.
12 New York Yankees - Manny Machado
The Yankees will be the team to watch this offseason. The Yankees have a young and talented team with a lot of money to spend. They will be eager to win the AL East next year and catch up to the Red Sox, so expect the Yankees to make some big moves. Many have speculated that the Yankees will be the team who signs superstar third baseman Manny Machado.
Landing Machado would be a bold move that would give the Yankees a formidable lineup, and there is a strong chance it could happen. The Yankees are in prime position to aim big in free agency, and Machado would be their ideal acquisition.
11 Oakland Athletics - Andrew McCutchen
The Oakland Athletics operate in very peculiar ways out of necessity due to their small payroll. The team's 'Moneyball' approach hasn't really paid off for them in a trip to the World Series yet, but hopefully their young core will be able to help get them deeper into the playoffs.
Oakland could stand to improve their outfield in 2019, and signing veteran Andrew McCutchen would be a smart move to do just that.
McCutchen is not the player he once was, meaning he will come at an affordable deal for Oakland, but he is still capable of being a solid middle of the lineup hitter.
10 Philadelphia Phillies - Dallas Keuchel
Similar to the Yankees, the Phillies will find themselves entering this offseason with minimal payroll obligations and a drive to claim the NL East title next year. Thankfully for the Phillies, this season's free agency class is absolutely loaded. Machado may be their dream target, but there wouldn't be much disputing that Dallas Keuchel would be a nice addition to their 2019 roster.
The Phillies have some intriguing young pitchers coming through their farm system, but if the Phillies hope to contend in 2019 it would be risky to count on many of them to produce in the MLB. Keuchel would be an ace they can slot in at the top of the rotation.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates - Marwin Gonzalez
There has been plenty of talk around Pittsburgh speculating that the Pirates may be looking to pick up an "impact bat" this offseason. Many teams would also love to accomplish this and the Pirates are not one player away from being a playoff team, leaving them at a bit of a disadvantage.
Although maybe not a true impact bat, Marwin Gonzalez might be exactly what the Pirates need.
He is certainly a capable hitter, but his versatility will be very attractive for the small-market Pirates team. Gonzalez can play shortstop, the Pirates' biggest need, as well as other infield positions and all outfield positions.
8 San Diego Padres - Noah Syndergaard
At first glance, this might not make much sense but hear me out. First, crazier things have happened in past offseasons. Secondly, the Padres have arguably the best farm system in all of baseball. They easily have the prospects to convince the Mets to trade Syndergaard, without hurting their chances from building a very solid core from the remaining top prospects. It's very doable for the Padres and would not destroy their entire farm system, meaning the Padres could still have a good team to build around Syndergaard and their other star players.
7 San Francisco Giants - Billy Hamilton
The Giants really ought to start undergoing a rebuild, but odds are they will try to go for it all one last time in 2019. They have some quality players in Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Evan Longoria and are not paying a luxury tax. In addition to the injury histories of several key players, the Giants' main problems have been poor defense, and a lack of speed.
Outfielder Billy Hamilton would be a good solution to both of those problems, and it should not take too much to acquire him from the Reds. As long as they can live with his lack of power, Hamilton would be a solid pickup for San Francisco.
6 Seattle Mariners - Charlie Morton
Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto sure loves to make roster transactions, so fans should safely count on the team making dozens of moves this offseason yet again.
With the team having indicated they do not plan on tearing it apart, look for the Mariners to make some moves to get them into the playoffs.
Poaching starting pitcher Charlie Morton from the division rival Houston Astros would be one way of accomplishing that. Morton may not be a staff ace, but he would provide some quality innings and add depth to a starting rotation that urgently needs it.
5 St. Louis Cardinals - Josh Donaldson
All last offseason, there were endless rumours linking the Cardinals to then-Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. The Cards were in search of a power hitting infielder and Donaldson fit the bill for them, and they unsuccessfully tried to get the Jays to part with him. A year later, Donaldson is now in Cleveland, and will hit free agency for the first time. His market may have declined somewhat after his difficult 2018 season where he spent most of it on the DL. However, Donaldson should still be regarded as a feared hitter across the league and would provide a big offensive boost to a Cardinals team that will need it to keep pace with the Cubs and Brewers.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: Blake Swihart
This offseason should be very interesting for the Rays. They were much better than expected in 2018, close to seriously contending for a playoff spot, and only have around $32 million in payroll commitments for 2019. While they have the payroll room to sign a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, anyone aware of the way the Rays operate know that won't happen. Catcher has one been glaring weakness for the Rays in the past several seasons, and it would make sense for them to address it this offseason.
The Red Sox are loaded with catchers and will probably be looking to move one of them this offseason to clear up a 40-man roster spot. It would be worth it for the Rays to take a shot at one of Boston's catchers, particularly Blake Swihart.
3 Texas Rangers - Adrian Beltre
This is a fairly obvious one that looks like a near certainty to happen. Future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre did not want to be traded during the season, even if it meant playing for a contender. He is happy in Texas, and the team certainly loves having him on their roster.
Even though Beltre will be a free agent this offseason, it is looking very likely that Beltre will re-sign with the Rangers in what will likely be his last contract.
For his part, Beltre has indicated he would like to retire as a Ranger. If Beltre chooses to return for another season, odds are he will be doing so in a Texas Rangers jersey.
2 Toronto Blue Jays: J.A. Happ
J.A. Happ loved his time in Toronto and has made it known he would be interested in returning, if the feelings were reciprocated by the Jays front office. It makes a lot of sense for Toronto to pursue Happ when he enters free agency as the Jays could really use a quality, veteran starting pitcher to slot in at the top of what will be a very young 2019 rotation. The veteran lefty would be able to provide just that for the Jays, and should be attainable on a relatively affordable contract. While it's likely that Happ would prefer to pitch for a contender, the Jays should still make every effort to sign him.
1 Washington Nationals - Bryce Harper
The Nationals will have some tough decisions to make. They fell out of the playoff race and finished 3rd in a division that many expected they would win at the start of the year. Unless the Nats decide to blow it all up, they need to find ways to compete with the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. A key part of that will be finding a way to bring back outfield slugger Bryce Harper, who will be hitting free agency for the first time and is seeking a massive payday. The Nationals have a good relationship with super-agent Scott Boras, so there is a good chance a deal could get done.