We are all replaceable. That's just a fundamental fact of the working world. Look no further than professional sports. In an extremely high-paying industry which features the most uniquely skilled people in their particular field, so much talk centers around who doesn't belong (ie should be traded or cut) and what other 'employees' can do a better job (ie who a team should acquire).
With that said, we can look at Major League Baseball, currently in the midst of its offseason, as being comprised of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and 29 other clubs trying to reach that lofty peak. And while the player's work is done on the field, it's up to team executives and management and this time of year to put their organization in the best position to succeed. In short, that means cleaning out the dead weight and replacing it with something better and, ideally, more cost-effective. If this seems simple and straightforward, it isn't. With every club seeking the same ultimate outcome, competition is fierce.
Even as the MLB offseason has started out slowly, the hot stove market has been churning, popping out plenty of reports based around team needs and who might be deemed expendable. Before things really get rolling, it helps paint a picture of where across the diamond teams might be looking to upgrade and who teams may be prepared to part ways with. Here is a look at each team based on who they might be ready to ship out and who could be set to take over once April comes around.
30 Arizona Diamondbacks: John Ryan Murphy
Replacement: J.T. Realmuto
Turning the Diamondbacks' catching situation into a three-man platoon was kind of like putting lipstick on a pig, and sure enough, none of John Ryan Murphy, Alex Avila or Jeff Mathis really ran with it. While everyday catchers can be hard to come by, a good one might be available in reigning All-Star J.T. Realmuto. The 27-year-old is being shopped around by the Marlins, who may not wish to pay him what he's set to earn in arbitration this winter.
Arizona will have no shortage of decisions to make this offseason, with Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock set for free agency and Paul Goldschmidt already being traded, but there remains a clear organizational need behind the plate.
29 Atlanta Braves: Nick Markakis
Replacement: Nomar Mazara
Nick Markakis, who has manned right field for the Braves for the past four years, is fresh off a bounce back 2018 campaign in which he earned Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors while also making the first All-Star appearance of his 13-year career. But he also happens to be 35 on a young club.
One interesting name to keep an eye on is Nomar Mazara, a 23-year-old who has been slow to develop in Texas but carries considerable potential. The Rangers boast a glut of outfielders and could be ready to give up on the struggling lefty after three seasons.
28 Baltimore Orioles: Chris Davis
Replacement: Trey Mancini
There are problems all over the diamond for the Orioles, winners of just 47 games in 2018. We might as well start with Chris Davis, the owner of what might be the worst contract in baseball. The 32-year-old was coming off a 38-homer 2016 season when he agreed to a seven-year, $161 million extension. That's not a good thing after seeing him hit .168 with 16 home runs while striking out 192 times in 2018.
It's hard to see any way Baltimore will be able to offload Davis's contract, but new GM Mike Elias will have to at least try. It wouldn't take much effort to replace him, either, with 26-year-old Trey Mancini still under team control for several more years and coming off a season in which he hit 24 home runs, primarily out of the DH spot.
27 Boston Red Sox: Craig Kimbrel
Replacement: Cody Allen
Yes, even the defending champions are due a little housecleaning. Kimbrel will be an interesting situation that bears watching. The All-Star closer was surprisingly shaky during the postseason. That, in itself, wouldn't be enough to prompt the Bosox to move on from arguably the best closer in the game, but Kimbrel will be turning 31 in the spring and is set for a lucrative long-term contract that Boston may be weary of giving him.
Fellow free agent closer Cody Allen is a bit younger and would likely come cheaper. The long-time Indians stopper has experience in high-pressure postseason situations and, apart from this fall's collapse against Houston, actually boasts pretty good playoff numbers.
26 Chicago Cubs: Kyle Schwarber
Replacement: Bryce Harper
Inevitably, when it comes to speculating on potential moves by Theo Epstein and the Cubs, Kyle Schwarber's name will come up. The 25-year-old has left fans wanting more, be it with a bat that has driven in just 120 runs over two seasons, or a glove that has seen him struggle at first base, in the outfield and behind the plate.
As for a replacement, why not go all in on Bryce Harper? Close friends with Cubs star third baseman Kris Bryant, Harper would represent a bold masterstroke by Epstein, bringing in a mega-star whose peak is in line with the rest of the Chicago core and who could erase the disappointment of the past two post-2016 seasons.
25 Chicago White Sox: James Shields
Replacement: Cole Hamels
For the White Sox, the 2016 mid-season trade that brought in James Shields looks like a double whammy. Not only have they paid big bucks to a starter on the decline, but Fernando Tatis Jr., the marginal prospect they surrendered in the deal, now stands atop the Padres' farm system. The Sox wasted no time in declining Shields's 2019 option, so now focus shifts to who can take his spot in the rotation.
A 34-year-old Cole Hamels might seem like the same mistake all over again, but the lefty might still have something left, as evidenced by a 2.36 ERA over 12 starts with the Cubs down the stretch this season. Plus, the lefty would serve to balance out a rotation fronted by right-hander Carlos Rodon and bridge the gap to top pitching prospect Dylan Cease.
24 Cincinnati Reds: Homer Bailey
Replacement: Dallas Keuchel
Is this how the Homer Bailey era ends in Cincinnati? Bailey still has one more guaranteed year on his deal at $23 million, plus a $5 million buyout for 2020. Still, after the 32-year-old was bumped from the starting rotation and refused bullpen duty this past year, it's hard to see how he can stay in Cincy.
While it stands to reason that the club would be leery of shelling out more money for a replacement when they're paying through the nose for Bailey to go away, they owe franchise star Joey Votto at least an attempt to contend by building some semblance of a rotation. Maybe a play for Dallas Keuchel coming off a down year would be palatable?
23 Cleveland Indians: Josh Donaldson
Replacement: Yandy Diaz
Well, that didn't take long, did it? Cleveland didn't show much interest in retaining Josh Donaldson after a disappointing stint following a trade from Toronto. Part one here is done, with Donaldson going to Atlanta.
There's still the matter of replacing him, but that shouldn't be too difficult a task, either. Waiting in the wings is Yandy Diaz, a 27-year-old who showed last season that he's up to the task of hitting major league pitching, boasting a .312 average and a .375 on-base percentage in 109 at-bats. For about half a million, Diaz projects to offer better bang for their buck than Donaldson.
22 Colorado Rockies: Ian Desmond
Replacement: Devin Travis
In hindsight, the five-year, $70 million contract the Rockies gifted to Ian Desmond prior to 2017 never looked all that great. After the 2018 season, it looks downright foolish with the 33-year-old batting .236, almost 30 points lower than his career average. The bad news is the deal still has three years left, but the 'good 'news, is that the Rockies 'only' have $40 million left owing, which might actually make for a tradeable contract if they're willing to eat some salary.
They also might be able to find a young, affordable replacement in Devon Travis of the Blue Jays, a 27-year-old second baseman with some pop who could be a valuable asset if he manages to stay healthy.
21 Detroit Tigers: Nick Castellanos
Replacement: Corey Dickerson
Nick Castellanos is the type of guy you lock in long-term, not someone you trade away. Just 26, the right fielder has blasted 49 home runs over the past two years and boasted a .298/.354/.500 slash line this past year. However, Castellanos has just one year of team control left and contract negotiations have stalled, opening the door for the trade of a player that the Tigers don't quite see as being worth star money.
In an eerily similar position is Pirates outfielder Corey Dickerson, who has earned All-Star honors and a Gold Glove in the past two seasons but carries a projected $8.4 million arbitration price tag that the Pirates may find prohibitive.
20 Houston Astros: Max Stassi
Replacement: Salvador Perez
The Astros' catcher-by-committee situation last season may have helped one of the league's best pitching staffs, but it failed to produce on the other side of the ball. All of Max Stassi, Martin Maldonado and Brian McCann saw a good chunk of time behind the plate, but none posted notable offensive numbers and only Stassi projects to be back (McCann has already returned to Atlanta).
With so much talent across the rest of the diamond, perhaps it's time for Astros GM Jeff Luhnow to load up at the backstop. The Royals aren't actively shopping Salvador Perez, but a dip into Houston's deep farm system may produce a trade offer that the rebuilding Royals would be hard-pressed to resist.
19 Kansas City Royals: Alex Gordon
Replacement: Brett Phillips
While I just tied Salvador Perez to the Astros, parting ways with the veteran catcher is far from the Royals' biggest priority. Far higher on that list should be finding a home for Alex Gordon and the $24 million left on his four-year, $72 million contract. Since their 2015 World Series, the franchise has spiralled back to irrelevance and their homegrown left fielder has failed to hit for average or power along the way.
If at all possible, now is the time to cut the cord on the 34-year-old Gordon, especially with young talent like Brett Philips, acquired in last year's Mike Moustakas trade, waiting in the wings.
18 Los Angeles Angels: Felix Pena
Replacement: Zack Greinke
For the past seven years, pitching woes have remained at the root of L.A.'s inability to win even one postseason game with Mike Trout. But even with pitching reigning as an ongoing challenge in La La Land, few rotations over the years have looked as barren as the current group.
Shohei Otani's Tommy John surgery leaves Matt Shoemaker, who made all of seven starts last year, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs and not much else. With the deep pockets of owner Arte Moreno, maybe a run at D-Backs ace Zack Greinke, who may be getting older and more expensive than Arizona would like, is in the cards. And if that bumps a Felix Pena out of the mix, so be it.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers: Manny Machado
Replacement: Whit Merrifield
In a championship-or-bust 2018 season, it was worth a gamble to see if three months of Manny Machado could help get L.A. over the hump. It didn't, as Machado struggled in the postseason and especially the World Series. Now a free agent, even a club with the financial resources of L.A. may find that the superstar infielder comes with too many red flags to gift a contract in the $300 million range.
Since the Dodgers won't want to settle for league-average, perhaps they make a run at 2018 major league hits leader Whit Merrifield of the Royals. Controllable for three more years, the 29-year-old would command a solid trade return but L.A. has the prospect capital to make something work.
16 Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen
Replacement: Marcus Stroman
Whoever said "home is where the heart is" may as well have been talking about Wei-Yin Chen. The lefty went 5-3 with a 1.62 ERA within the friendly confines of Marlins Park but plummeted to 1-9 with a 9.27 ERA away from it. Altogether, those numbers combined for an underwhelming 6-12 year and a 4.79 ERA, hardly the type of production teams want from a guy whose salary balloons to $20 million this year. Clearly, Miami doesn't want to pay that, thus necessitating a change.
If club CEO Derek Jeter is ready to make a big splash, he could probably wrestle Marcus Stroman, a 27-year-old fireballer who isn't eligible for free agency until 2021, away from the Blue Jays. Yes, it would take a pretty lucrative prospect package, but the Marlins could probably pry the combative Stroman away from a Toronto franchise that appears to be retooling.
15 Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Schoop
Replacement: Brian Dozier
Referencing the July 31st trade deadline swap that landed Schoop in Milwaukee for Jonathan Villar and a pair of top prospects, GM David Stearns acknowledged, "Look, it was a bad deal and that's on me." Schoop struggled mightily in Milwaukee, hitting .202 over 46 regular season games post-trade and going hitless in eight postseason at-bats.
While Stearns and the Brewers might be understandably gun shy about making another play for a veteran second baseman this winter, now is the time to make a move and propel themselves into World Series contention. Brian Dozier, another disappointing trade deadline acquisition (for the Dodgers), could be a fit, bringing more home run prowess to one of the most powerful offenses in the majors.
14 Minnesota Twins: Addison Reed
Replacement: J.A. Happ
On a small-market Twins team, Addison Reed simply doesn't make any sense. With the retirement of Joe Mauer, Reed is now the club's highest-paid player, set to make $8.5 million next season. That money will go to a reliever who sported a 4.50 ERA and didn't even nail down the closer's job after Fernando Rodney was traded.
While he would likely be replaced internally by a selection of young arms from the farm system, it would be a boon to Minnesota's young pitching staff to get some veteran support. Provided the Twins are willing to pony up the money, innings-eating veteran lefty J.A. Happ would be an inspired free agent addition.
13 New York Mets: Dominic Smith
Replacement: Peter Alonso
Unquestionably, some of the shine has come off Dominic Smith, a young first baseman who projected as a athletic, high average hitter before his 2017 debut with the Mets. In parts of two seasons since, Smith has mustered just a .210 average and .259 OBP over 310 at-bats. There is still plenty of time for things to click for the 23-year-old - it just may not be with the Mets.
After making the blockbuster deal to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz, New York may be tempted to go in win-now mode. However it may be best for them to stay the course with prospect Peter Alonso, who's one of the top first base prospects in baseball.
12 New York Yankees: Sonny Gray
Replacement: Manny Machado
Pitching clearly seems to be the name of the game in the Bronx this offseason, where the Yankees have already traded for James Paxton and may still be seeking more help. Regardless of who they add, one thing's for certain: Sonny Gray's gotta go. Gray struggled to keep his ERA under five for most of the year (he finished at 4.90) and didn't even make the ALDS roster. The Bronx Bombers look like they're back to making big offseason splashes, and while that could be used to bolster the pitching staff, the Yanks have also been in on superstar free agent Manny Machado.
Without many front line pitchers available, maybe the club will try to grab headlines by plugging the whole created by Didi Gregorious' Tommy John surgery with Machado.
11 Oakland Athletics: Brett Anderson
Replacement: Danny Duffy
A loss in the AL Wild Card game notwithstanding, players like Khris Davis, Matt Olsen and Stephen Piscotty helped the A's rank among the league's best in run production and home runs. Now, if Oakland is to take the next step following a 97-win season that was still only good for second in the division, the pitching will need to come along, too. Brett Anderson underwhelmed in his Bay Area return this past season and it's unlikely he'll be back.
While it wouldn't solve all of their pitching problems, adding Royals front line starter Danny Duffy would sure help shore up the rotation. Duffy is signed to a reasonable contract for the next three years, has managed to remain healthy and consistent in KC and might be available, depending on the extent of the Royals' rebuild.
10 Philadelphia Phillies: Carlos Santana
Replacement: Rhys Hoskins
It seems the Phillies pegged who had to go. Step one of this plan appears to be completed, with Santana being moved to Seattle in the Jean Segura trade.
With the Phillies now having moved on from the 32-year-old, they could try and facilitate a positional move for Rhys Hoskins and add an impact bat in left field, they could be well on their way to putting last year's late season collapse behind them and once again contending in the NL East.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates: Francisco Cervelli
Replacement: Elias Diaz
Coming off of a big 2018 campaign and set to hit a contract year, the timing may be right for the Pirates to dangle Francisco Cervelli. In a weak catching market, the 33-year-old, owed a reasonable $11.5 million for 2019, could generate some considerable interest and may net the Bucs a nice prospect package in return. This might be seen as another slap in the face of Pirates fans who saw their team's short window of contention close rapidly in the past few years, if not for the fact that Pittsburgh has an immediate solution.
In sparse duty last season, 28-year-old Elias Diaz might have actually performed better than Cervelli. Diaz hit .286 and had 10 home runs in 252 at-bats, looking every bit like the club's catcher of the future who just happens to be controllable through 2023.
8 San Diego Padres: Wil Myers
Replacement: Marwin Gonzalez
Is it possible that the last vestige of the Padres' bold but ill-fated off-season prior to the 2015 campaign will also be gone this winter? All of Matt Kemp, Craig Kimbrel, Melvin Upton and Justin Upton were added by the Padres in an all-in offseason blitz that year, and all have since moved on. Adding a just-turned-24 Wil Myers, however, seemed destined to provide San Diego with at least one long-term piece. But after a pedestrian .253 average and 11 homers last season, it's worth wondering whether Myers and a contract that will pay $22.5 million after this season are long for Petco Park.
Versatile free agent Marwin Gonzalez won't command that kind of money and could fill a number of positions for the needy Padres, which might be enough to make him a fit here.
7 San Francisco Giants: Johnny Cueto
Replacement: Shaun Anderson
Once a perennial contender and winner of three World Series titles in five years, the Giants have endured a steady fall from grace of late. Over the past two seasons, the Giants have won 64 and 73 games. And it's the high-paid stars that bear the brunt of the blame for San Francisco's struggles. While Buster Posey has maintained All-Star form when healthy, Jeff Samadjiza, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Mark Melancon and Evan Longoria look like bad long-term salary commitments.
But perhaps none look worse than Johnny Cueto, who is still owed $70 million through 2022 despite winning just 11 games over the past two seasons. It seems crazy to suggest that San Fran should shell out more money, so expect them to turn to prospect Shawn Anderson at some point next season.
6 Seattle Mariners: Kyle Seager
Replacement: J.P. Crawford
If you aren't clear on the current direction of the Mariners, then you probably haven't been paying attention to MLB goings-on this offseason. Since the 2018 campaign came to a close, the M's have already moved on from James Paxton, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Jean Segura as part of a brazen rebuild. The question, as always in these situations, is who might be moved next. It seems implausible that any team would take on the $28 million owed to Felix Hernandez at this point, but perhaps $60 million owed to still-productive third baseman Kyle Seager might seem more palatable.
If they can find a taker for the 31-year-old, Seattle could easily slot newly acquired J.P. Crawford, a former top prospect who has stumbled since beginning his major league career in Philadelphia, in at the hot corner.
5 St. Louis Cardinals: Jose Martinez
Replacement: Billy Hamilton
If you want to understand why the Cardinals may be looking to move on from a controllable outfielder who was one of just eight qualified National Leaguers to hit over .300 this past season, then you may want to have a look at Jose Martinez's defense. Or not. Few regulars in the field were as unproductive as Martinez, who made seven errors at first base and looked equally inept in the outfield. Given that he has a solid bat and is under team control through 2023, the 30-year-old may pique the interest of a DH-seeking AL team.
In his place, the Cardinals could find a massive upgrade in the suddenly available speedster Billy Hamilton, all the while sticking it to the rival Cincinnati Reds.
4 Tampa Bay Rays: Jake Bauers
Replacement: Justin Smoak
It didn't result in a playoff appearance in the front-loaded AL East, but the Rays still somehow squeezed enough juice out of a roster built on the cheap to win 90 games and earn Kevin Cash AL Manager of the Year honors. So has the time come to spend a little to build a contender in Tampa? Well, probably not, but the Rays ought to be in position to at least dole out some cash to fill holes, no? Such as first base, where Jake Bauers mustered just 11 home runs and a .201 average despite getting the lion's share of the work there.
They would get considerably more production out of Justin Smoak, a first baseman who has hit 63 homers over the past two seasons and will make a reasonable $8 million this year, whether that be with the back-pedaling Blue Jays or elsewhere.
3 Texas Rangers: Joey Gallo
Replacement: Kyle Schwarber
The age of the one-dimensional slugger in baseball might be dead, and you can look to Rangers masher Joey Gallo as proof. A 25-year-old coming off of back-to-back 40-homer seasons, you might expect Gallo to be the talk of the sport. But major league pitchers have adapted, learning to live with the odd long ball in exchange for refusing to make him a permanent on-base fixture, as evidenced by his .312 OBP in 2018. As such, Gallo, a career .203 hitter, hasn't morphed into much of a threat for Texas and hasn't even gotten a sniff of All-Star consideration.
They should consider a trade for another 25-year-old in Kyle Schwarber, whose 56 homers since 2017 pale in comparison to Gallo's 81 but who sported a .356 OBP this past year.
2 Toronto Blue Jays: Troy Tulowitzki
Replacement: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
This one falls more under the category of pipe dream than realistic offseason plan. Quite frankly, no one is taking on the $34 million left owing to perpetually injured Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki unless it comes attached to uber-prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr.
Tulo hasn't played since May 29, 2017 and doesn't seem likely to ever suit up for the Jays again. But still, the checks keep coming in. Not expecting to contend in 2019, Toronto will surely be loathe to commit any more money to the position, so expect the club to go with Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who showed flashes of potential in an intriguing 65-game rookie debut last year.
1 Washington Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman
Replacement: Greg Bird
While they wait on the free agent decision of Bryce Harper, the Nationals have been busily piecing together a 2019 roster that may or may not feature the superstar right fielder.
Ryan Zimmerman stands as the lone day one National left and a proud ambassador for the franchise. But doesn't someone have to ask the awkward question about whether it's prudent to keep a 34-year-old owed $20 million and coming off one of the worst seasons of his career? Especially if Harper leaves, it would represent a token of gratitude for the Nats to give Zimmerman a chance to contend for the World Series, all the while cutting costs.
An interesting replacement could be found in Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, who is eight years younger and has some pop in his bat, but could be in line for a change of scenery after earning the enmity of the Bronx faithful by hitting below the Mendoza Line last year.