The 2017 MLB season has featured some exciting playoff races, and some not-so-close ones. We know who five of the division winners will be, but the N.L. Central is still up for grabs between the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.The wild card race in the American League is also wide open, with two-thirds of the teams in contention.
But for the teams that are out of the playoff race, it’s time to start planning on the offseason. They all have to make one or two moves to make themselves better. This winter will provide that opportunity.
As of Aug. 11, around half the teams are still alive in the playoff race. I only considered the teams that were truly out of it/I don’t believe have much of a hope of making the postseason. When the math was done, there were 15-non contenders for October baseball.
Here is a look at the one move all the non-playoff hopefuls need to make in the upcoming offseason.
*Stats courtesy of ESPN.com*
15. Atlanta Braves: Add A Starting Pitcher
The Braves have been doing much better than most people expected. They have one of baseball’s elite farm systems, and players like Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte have swung the bat extremely well. That being said, the Braves own one of baseball’s worst rotations. If they can fix that, then the playoffs aren’t out of the question in 2018.
They signed Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey in the offseason, but the former was dealt to the Minnesota Twins and the latter hasn’t had much of an impact. The Braves don’t need to break the bank on a starter in the winter, but they do need to add a mid-level guy to their rotation.
Guys like Jeremy Hellickson, C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta and Marco Estrada would be great options for the Braves. Given they’re all on the wrong side of 30, Atlanta could get one or two of them at a reasonable price. But their main goal MUST be to add a starting pitcher. Period.
14. Baltimore Orioles: Find An Ace
The Orioles won the second wild card spot in the American League last year, but 2017 has been extremely rough to them. Manny Machado is experiencing a down year, they’ve been hit with injuries to key players like Zach Britton and the rotation has a whole has been downright terrible.
Chris Tillman has struggled to stay healthy, but also hasn’t had an impact when on the mound. Dylan Bundy and Ubaldo Jimenez have also been extremely inconsistent, and it’s cost the Orioles dearly in 2017.
If Baltimore wants to compete for the playoffs again, they’ll have to add a starter. As I said on the Braves slide, there are plenty of options there. Yu Darvish is the top starter on the market, with Jason Vargas and Michael Pineda right behind them. If the O’s can add a true No. 1 starter, then they should fight for a playoff spot next year.
13. Chicago White Sox: Upgrade the Rotation
Thanks to some brilliant moves in the past eight months that saw the White Sox trade away Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier, Chicago now owns baseball’s top farm system. And it’s not even close.
Yoan Moncada is the top prospect in baseball, and will form a quite a power duo alongside slugger Jose Abreu. Though the White Sox are doing the right thing in loading up with as many prospects as possible, they don’t have any big veteran trade chips left. So if they want to do some work this offseason, adding some starters in the rotation would help.
The bargain shopping bin includes Wade Miley, Clay Buchholz, Lance Lynn and others. The White Sox may as well just add one or two affordable starters, because the likes of James Shields and Derek Holland aren’t cutting it.
12. Cincinnati Reds: Trade Joey Votto
Votto is undoubtedly one of the top sluggers in baseball. The 2010 NL MVP has been one of the few bright spots on a miserable Cincinnati team, batting .316 with 31 home runs and 83 RBI. The Toronto Blue Jays were apparently interested in acquiring Votto before, but the emergence of Justin Smoak takes them out of that possibility now.
There aren’t any indications that the Reds want to trade Votto, but a last-place team in the midst of a rebuild shouldn’t be keeping the 34-year-old around. They should be trying to trade Votto, because they could easily get two or three elite prospects for him. Votto still carries a lengthy contract, but someone will happily acquire him should the Reds willingly eat up some of the salary.
11. Detroit Tigers: Trade Miguel Cabrera
The Tigers had their chances tow in a World Series with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. But both players are now 34 years of age, and the Tigers are stuck in the basement of the American League standings. With virtually no great prospects on the way, it’s time to rebuild this team.
It’s possible the Tigers trade Verlander later this month, which means Miguel Cabrera should become their top trading candidate. The two-time American League MVP is starting to decline, batting just .255 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI. Cabrera has posted a WAR of 0.0, with a woeful .752 OPS.
If there’s a time for the Tigers to trade Cabrera, it’s now. According to Spotrac.com, he’s under contract through 2025, and will make at least $30 million a year throughout the remainder of his deal.
Do the rebuilding Tigers want to hold onto him as his value continues to fall? The time to trade him is this winter, when other teams will be more aggressive and willing to pay a ton for the perennial star slugger.
10. Los Angeles Angels: Find A No. 2 Starter
Though the L.A. Angels have one of baseball’s best offensive trios in Andrelton Simmons, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, they’ve struggled to push for a playoff spot and are looking at yet another non-postseason year. For a team that was an A.L. powerhouse in the 2000s, this is becoming unacceptable.
The Angels struggles can be attributed to their rotation, which features a mere 4.31 overall ERA. Luckily for Los Angeles, they may have their ace in Parker Bridell, a second-year player who owns a 6-1 record with a 3.00 ERA. He should get the chance to lead the rotation next year.
After that, the Angels don’t really have a No. 2 starter. With so many options in this year’s free agent market, there are zero excuses to stand pat. Adding a guy like Hellickson, Estrada or Arrieta could go a long way in helping them push for the postseason once again. They have to start making moves so they can maximize the chances of winning with Mike Trout.
9. Miami Marlins: Trade Giancarlo Stanton
The Marlins thought they had a window of opportunity coming up, which is why they signed Giancarlo Stanton to a MASSIVE 13-year contract worth $325 million in 2014. But things just haven’t gone as planned for the Marlins, who continue to struggle as a team. Tragically, the untimely death of Jose Fernandez definitely hurt this team — sentimentally and on the field, obviously.
Miami just doesn’t have enough pieces here to win, and owner Jeffrey Loria should be looking to shed payroll. Stanton is one of baseball’s elite power hitters, and he would definitely bring back a hefty return — regardless of how much money he’s carrying.
Stanton could bring back a tremendous haul of young players. Three elite prospects for sure. And if they eat up some of that money, perhaps more. But the point stands that Miami has to trade Stanton and once again start a rebuild.
8. New York Mets: Add a Powerful Bat
The New York Mets have had an extremely rough 2017, as Noah Syndergaard’s injury-filled season was the ultimate undoing in their playoff hopes. To make matters worse, the Mets lineup isn’t looking so promising in 2018. A third playoff berth in four years is unlikely, unless GM Sandy Alderson changes that.
New York had to trade away Lucas Duda and Jay Bruce — two of their top hitters — at the trade deadline. Outfielder Curtis Granderson is also a pending free agent and sure to leave after the season. That means Yoenis Cespedes is going to need some support in that lineup.
There are a number of big power hitters that could help the Mets this offseason. Todd Frazier, Matt Holliday, Melky Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain are among the impact bats that could help the Mets, who desperately have to find a big bat to compete again in 2018.
7. Oakland Athletics: Trade Jed Lowrie
The Oakland Athletics brought in a great haul of prospects at the trade deadline, including Boog Powell, Jeferson Mejia, Dustin Fowler and Jorge Mateo. They sacrificed Yonder Alonso and Sonny Gray to do this, but they’re once again replenishing their farm system that is among the best in baseball.
Over the past couple of years, Oakland has traded Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Rich Hill, Josh Reddick and now Alonso and Gray. The Athletics aren’t anywhere close to contention, so they may as well continue to sell off their veterans
Among their top trade chips is Jed Lowrie, an underrated utility player batting .273 with a 2.7 WAR this season. He hits well for average and plays tremendous defence. A team like the Toronto Blue Jays or Tampa Bay Rays could use Lowrie. Perhaps an N.L. team also gets aggressive in a pursuit of Lowrie.
6. Philadelphia Phillies: Add A Starter
The Phillies don’t really have any big trade prospects, and they’re in contention to finish with the worst record in baseball. They’re finally starting a long overdue rebuild, so the tough times are going to be there for a while.
With Jeremy Hellickson being traded to the Baltimore Orioles and Clay Buchholz slated to become a free agent, the Phillies don’t have much of a rotation heading into 2018. Yes they’re rebuilding, but they should still look to add a starting pitcher or two in the offseason.
Philadelphia is a passionate baseball market, so the front office has to give the fans something to watch. Get them one or two decent starting pitchers, just so the fans don’t have to dread 100-loss seasons. It’ll be worth it.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Andrew McCutchen
The Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015 — thanks in large part to the remarkable play of outfielder Andrew McCutchen. But the Pirates are staring at a second consecutive non-playoff season, and it’s time for them to start the painful but inevitable rebuilding process.
McCutchen has bounced back nicely from a slow start, batting .287 with a .897 OPS and WAR of 2.4. But McCutchen is 31 years of age and has just one year left on his contract. He will be one of the top trade chips this offseason, and could bring back a huge haul that helps Pittsburgh start a rebuild.
Given his age and the fact he’s only under control for one more year, the Pirates need to do the right thing and trade McCutchen. If they wait this out until next year, their return for “Cutch” will be minimal.
4. San Diego Padres: Fix the Rotation
Though the Padres haven’t quite been as terrible as everyone expected, they’re far from ready to be a force in the N.L. West. That being said, adding a couple of starters for 2018 could help them at least push for a playoff spot. So far, the Padres rotation has accounted for a 4.86 ERA, which is the sixth-worst in all of baseball.
Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin simply haven’t cut it this season, and the Padres need to find a way to fix this pitching disaster. As said on the other slides, there are so many pitchers in this year’s market that could help the Padres out.
3. San Francisco Giants: Trade Johnny Cueto
The San Francisco Giants signed Johnny Cueto to a massive six-year contract worth $130 million in 2015, and he held up his end of the bargain in 2015. Cueto went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA, and seemingly had given the Giants an ace right behind Madison Bumgarner for the long-term future.
But Cueto has really struggled in 2017, going 6-7 with a terrible 4.59 ERA. He has the chance to opt out of his current deal and become a free agent, but he would cost himself a ton of money if he did that.
So don’t expect Cueto to opt out. However, this gives the struggling Giants an ideal chance to trade a pitcher with a tremendous track record. They should have no problem finding a high-spending team like the New York Yankees or Houston Astros to take him on. Shedding payroll to spend elsewhere is key for San Francisco. Getting rid of Cueto helps them do that.
2. Texas Rangers: Trade Rougned Odor
The Texas Rangers need a bit of a retool here. The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners are rising powers in the A.L. West, and Texas has lost ace pitcher Yu Darvish. With Cole Hamels and Adrian Beltre getting up there in age, the Rangers have to start getting younger. But there are too many core players for this team to tear it all down.
One option would be to deal second baseman Rougned Odor, who has been the centre of some trade rumors. Odor is undoubtedly a major talent, but his attitude problems could be toxic in the Rangers clubhouse.
1. Toronto Blue Jays: Sign An Outfielder
There have been a ton of problems with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2017. Most of their core players have made at least one trip to the DL, the rotation has been banged up and star closer Roberto Osuna hasn’t been himself.
But all of the Jays’ problems can be pinpointed at their lackluster offence. Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Kendrys Morales, Troy Tulowitzki, Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin have all experienced terrible seasons, for their usual standards.
Toronto has one of the oldest and slowest teams in the league. They rely so much on the home run and just don’t hit for average. They need a speedy outfielder with a good bat, and Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez top that list. Old friend Ben Revere or utility man Howie Kendrick would do just fine, too.
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