Offseason Shopping Lists: NL and AL West

Last week, the FanGraphs staff and I previewed the top 50 free agents on this winter’s market. It takes two to tango, though (pending the development of my experimental one-person tango), which means the teams looking for players matter just as much. Over the course of this week, I’ll preview the needs of each team in baseball. Today, it’s time to preview the NL and AL Central. You can find the 10 teams in the East here and the Central here.

As much as possible, I’ve tried to be realistic. Yes, the Orioles could sign Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Freddie Freeman, Starling Marte, Max Scherzer, and Marcus Stroman in pursuit of a playoff berth next year. They not going to sign even one of those players, though, and I’ve focused on what a team should do given real-world budgets. You won’t see the Rays listed as a landing spot for free agents in the market for $100 million contracts, or anything of that sort. As much as possible, this list is what teams might actually do. Let’s get to it.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
Primary: Hunt for Value
Secondary: Pitching Depth

The Diamondbacks find themselves in a strange place. There are plenty of players on this team who could be part of the next contending team in Arizona. Every starting position player except two fits that bill — and those two are David Peralta and Nick Ahmed, who are fairly entrenched in the 2022 lineup. Could the team upgrade its outfield and turn Pavin Smith into a DH or platoon bat? Sure! Could they sign a true third baseman and fulfill Josh Rojas’s destiny as a positionless bat? Sure! But they don’t need to do either of those things unless the player they’re acquiring makes sense.

If the front office group is convinced that one of the marquee free agents in this class is the missing piece, they should make a strong pitch. If no one catches their eye, though, I don’t hate waiting one more year to step on the gas and doing a bit more sorting of the players they already have. As much as I’d like every team to go all out every year, this team isn’t one generic star short of contending in a tough NL West, so finding the right player is more important than just signing someone.

The same is mostly true on the pitching side, with the usual caveat that every team needs starters. The Diamondbacks have plenty of young pitchers and a new pitching coach, and I assume they’ll prioritize getting those guys looks. If I were them, I’d be tempted to go after Steven Matz, or someone in roughly that age/talent bracket, and see if Brent Strom can help unlock his full potential. They should also acquire at least a few relievers — reclamation projects and interesting arms are fine, but the bullpen looks thin.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Primary: Rotation
Secondary: Corey Seager?, Bullpen

Look, the Dodgers are probably keeping Clayton Kershaw. They might be in on Max Scherzer, too. I think that the team would like to have Andrew Heaney as a sixth starter and rotation filler rather than a full-fledged member of the rotation, and they’ll need to sign two solid starters to make that happen. To me, that’s a no brainer. In addition to helping with injury resilience — always key for front-running teams — it’s the easiest way to increase their playoff prowess. Elite starters have an outsized impact in the playoffs given rest schedules, and LA might as well maximize their postseason chances.

After that, there’s a long-term team-building question to be answered. The Dodgers could go into next year with only minor changes on the position player side of things — more bench depth looks necessary after waves of attrition over the past few years. They have a clear starter at every spot and a few viable backups. If I were them, though, I’d start looking to the future now, when two solid Dodgers hitters are on the free agency market.

If the team is planning on retaining Trea Turner, he’ll likely play shortstop for them. That squeezes out Seager, but I see Seager as a third baseman anyway, and moving Justin Turner to DH (assuming an NL DH) would save some wear and tear on the 36-year-old. If they buy into Seager as a long-term piece but not Trea Turner, they could just let Turner leave after the year and keep Seager at shortstop. Either way, if they think Seager makes long-term sense, there’s somewhere to play him.

Chris Taylor falls into the same boat as a departing All-Star, but I think the Dodgers would do well to let him go. Star-level bats are tougher to find than above-average glue guys like Taylor, and when you’re trying to perpetually contend, getting those stars is the best use of your free agency money. Also, sign Kenley Jansen — the fit makes sense and the team could use him.

San Francisco Giants
Primary: Rotation, First Base
Secondary: One More Bat

The Giants’ plan of signing many pitchers to mid-sized deals paid off in spades this year. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood were all key contributors in their superlative season. Alas, all three have reached free agency, and Johnny Cueto to boot. That leaves the rotation mighty thin — we currently list Sammy Long as their number two starter, and he made all of five starts for the big league club in 2021. They’re simply going to need more arms — good, average, or indifferent — to get through next year.

I expect them to use the same plan that already served them well. Find some high-upside but inconsistent starters, put them in the best situation to succeed, and hope a few pan out. I’m not exactly sure who that will be, and I’d love to see DeSclafani come back, but it’s a position of need regardless.

Meanwhile, the offense has already gained certainty, with Brandon Belt accepting his Qualifying Offer. That takes the pressure off in terms of left-handed hitting, but one more plus hitter would make the lineup look much better. Chris Taylor is in the right price range, and his flexibility would let the team continue the mixing and matching they do so well. The team could also sign Kris Bryant, who they’ve been linked to since trading for him at the deadline. He’s not the defender that Taylor is, but he’s no slouch — he could handle multiple positions this year before sliding to third in 2023, and his bat is a clear upgrade on Taylor’s in my opinion.

San Diego Padres
Primary: First Base
Secondary: Bullpen, Rotation Depth, Outfield

I don’t know what to do about Eric Hosmer. He’s produced a cumulative 0.6 WAR in San Diego, and this isn’t some case of weird advanced metrics lying about him; he’s hitting .264/.323/.415, a below-average offensive line. That just won’t cut it for a first baseman. Random waiver wire pickups often outperform that line, and uh… they aren’t long-term cornerstone pieces. The team has reportedly investigated trading him in a bad contract swap, but look: this is going to be a tough one. If they’re going to give him 600-ish plate appearances, they’ll just have a hole in their offense.

Past that, I think it’s mainly about small fixes. The bullpen could use some reinforcements in case the filler arms don’t pan out. The rotation goes six deep with good pitchers, but given how many health issues will be in play, I’d like an extra arm to soak up innings. Adam Frazier isn’t exactly a natural left fielder, so I’d like to see someone else out there, but I don’t really see what place Frazier has on the team in the first place, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask. This is an oddly constructed team, and the spots where I want them to improve are all places where they’ve allocated significant resources, which makes the whole situation unpredictable.

Colorado Rockies
Primary: Bats
Secondary: Arms

Despite playing half of their games at altitude, the Rockies didn’t finish in the top 10 in runs scored this year. They had the second-worst offense in baseball after adjusting for park, and they lost Trevor Story from that already-sad crew. C.J. Cron looks like a keeper, which is convenient since he signed an extension, and I’m sure the team will give the former-prospect trio of Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, and Brendan Rodgers plenty of time to click, but goodness gracious does this team need offense.

I don’t see much chance of the team landing a top free agent, and I don’t even think they’ll try. Can they get some kind of outfield help, though? It would sure make sense, and there are plenty of outfielders who could use a season of full-time starts to rekindle their market. Expect to see the Rockies shopping in the “midseason acquisitions who won a World Series in Atlanta” aisle, basically.

On the pitching front, I like what they’re doing with home-grown starters, but they just need more. Maybe Jon Gray is coming back, but given that he already passed on an extension offer and the team didn’t extend him a QO, I’d bet against it. It’s tough to get pitchers to come to Colorado, but they should try — maybe something will pan out.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels
Primary: Shortstop, Rotation
Secondary: Rotation Depth

Luis Rengifo isn’t the answer at shortstop. I don’t know if the team is interested in adding one of the top free agents there, but they need something. Would they try to trade for Amed Rosario? Perhaps. Would they try to trade for a bargain option like Nick Ahmed? Maybe! But they need to add a player in the middle infield, in addition to hoping David Fletcher picks it up offensively.

The Angels perpetually need pitching, and while I thought the Noah Syndergaard signing was a strange fit given the QO and the length of his deal, he’ll do a good job anchoring a six-man rotation. I think the team should grab at least one more veteran to fill that rotation out, at least until Reid Detmers is ready. It doesn’t need to be an ace — but someone who can throw 120 solid innings would be a welcome addition.

Houston Astros
Primary: Rotation
Secondary: Shortstop (?), Bullpen

I really like Houston’s rotation — particularly now that they’ve added Justin Verlander on a one-year deal. I like Cristian Javier far more as a multi-inning reliever, and I can’t imagine that each of their top five arms will make it through the season without missing a few turns. With Verlander anchoring the rotation, the team doesn’t need another big ticket pitcher, but I’d like them to add one more arm, the same way they did with Jake Odorizzi, just for bulk. If they’d prefer to use Odorizzi in that role instead, I’d still like them to target a reliever who could make spot starts — so maybe Collin McHugh would make sense.

I expect the team to let shortstop float, or perhaps bring in a one-year solution. Jeremy Peña might be ready soon, and Pedro Leon played a lot of short in the minors this year as well. Correa likely isn’t coming back, and quite frankly, I think the offense will be able to handle it, even with their center field platoon. I’d prefer to add some bullpen arms. Dusty Baker showed his managing chops this postseason, but I’d like to see a Kendall Graveman replacement as a top lieutenant for closer Ryan Pressly.

Oakland Athletics
Primary: Stadium
Secondary: Make 16 Trades that Somehow Pay Off

This roster is a mess. The two Matts sound like they’re on their way out of town, which leaves only Tony Kemp, Sean Murphy, and Ramón Laureano as position players I’d be excited to roster. I don’t see much point in highlighting the free agents the team should pursue: they’re not going to pursue them! They’re in pursuit of nearly $30 million in salary relief, so voluntarily giving money to players not currently on the team is out of the question.

I don’t know whether a resolution to the current stadium impasse would solve things, but I also don’t think that resolution is imminent. It’s probably not a good sign that the team asked minor league fans in Las Vegas about the viability of a major league park there. In the meantime, I guess I’d just hope that the team can work its old trade magic, because the current roster needs some help, but the team has stated its intention to subtract rather than add.

Seattle Mariners
Primary: Third Base, Rotation
Secondary: Rotation Depth, Bullpen

I think I would have picked up Kyle Seager’s team option — but if the team is in the market for Matt Chapman or Kris Bryant, I understand their tack. This team has a bevy of interesting young hitters, but plenty of positional versatility. A third baseman would help anchor the infield, though the team could also look to second (for Marcus Semien, say) and slide Abraham Toro to third if there’s someone they prefer there.

In theory, the rotation has reinforcements coming. Justus Sheffield, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, and Juan Then are intriguing pitchers currently in their minor league system. But they won’t all pan out (Sheffield’s big league performance to date has been mixed), and the Mariners only go about three deep in major league starters they trust, so I’d be in favor of bringing in plenty of help. I don’t know if they have the payroll appetite to get a top name (Robbie Ray, perhaps?), but either way, I’d like to see three new starters in the picture for next year. I’d also like to see them add a lefty in the bullpen. Right now, it’s only Anthony Misiewicz, and one more arm would do wonders there.

Texas Rangers
Primary: Shortstop
Secondary: Top-End Starter, Outfield

The Rangers have done an enviable job of turning over their roster in search of new contributors. They’ve found several keepers, including Isiah Kiner-Falefa. But his defensive metrics at shortstop were uneven, and Trevor Story would be an incredible fit for the team. He’d also allow them to move Kiner-Falefa back to third base, or to some defense-first utility infielder role. Story would immediately be the best player on the team, and his age meshes well with the team’s contention timeline.

Beyond that, the rotation has several interesting arms but no clear ace. If Clayton Kershaw wants to live closer to home, he’d be a great fit here. Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray would also do the trick if the team wants to sign someone younger. Overall, I’d love to see an intriguing team add a big free agent piece on offense and one in the rotation, which would make them at least threatening in a soft AL West.

Finally, they should do something about the outfield. I’m not convinced that Adolis García is for real, and I’m pretty out on both DJ Peters and Leody Taveras. As such, I’d like them to add someone who can stand in the outfield and hit, though I’d be fine with a second-tier name like Joc Pederson or Jorge Soler.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
newest oldest most voted

Jo Adell and Luis Rengifo for Adalberto Mondesi and MJ Melendez?


Angels would want Taylor or someone to play SS if/when Mondesi is hurt


Angels should want Taylor, period. Health risks for their stars playing CF and 3B, and performance risk for whoever plays SS, 2B, or the corner OF slots. Taylor is a perfect fit for this Angels team and their time frame.