With a long anticipated lockout halting MLB’s usual offseason supply chain, the active shoppers leading up to the transaction freeze were surprising.
As the lowly Texas Rangers and ever-searching New York Mets spent big, perennial postseason powers sat mostly quiet. So as we wait for labor issues to be resolved and business to resume, let’s take a look at the biggest, most pressing wish list items that remain.
Yankees need a shortstop
The most glaring hole in baseball is the one Derek Jeter used to patrol. The Gleyber Torres experiment just didn’t work at short. And a contender with expectations like the Yankees’ shouldn’t be relying on Tyler Wade or Andrew Velazquez as a No. 1 option. What’s more: They’ve indicated as much. They plan to move Torres back to second permanently, and Wade and Velazquez now play for the Los Angeles Angels.
So it counted as a relative shock when Corey Seager came off the board in something other than pinstripes. The playoff-tested, lefty-hitting star appeared to check all the boxes for a lineup that skews almost comically right-handed. Even the biggest ding on Seager — that he’s probably destined to move to third base — isn’t a major negative for a Yankees organization with several promising middle infield prospects in the pipeline.
Now, with Marcus Semien and Javy Baez also off the board, the star shortstop scarcity creates an interesting dynamic in the Bronx. Trevor Story remains an option, but the biggest, brightest name is Carlos Correa. Yankees fans bristle at the idea of rooting for the brash leader of the sign-stealing era Astros. Does GM Brian Cashman think the charismatic Correa would quickly win them over? Does he have a trade idea he likes more than the free agent class?
Whatever the answer, a major shortstop upgrade feels like a rare imperative for Cashman after years of disappointing playoff exits.
Dodgers shop for half a starting rotation
Max Scherzer bolted for the Mets’ record-breaking offer, and franchise legend Clayton Kershaw is a free agent, too. That leaves the vaunted Dodgers rotation on shakier ground than we are used to. (Trevor Bauer remains on administrative leave because of an ongoing sexual assault investigation.)
Walker Buehler is still a bonafide ace, and Julio Urias wouldn’t be an underwhelming No. 2 for any other franchise, but beyond that, there are few trusted arms.
So far, they have signed lefty Andrew Heaney in one of their patented buy-low depth plays. There is probably more to come, though.
Beyond the possible return of Kershaw, Carlos Rodon represents the highest upside remaining on the free agent market. The longtime White Sox hurler took a leap in 2021, but again struggled with some injury concerns. They could also turn their player development prowess loose and attempt to unlock the potential in starters like Matthew Boyd or Yusei Kikuchi who have demonstrated their raw stuff but struggled with various command and consistency issues.
They may also make for interesting trade partners with the Cincinnati Reds — who apparently want to cut costs by dealing away a strong starter like Sonny Gray or Luis Castillo.
In all of this, they might again find themselves in competition with the San Francisco Giants, who may seek to replace Kevin Gausman.
Braves covet a Freddie Freeman … right?
The defending champion Braves would look foreign without their spiritual leader and MVP-winning first baseman. That doesn’t guarantee he’ll be back, though. Teams that got outbid or simply moved too slowly on some big free agents (hello, Dodgers?) will have months to think about arranging their budgets and lineups to fit Freeman.
It already felt strange that he wasn’t re-signed prior to the lockout. There is no internal backup plan here, so if the Braves don’t secure him as expected, there could be major repercussions.
No other free agent would have any shot at replacing his production, so GM Alex Anthopoulos may — in this unlikely case — resort to a big trade.
A’s fashion themselves luxury traders
Speaking of big trades, the Oakland A’s appear ready to make some. Apparently unwilling to spend even to their current modest level, ownership has reportedly pushed the front office to cut payroll. That could put impact stars in their twenties on the move.
Matt Olson would immediately become the best available first baseman not named Freddie Freeman, and one of the most attractive hitters overall. A barrel-chested first baseman who barely needs to move to achieve light-tower power, Olson is also a two-time Gold Glove winner. He could be an absolute terror if ported into a homer-friendly park like, say, Yankee Stadium.
Across the diamond, Matt Chapman is coming off his worst offensive season but ranks in a transcendent tier of defenders alongside Nolan Arenado and virtually no one else. Less than two years removed from hip surgery, it’s not hard to envision him rebounding to 2019 form and competing for MVP votes for the next half-decade.
Finally, there are the pitchers. You don’t even have to leave the state of California to find some teams that would probably have strong interest in Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt if the A’s have decided to punt on the next two or three seasons. How the A’s decide to proceed with the deals — if they make them — could be franchise-altering, both for them and the teams lucky enough to snag an elusive young star.