Teams still have glaring needs at Winter Meetings
Despite flurry of offseason action, many clubs looking to address holes
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- OK, fellows. It's time to get back to it.
After one of the craziest weeks ever before the Winter Meetings, the front offices of 30 Major League teams traveled to Florida and, stunningly enough, there were no three-team, 15-player swaps pulled off in a rental-car shuttle or at baggage claim.
In fact, it was one of those ordinary, quiet offseason weekends, which was probably needed as the adrenaline junkies who man baseball-operations departments caught their breath. But the inventory of players available through free agency or trades remains intriguing and teams still have glaring holes to fill.
Here's a look at some of the biggest needs as teams move into their hotel suites and executives start living off chicken wings, potato chips and pretzels:
1. An attractive trade partner for the Dodgers to send Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford: You can talk all you want about the depth that comes from having a four-outfielder alignment starring Yasiel Puig, but do you really want to put Kemp, Ethier and a healthy Crawford through the daily angst over the lineup? They would be much better off with a versatile guy like Alejandro De Aza of the White Sox in the fourth outfielder role.
Ethier's $15.5 million salary is the smallest in the trio, so he's probably the most likely guy to get moved despite talk about the Dodgers eating a lot of contract to trade Kemp (with the Red Sox the most notable possible destination). Ethier would be a good fit for the right-handed-leaning White Sox if the Dodgers were eating about $40 million of the $71.5 million they owe him. Ideally the Dodgers would find a way to address their third-base need with an outfielder trade.
2. A run-producing left fielder for the Giants: General manager Brian Sabean prioritized starting pitching this offseason, locking up Tim Lincecum to an extension, signing Tim Hudson and re-signing Ryan Vogelsong. But the G-Men were shaky offensively even when they were winning World Series. They need a Nelson Cruz or Mark Trumbo to add presence to an outfield that has Angel Pagan in center and Hunter Pence in right.
3. Four hundred upgraded innings for the Angels' starting rotation: The lack of impact from Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton has been staggering but there's little way for the Angels to compete against the Athletics and Rangers -- and maybe even Robinson Cano's Mariners -- without improving a rotation that currently has Garrett Richards and Joe Blanton behind C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. Matt Garza fits very well here but it's unclear how much payroll flexibility the Angels have. They don't want to trade Trumbo but might have to consider dealing him for an arm like Jeff Samardzija or Homer Bailey.
4. A run-producing left fielder for the Tigers: The decision to move Miguel Cabrera back to first and try Alex Castellanos at third base was a no-brainer, but with Prince Fielder gone, Detroit could really miss Avisail Garcia, who went to the White Sox in the three-team deal that filled the Tigers' shortstop hole. If they think he can play left, a guy like Houston's Chris Carter would be a nice fit. Or they could just spend more of Mike Ilitch's money on Shin-Soo Choo or Cruz.
5. Four hundred quality innings for the Yankees' starting rotation (plus shortstop insurance for Derek Jeter ): Bringing back Hiroki Kuroda was a start for the Yankees but Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes are also gone. To match up to the Rays, Red Sox and Orioles, GM Brian Cashman will have to improve the quality and quantity of his starting pitchers. It won't be easy to do that while staying under the $189 million tax threshold. The Yankees remain a likely destination for free agent Omar Infante in light of Cano's departure, but the ideal fit is a guy who can play second base and shortstop (Alexei Ramirez? ).
6. A first baseman or DH with presence for the Rays: Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist give Joe Maddon three hitters to build his lineup around, but it would be nice to have one more, especially a left-handed hitter. GM Andrew Friedman is working to re-sign James Loney, who was a terrific addition for 2013, but at present has no better option for first base than Sean Rodriguez. The budget is a huge problem, although a David Price deal could change that.
7. Proven starter for the Braves: It's been a troubling start to the offseason in Atlanta, with free agents Brian McCann and Hudson leaving, and Paul Maholm still unsigned. Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran and Brandon Beachy aren't neophytes, but it would be huge if GM Frank Wren could find a way to land one of the remaining free-agent starters (especially Ervin Santana or Garza) or trade for somebody like John Lackey or Samardzija.
8. Catcher for the White Sox: They never should have let A.J. Pierzynski walk a year ago, but at age 27 it was time to find out about Tyler Flowers. They did, and before Flowers underwent shoulder surgery they had seen that neither he nor rookie Josh Phegley were ready to be quick fixes. There's not much left on the free-agent market, so GM Rick Hahn is going to have to trade for a catcher, with Oakland's Stephen Vogt and John Jaso players of interest.
9. A homer-hitting DH for the Rangers: GM Jon Daniels made a major move in November with the Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade, but he would have loved to have landed Mike Napoli, who went back to the Red Sox. If the Rangers don't re-sign Cruz, they could kick the tires on Adam Dunn, who has 75 home runs and 182 RBIs the last two seasons.
10. Pitching for the Indians: Three of Cleveland's top pitchers from 2013 are gone (Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir and Joe Smith ), along with crash-and-burn closer Chris Perez. Outside of signing outfielder David Murphy, GM Chris Antonetti has kept his powder dry to this point. He has talked about using Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw as his closer but there are still many interesting options available on the free-agent market, including Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Kevin Gregg.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.