With the manager’s carousel kicking into high gear yesterday, the MLB offseason has already kicked the pig and is on the move. The league seems to have moved beyond just trying to starve out every free agent and leave them hanging until spring training or later, but it’s also not moving that quickly, either. It’s a pretty weak free agent class, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few whales out there for teams that want them. And hey, maybe this time some teams won’t be afraid of the same medical examination! We’ll begin our tours where MLB begins all its stories, the Middle East.
Owner license level: Not only is it cheap, but also Foolishparanoid, and innocent according to the owner John Angelos.
Prospects: Even if there is some air in the Orioles’ 101 wins, they could still easily enter the 2024 season as not just the East’s favorite team, but the AL’s favorite team, since they will return last year’s entire team and also add the best. Full-time baseball prospect, Jackson Holiday. They could argue — and their owner John Angelos will certainly avoid cutting any checks bigger than he has to — that another year will provide Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish developing to be true No. 1 and No. 2 players in the rotation. Add to that the fact that John Means may be healthy for the first time since the 1990s (at least it seems that way), and there’s certainly a way the OS can avoid signing anyone to a big contract and still be very good.
It’s a bad way to look. Even if the OS doesn’t handle the top of their rotation, there are plenty of players to shore up the middle behind Rodriguez and Brady like Eduardo Rodriguez, Marcus Stroman, or Jordan Montgomery. If they really had unruly hair on their asses, they would call the Mariners and see which one of their wealth of young hitters, or two, would allow them to field something like Logan Gilbert.
The O’s will likely need another arm to replace Felix Bautista in the late innings of the bullpen, although these days anyone can throw one pitch all the time that no one can hit.
On the field, the O’s would be better off not relying on another BABIP bounce from Ryan O’Hearn. The Big Fish would put Cody Bellinger there, although a one-year pillow deal to bring Rhys Hoskins a few hours south wouldn’t be the worst idea either.
The Orioles just need to act like one of the big boys, because they are one now. Simply letting nature take its course shouldn’t be good enough, although they will probably take it.
Ohtani Miter (1-10, with 1 unlikely to sign and 10 in pursuit): 0.5
Boston Red Sox
Owner license level: Erik Karlsson’s contract is a real bear now, and the hundreds of millions they will receive next summer from Saudi Arabia for Mohamed Salah somehow won’t make it to Fenway, and it’s too high.
Prospects: It’s hard to know what the Red Sox want, given that they fired Chaim Bloom for not being able to do much while ownership was handcuffing him and throwing him into the Charles family. They finally hired a new general manager in Craig Breslow, but his guidance is only known within those walls.
The Red Sox didn’t do anything well last year, which is how the team ended up in last place. They were in the middle of the pack or worse offensively, starting to shoot, and coming off the penalty kill, so there’s really nothing they can’t use. Depending on the plan of course.
Sawx appears to be in a nice position in the corners with Tristan Casas and Rafael Devers. Wilyer Abreu likely did enough at shortstop last season to take over the left field job, and if the Sox wanted it, they could just settle for Alex Verdugo’s production in right. Luis Urias at number two is screaming for a promotion, and they could use one at center too if they want to get nice. The old Red Sox would sign Bellinger just to keep him from going to The Bronx. But this version is unlikely to do that.
The rotation will hinge on Chris Sale, who will turn 35 but is also entering his free agent year. So, if he had one dominant season left in a left-arm spinner that has been made of children’s hopes and dreams for a few years now, this would be it. Kutter Crawford and Brian Bello should make up a very solid middle of the rotation, although that’s the last good thing we’ll say about any guy named “Kutter.” They could use any of the starters on the market, although that would probably only take them from 78 wins to 82 or 83, which is not enough in this department.
There aren’t a lot of kids on the cusp here to elevate the Sox, and they’re going to have to spend a lot of money to upgrade to second, center and maybe catcher to do that as well. FSG haven’t shown much desire to do so, and this could be another season in baseball purgatory for the Fens.
Otani meter: If he can play as a defensive midfielder, 7. As a current baseball player, 1.
New York Yankees
Owner license level: On a regular scale, it’s not that cheap. On a Yankees scale, very cheap.
Prospects: It’s funny to think of the Yankees as an offensively weak team, given their reputation and also the feeling that any idiot with a big stick can handle 20 players in the newest Yankee Stadium. But that’s what they were, finishing 19th in team wRC+ and 25th in runs. A lot of that can be attributed to Aaron Judge missing nearly half the season, but the Yankees shouldn’t rely on just one guy.
It might be worth acknowledging that both Giancarlo Stanton and DJ LeMahieu are clinically dead and moving on. Matt Chapman looks like a much more attractive option at third. Will Anthony Volpe hit? They can only carry a short gauntlet if everywhere else it is an offensive weapon. They took a physical hit when Jacen Dominguez blew out an elbow, or he would certainly take one of the outside spots. Iverson Pereira will do that, because no one needs to see Jake Bowers for an extended period of time. Estevan Florial has starred in AAA for two years and probably deserves a chance to take over the position, assuming Bellinger’s long-running pursuit doesn’t come to fruition. No catcher really upgrades what he has.
The Americans may be excited about adding to the gambit after Carlos Rodon injured himself while depositing his checks, but the gambit hasn’t been much good outside of Gerrit Cole either. They can try to rely on Rodon’s health for an entire season, or they can count on Ozymandis landing that giant squid at Camden Yards, Tropicana Field, and Rogers Center. They need to get another starter or two.
Otani meter: 4, but the quirks of signing Ohtani may affect the Yankees more than anyone else. His presence means Judge has to be on the field almost every day. Which has been shown to cause something to happen to him. If they’re even planning on having Stanton in the lineup, and they shouldn’t, he simply won’t fit anywhere with Ohtani around because he’ll be hurt by the breeze of the No. 4 train passing by if he’s on the field. . And that won’t be balanced out by his promotional work until 2025. It’s weird, although it’s not too weird that they won’t try.
Tampa Bay Rays
Owner license level: Like a curmudgeon, even with his luxurious new stadium in the same place, he spent years telling everyone that no one could get there.
Prospects: One would hope that, after securing their new stadium, Stuart Steinberg would be persuaded to start spending like a real team, but one should also not sit on a hot stove waiting for that to happen. The Rays’ problems are what they have been, as they will have three starters on the shelf for most if not all of next year in Drew Rasmussen, Jeffery Springs, and Shane McClanahan, all of whom suffered elbow injuries last season.
The rotation woes will likely get worse as they are likely to at least consider trading Tyler Glasnow. He’s 30 years old, in his last year of dominance, and can’t be relied upon to start four or five games in a row before something falls off his Big Bird frame.
They could use a new breakpoint, given that Incumbent last year He could go to prison. Maybe Junior Caminero will get a chance, although he is leaning more as a third baseman. Carson Williams hit three at-bats last year, though the final stop in AAA was tough, and he probably wasn’t much more than a mid-season call-up. Although that’s kind of an MO for the Rays. Tim Anderson’s reclamation project?
It looks like the Rays will be running this lineup again, and are looking to really charge up in 2025 when these three pitchers get healthy again.
Otani meter: -2
Toronto Blue Jays
Owner license level: Medium to low.
Prospects: Given the hype surrounding squadron kids or MLB nepo kids raised by the Jays a couple of years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re just getting the hell out of the ball during pitching formation. It’s quite the opposite, as Rogers’ center worked against Vladito and Alejandro Kirk for most of the season. Dolton Varsho forgot to bring a bat from Arizona after the last offseason trade, and George Springer’s walking ability and power declined as he reached his mid-30s.
Re-signing Matt Chapman carries some risks because he is now 30 years old, but the Jays also may not have a lot of options. Cavan Biggio is 28 years old and is pretty much what he is at this point, a man. Bellinger will do a world of good here at center while also allowing Guerrero Jr. By getting a fair amount of time in the DH to keep him fresh.
They could use another starter as well behind Kevin Gausman and Jose Berrios. They have no idea who Alec Manuah is or what he will be, and Chris Bassett will be 35 years old. You don’t have to be at the top of the line, but meeting Strowman makes sense for third place. Or No. 4. Maybe trying to see if they can get Carlos Carrasco back to the 2022 level instead of the 2023 level on a one-year deal also works, even though he’ll be 37 and the 2023 level is probably what he is now. The Jays are not far behind, as they have been for two or three seasons now, but they need more than just a touch to run with the big dogs they claim to be.
Otani meter: 3