In many ways, it seems like the free-agent pitching market will revolve around what the Dodgers do, not just with Zack Greinke, but with Brett Anderson. It would certainly be beneficial to the Dodgers for Greinke to make a quick decision on his free agency. If the Dodgers don't sign him, they'll likely move on David Price, Johnny Cueto or John Lackey. The Dodgers gave Anderson a qualifying offer after his first healthy seasons since 2009. Will a team be tempted to give Anderson a multiyear deal? If so, maybe he walks and the Dodgers turn their attention to the second tier of starters like Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake or Jeff Samardzija.
Aside from that, the Yasiel Puig trade rumors will persist all winter. Two stints on the DL affected Puig's 2015 numbers, so maybe the Dodgers don't trade him while his stock his down. On the other hand, this is still a guy with a .294/.371/.487 career batting line, signed for the next three seasons at less than $10 million per season and under team control for four seasons total. There will be interest.
Finally, the Dodgers also extended a qualifying offer to Howie Kendrick. They'd like him back but he had a poor second half, his defensive metrics slid and he's 32. If he signs a multiyear deal somewhere else, the Dodgers may be looking for a second baseman.
Oh, and they haven't hired a new manager yet.
With three losing seasons and their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1993-94, new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has one order: Get the Red Sox back into the playoffs. There is no rebuilding in Boston. The first task is to improve the pitching. Going with a bunch of mid-rotation starters blew up big time, as the Red Sox finished 24th in the majors in rotation ERA, leading to speculation that they'll be pursuing Price, Cueto or Greinke to headline the rotation. The bullpen was just as bad, ranking 26th in the majors in ERA and 27th in strikeout rate.
Boston has to consider what to do with 2015 flops Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Given their contracts, the Red Sox may be stuck with both. Jerry Crasnick reported Monday that the Red Sox and Ramirez are on the same page about a move to first base, clearing the way for Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo in the outfield, with Sandoval remaining at third. Still, that doesn't mean the Red Sox won't be active in the trade market. They have a deep farm system that they could use to get a starting pitcher if they don't sign one of the big free-agent starters.
The Giants could have a simple offseason -- sign a starting pitcher -- or a very busy one. Buster Olney wrote about the potential pursuit of Chris Davis. With Buster Posey slated for 100-110 games at catcher, he needs to play first base when he's not catching. Posey started 103 games at catcher and 37 at first in 2015. Davis can play the outfield, giving him the advantage over Brandon Belt. Davis started 29 games in right field for the Orioles in 2015, and while he wasn't great out there -- minus-3 Defensive Runs Saved -- he's passable. The Giants could play him in left field when Posey plays first. Remember, the Giants won a World Series with Mike Morse and Travis Ishikawa playing left.
If they sign Davis, Belt becomes trade bait, coming off a .280/.356/.478 season, with two more seasons of team control. He would be attractive to Houston, Seattle, Pittsburgh or Cleveland. Even the Blue Jays could be looking for a left-handed bat at first to help balance out all the right-handers.
The Giants will also look to upgrade their rotation and perhaps center field, where Angel Pagan is under contract for one more year but coming off a poor season with diminished range. The bottom line is San Francisco will need to make some moves to keep up with the Dodgers.
The Astros will be fascinating to watch due to their currently low payroll, desire to return to the playoffs and some spots that clearly can be upgraded. Astros first basemen (mostly Chris Carter) did hit 28 home runs but ranked 20th in the majors in wOBA thanks to a .221 average. Carter finished at .199/.307/.427. While he draws just enough walks to go with the power, it's probably time to find a better solution. Unfortunately, the free-agent market is weak in this area outside of Davis, so a trade could be looming.
The Astros also received sub-.300 OBPs from DH and third base. While Evan Gattis and Luis Valbuena did combine for 52 home runs, the Astros may look for more balance in their lineup instead of relying so much on home runs.
Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Lance McCullers Jr. will again anchor the rotation, but it's possible the team spends money here, especially with Kazmir a free agent. And we saw in the playoffs how the Astros could use a reliever with a little more juice on his fastball. Finally, the team gave Colby Rasmus a qualifying offer. If he leaves, they could go with a Preston Tucker/Jake Marisnick platoon in left or pursue a big bat like Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes.
The Astros have money and basically no long-term commitments (only $19 million committed for 2017 and $3 million for 2018), giving them roster flexibility. Attendance was up nearly 5,000 per game in 2015 and should increase in 2016. It's just a question of whether they can lure somebody to come there.
The Royals enter the offseason with four big holes: Left field (Alex Gordon is a free agent), right field (they didn't exercise their team option on Alex Rios), second base (Ben Zobrist is a free agent and Omar Infante is terrible) and rotation (Cueto and Chris Young are free agents). There doesn't appear to be any immediate help in the minors, so it will be intriguing to see how general manager Dayton Moore spends money to fill those spots.
He could punt on right field and second base -- Rios and Infante both had negative WAR in 2015 and the team still won 95 games, with Zobrist helping out as a deadline acquisition -- and focus on re-signing Gordon. Or he could look to sign a pitcher.
How much money will the small-market Royals actually spend? Baseball-Reference estimates their 2016 payroll right now at $104 million, compared to a 2015 opening payroll of $112 million. Gordon will receive a lot of interest from other teams and could get close to $20 million per year on a four- or five-year deal. That may price out the Royals, leaving Moore scrambling for outfield depth.
I don't expect the Royals to make a big splash. Similar to last year, when they signed Rios, Kendrys Morales and Edinson Volquez, they'll look for second-tier options. If Moore hits the lottery again like he did with Morales and Volquez, the Royals could be better than they were in 2015.