You learn a lot when you delve deeply into all 30 teams. These are not always happy things. Like, you learn about the White Sox outfield and your stomach feels like you just ate something bad. You see all the teams that need help at catcher and wonder if catcher offense is at an all-time low. You look at all the bad teams in the American League and realize that we're probably going to see three 100-win teams again.
Anyway, here are all 30 teams and their biggest hole as the hot stove league finally appears to be kicking into action. Whether they'll fix those holes remains to be seen.
Baltimore Orioles: Manager
I mean, they need everything, but the first thing they need is a manager. New general manager Mike Elias comes over from the Astros, and it's important to note that the first manager that Jeff Luhnow hired in Houston was Bo Porter, not A.J. Hinch. It's possible, and even likely, the first manager Elias hires isn't the guy who is still there when the Orioles become playoff contenders again.
Targets: Astros bench coach Joe Espada is an obvious possibility -- Elias knows him and he was mentioned as a candidate with the Blue Jays and Rangers. The Orioles also might want to do what the Tigers did last year when they hired Ron Gardenhire: go with an experienced manager who will be more of a placeholder for a couple years and willing to work with the young players and not care about the losing. Names in that category would include Jeff Banister, Walt Weiss, Fredi Gonzalez and Chip Hale.
Boston Red Sox: Late-game bullpen
Closer Craig Kimbrel and postseason hero Joe Kelly are both free agents. Kimbrel's October issues -- eight walks and seven runs in 10⅔ innings -- might generate some hesitancy to give him a Wade Davis-like contract (three years, $52 million), while Kelly's outstanding playoff will ramp up his value.
Targets: There is no shortage of relief options, and the Red Sox are likely to prefer spending more on re-signing Nathan Eovaldi than bringing Kimbrel back. Andrew Miller and Zach Britton are interesting possibilities, as the Red Sox could use a lefty, and guys like David Robertson, Jeurys Familia and Kelvin Herrera have closing experience.
Chicago White Sox: Outfielders
Here are the strikeout-to-walk ratios of their three outfielders with the most plate appearances in 2018: 80-27; 129-18; 102-20. The top backups were 153-30 and 69-9. Another backup was 46-7 and hit .116. I suddenly feel bad for White Sox fans, because I can't imagine watching that for 162 games. So, yes, it's no surprise that the White Sox had the lowest outfield wOBA in the majors -- worse even than the Marlins, who had traded away an entire All-Star outfield and still outperformed the White Sox.
Targets: I mean, they could sign Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock and Nick Markakis. That's actually not a joke. Their current projected payroll is about $54 million.
Cleveland Indians: Outfield
The Indians ranked 21st in the majors in outfield wOBA, but Michael Brantley, the one guy who did hit, is a free agent. The team's depth chart currently lists a starting trio of Jason Kipnis, Leonys Martin and Tyler Naquin, with Greg Allen in reserve. Bradley Zimmer might not be ready until the All-Star break after shoulder surgery. They just picked up Jordan Luplow from the Pirates. Oscar Mercado, acquired from the Cardinals, has some speed. It's a crew of fourth-outfielder types.
Targets: The Indians appear to be looking to trim payroll, so any outfielder would likely come via a blockbuster trade involving one of their starting pitchers. Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ fit. The Padres have a logjam of outfielders (Franmil Reyes, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot) plus a deep farm system, but none of those guys are surefire solutions. Domingo Santana is blocked in Milwaukee. The Braves have Cristian Pache, a top-20 prospect with Gold Glove potential in center field.
Detroit Tigers: Power
The Tigers were last in the AL with 135 home runs, their lowest total since 2002. Nick Castellanos led the team with 23, and he might be trade bait heading into his final pre-free-agency season.
Targets: Castellanos was just as bad in right field (minus-19 Defensive Runs Saved) as he was at third base, although his 2.9 WAR was easily a career high. His trade value is limited, however, although the Indians, Rockies or Braves could be interested in a corner outfielder with power, and the Rays might like him as a designated hitter. Otherwise, the Tigers will probably be quiet in free agency, maybe looking for a low-tier veteran middle infielder (hey, Jose Iglesias is available!).
Houston Astros: Catcher
The team didn't pick up Brian McCann's option and in-season addition Martin Maldonado is a free agent. The two catchers on the 40-man roster are Max Stassi and Chris Herrmann. (Evan Gattis, who caught four innings in 2018, is also a free agent.)
Targets: J.T. Realmuto, the best catcher in the game in 2018, is the obvious aspiration if the Marlins decide to deal him; he has two years remaining of team control. Yasmani Grandal is a free-agent possibility, as he would provide a needed left-handed bat to the lineup (he's a switch-hitter) and he's consistently graded out as a good pitch-framer, always a priority for the Astros.
Kansas City Royals: Power hitting, power pitching
As bad as the Royals were, at least there were a few bright spots: Adalberto Mondesi suddenly developed some power, slugging .498; Jorge Soler came back from a lost 2017 and hit .265/.354/.466 in 61 games before going down for the season in June; Ryan O'Hearn came out of nowhere to slug .597 in 44 games; Jakob Junis and Brad Keller flashed some ability in the rotation. Still, the Royals were 13th in the AL in home runs and next to last in pitching strikeouts.
Targets: They should look to trade Whit Merrifield for some pitching prospect with upside, but Dayton Moore has said Merrifield is not on the table. They could bring back Mike Moustakas, who is looking at a similar free-agency situation to last year, when he had to scramble back to the Royals after going unwanted. The bullpen was terrible, so they could look to sign a couple relievers and then deal them in July.
Los Angeles Angels: Starting pitching
The Angels' rotation ranked 21st in the majors in Baseball-Reference WAR, 19th in FanGraphs WAR and seventh in the AL in ERA; the six teams ahead of them in ERA were the five playoff teams and the Rays. The Angels haven't had a 3.0 WAR pitcher since Garrett Richards produced 4.4 in 2014 and haven't had a pitcher with back-to-back 3.0 WAR seasons since Jered Weaver had five straight from 2009 to 2013. They need a catcher and a second or third baseman (depending on where Zack Cozart plays), but a starter is the priority.
Targets: Or maybe two starters. The Angels have two years left until Mike Trout is eligible for free agency (as well as Andrelton Simmons). Why wouldn't you go all-in? Top prospect Jo Adell is probably untouchable, but they should be willing to deal anybody else in the system. They will be in pursuit of the usual suspects in free agency and would be in the market for one of the closers as well.
Minnesota Twins: Infielders
The Twins had Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar at second and third base last season before trading them away before they headed into free agency. So now they need a second baseman and a third baseman!
Targets: After a disappointing 78-win season in a terrible division in 2018, the Twins are still in a good place, as their current projected payroll sits at just $70 million and the three veterans signed for 2019 -- Jason Castro, Addison Reed, Michael Pineda -- are all free agents after the season. They absolutely should be in on Machado or Harper, but the only mega-contract they've ever given out was to homegrown Joe Mauer. So that leaves the question of whether they might go the short-term route with some of the veteran players in free agency like Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie, Moustakas, DJ LeMahieu or Asdrubal Cabrera. They tried that last season with the likes of Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn and it didn't work out, but the second wild card in the AL is in play and the AL Central will still be terrible.
New York Yankees: Starting pitching
At the outset of the offseason, general manager Brian Cashman described the team's priorities as "starting pitcher, starting pitcher and middle infield." The Yankees quickly re-signed CC Sabathia and traded for James Paxton, but the belief is the team will still look to add one more starting pitcher, most likely via free agency. They'll probably also simultaneously seek to trade Sonny Gray, who had a 6.98 ERA at Yankee Stadium in 2018. His projected salary would be a wash with Paxton's projected salary (around $8.5 million). The rotation wasn't terrible in 2018 -- its 4.05 ERA ranked fifth in the AL -- but adding Paxton behind Luis Severino now gives them two hard throwers at the top of the rotation.
Targets: Any of the top free-agent starters: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Eovaldi, J.A. Happ.
Oakland Athletics: Starting pitching
The A's managed to piece together the sixth-best rotation ERA in the AL, but only the Rays and Angels received fewer innings from their starters, and Oakland ranked 28th in the majors in strikeout rate. Sean Manaea is already out for 2019 after shoulder surgery.
Targets: Re-acquiring Gray is already a hot rumor, and his projected salary wouldn't be too onerous for the Oakland payroll. The A's could re-sign Trevor Cahill, and free agent Gio Gonzalez has a long track record of health, which the A's could use after last season's injuries and uncertainty.
Seattle Mariners: Youth
While the Paxton trade doesn't necessarily signal a full-scale rebuild, reports suggest the Mariners might now be aiming more for a 2021 timeline -- which would mark 20 years since their most recent playoff appearance. Their most valuable trade pieces remaining are Edwin Diaz and All-Star right fielder Mitch Haniger, either of whom would bring in a nice haul of prospects. After the Paxton trade, GM Jerry Dipoto said "never say never" about trading Diaz, Haniger or lefty Marco Gonzales, but Trader Jerry isn't one to shy away from a big deal. Shortstop Jean Segura, riding three consecutive .300 seasons, is signed through 2022 with a 2023 team option; he does have a no-trade clause. Alex Colome, the former closer in Tampa Bay, is another chip.
Targets: Diaz would bring many suitors, and a trade with Dodgers centered around outfielder Alex Verdugo or one of their catching prospects (Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith) makes sense. The Braves also have a deep farm system and could use a lights-out closer. Regarding a Segura trade, the bottom three teams in wOBA at shortstop were the Pirates, Braves and Brewers. The Braves and Brewers seem willing to live with the defensive contributions of Dansby Swanson and Orlando Arcia, respectively, despite the lack of offense. The Padres have an opening as Freddy Galvis is a free agent and they seem to be making noise about making a step forward in 2019. The Cardinals could trade for Segura and move Paul DeJong to third base.
Tampa Bay Rays: A big bat
They've added Mike Zunino to provide power and defense at catcher, and Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows, last summer's acquisitions, should help provide additional power in the outfield corners. Still, their 150 home runs ranked 14th in the AL -- and that's why they averaged 4.42 runs per game, a full run behind the league-leading Red Sox.
Targets: The projected payroll sits at about $41 million. Even the Rays have room to spend! They could even afford Harper! Nelson Cruz would be a perfect fit at designated hitter, and a two-year, $30 million deal won't break the bank. Andrew McCutchen doesn't have the big power numbers, but he can get on base and split time at DH and an outfield corner. The Twins could use a second baseman and the Rays have depth in the middle infield, so a guy like Jake Cave (.265/.313/.473 in 2018) is a cheaper trade possibility.
Texas Rangers: Starting pitching
Mike Minor led the rotation last season with 28 starts and 157 innings, while Bartolo Colon was the only other starter to make more than 20 starts and top 115 innings. The current depth chart includes Ariel Jurado (5.93 ERA), Yohander Mendez (5.53 ERA), Adrian Sampson (4.30 ERA in 23 innings) and Drew Smyly (didn't pitch). That might be the worst current group of five in the majors, although Jurado and Mendez are very young and have some upside (they also have Edinson Volquez trying to come back from Tommy John surgery).
Targets: The Rangers are kind of a mess as they ready to move into the new ballpark in 2020. The young core -- Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar -- hasn't yet lived up to its prospect pedigree. Maybe they'll get there: Odor might have turned the corner in the second half as he finally developed a little patience, and Profar hit .254/.335/.458 with 20 home runs as he finally got extended playing time. All this is to say the Rangers will actually look to move Minor (4.12 ERA, 132-38 SO-BB) for prospects rather than make any significant additions around him.
Toronto Blue Jays: Starting pitching
The rotation was supposed to be the strength of the team in 2018, but fell apart with a 5.14 ERA. Only the Rangers and Orioles were worse in the AL. Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez combined for 39 starts and a 5.21 ERA. They'll need much more from those two -- and some help.
Targets: Given the strength of the Red Sox and Yankees, I wouldn't expect the Blue Jays to be active on any of the major free agents. They'll wait for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to come up -- oh, about 12 days into the season, I expect -- and maybe go for some second-tier guys whom they can flip at the trade deadline. This could include pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, Matt Harvey or Clay Buchholz, or position player like Moustakas or Cabrera.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Center field
It's unclear what the Diamondbacks' offseason plans are -- they could trade Paul Goldschmidt (who has just one year left until free agency) and Zack Greinke (owed $95.5 million the next three seasons) and do a partial reload. Remember, they already re-signed Eduardo Escobar, which could lead to Jake Lamb moving to first base if Goldschmidt is traded. The free-agent status of Corbin and Pollock leaves holes in the rotation and center field.
Targets: The Astros and Cardinals are obvious landing spots for Goldschmidt. The Cardinals, however, aren't trading Harrison Bader. Jake Marisnick could be part of a deal with Houston. Dealing Greinke will be more difficult; the Diamondbacks would have to eat some of the salary if they want some prospects in return. If they can trade Greinke, they could even dip into the second tier of free agency to help keep the team competitive.
Atlanta Braves: A star
Of course, the Braves have already have two in Freddie Freeman and emerging superstar Ronald Acuna Jr., but they should be thinking big when trying to improve upon last season's 90-win NL East championship. That could be an ace starting pitcher, a dominant closer or a big hitter to replace free agent Nick Markakis, who slowed down in the second half after an All-Star first half. The Braves were fifth in the NL in runs and fourth in runs allowed, so either area has room to get better -- and they have the depth in the farm system to make a deal.
Targets: Corey Kluber would make a nice veteran presence at the top of the rotation. Diaz or Rangers closer Jose Leclerc (85 strikeouts, one home run in 57⅔ innings) would work. How about Harper for right field? If that price is too steep, they could sign Brantley and move Acuna to right field.
Chicago Cubs: Bullpen
The Cubs picked up Cole Hamels' option, so they don't have any obvious holes, especially if Yu Darvish comes back healthy and in form. The projected payroll already exceeds the $206 million tax threshold -- they have an MLB-high 13 players with six-plus years of service time already signed to 2019 contracts. The bullpen was actually fine in 2018, with the second-best ERA in the majors, although by the end of the season journeyman acquisition Jesse Chavez was the team's best reliever and Brandon Morrow 's health creates some uncertainty.
Targets: Signing one of the big free agents seems unlikely given the team's current payroll, so maybe there's a trade with the Cubs dealing Schwarber, Happ or Addison Russell for a young, cost-effective reliever. Diaz would be the perfect fit, but the Mariners don't seem to be shopping him around.
Cincinnati Reds: Starting pitching
The Reds have suffered five consecutive losing seasons, including four in a row of 94-plus losses that led to four last-place finishes. Their rotation ERAs those past four seasons: 4.58 (12th in NL), 4.79 (12th), 5.55 (15th), 5.02 (14th). The complete inability to develop any consistent young starting pitching continues to haunt the organization.
Targets: The Reds have made it semi-clear that they're willing to add some veteran pitching. They could dangle Scooter Gennett to clear room for prospect Nick Senzel -- how about Gennett to the Yankees, with Gleyber Torres sliding over to shortstop? -- and it seems inevitable they'll finally deal Billy Hamilton, but neither is going to bring a major return. So look for them to play in free agency, not in the Corbin market, but in the Keuchel/Eovaldi/Lynn/Miley area.
Colorado Rockies: Center field
Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra are free agents, and Charlie Blackmon's defensive metrics in center field -- and the eye test -- suggest he needs to move to a corner. David Dahl is around, but he's probably stretched as a center fielder.
Targets: Pollock, the only legit center fielder in free agency, is the logical fit, but the Rockies' dips into free agency the past two offseason haven't worked, as Ian Desmond has been a flop and they spent wildly without great results in the bullpen last year. Given Pollock's injury history, general manager Jeff Bridich might lack the nerve to pony up for him. Colorado could trade for a defense-first player like Kevin Pillar, Michael Taylor or Hamilton.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Bullpen
They might be on the prowl for Realmuto, but the obvious need is relief help after we saw the pen exposed in the World Series. Kenley Jansen is now a question mark after serving up 13 home runs and then two more in the World Series (not to mention surgery next week to fix an irregular heartbeat). It's not that the pen was terrible, but it seems that forcing manager Dave Roberts to match up in big games isn't the ideal way to a championship.
Targets: Diaz would be a low-cost and dominant fix. Kelly's performance in the World Series -- along with his 100 mph heater -- had to have made an impression, although his track record plays below the quality of his stuff. Adam Ottavino crushes righties, and the Dodgers saw plenty of him with the Rockies. Miller or Britton make sense from the left side if you want to gamble they can re-discover where they were a couple years ago.
Miami Marlins: A new sculpture
The Marlins gave 16 players at least 100 plate appearances last season ... nine of them hit below .235. The Christian Yelich trade already looks like a potential massive bust as Lewis Brinson, the top prospect in the deal, hit .199 and showed a severe lack of pitch recognition (120 strikeouts, 17 walks). Monte Harrison struck out 215 times in Double-A (not a misprint). Isan Diaz hit .232 with 140 strikeouts in the minors.
Targets: All that is simply a warning about a Realmuto trade: If it happens, Derek Jeter and Mike Hill have to do better than they did with the Yelich trade.
Milwaukee Brewers: Catcher
Starting pitching seems to be more of the consensus answer here, but the Brewers have some options with Jimmy Nelson coming back plus Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes. Sure, they could re-sign Wade Miley, but if the Brewers are to retain their NL Central crown, they need to improve the offense (seventh in the NL in runs despite playing in a hitters' park). Their catchers hit .237/.294/.363, and 38-year-old journeyman Erik Kratz was starting in October (and hit .125 in the National League Championship Series).
Targets: Realmuto in a trade, although you'd have to start with top prospect Keston Hiura to get him. Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the two free-agent catchers who can hit.
New York Mets: Depth
After reaching the World Series in 2015 and sneaking into a wild card with 87 wins in 2016, the Mets have fallen off to 70 and 77 wins the past two seasons. In 2017, the rotation fell apart with injuries and performance. In 2018, it was more about the underperforming veterans on offense, whether due to injuries or poor performance. Yoenis Cespedes, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista were collectively worth just 2.6 WAR. Throw in Adrian Gonzalez and Austin Jackson and you're down to 1.4 WAR and a whole pile of money torched. Oh, the bullpen was awful as well; only the Royals' and Marlins' relief crews had a worse ERA.
Targets: Raise your hand if you know what the Mets are going to do. Put your hand down. Maybe they trade Noah Syndergaard, but even then it's unclear what they desire in return -- prospects or immediate impact talent. They're unlikely to rebuild, but Cespedes might be out until June, and if they're committed to playing Frazier and Bruce, the offense might still struggle. The bullpen needs a makeover. Maybe they surprise everyone and go after Machado (Frazier can go to the bench or play first until Peter Alonso is called up). But the overall key: Don't give so much playing time to dead weight. The Mets won 77 games. If they keep the Jacob deGrom/Syndergaard/Zack Wheeler/Steven Matz group intact, a good offseason could put them in a run for the postseason.
Philadelphia Phillies: Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado
No secret here. The Phillies are aiming high. As they should. According to Baseball-Reference.com, the Phillies had the worst group of position players in the majors with a collective 0.7 WAR. Much of that is due to some of the worst defense seen in the majors. FanGraphs didn't grade the defense quite so poorly and credited the position players with a collective 12.4 WAR -- 23rd in the majors. Bottom line: They need to upgrade at a couple positions.
Targets: See above. The Phillies will also have to find a taker for Carlos Santana in order to move Rhys Hoskins out of left field and back to first base. Santana draws walks (110 of them, producing a .352 OBP), but the entire profile isn't worth the $41 million he'll make the next two seasons. Starting pitcher isn't their main priority, but Charlie Morton is a possibility, as he's expressed a desire to be closer to his family in Delaware.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Middle infield
Of course, what the Pirates really need is a big star. They have a lot of average-ish players -- which is why they finished 82-79 -- but no great ones. Corey Dickerson led the position players with 3.8 WAR, and that was on the strength of some surprisingly strong defensive metrics. Jameson Taillon (4.7 WAR) and Trevor Williams (3.8) did emerge as a nice 1-2 atop the rotation, although we'll have to see if Williams can sustain those numbers, obtained despite a low strikeout rate. The Pirates hit a combined .245/.302/.381 at second base and shortstop (26th in the majors) and have parted ways with Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.
Targets: Kevin Newman might be ready to take over at shortstop; he did hit .302 at Triple-A, albeit with no power. Adam Frazier can play second, but he's a valuable super-utility guy. They also acquired infielder Erik Gonzalez from the Indians, but he projects as a utility guy. Jed Lowrie is a free-agent possibility at second, or maybe they could acquire Starlin Castro from the Marlins. Beyond the middle infield, for a long-shot flier -- if the Pirates truly view themselves as potential contenders -- how about going after Goldschmidt? Josh Bell is a nice player. The Pirates need something more than nice.
St. Louis Cardinals: A big bopper
Yes, the bullpen is an issue, but Carlos Martinez -- assuming he isn't traded -- will help if he becomes the answer at closer or as the multi-inning setup guy to Jordan Hicks. With that in mind, it's time to anchor the lineup with a star. The Cardinals finished fifth in the NL in runs and fourth in home runs, but also ranked eighth in OBP and seventh in slugging. Dexter Fowler dragged down those numbers, and a better season from Marcell Ozuna will help, but Matt Carpenter was the only regular who slugged higher than .460.
Targets: Goldschmidt is a perfect one-year fix, and reports already say the Cardinals have talked with the Diamondbacks. They would slide Carpenter over to third base in this scenario. Of course, simply signing Machado (or Harper) also works. That would break with Cardinals' free-agent history, but team president Bill DeWitt III just said, "We could do it, sure. ... We have the payroll room." Josh Donaldson would also be a worthwhile gamble at third base.
San Diego Padres: Impact talent
The Padres finished 30 games under .500, were outscored by 150 runs, had the worst rotation ERA in the NL and ranked last in OBP, yet they're making a lot of noise about making a big push forward in 2019. Holes include shortstop, top-of-the-rotation starters and first base (I kid, I kid).
Targets: Sounds like they'll be in the free-agent market for a veteran leader for the rotation (Keuchel would make a great leader for young lefties Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer). Third base is up in the air after the reported sale of Christian Villanueva to Japan's Yomiuri Giants (unless Wil Myers is the answer there). Trade rumors include Jean Segura and Mike Leake from the Mariners (for Myers, although I can't figure out why Seattle would do that); maybe one of the Cleveland starters; and, less likely but plenty intriguing, Syndergaard.
San Francisco Giants: A power bat in the outfield
AT&T Park isn't an easy park to homer in, but the Giants got just 42 home runs from their outfielders. Only the Royals hit fewer. Hmm, I hear there's a big free agent out there who happens to play outfield.
Targets: Harper. Convincing him to come to San Francisco is another matter. Outside of Harper, however, there isn't another obvious power bat in free agency, so the Giants would have to go to plan B and go after Pollock or Brantley. The farm system is pretty weak, so picking up a contributor via trade is unlikely.
Washington Nationals: Starting pitching
The signing of Kurt Suzuki fills a ginormous sinkhole at catcher -- Nationals catchers have the worst wOBA in the majors over the past two seasons -- and they've added Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal to the bullpen, two big arms with upside, but who are both performance and health risks. Even if Harper leaves, they'll still be OK in the outfield with Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Adam Eaton, so that leaves a rotation that needs a third starter behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Targets: Free agency is the logical path here, and the Nationals will be in on everyone from Corbin to Keuchel to Happ to Morton. Really, given the lack of depth, I could see one big signing and maybe a secondary guy like Miley, Derek Holland or Drew Pomeranz.