Seven teams that still have work to do this winter
It’s been a hectic winter in the majors so far this offseason, as many teams have changed their look — and their expectations — for 2023.
At the same time, there are plenty of teams that could benefit from making another move or two before pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month. Whether they’ve been pretty quiet so far this offseason or need to do more to catch up with other contenders, here’s a look at seven teams that might need to make one more impactful move in the coming weeks.
Greatest need(s): Another bat
To be clear, the Dodgers continue to emerge as one of the top contenders for the World Series in 2023 — and are even, by a slim margin, the favorites in the NL West. But that margin is much narrower than in previous years at this point. After all, Los Angeles lost star shortstop Trea Turner to free agency, along with veterans Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. Justin Turner was named to the 2021 All-Star Game and, despite turning 38 in November, had a 116 OPS+ in 2022. On the other hand, Bellinger’s offensive production has gone down quite a bit in recent years, but just the same. he provided excellent defense last year, producing a 1.7 fWAR.
Although the Dodgers re-signed Clayton Kershaw and added designated hitter JD Martinez, 35, it’s worth asking if they’ve done enough to make up for the pieces they lost. According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers lost 21.3 WAR from 2022 in free agency — and have only added 6.9. That 14.3 decrease in WAR is the most in the majors. As it is, Los Angeles is in position to start the year with James Outman and Trayce Thompson in the outfield alongside Mookie Betts, and Gavin Lux would fill Turner’s spot at short stop. Although the 25-year-old Lux stepped up with his offense last year, it remains to be seen if he’s ready to be the starting shortstop for a team that hopes to win the World Series.
Biggest Need(s): Corner infielder, relief depth
This is more about the teams the Mariners are trying to reach than what they’ve done (or haven’t done) this winter. Though Seattle has been mostly quiet in free agency — the only player the club has signed is veteran reliever Trevor Gott — it added two-time Silver Slugger Teóscar Hernández and two-time Silver Slugger Kolten Wong. Golden Gloves, through changes. That will help offset the runs of Mitch Haniger, Jesse Winker, Carlos Santana and Kyle Lewis, but the team lacks corner outfield depth right now.
As it is, the Mariners will start 2023 with Ty France at first base and Eugenio Suárez at third. That’s not a weakness, but the question is, who will replace those players in case of injury? It’s not the worst problem, and the duo of Hernandez and fellow countryman Julio Rodriguez would provide plenty of thunder, but another bat and some veteran bullpen arms wouldn’t hurt. That’s especially considering the Mariners, who snapped a 21-year playoff drought last season, are now looking to unseat the Astros, who swept Seattle in the AL Division Series in October.
Greatest need(s): Rotation depth
The Blue Jays traded Teóscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. this winter, but acquired up-and-coming outfielder Daulton Varsho. They also lost starter Ross Stripling, but added veteran right-hander Chris Bassitt. So Toronto arguably hasn’t gotten worse since it won 92 games last year. But have they done enough to get past the Yankees?
Although Bassitt comes in as a solid third starter in a rotation, questions remain surrounding the Blue Jays’ staff. Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman make up a great starting duo, but José Berríos is the biggest question mark of all, after posting a 5.23 ERA in 2022. And there’s no guarantee he’ll bounce back, considering his ERA expected (xERA) was 5.11 in 2022.
Yusei Kikuchi also struggled with a 5.19 ERA and it’s unclear how Hyun Jin Ryu will return after surgery on his left elbow.
Greatest need(s): Starting pitching, another bat
It’s been a disappointing winter for the Giants, who fell short of Aaron Judge and then saw a deal with Carlos Correa fizzle out. Don’t forget the departures of Carlos Rodón, Tommy La Stella, Evan Longoria and the possibility of Brandon Belt also leaving San Francisco. Despite adding Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea, the Giants look like a worse team than the one that went 81-81 in 2022.
Greatest need(s): Second base, rotation depth
Other than the Dodgers, no team has lost more fWAR via free agency this offseason than the White Sox. The addition of Andrew Benintendi helped ease the departure of Cuban Jose Abreu, with the hope that his 81-81 record was an exception to the norm. It can be argued that Chicago is still the team to beat in the AL Central, despite the fact that the Guardians are the defending division champions. But another arm that can complement the rotation, behind Mike Clevinger, would not hurt them.
Greatest need(s): Bullpen depth
It’s hard to pinpoint a clear weakness on the Brewers’ roster. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff will once again lead a stellar rotation. The additions of William Contreras and Jesse Winker could boost a lineup that was just above average in 2022. Devin Williams had no problem being moved to closer after Josh Hader was traded.
The Cardinals haven’t done much this offseason, other than adding Willson Contreras, so there’s still a case to be made that the Brewers have the best team in the division, despite last year’s meltdown.
Greatest need(s): Starting pitching
The Orioles surprised many by winning 83 games last year – an improvement of 31 games from the previous season. Although they were known to have a promising young roster, the sudden promotion and entry into the Wild Card bid advanced them in their development. It’s natural to expect a step further in 2023, when they can count on full seasons from Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, but Baltimore could have put themselves in an even better position, acquiring Rodon, for example. Instead, the only veteran signing they’ve done so far is Kyle Gibson.