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#pounditTuesday, January 25, 2022

10 MLB teams in need of a big offseason

Theo Epstein Cubs

The MLB offseason is already underway, as proven by the New York Yankees’ major acquisition of James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. Still, the largest dominoes have yet to fall, and it may be another week or two — if not more — before that begins happening.

Thus, teams are, in a sense, still positioning themselves for the offseason. Payrolls are being plotted and free agents are being explored, while the trade market begins to come to life as well. But some teams, for a variety of reasons, need to be more active than others given the places where their franchises are.

Here are ten teams who are facing very important offseasons for the future of their franchise.

10. San Francisco Giants

The Giants find themselves in a precarious position a year after an eventful offseason saw them go all-in to contend in 2018. They ended up losing 89 games thanks to injury and underperformance from some of their bigger names. Now, new president Farhan Zaidi is tasked with charting a path forward. How he handles this offseason could tell us a lot. The Giants can spend if they want to, but it seems unlikely that another free agent will put them over the top. Such a signing could ultimately hinder them in the long run. Alternately, they could try to dismantle some of their valuable pieces, but that would prove controversial. It’s a big decision that will have long-lasting impacts.

9. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons for the first time since the late 1990s, and the feeling in the organization is that this has to change quickly. A closer is definitely on the agenda, as that was a huge problem for the team last season. There are also rumors that they’ll be pursuing a big bat, more likely via trade than through free agency. Changes seem likely in St. Louis either way, as this team still has an eye on contention.

8. New York Yankees

The Yankees won 100 games in 2018, yet still finished a full eight games behind the historically good Boston Red Sox. They had an excellent season, but in New York, a wild-card berth and ALDS exit are not good enough no matter the circumstances. They’ve already made one big move and look set to add at least another starter, and they’re also being persistently linked to Manny Machado. With a good offseason, the Yankees can wipe out the gap between themselves and Boston and establish themselves as one of the two big AL favorites.

7. Chicago White Sox

It may be surprising to say a team like 100-loss Chicago needs to make some moves, but they’re quickly approaching the point where they have to begin taking some bigger steps forward in their rebuild. They have a lot of young talent, including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, even if the latter is likely to miss 2019 after Tommy John surgery. A big name would do wonders, and rumor has it that the White Sox may pursue the two biggest. That would change the trajectory of the franchise overnight for the better.

6. Atlanta Braves

The Braves romped to an impressive NL East title, but looked a bit inexperienced and overwhelmed in the playoffs against the firepower of the Los Angeles Dodgers. There’s plenty to build around here, including a good young group of pitchers and a star in the making in Ronald Acuna. Their priority appears to be another bat, and they, too, are reportedly looking into the biggest name on the market. The next step for Atlanta is playoff success. The right moves this winter could position them nicely to achieve that in 2019.

5. Cleveland Indians

The Indians find themselves at a crossroads. They committed to their highest-ever payroll at roughly $135 million in 2018, and they don’t have a lot coming off the books, with the number expected to be similar next year barring any moves. In fact, at this point, it looks more likely that the Tribe might subtract rather than add. What that means for the future of the franchise is huge. If they trade the likes of Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco and do well with it, they can still contend while improving their future in terms of both talent and payroll flexibility. If not, we may have already seen the best that this generation of the Indians have to offer.

4. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs made it abundantly clear that their loss in the wild-card game was a disappointing end to a season that felt underwhelming even though they won 95 games. There were even rumblings about Joe Maddon’s future as manager. For now, the Cubs have decided to make some changes and will need a new hitting and pitching coach next season. They have been linked to Bryce Harper, who is longtime friends with Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. That should give you an idea of how big the Cubs are thinking. They look likely to be very active this winter.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

No team has generated more buzz for this offseason than the Phillies, who have a promising young team and money to spend. The general thinking is one big acquisition, combined with continued improvement from what they already have, will put them firmly in the playoff picture. Reports dating back to last season indicate that both Bryce Harper and Manny Machado may be on their radar, and the team figures to be heavily involved in the pursuit of one, if not both. They are going to spend money — it’s just a matter of how much and on whom. If they don’t land a big name, it would almost be a disappointment at this point.

2. Washington Nationals

The Nationals find themselves in an unenviable position. They have a lot of money tied up in a handful of players, and the face of their franchise looks more likely to depart than stay. This is still a franchise that expects to win and will continue to try no matter what Bryce Harper ends up doing. The team is prepared to go big on starting pitching and bank on their offense being good enough. It’s a bold play, and whatever happens, this offseason will have a huge impact on the Nationals’ future, especially with Harper halfway out the door.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

What do you do after back-to-back World Series appearances both ended in defeat? That’s the question Dodgers president Andrew Friedman has to confront this winter. The team has shown a willingness to entertain bold, unconventional moves if they think it’ll help them, and they rarely stay quiet, even if they haven’t been prominently linked to any big names. Corey Seager appears on track to return in 2019, and the team will likely pursue bullpen help and a new catcher. There have been indications that the organization may keep the payroll down as they did in 2018, but the question is whether they will stick to that plan.

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