The Hot Stove has been ignited.
For some teams, this time of year means addressing a shortcoming from the 2021 season. For others, it might be trying to bring back their own free agents or filling the holes made by those departing for other clubs.
With that in mind, here’s a look at each team’s biggest need as they embark on another interesting offseason.
Blue Jays: Starting pitching
Toronto struck gold with Robbie Ray’s one-year, $8 million deal last winter, getting a Cy Young Award-caliber season out of the lefty. If they don’t bring him back, the Blue Jays will have to replace their ace, adding a top-notch starter to pair with José Berríos in the front of the rotation. Lefty Steven Matz is also a free agent, meaning the Jays may need to fill two rotation spots.
Potential FA targets: Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman
Orioles: Starting pitching
The 110-loss Orioles finished 2021 with a 5.84 ERA — the worst mark in the Majors by a wide margin. Baltimore rolled the dice and signed Matt Harvey last offseason, but he had a 6.27 ERA. Mike Elias hasn’t given out a multi-year free-agent deal since he took over; with a deep pitching market, might this be the year?
Potential FA targets: Anthony DeSclafani, Brett Anderson
The Rays have plenty of young pitching, but Tampa Bay’s staff would benefit from the addition of a veteran starter to help guide the likes of Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Drew Rasmussen and Luis Patiño. The Rays watched those youngsters struggle in the postseason, and with Tyler Glasnow set to miss the 2022 season following Tommy John surgery, bringing in an experienced arm would make sense.
Potential FA targets: Danny Duffy, Corey Kluber
Red Sox: Starting pitching
Even after Chris Sale returned from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox rotation felt thin in October. Sale and Nathan Eovaldi return to lead the staff, while Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck remain under club control. Adding another front-line arm would make sense as Boston tries to catch Tampa Bay in the AL East.
Potential FA targets: Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman isn’t even hiding his desire to add a premier shortstop this offseason, recently saying the position is “an area of need” that must be addressed. Fortunately for the Yankees, the market is stacked with top shortstops, so if they’re willing to spend, they should be able to land one. There’s been a lot of buzz from fans about Carlos Correa, but the Yankees could really use a lefty bat, which could make Corey Seager their top target.
Potential FA targets: Corey Seager, Carlos Correa
Myles Straw will return as Cleveland’s center fielder, but the club needs corner-outfield help in a big way. The club’s .701 outfield OPS and 50 home runs each ranked 27th in the Majors, so while one of the current crop of outfielders might get another shot, adding at least one impact outfield bat seems like a no-brainer if they can find the right deal.
Potential FA targets: Mark Canha, Michael Conforto
Royals: Starting pitching
The Royals have some quality young arms establishing themselves in the Majors, but the addition of a veteran starter would go a long way toward helping those guys take the next step.
Potential FA targets: Drew Smyly, Alex Wood
A.J. Hinch’s presence with the Tigers has led to plenty of speculation about a reunion with Carlos Correa, but Detroit will have significant competition for his services. Even if they don’t land Correa, this deep class of shortstops offers myriad alternatives, so the Tigers should be able to sign one if they’re willing to spend.
Potential FA targets: Carlos Correa, Trevor Story
Michael Pineda is a free agent, though a return to Minnesota seems like a legitimate possibility. Last year’s trades of José Berríos and J.A. Happ left holes in the rotation that must be filled via free agency or trade. The Twins will also likely try adding two or three relievers this winter.
Potential FA targets: Alex Cobb, Carlos Rodón
After trading Nick Madrigal to the Cubs last summer in the Craig Kimbrel deal, the White Sox acquired César Hernández to fill the void at second base. Hernández was underwhelming during his 53 games with Chicago, so the Sox could turn to free agency to find his replacement.
Potential FA targets: Marcus Semien, Chris Taylor
Angels: Starting pitching
Isn’t this the answer every year for the Angels? They’ll be getting Mike Trout back in the lineup after he missed the majority of the season with a calf injury, but the rotation — which ranked 22nd in the Majors with a 4.78 ERA — has both Alex Cobb and Dylan Bundy headed for free agency. An upgrade is necessary if the Angels want to end their lengthy postseason drought.
Potential FA targets: Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman
Astros: Starting pitching
Justin Verlander is far from a lock to return, while Zack Greinke is also a free agent. Given that the Astros lost Gerrit Cole two winters ago, Houston’s rotation has gone through quite an upheaval. Lance McCullers Jr. is a solid starter, and some of the young arms showed promise in 2021, but for a team with title aspirations, adding an ace (or bringing Verlander back) should be a priority.
Potential FA targets: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander
Oakland ranked 10th in the AL with a 4.21 bullpen ERA, and with Yusmeiro Petit, Sergio Romo and Trevor Rosenthal all on the free-agent market and the club holding options on lefties Jake Diekman and Andrew Chafin, the Athletics have some work to do in order to rebuild the bullpen. Rosenthal’s injury left Lou Trivino as the closer, which didn’t work out in the end.
Potential FA targets: Mark Melancon, Daniel Hudson
Mariners: Infield power bat
The Mariners figure to be in the mix for the loaded class of shortstops, though it’s possible they could try signing one with the idea of moving them to third base to play next to 2020 Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop J.P. Crawford. Perhaps Seattle just goes after a third baseman instead, as the Mariners will need to replace Kyle Seager at the hot corner.
Potential FA targets: Kris Bryant, Trevor Story
Rangers: Starting pitching
Texas’ 5.33 rotation ERA ranked 28th in the Majors in 2021, but the front office has said it plans to be aggressive in free agency this winter. That could mean a number of things, but adding a top-flight starter appears to be among the top priorities. The Rangers could also be in the mix for the shortstop class.
Potential FA targets: Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard
Ronald Acuña Jr. won’t be ready to return from his torn ACL until April or May, so the Braves will need to fill the outfield void until he is healthy. Keeping a couple of their current outfielders would seemingly do the trick. Adam Duvall’s $7 million option seems like a no-brainer, but Joc Pederson’s $10 million option might be steep. Atlanta will likely have to sign at least one other outfielder.
Potential FA targets: Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler
The Marlins moved Jorge Alfaro from behind the plate to left field for the final two months of the season, turning catching duties over to the trio of Alex Jackson, Sandy León and Payton Henry. Nobody from that group figures to be the solution at catcher if Miami wants to be a contender, leaving them in search of a new backstop via trade or free agency.
Potential FA targets: Yan Gomes, Manny Piña
Michael Conforto is a free agent, leaving Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil as the only potential starting outfielders on the roster. The Mets need to add a jolt to their lineup and the outfield is the obvious spot to make that happen.
Potential FA targets: Kris Bryant, Starling Marte
Nationals: Starting pitching
Patrick Corbin and Josiah Gray are the only healthy locks for 2022, as the status for both Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross remains uncertain for the start of the season. Cade Cavalli and Joan Adon could push their way into the rotation at some point, while Josh Rogers, Erick Fedde and Paolo Espino are also internal options. Adding a veteran starter would benefit the rotation if the Nationals hope to contend.
Potential FA targets: Zach Davies, Steven Matz
The Phillies ranked 25th in the Majors with a 4.60 bullpen ERA, setting a Major League record for blown saves in a season. With Archie Bradley, Ian Kennedy and Héctor Neris all on the free-agent market, a rebuild of the relief corps will be a priority for Dave Dombrowski this winter.
Potential FA targets: Raisel Iglesias, Corey Knebel
Assuming he isn’t traded, closer Josh Hader will be back along with Devin Williams, taking care of the late innings for the Brewers. But with Brad Boxberger and Hunter Strickland eligible for free agency, Milwaukee must address the bridge between its superb rotation and its back-end one-two punch.
Potential FA targets: Andrew Chafin, Collin McHugh
The Cardinals were linked to Trevor Story prior to the Trade Deadline, and bringing him in to play next to Nolan Arenado would be a natural fit. The Cardinals — who might be ready to move on from shortstop Paul DeJong this offseason — could be in the mix for any one of the premier shortstops available on this year’s market.
Potential FA targets: Corey Seager, Trevor Story
Kyle Hendricks remains at the top of the rotation, while Alec Mills has likely earned a spot next season. After those two, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson make up the next tier of depth, which suggests the Cubs, who plan to be active this winter, will be seeking a frontline starter to stabilize the rotation.
Potential FA targets: Alex Cobb, Marcus Stroman
The Pirates’ right fielders (led by Gregory Polanco) combined for a .655 OPS in 2021, the second-worst mark in the league, ahead of only the Royals. Ben Gamel and Anthony Alford might compete for the starting left-field job, but adding an impact bat in right field would make sense for Pittsburgh.
Potential FA targets: Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler
The Reds bullpen ranked 27th in the Majors with a 4.99 ERA in 2021, and given that four different pitchers collected 7-8 saves apiece, Cincinnati would benefit greatly from the addition of a reliable veteran arm for the ninth inning.
Potential FA targets: Ian Kennedy, Mark Melancon
Arizona’s bullpen ranked 28th in the Majors with a 5.08 ERA, one of many reasons the club lost 110 games in 2021. Joakim Soria and Tyler Clippard led the team with six saves apiece, so adding a closer would help, but of the nine relievers with at least 30 appearances, seven posted an ERA above 4.80, so this bullpen needs serious depth.
Potential FA targets: Mychal Givens, Héctor Neris
Dodgers: Starting pitching
Both Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw are free agents, so bringing back one or both figures to be in the Dodgers’ plans. If either (or both) sign elsewhere, Los Angeles will need to fill those rotation spots.
Potential FA targets: Kevin Gausman, Alex Cobb
Giants: Starting pitching
Eighty percent of the Giants’ rotation — Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani and Johnny Cueto — are free agents, leaving Logan Webb as the only current starter signed for 2022. San Francisco will attempt to retain some of their free agents, but adding another starter or two could be in the cards.
Potential FA targets: Eduardo Rodriguez, Noah Syndergaard
The Padres could lose free agent Mark Melancon this winter, leaving the club to find a new closer. GM A.J. Preller has never been shy to target the best available player, so San Diego could be in the mix for the top-tier closers on the market.
Potential FA targets: Raisel Iglesias, Kenley Jansen
Rockies: Impact outfield bat
After trading Nolan Arenado prior to the season and facing the loss of free agent Trevor Story, the Rockies will look to add an impact bat to the lineup. Colorado’s outfield had fewer home runs than every team other than Arizona, while its .719 OPS ranked 13th out of 15 teams in the NL.
Potential FA targets: Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber