One Free Agent Every MLB Team Should Sign

Every team, from the Nationals to the Astros to the Orioles, needs to make offseason improvements. We present one viable free-agent target for every team.
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Welcome to the start of the offseason, a time of hope for baseball fans that maybe, just maybe, their favorite team will do something exciting in free agency. The unknown is promising; it instills a feeling of excitement similar to the joys of Opening Day. The right move can set up for a deep playoff run, and the wrong one can handcuff a franchise for years to come—looking at you, Chris Davis and Jacoby Ellsbury.

The hunt for October begins in November. And for the next few months, the range is open for everyone. Below are 30 free-agent targets for 30 teams.

Quick disclaimer: Every team would be better off with Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. But including them as targets for 30 different teams would be silly. So, as the kids say, serious inquiries only.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2019 Record: 85-77, 2nd Place in NL West

Positions of Need: CF/2B, RF, RP

Target: The Diamondbacks have a solid rotation and good, young hitters. Then there’s Ketel Marte, who can start at either second base or centerfield but not both. This free-agent class is thin at both positions, with perhaps their best option being the only non-National to homer off Gerrit Cole this postseason: Eric Sogard. Sogard isn't a season-altering signing, but the 33-year-old nicknamed “Nerd Power” for his signature sports glasses is coming off his best season yet (.290/.353/.457, 2.6 bWAR). He’s from Phoenix, went to Arizona State and could be just the right guy while Arizona waits for prospect Joshua Rojas, whom it acquired in the Zack Greinke trade.

Atlanta Braves

2019 Record: 97-65, 1st Place in NL East

Positions of Need: SP, C, 3B

Target: Josh Donaldson was arguably the best signing of last offseason. The Braves should (and will) definitely try to bring him back, but their offseason plans cannot begin and end there. Few catchers are better than Yasmani Grandal. He could be swayed to stay in Milwaukee, but the Brewers have other needs to address. With Grandal in a Braves uniform, he can mash in the middle of that lineup and help guide their young pitching staff.

Baltimore Orioles

2019 Record: 54-108, 5th Place in AL East

Positions of Need: SP, RP, 2B/SS

Target: Baltimore is in full rebuild mode but still needs to field a team next season. It could use a starting pitcher or three to slot in behind All-Star John Means. The Orioles could get Jhoulys Chacin for cheap and perhaps trade him midseason for prospects.

Boston Red Sox

2019 Record: 87-75, 3rd Place in AL East

Positions of Need: SP, RP, 1B

Target: The Red Sox face the most uncertainty with their pitching staff. Chris Sale, David Price and Nathan Eovaldi (who are making a combined $79 million next season) all battled injuries this year, which makes it more difficult to know what to expect from them moving forward. Their bullpen, other than Brandon Workman, was a disaster. However it’s hard to imagine the Red Sox spending too much more on pitching. Instead, they should look to bolster their lineup with a first baseman. Eric Thames would be a good fit.

Chicago Cubs

2019 Record: 84-78, 3rd Place in NL Central

Positions of Need: OF, RP, SP

Target: How long can the Cubs keep the faith they once had in Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ? Yes, Almora is a great defender and Happ posted a 126 OPS+ after spending the first half of the season in Triple A, but neither one has looked like the franchise centerfielder they were expected to be. Nicholas Castellanos, who loved playing for a team in contention, is now a free agent, and after a strong two-month stint with the North Siders (.321/.356/.646) he could be compelled to test the open market for a five-plus year deal with an AL team and DH. Still, Castellanos makes a lot of sense for the Cubs, a team that remains in win-now mode even as it begins to move on from the glory of 2016.

Chicago White Sox

2019 Record: 72-89, 3rd Place in AL Central

Positions of Need: 1B/DH, SP, RF

Target: Let’s assume Jose Abreu returns to the White Sox. He wants to come back and the White Sox love him. Instead, the ChiSox need a veteran starter to carry some of the load before Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon return from Tommy John surgery. All five of their current projected starters are righties, so lefties Hyun-jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel and Cole Hamels would all be good options. Keuchel was a great resource for the Braves’ young staff in 2019, and with the Sox on the cusp of contention, he’s just the right guy for them.

Cincinnati Reds

2019 Record: 75-87, 4th Place in NL Central

Positions of Need: 2B, SS, OF

Target: The Reds are one of the most interesting teams to follow this offseason because, relative to other teams, they don’t need to add pitching. Instead, they need help in the middle infield and outfield. The Yankees elected not to extend a qualifying offer to Didi Gregorius, who was originally signed by the Reds out of Curacao and debuted with them in 2012. Gregorius hit at least 20 home runs each year from 2016-18 but had a down year this season after coming back from Tommy John surgery in June. If the Yankees want to move on from Didi, he’d be an ideal fit for the Reds in the bandbox Great American Ballpark.

Cleveland Indians

2019 Record: 93-69, 2nd Place in AL Central

Positions of Need: OF, 2B/3B, RP

Target: If Cleveland doesn’t re-sign Yasiel Puig, whom it acquired midseason in the Trevor Bauer trade, it will need to add a rightfielder. Franmil Reyes, who also came over in the Bauer deal, can play right but, at 6'5'', 275 pounds, is probably better suited as a DH. Veteran Kole Calhoun, coming off his best season since 2016, would provide depth in the lineup and a strong defense in right.

Colorado Rockies

2019 Record: 71-91, 4th Place in NL West

Positions of Need: SP, RP, RHH

Target: PItching is always a concern for the Rockies, and once again, they will look to address their rotation this winter. Good news for them: Of the 12 starters with the highest groundball rates this season, three of them—Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu and Wade Miley—are free agents. If they can add one or two of them to a rotation that already includes German Marquez (49% ground ball rate), they could have some success neutralizing the Coors Field Effect. Ryu might be out of their price range, and Miley’s September was so bad that the Astros had to leave him off their postseason roster. Anderson and his 54.5% ground ball rate seem destined for Colorado.

Detroit Tigers

2019 Record: 47-114, 5th Place in AL Central

Positions of Need: 1B, C, INF

Target: The 2019 Tigers were one of the worst teams in MLB history. Offense is definitely their biggest area of concern, and they could use an upgrade at nearly every position after scoring just 582 runs—33 fewer than the next worst team. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reported that they’ve discussed Justin Smoak as a possible player to add in free agency. He could be someone they sign for one or two years and then flip him for prospects at the trade deadline.

Houston Astros

2019 Record: 107-55, 1st Place in AL West

Positions of Need: SP, C, RP

Target: This one’s a no-brainer. If the Astros miss out on re-signing Gerrit Cole, who will probably sign the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history, they should turn their attention to their next development project: Zack Wheeler. The 29-year-old righthander has similar stuff to Cole in terms of fastball velocity and horizontal movement on his heater, and his pitch usage is similar to what Cole’s was before he landed in Houston. MLB.com’s Andrew Simon did an excellent breakdown comparing the two pitchers that goes much more in depth on them. But, even without a deep dive, there’s plenty of reason for the Astros to sign and work with Wheeler.

Kansas City Royals

2019 Record: 59-103, 4th Place in AL Central

Positions of Need: SP, RP, OF

Target: Three of the Royals’ top five prospects are pitchers, but until they are ready for the majors, Kansas City will need to find another starter or two to take the ball every fifth day. If that’s the goal, the Royals should bring back Homer Bailey.

Los Angeles Angels

2019 Record: 72-90, 4th Place in AL West

Positions of Need: SP, RP, C

Target: Gerrit Cole to the Angels. We’ve been hearing the rumors for a while now because the Angels need an ace ad badly as any team in baseball, and they can afford to pay him the largest contract for a pitcher in MLB history. Throw him in a rotation with Shohei Ohtani and on a team with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Andrelton Simmons, with Joe Maddon managing, and the Halos should be fun to watch.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2019 Record: 106-56, 1st Place in NL West

Positions of Need: SP, RP

Target: The Dodgers cannot let Hyun-jin Ryu get away. He’s always good when he’s healthy, and this season he made 29 starts and threw at least 180 innings for the first time since he was a rookie in 2013. A rotation of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Ryu is enough to mask the team’s remaining bullpen questions.

Miami Marlins

2019 Record: 57-105, 5th Place in NL East

Positions of Need: OF, 2B, RP

Target: The Marlins are still a few years away from contention, but the first wave of their future core is starting to make its way to the big leagues. At this point, a guiding veteran is ideal for them. Sounds like a great job for Adam Jones.

Milwaukee Brewers

2019 Record: 89-73, 2nd Place in NL Central

Positions of Need: SP, 3B, C

Target: The Brewers’ Opening Day starter last year was Jhoulys Chacin, who was DFA’d in August and I said is a good target for the Orioles—that just about sums up Milwaukee’s pitching woes. But, the Brewers need to re-sign Mike Moustakas. The third baseman is about as consistent as they come at the dish, and he really fit in nicely with that group of SoCal natives in Milwaukee. Over his last five years, he slashed .264/.325/.491 and hit an average of 31 homers per 147 games played, his median in that span.

Minnesota Twins

2019 Record: 101-61, 1st Place in AL Central

Positions of Need: SP, RP, C

Target: Whether he accepts his qualifying offer or not, the Twins need to retain Jake Odorizzi, who was their best pitcher in their second 100-win season in franchise history and first since they won 102 in 1965. Odorizzi ranked sixth in the AL with a 3.51 ERA, and tallied a career high 178 strikeouts. His success could be sustainable, considering his uptick in velocity can be attributed to a change in mechanics.

New York Mets

2019 Record: 86-76, 3rd Place in NL East

Positions of Need: RP, SP, CF/3B

Target: Mets fans want Brodie Van Wagenen to make a splash this offseason, and we’ve already seen him make blockbuster trades in both the offseason (Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz) and before the trade deadline (Marcus Stroman), so the trade market again could be where the second-year GM makes a splash. Their best option is probably a late-innings reliever. Consistency should be their friend here instead of getting the flashiest bullpen name. As SI’s Ben Reiter wrote in his free-agent rankings: “Only Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw have pitched more than [Steve] Cishek’s 243 innings over the past four years to a better ERA than his 2.52.”

New York Yankees

2019 Record: 103-59, 1st Place in AL East

Positions of Need: SP, CF, C

Target: Like Jose Abreu and the White Sox, it seems like too much of a cop out to put Brett Gardner as the Yankees’ top target, so let’s look elsewhere for their guy. We all know the Yanks are going to be in on Gerrit Cole, though it’s uncertain how much they’d spend on him. Brian Cashman seems most willing to open up the checkbook when the Yankees are either under pressure or when some sort of era is ending in the Bronx. This was their first decade since the 1910s that they didn’t win an AL pennant, and 2020 will be the first season without their last free-agent splurge on a starting pitcher, CC Sabathia. The most CC-like guy on the free-agent market is Madison Bumgarner, so if he doesn’t wind up back in San Francisco or near his hometown of Hickory, N.C., (Atlanta), the Bronx is burning for an arm like MadBum's.

Oakland Athletics

2019 Record: 97-65, 2nd Place in AL West

Positions of Need: RP, 2B, SP

Target: The A’s aren’t going to spend big, as we all know by now. Value is going to be their best friend. They should turn to the second baseman for the last Bay Area team to win a World Series, Joe Panik. The ultimate buy-low, defense-first guy with offensive potential seems like the prototype of someone who’d resurrect his career with the A’s. He doesn’t strike out and was a much better hitter once he joined the Mets last August (.277/.333/.404).

Philadelphia Phillies

2019 Record: 81-81, 4th Place in NL East

Positions of Need: SP, 3B, RP

Target: We know the Phillies are going to pursue Josh Donaldson and Anthony Rendon in free agency, but adding a starting pitcher or two remains their biggest need. If they miss out on both Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, reuniting with Cole Hamels seems like a safe bet. Hamels was great with the Cubs in the second half of 2018 and first half of 2019, before an injury plagued his performance over the final three months. Still, he made his last start of the year intent on showing clubs he was healthy, throwing four scoreless innings and striking out eight before the Cubs pinch-hit for him.

Pittsburgh Pirates

2019 Record: 69-93, 5th Place in NL Central

Positions of Need: Manager/GM, C, SP

Target: The Pirates need leadership after last season’s senseless horror show that would make only Colonel Walter E. Kurtz envious. Their Apocalypse Now-like dysfunction was headlined by a ton of basebrawls with the Reds, in-fighting between relievers and the fallout of two of the worst trades in baseball over the last few years (Tyler Glasnow/Austin Meadows for Chris Archer; Gerrit Cole to the Astros). This is no easy fix. Bring in Buck Showalter as manager.

San Diego Padres

2019 Record: 70-92, 5th Place in NL West

Positions of Need: SP, OF, Offense

Target: The Padres will make another splash signing this offseason, and it will be for a starting pitcher. San Diego-native, first-overall pick out of San Diego State and now World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg is the perfect fit for the Padres.

San Francisco Giants

2019 Record: 77-85, 3rd Place in NL West

Positions of Need: OF, SP, Manager

Target: The Giants’ offense was terrible last season, and while it’s never going to be elite in this boom-or-bust era playing at Oracle Park, San Francisco needs to be better. Their leftfield options were so limited last season that they had catcher Stephen Vogt start five games out there. Yikes. Bring in Avisail Garcia and let him rake.

Seattle Mariners

2019 Record: 68-94, 5th Place in AL West

Positions of Need: SP, RP, OF Defense

Target: How the Mariners went 13-2 over their first 15 games is beyond explanation. They need pitching help. Add a starter like Michael Wacha and trade him at the deadline for more prospects if he pitches well.

St. Louis Cardinals

2019 Record: 91-71, 1st Place in NL Central

Positions of Need: SP, Power Hitter, RP

Target: Adam Wainwright will be back with the Cardinals, but St. Louis needs a middle-of-the-order hitter with Marcell Ozuna hitting free agency and Matt Carpenter’s 2019 struggles. They’ve wanted Josh Donaldson for a long time and could probably use him, though it’s hard to imagine them giving up on Carp just yet. Even if Ozuna accepts his qualifying offer, I think it’d be fun to see Yasiel Puig in a Redbirds uniform.

Tampa Bay Rays

2019 Record: 96-66, 2nd Place in AL East

Positions of Need: 1B/DH, C, RHH

Target: The Rays wanted Edwin Encarnacion last season before the Yankees swooped in and acquired him from the Mariners. Now, after New York didn’t pick up Encarnacion’s option, the veteran power hitter could be walking the parrot in Tropicana Field. This makes too much sense for it not to happen.

Texas Rangers

2019 Record: 78-84, 3rd Place in AL West

Positions of Need: 3B, SP, 1B

Target: The Rangers want to make a marquee move this offseason before they open up their new ballpark in 2020. Alas, Anthony Rendon is probably going to cost too much. Instead, they should go after the next best third baseman on the market, Josh Donaldson, to jolt both their clubhouse and fan base.

Toronto Blue Jays

2019 Record: 67-95, 4th Place in AL East

Positions of Need: SP, 1B, OF

Target: The core is there. Now, it’s time for the Blue Jays to add veteran pitching around it. Kyle Gibson, Tanner Roark and Wade Miley should all be on their radar. Roark is probably the best of the three and could be used to trade for more young talent in July. After all, Toronto is still a year away from truly competing.

Washington Nationals

2019 Record: 93-69, 2nd Place in NL East

Positions of Need: 3B, RP, SP

Target: When the Nationals let Bryce Harper walk last year, they knew Anthony Rendon was going to be a free agent after the 2019 season, and it seemed like he was the homegrown guy they wanted to keep. Now, after he was one of the main reasons they won their first World Series in franchise history, the Nats need to re-sign Rendon. His steady presence and elite tools (other than sprint speed) is perfect for their roster of characters.