The calendar has officially flipped to 2018, which means we can finally say that baseball will be played “this year” instead of “next year.”
Now that we all have a clean slate, more than a few of us probably have made some New Year’s resolutions to uphold over the next 12 months. MLB clubs are no different, so we gave each team one resolution to work toward in 2018.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Get Their Finances in Order
After a very disappointing 2016, the D-backs did a complete about-face in 2017, going from a 69-93 showing to a 93-69 performance, including a NL Wild Card game play-in victory and an appearance in the NLDS.
But instead of looking to make a serious play for a major free agent like J.D. Martinez, they don’t even have the opportunity to seriously consider it unless the asking price drops because there’s no payroll flexibility. Before any arbitration salaries are considered, Arizona has $66.45 million on the books this season. Their top three earners are Zack Greinke ($34 million), Yasmany Tomas ($13.5 million) and Paul Goldschmidt ($11.1 million).
While it would likely hurt the pitching staff overall, hearing that the front office is at least talking with clubs about dealing Greinke makes sense. Doing so would provide tremendous payroll relief — both right now and into the immediate future.
Atlanta Braves: Distance Themselves From the Last Front Office Regime
Based off what transpired from MLB’s investigation of the Atlanta Braves, this winter has been quite a bummer — even if they pulled off an intriguing trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I mean, it’s not every day that a team has someone banned from the game for life, along with losing about a dozen prospects in the process.
Atlanta has done a great job at turning the page thus far by bringing in Alex Anthopoulos to lead the way, and he immediately made his mark with that trade with LA. It’ll continue to be a process moving forward, but they’re headed in the right direction.
Baltimore Orioles: Trade Manny Machado
We should never say that a division has been decided before teams even report to Spring Training, but the AL East might be. This was supposed to be the year Balitmore makes one last run before a good chunk of their current core hits free agency. But they’re not interested in investing heavily to improve the starting rotation, Zach Britton is hurt, the Yankees added Giancarlo Stanton and the Red Sox will almost certainly make some kind of big splash.
General manager Dan Duquette is doing the right thing by seriously listening to offers for Machado — it’s highly unlikely he’ll sign an extension, so they’re better off getting prospects in return instead of just draft-pick compensation.
Boston Red Sox: Hit More Home Runs
What did the Red Sox miss more than David Ortiz‘s presence in the clubhouse last year? That’d be his bat in the middle of Boston’s lineup.
The 168 home runs and .149 ISO they posted as a team in 2017 both resided at the bottom of the American League. This fact makes it seem as if an eventual agreement between the club and Martinez is all but inevitable. However, if the right-handed slugger doesn’t end up taking his talents to Boston, Dave Dombrowski will have to come up with an alternative. And fast.
Chicago Cubs: Gain Some Cost Certainty With Kris Bryant
Third baseman Kris Bryant is entering his first year of arbitration, and he ain’t gonna be cheap. This is a player who has won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP in just three seasons.
He’s also already slugged 94 homers in 2,014 plate appearances and owns a career 143 wRC+, while the 21.6 fWAR he’s accumulated during this time is the most in baseball at his position.
If the Cubs are going to make a big splash next winter (*cough* Bryce Harper *cough*), it’d be helpful to at least try to know how much Bryant’s services will cost them in the long term.
Chicago White Sox: Sell High on Avisail Garcia
After being aggressive sellers to kickstart a significant organizational rebuild, the last two players Chicago has left that they could potentially ship out of town include Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia.
Both have seen their name in the rumor mill, and while it’d be hard to find a satisfactory deal for either, it’d be a good idea for general manager Rick Hahn to sell high on Garcia.
The young outfielder finally experienced a breakout campaign where he posted an .885 OPS, 137 wRC+ and 18 homers in 2017, all of which are new career highs. The big red flags here include a super-high BABIP (.392), along with a ground-ball rate (52.2%) and chase rate (41.0%) that aren’t much different from earlier in his career.
Cincinnati Reds: Develop Their Young Pitching
When we look at starting rotation performance over the past two years, the Reds have struggled quite a bit. Their 2.8 fWAR and 5.55 ERA in 2017 were the second-worst marks in baseball. In 2016, their 4.79 rotation ERA was tied for fifth worst while the 2.6 fWAR was last in the league.
Cincinnati has some intriguing offensive pieces around Joey Votto in Eugenio Suarez, Adam Duvall and Scott Schebler (among others), but they need to get their young pitching figured out. It’ll be interesting to watch in 2018 — per Roster Resource, only two of their five projected starters are more than 25 years old (Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey).
Cleveland Indians: Keep Trying to Extend Francisco Lindor
Francisco Lindor brings a lot to the table for the Indians. The front office is well aware of that, which is why they’ve already tried to lock him up before even hitting arbitration. However, their efforts from last winter — which reportedly included an offer of at least $100 million — wasn’t enough to spur an agreement.
That doesn’t mean Cleveland should stop trying, though. They did make a big splash recently by signing Edwin Encarnacion, but that’s not this club’s usual style given the budget. Not only was this seen in their pursuit of Carlos Santana before pivoting to Yonder Alonso, but there’s already skepticism that Andrew Miller and Cody Allen will commit to sticking around before hitting the open market next winter.
The Indians’ window is still wide open, but it’s going to shut soon. Once they have to start retooling, it’ll be good to have Lindor there as the building block.
Colorado Rockies: Don’t Ignore the Offense
Within the past month, the Rockies have committed over $100 million to Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, and Wade Davis to give them what could easily be viewed as one of baseball’s best (and definitely most expensive) bullpens.
Detroit Tigers: Figure Out a Way to Rid Themselves of Jordan Zimmermann‘s Contract
Entering the third season of a five-year, $110 million deal, it’s safe to say that Jordan Zimmermann hasn’t enjoyed his time in the Motor City. A 5.60 ERA (supported by a 5.05 SIERA) with a 14.5% strikeout rate, 6.0% walk rate and 34.8% hard-hit rate allowed through 265.1 innings of work doesn’t sound like a good time.
With three years and $74 million remaining on this albatross of a deal, it’ll be next to impossible to receive any value in some kind of trade. Detroit would also have to pay a significant chunk of the money still owed to Zimmermann, but if they can pay a number below $74 million, they should chalk that up as a win.
Houston Astros: Resist the World Series Hangover
It’s hard to climb right back up the mountain after reaching the top. There haven’t been any repeat winners since the Derek Jeter-led Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s, and the 2017 Chicago Cubs can serve as an interesting cautionary tale for the Astros.
After winning it all in 2016, they looked primed for a dynasty with such a young and talented roster. They still could be on the verge of one since reaching their third straight NLCS is nothing to scoff at, but let’s not forget that they were 43-45 at the All-Star break. Sure, they turned it on when it was needed, but it took an awfully long time.
Kansas City Royals: Start Rebuilding
General manager Dayton Moore seems set on a rebuild, but it wouldn’t be surprising for him to wait and see where Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain actually land before doing so. He probably shouldn’t, though.
Are they all good players? Yes. Did they each play an integral role in KC’s two consecutive trips to the World Series (and one win)? Yes. But that emotional attachment shouldn’t erase the fact that this squad failed to win more than 81 games in each of the last two years.
Would it make sense to bring one back if his market crashes and the opportunity arises? It would make some sense, but there’s no way around an eventual rebuild, so the Royals shouldn’t be waiting around.
Los Angeles Angels: Get Mike Trout Into the Playoffs
Mike Trout is only 26 years old, but he’s already accomplished a lot in the big leagues. He owns a .306/.410/.566 triple slash with 200 doubles, 201 homers, 165 stolen bases and 569 RBI, but that’s just part of it. Since 2012, he’s been selected to every All-Star game, has won five Silver Slugger awards and finished outside the top two in AL MVP voting just once.
The one thing Trout hasn’t done yet? Experience what it feels like to win a playoff game. The Angels have reached the postseason only once with him leading the way, and they were swept right out of the ALDS by the Royals. Already with a terrific set of moves this winter, the front office is doing everything possible to change this.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Take the Next Step
Experiencing success is not a foreign concept to the Dodgers in recent years. They’ve qualified for the postseason in each of the last five seasons, which has included three trips to the NLCS before reaching the World Series this past year for the first time since 1988.
It’s not easy to reach the Fall Classic, but with how Los Angeles is currently constructed, they need to take advantage of the championship window that is open right now.
It was no secret that the Marlins’ new ownership planned on slashing payroll, but that doesn’t make it look any less sad.
Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Stanton will all be in different uniforms once April rolls around, but they’re apparently in no rush to trade J.T. Realmuto or Christian Yelich — probably because they’re the best cheap players they’ve got. But honestly, will holding onto them attract that many more people to games? People were barely going before all the trades happened.
They might as well sell as high as possible right now on these two and keep replenishing the farm system. Groundwork is reportedly being laid for potential deals, and Miami should just go through with it. If you’re going to go this far, just go for broke and finish the job.
Milwaukee Brewers: Spend Some Money
The Brewers were one of baseball’s most pleasant surprises in 2017. Many viewed them as still being in the midst of a rebuild entering last year, but they gave the Cubs a run for their money in the NL Central before finishing just one game behind the Rockies for the final Wild Card spot.
Possibly the most impressive part was Milwaukee’s payroll — they spent just under $84 million on talent in 2017, the lowest mark in baseball. With less than $50 million on the books for this year prior to arbitration, they’re in a unique position to spend.
And with Jimmy Nelson set to miss a significant chunk of 2018, an opportunity to spend for a top-of-the-market arm is there. So far, Milwaukee has brought back Yovani Gallardo and signed Jhoulys Chacin. So, the chance to dish out some cash is still there.
Minnesota Twins: Find Help for the Starting Rotation
The Twins have a similar story to that of the Brewers, but the difference is that they went from being a 100-loss team to a playoff team from one year to the next.
They have more money committed to players over the next couple years than Milwaukee, but with literally nothing on the books by 2020, they also have money to spend. Minnesota has been connected to Yu Darvish multiple times this winter. If he were to actually sign with the club, he’d bring a significant boost to a rotation that posted a 7.7 fWAR in 2017 — which was better than just eight other clubs. And no, none of those below the Twins made it into the playoffs.
As a frame of reference, Davish was worth 3.5 fWAR all by himself in 186.2 innings of work last year.
New York Mets: Keep Their Stars Healthy
If we’re being honest, the Mets need more than one resolution (ya know, because they’re apparently not going to spend a lot of money again). However, if they’re not going to make any significant additions, the focus must turn to keeping players on the field.
No excuses should be made, but it is tough to compete when your best pitcher and position player in Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, respectively, each missed at least half of the season. For the Mets to rebound from a 92-loss campaign, they must stay healthier as a unit than they have in recent years.
New York Yankees: Get to the World Series
Back during the “Evil Empire” days, the Yankees had that World-Series-or-bust mentality. There was more of a rebuilding mindset heading into 2017, but the Baby Bombers ended up just one win away from their first trip to the Fall Classic since winning it all in 2009.
Expectations were already high for 2018, but with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and potentially a major rotation upgrade, things are ramped up even more.
Oakland Athletics: Find Another Site for a New Stadium
After not having a concrete direction for a while, the Athletics officially committed to a rebuild by trading Sonny Gray prior to the non-waiver trade deadline. Some tough years may be ahead, but it’ll at least be interesting to see guys like Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Franklin Barreto get expanded playing time.
And just when Oakland thought they had a site for a new stadium all set, things changed and they were told to keep looking. This should be priority number one right now. I’ve been to O.co Coliseum, and it made me sad. The stadium itself will take time to build, but just the promise of something new needs to be on the horizon.
Philadelphia Phillies: Keep Spending All That Money
There was an open question earlier this offseason about when the rebuilding Phillies would finally start spending the money that’s been burning a hole in their back pocket. As it turns out, this winter is when they’re going to start.
Signing Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek and (most notably) Carlos Santana signal that Philadelphia feels they’re close to contention. And spending some money now could make them look like a more attractive landing spot to next year’s star-studded free agent class.
So, now that they’ve started, there’s no reason to stop if a particular opportunity makes sense.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Let Cutch Free
This is only the second winter in which the Andrew McCutchen trade rumors have really been dominating the narrative in Pittsburgh, but it feels like an eternity. It’s been a good run between these two, but now is time to end this marriage.
That’s never been clearer than when Neal Huntington said earlier this offseason that retaining the face of their franchise and winning a World Series were “contradictory goals.”
San Diego Padres: Don’t Stray From Their Plan
The Padres haven’t won more than 77 games in a season since 2010 and are in the midst of a rebuild, but that hasn’t stopped them from being legitimately interested in Eric Hosmer. A signing like this does make some sense — he’s been on a winning club, is a veteran and is entering just his age-28 season. So, he could still be productive once the Padres are competitive again.
Could he make them better? Yes, but it’s hard to justify that kind of commitment to a player that owns a 53.4% career ground-ball rate…especially when he’ll be playing at Petco Park, which was the worst park for lefties with regard to overall offensive production last year, per Baseball Prospectus.
San Francisco Giants: Keep Their Top Three Starters on the Mound
Bringing in Evan Longoria is a good start toward upgrading an offense that was horrendous in 2017. However, the health of San Francisco’s rotation — the front end of it, specifically — is vital toward any hopes of contention.
A dirt bike limited Madison Bumgarner to just 111 innings, Johnny Cueto wasn’t himself and Jeff Samardzija got awfully unlucky when looking at some advanced metrics last year. These three guys need to be in sync for the Giants to bounce back from a 98-loss campaign, no matter how many offensive upgrades are made (and there need to be many).
Seattle Mariners: Finally Make the Playoffs
Why does general manager Jerry Dipoto make so many trades? Well, the Mariners don’t have the ability to just throw money at whichever players they need, and time is limited with their current core of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez together (even if not all of them have been productive recently).
Seattle hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001, which is baseball’s longest postseason drought. For some perspective, that was Ichiro’s rookie season, and he’s starting to push 50 years old.
St. Louis Cardinals: Stop Obsessing Over Josh Donaldson
If it were up to the Cardinals, their acquisition of Ozuna would also be paired with one for Josh Donaldson. Unfortunately for them, it doesn’t seem like the Blue Jays are willing to budge unless they get blown away with a package that will help them win right now. St. Louis also dipped their toe into the water with regard to trading for Machado, but it seems as if they’d prefer Donaldson.
Either way, the likelihood of a trade actually happening is slim (which we’ll get to in a minute), so they should focus on making upgrades elsewhere.
Tampa Bay Rays: Tear Everything Down
The Rays just traded away Evan Longoria, arguably their best player in franchise history. There’s no reason to sell a few pieces and hold onto others — just let it all fly, baby. Chris Archer‘s name is in the trade rumor mill constantly, but after seeing Tampa’s third baseman pack his bags, he should get mentally prepared to do the same. Just in case.
Texas Rangers: Get Their Bullpen to Support a Revamped Rotation
The Rangers hoped to reached the postseason for the third consecutive year in 2017, but they ended up going 78-84 and traded Yu Darvish to the Dodgers at the non-waiver trade deadline. While general manager Jon Daniels really wanted Shohei Ohtani, he’s made a number of additions to the rotation behind Cole Hamels and Martin Perez, including Doug Fister, Matt Moore, and Mike Minor.
If they’re going to bounce back in 2018, though, they’ll need a better bullpen. Texas’ relief corps was worth just 1.6 fWAR last year off the strength of baseball’s third-worst ERA (4.76), third-worst LOB% (70.4%), tied for the third-worst strikeout rate (20.4%), and a walk rate (9.9%) that was also not too great compared to their competition.
Acquiring Minor was a solid move because he had such a fantastic year out of the bullpen for Kansas City. While the Rangers are going to give him a shot to start, the southpaw would be a huge asset to an underperforming bullpen.
Toronto Blue Jays: Commit to a Side
The Blue Jays are aiming to contend, but it’s hard to tell. Despite Josh Donaldson entering a contract year, Toronto appears set on holding onto him to contend. However, the only acquisitions they’ve made thus far include trading for Aledmys Diaz and Gift Ngoepe to lengthen their bench.
Unless they make a drastic move or two, they seem destined to finishing third in the division before Boston and New York.
Washington Nationals: Go For Broke With Bryce Harper in the Fold
Outside of the catcher position, the Nationals don’t have many obvious holes on their roster. That hasn’t stopped them from poking around the top of the free agent and trade markets anyway, even if luxury tax concerns may hold them back. Washington is in a good position to spend next winter when Bryce Harper and a number of other stars hit the open market, but it’s better to not wait.
There’s no guarantee that Harper will re-sign with the club, so why not just do everything possible to attempt making it happen this year? It could be worth the extra tax if any potential moves help the Nats actually get past the NLDS and deeper into October.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at FanDuel Insider, numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.