The 2023 season ended several weeks ago, with the Rangers defeating the Diamondbacks to take home their first World Series on November 1st. Now, it’s time to look towards the offseason, always one of the most exciting times of the year. Every year, the Hot Stove is full of big-money signings, blockbuster trades, and endless speculation. And if you play your cards right, it can turn your team’s fortunes around in an instant.
I’m no clairvoyant, but I think it’s the perfect time for a fresh round of new offseason predictions. Going into each season, every team undergoes roster turnover, even if they have different reasons for doing so. Some teams need to fill holes to maintain their success. Others need to add elite talent to finally take the leap towards contention. And the rest are just looking to do enough talent to stay afloat in their rebuilds. Taking each of these goals in mind, we can start to identify some realistic options for each team going into 2024.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Sign Eduardo Rodriguez
The Diamondbacks weren’t supposed to find themselves in the World Series last year, yet they managed to parlay a surprise Wild Card appearance all the way to the Fall Classic. However, their eventual exit showcased their inexperience and the weaknesses in their roster construction. Arizona could definitely stand to upgrade in the outfield, but Mike Hazen’s priority should be strengthening the rotation. Adding Rodriguez to a rotation with Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Brandon Pfaadt would instantly give the Diamondbacks one of the best rotations in baseball. It’s a perfect move, and one that gives Arizona a chance to continue their playoff success going forward.
Atlanta Braves: Sign Tommy Pham
The Braves’ roster truly is flawless. It’s so difficult to find holes in their lineup or their pitching staff. If you squint hard enough, you could try to make the argument that they should upgrade from Orlando Arcia at shortstop, but none of the options on the free agent market are more convincing than Arcia, or former top prospect Vaughn Grissom for that matter. However, with Eddie Rosario hitting free agency, the Braves need to find a new left fielder for 2024. Pham isn’t the flashiest option, but the Braves have never prioritized making headlines when signing outfielders. Coming off a fantastic postseason with the Diamondbacks, Pham would fit in seamlessly within Atlanta’s lineup.
Baltimore Orioles: Trade for Tarik Skubal
The Orioles need an ace. There is no other way around it. Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez can be the foundation to a really good rotation in the future, but Baltimore needs one more elite starter to take the leap toward World Series contention. While they could sign an ace off the free agent market, ownership has appeared hellbent on ensuring that their payroll is as low as possible, severely limiting the Orioles’ options to acquire controllable starting pitching. Enter Tarik Skubal. It is very possible that the Tigers are not at all interested in trading Skubal, rendering this entire discourse moot. But the Orioles have a logjam of prospects in the infield, and if they’re not going to spend big in free agency, they could stand to part ways with some of them in order to solidify their rotation.
Boston Red Sox: Trade for Jonathan India
The Red Sox middle infield was an absolute nightmare last year. In January, Trevor Story underwent elbow surgery, preventing him from playing until August. In that time, the Red Sox cycled through a laundry list of replacement-level names in their middle infield, such as Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez, Enmanuel Valdez, and Pablo Reyes. Valdez showed some promise with the bat down the stretch, and Nick Yorke could be up in the majors by the end of 2024, but I think it would be more beneficial for the Red Sox to take advantage of Cincinnati’s infield logjam by swinging a deal for Jonathan India, solidifying their infield for the foreseeable future.
Chicago White Sox: Trade Away Dylan Cease
The White Sox have really reached a point of no return here. After 2021, the team looked poised to take over a mediocre AL Central division. Their rotation boasted four elite starters, the lineup was full of young sluggers, and their shutdown bullpen had names such as Liam Hendriks and Aaron Bummer closing out games. Then, everything that could have possibly gone wrong went wrong. By 2023, All-Stars such as Tim Anderson and Yasmani Grandal were failing to be even league-average hitters. The rotation, once Chicago’s strength, was getting lit up like a Christmas tree on a weekly basis. And the bullpen started blowing games with shocking regularity as well. Now that Rick Hahn is gone, it’s time for the White Sox to start their firesale, and the first order of business should be trading Dylan Cease.
Chicago Cubs: Sign Matt Chapman
The Cubs barely missed the playoffs last season, finishing one game behind Arizona, the eventual NL pennant winners. Chicago already started their offseason with a bang, poaching Craig Counsell from the Brewers to manage their squad. But the lineup has several holes they need to fill before they look towards playoff contention, particularly at third base. Ever since they traded Kris Bryant to San Francisco, the Cubs have struggled to find any sort of stability at third, trotting out players such as Matt Duffy, Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Jeimer Candelario at the position to no avail. The Cubs could use a consistent presence at third, and signing Chapman, a two-time Platinum Glove winner, would give Chicago the best defensive infield in the majors by a country mile.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade Away Jonathan India
I’d really like to suggest a more interesting option than this. But there really isn’t much more Cincinnati can do to improve their current position. They’re loaded with young players at every single position, the rotation has five young starters, and their bullpen is pretty solid as well. Any veteran they could sign would hinder the development of the players they already have, which is counterproductive to the future of the Reds. Nick Krall’s priority should be trading India, recouping value for him, and clearing up a spot in the infield for Noelvi Marte.
Cleveland Guardians: Sign Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
The Guardians desperately need impact bats in the lineup, especially in the outfield. Myles Straw is a fantastic defender in center field, but his bat hasn’t been replacement-level since 2021. Steven Kwan is an on-base machine at his best, but he’s also never going to be a slugger in left. And in right, Will Brennan’s rookie year was mediocre at best, both offensively and defensively. Adding Ramon Laureano at the deadline helped a bit, but Guardians still need more impact bats in the lineup, especially after trading Josh Bell at the deadline. Signing Gurriel would give Cleveland a slugging DH who can play outfield at a high level, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
Colorado Rockies: Sign Jack Flaherty
It’s really difficult to sell pitchers on the idea of pitching in Coors, especially those who are highly sought after by contenders. But Colorado desperately needs a capable starter, and Flaherty doesn’t have much to lose at this point. Once the ace of the Cardinals staff in 2019, a string of injuries have significantly hindered his performance since then. In 2023, he managed to pitch over 100 innings for the first time since 2019, but his results in those innings were mediocre at best, and the stuff wasn’t what it once was. Maybe Flaherty can rediscover his form in Coors, and if he does, the Rockies might have a solid trade chip on their hands at the end of July.
Detroit Tigers: Sign Justin Turner
In 2023, the Tigers cycled through Nick Maton and Zach McKinstry at third base, neither of which was impressive enough to hold down the spot long-term. Signing Turner gives them a stable stopgap at the position while also serving as a designated hitter option after Miguel Cabrera’s retirement. With the exception of Kerry Carpenter, Turner’s .800 OPS in 2023 was better than every Tiger hitter. If Turner continues to turn back the clock, the Tigers have a nice rental asset to dangle at the deadline. And if he starts to show signs of age, Detroit can simply cut bait after the season ends.
Houston Astros: Sign Austin Hedges
Astros fans might read this paragraph with derision, but just hear me out for a second. Yainer Diaz is a bad framer, which is why Dusty insisted on starting Martin Maldonado over him. But Maldonado was a terrible hitter, arguably an even worse framer, and he’s now a free agent. Instead of having a catching platoon with two bad framers, why not sign the best defensive catcher in the league to replace Maldonado? No one is arguing that Hedges is going to be a great hitter for the Astros, but he also doesn’t have to be. As long as Yainer Diaz gets a majority of the at bats, Hedges doesn’t even need to swing a bat. He just needs to steal strikes for Houston’s rotation every once in a while, something he is very adept at.
Kansas City Royals: Sign Sean Manaea
In 2023, only three of the Royals’ starters managed to reach 100 innings: Jordan Lyles, Brady Singer, and Zack Greinke. All three of them had ERAs in the fives, and Greinke is a free agent again this offseason. This leaves the Royals with two consistent starters, as well as mid-season addition Cole Ragans. Similar to Colorado, the Royals lack reliable inning-eaters, and Manaea can fill that void. Manaea had a good six-year run in Oakland, but after getting traded to San Diego, his performance started to decline a bit. He became a free agent after a disappointing 2022 season, signed with San Francisco, and ended up finding himself in a bullpen role for the majority of 2023, making a couple of spot starts throughout the year. Kansas City could guarantee him a rotation spot, giving him the consistency he needs in order to regain his form and giving the Royals the inning-eater they desperately need.
Los Angeles Angels: Trade Away Brandon Drury
I considered writing “Sign Shohei Ohtani” for this paragraph, but I couldn’t stop laughing when I imagined Arte Moreno trying to negotiate with him. The Angels are just in a really awful position right now. They emptied the cupboards at the deadline in an attempt to make one last run at the playoffs, just to cut bait with every single player they acquired less than a month later. Now, Ohtani is a surefire bet to leave in free agency, and they’re stuck with a barebones roster and one of the worst farm systems in the league. They can only try to replenish the farm, and trading away Drury is the perfect place to start.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Sign Shohei Ohtani
Could you imagine? Shohei signing with the crosstown rivals? It would be so perfect. The stars are already aligning for it to happen. J.D. Martinez is set to become a free agent, creating a vacancy for the Dodgers at the designated hitter spot. And Julio Urias is also hitting the open market for the first time, leaving the Dodgers with an Ohtani-sized hole in the middle of their rotation. It’s just waiting to happen. The Dodgers are one of the few teams in the sport with both the money and the motive to truly push for Ohtani’s signature. It’s a match made in Heaven for both sides, and this is the only move that could really cement the Dodgers as the best team in the sport.
Miami Marlins: Sign Mitch Garver
The Jacob Stallings experiment was nice while it lasted, but that trade was an unmitigated disaster. In Pittsburgh, Stallings was one of the better defenders in the sport, and his bat was right around league average. But after getting traded to Miami, he became an awful defender, and his bat also fell off a cliff. He was not the next Realmuto that Miami hoped they were getting when they traded for him, and he was never even replacement level at any point in his Marlins’ tenure. Now that he’s a free agent, Nick Fortes is the only catcher on Miami’s roster, who’s marginally better than Stallings. Miami needs impact bats, especially with Jorge Soler hitting the open market, and Mitch Garver is one of the best sluggers you can get at the catcher position.
Milwaukee Brewers: Trade Away Devin Williams
I didn’t originally think the Brewers were going to get to this point so quickly, but the poaching of Craig Counsell started a deep spiral in Milwaukee that I think is going to lead to a fire sale. Following Counsell’s departure, the Brewers non-tendered Brandon Woodruff in what can only be described as a baffling move, even if he was projected to miss most of the 2024 season due to injury. It’s a move that indicates that the Brewers don’t intend to be very competitive going forward, inevitably leading to a rebuild. Trading Corbin Burnes would be very premature at this point, but if the Brewers aren’t committed to fielding a competitive roster going forward, it would be prudent for them to at least listen to offers on Devin Williams this offseason.
Minnesota Twins: Sign Jordan Montgomery
Sonny Gray was absolutely fantastic this year. Paired up with Pablo Lopez at the top of the rotation, Gray finished second in Cy Young voting, his first top-three finish since 2015. The Twins wouldn’t have won the division without him, which is why they need to prioritize replacing him if he leaves. Gray’s contract expired at the end of the year, making him a free agent alongside Kenta Maeda and Tyler Mahle, two other Twins starters. With both Gray and Maeda having taken their services elsewhere, the Twins need to start looking at the pitching market to find cost-effective replacements, and Jordan Montgomery is the perfect option. Fresh off a World Series win with Texas, Montgomery has everything it takes to complement Pablo Lopez in Minnesota.
New York Mets: Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto
Before you ask, I’m not suggesting this because the Mets have Kodai Senga on the roster; that’s just a really convenient coincidence. Yoshinobu Yamamoto is the best pitcher on the market, and it’s not much of a debate. He’s won the NPB’s equivalent to the Cy Young three separate times, he’s won the MVP for the Pacific League twice, and he’s also earned the NPB Triple Crown three times. All of this before the age of 25, I might add. He’s going to demand a contract well over $300 million, and he’ll be worth every penny. So, why the Mets in particular? The city talks, and so does Steve Cohen’s wallet. The Mets signed Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in consecutive offseasons, just to offload them both at the deadline in 2023. Cohen doesn’t like fielding uncompetitive teams, and the Mets have a massive void in their rotation at the moment. If they want to return to the playoffs, they have to make a move for the best, and Steve Cohen has the funds to facilitate that approach.
New York Yankees: Trade for Juan Soto
The Yankees need outfield help, and badly. Harrison Bader, their starting center fielder, was so underwhelming that he was waived before the season even ended. Aaron Judge will obviously remain a stable presence in right field. But outside of him, the conversation starts with names like Oswaldo Cabrera and Everson Pereira, neither of which are ready to start for the New York Yankees. Similar to Cohen, the Steinbrenners do not like fielding uncompetitive teams, and they’ll put pressure on Brian Cashman to do whatever he can in order to get back in the playoffs. In this case, that might entail taking advantage of San Diego’s dysfunction by swinging a trade for Juan Soto. Washington’s asking price was far too much for New York back in 2022, but San Diego’s price will likely be more reasonable for the Yankees, since Soto only has one year left on his deal. The Yankees have a lot of work to do in order to become contenders again, but a trade for Soto would be a step in the right direction.
Oakland Athletics: Trade Away Paul Blackburn
The market is not what it once was for the 2022 All-Star, but Blackburn’s one of the few tradeable players the Athletics have. Getting him out of Oakland would also open up a consistent rotation spot for one of the Athletics’ young starters. The Athletics currently have a mixed bag of pitchers, acquiring pieces such as Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina, Mason Miller, Kyle Muller, and Joe Boyle at various points in recent years. There’s a chance that none of them pan out, but Oakland has to give them the opportunity to figure it out at the major league level before deciding that. Keeping Blackburn around only makes that more difficult; there are only so many starts to go around.
Philadelphia Phillies: Sign Nick Martinez
For Dave Dombrowski, the most pressing order of business has already been done. Early in the offseason, they managed to lock in Aaron Nola to a seven-year, $172 million deal, keeping him in Philadelphia for the foreseeable future. Now, Dave Dombrowski has to work around the edges, looking for marginal improvements he can make throughout the offseason. Signing Nick Martinez would be a perfect move, giving the Phillies a fantastic bullpen option who can easily serve as an effective spot starter in a pinch. Martinez might not be the flashiest option, but this signing could look really smart down the stretch in October.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Trade Away David Bednar
Last offseason, Bryan Reynolds signed an extension that keeps him in Pittsburgh until 2032, precluding him from any trade rumors. However, the Pirates are still in a rebuild, so the most important order of business for Ben Cherington should be looking to trade their second-most attractive trade chip, David Bednar. From the moment that he arrived in Pittsburgh, Bednar has been one of the best closers in the league. With three years of control left, he’d likely fetch a pretty penny from contenders looking to strengthen their bullpens. Recent graduates have weakened Pittsburgh’s farm system, so the return from a Bednar trade would go a long way toward replenishing the Pirates’ minor league system.
San Diego Padres: Trade Away Juan Soto
I already mentioned a potential Juan Soto trade earlier, but San Diego has too many issues to resolve this offseason. Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Josh Hader, and Nick Martinez are just a few of the notable pitchers who are set to depart in free agency, not to mention position players like Gary Sanchez. The Padres can’t bring back everyone, and the pitching staff is only going to get worse going forward. While Preller could throw money at stopgap options to try and remain competitive, it would be much more prudent for the Padres to cut bait and recoup some value for Juan Soto before he hits free agency in 2025, with the intention of retooling around Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, and Fernando Tatis Jr.
San Francisco Giants: Sign Marcus Stroman
In my opinion, this move makes too much sense not to happen. Manaea already opted out of the final year of his deal with San Francisco, and Alex Wood is also set to leave in free agency. There’s a void in San Francisco’s rotation behind Logan Webb and Alex Cobb, and Stroman could fill that gap perfectly. His low strikeout, contact-managing approach fits well with Webb and Cobb, who have similar approaches to pitching. Webb, Stroman, and Cobb would become a formidable three-headed monster that could compete with a majority of the National League, setting San Francisco up to possibly make a surprise run at a Wild Card spot in 2024.
Seattle Mariners: Sign Jeimer Candelario
Jerry Dipoto must’ve been really bored when he traded Eugenio Suarez. Despite lacking any reason to do so, he created a massive hole at third base for Seattle, a spot that needs to be filled immediately if the Mariners have any hopes of being competitive in 2024. I don’t believe the Mariners intend to start Luis Urias at third, as he was unplayable in 2023. Refusing to upgrade at third would essentially be punting away 2024, a really disappointing outcome after the progress that Seattle has made in the past two seasons. If Dipoto does decide to upgrade at third, the Mariners could be a player for Matt Chapman as well. But if they end up missing out on him, Candelario is easily the next best alternative. Candelario has earned the chance to start for a contender after his 2023 performance, and he would be a perfect fit for the Mariners.
St. Louis Cardinals: Sign Blake Snell
Bill DeWitt has got to open his wallet at some point. The Cardinals can’t keep presenting themselves as a competitive baseball team while going dumpster diving for rotation options. Enough with the Steven Matzes and the Kyle Gibsons of the world. At a certain point, John Mozeliak is going to have to acquire an ace-level pitcher, and that time is now. Coming off an NL Cy Young win, Blake Snell is one of the best options the Cardinals have right now. If the Cardinals think they can contend, DeWitt needs to go out and get the best pitcher he can, even with the recent signing of Sonny Gray. If he isn’t willing to do so, then Mozeliak is going to have to take a hard look at the roster, and maybe start entertaining the possibility of trading Arenado or Goldschmidt.
Tampa Bay Rays: Sign Lucas Giolito
The Rays are never going to be the team to make any big splashes in free agency. But they absolutely have to try and find starting pitching depth on the open market this offseason. Shane McClanahan is set to miss all of 2024 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Drew Rasmussen is projected to miss a decent chunk of the year after undergoing the same procedure, and Tyler Glasnow is liable to miss at least ten starts in any given year due to injury. The Rays desperately need pitching, and Lucas Giolito seems like the cost-effective reclamation project that fits Tampa Bay’s modus operandi. If the Rays coaching staff can get Giolito performing at his apex again, they might have another ace on their hands for the foreseeable future. If they can’t, then they can cut bait after 2024 and forget it ever happened. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Giolito is a nice low-risk, high-reward play for Tampa this offseason.
Texas Rangers: Sign Josh Hader
If you had to nitpick one flaw on the 2023 Texas Rangers, it would easily be the bullpen. Outside of Jose Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman, the Rangers had no reliable bullpen arms last year. They managed to win the World Series in spite of it, but the bullpen almost cost them several games down the stretch in October. The Rangers’ number one priority should be upgrading their bullpen, and there aren’t many better ways to do so than signing Hader. Since debuting in 2017, Hader has been one of the league’s few consistent shutdown closers, outside of a bizarre 2022 campaign that I’m sure he’d rather forget. When Hader’s in the game, he ushers in a sense of inevitability, akin to prime Kimbrel. He makes the ninth inning feel like a formality, and the Rangers need that sort of stability in their bullpen.
Toronto Blue Jays: Trade for Yoan Moncada
After two disappointing seasons in a row, I don’t know what the market for Moncada is looking like right now. But if the White Sox start a fire sale this offseason, he’d be one of the first to go. Moncada hasn’t been an above-average hitter since 2021, but with Matt Chapman potentially leaving in free agency, the Blue Jays might be willing to take a flier on him if the price isn’t too steep. In 2019, Moncada was arguably a top 20 player in the league, and he’s only two years removed from a 4-win 2021 campaign. Moncada’s .730 OPS this year was an improvement on his abysmal 2022, showing signs of life in his bat. If Toronto takes a shot on him, a change of scenery could help him return to that form consistently.
Washington Nationals: Sign Joey Gallo
Joey Gallo will likely have offers from teams much better than the Washington Nationals. But after two consecutive disappointing seasons with the Yankees, the Dodgers, and the Twins, perhaps he could use a year in Washington to return to form. In his time in New York, Gallo faced intense scrutiny from the media, contributing to his .159 average. He performed better in Minnesota last season, but he still wasn’t able to replicate his performance with the Rangers. The Nationals have open spots in the outfield and at first base, and without any playoff expectations, they can afford to give Gallo a consistent role to redeem himself next season. In a pressure-free D.C. environment, maybe Gallo can regain the confidence he had in Texas, when he was hitting 40 home runs a season with ease.