Biggest offseason question for every MLB team: Who spends big? Who tears it down? Who's on trade block?

The World Series and general managers’ meetings are behind us, and the winter meetings are just around the bend. Yes, the 2023-24 Major League Baseball offseason is about to go full bore, and that means it’s time to lay out each team’s central question heading into the hot stove season. Let’s do that now. 

Question: Will they land a third baseman?
If the NL champion D-backs want to make another deep playoff run, they probably need to address that 84-win baseline paired with a negative run differential. One way to do that is by fetching an upgrade at the hot corner. Last season, Snake third basemen – primarily Emmanuel Rivera and Evan Longoria – combined to hit just .234/.304/.340 with just 10 home runs. That’s not adequate production for a corner spot. Early on, the D-backs have been linked to Justin Turner. 

Question: Can Charlie Morton be a rotation stabilizer?
The otherwise mighty Braves have rotation depth concerns behind ace Spencer Strider. Kyle Wright will likely miss all of 2024 after undergoing shoulder surgery, and Ian Anderson is a bit of an unknown in what will be his first season back from Tommy John. The Braves picked up their $20 million option on Morton, and they’ll need him to give them reliable innings. He’ll be 40 years of age soon, and this past season he showed signs of decline at the peripheral level. He’ll need to stay healthy and stave off further slippage if the Braves are going to have anything like the rotation they’ll need to win the World Series in 2024. A related question might be: Will the Braves add rotation help this offseason? 

Question: Is John Angelos willing to spend on the rotation?
The O’s were one of the best teams in baseball this past season, and their enviable young core gives them a contending foundation for years to come. However, Angelos’ dereliction of basic duties meant that lead decision-maker Mike Elias didn’t have room in the budget to add a true needle-mover to the flawed rotation, both during the offseason and leading up to the trade deadline. That made the O’s poorly equipped to make a deep playoff run. Will Angelos do his job this time around and spend like something resembling a contender?

Question: Will new chief baseball officer Craig Breslow do anything notable in his first offseason?
After the decision to fire Chaim Bloom for cutting payroll as he was asked to do and having a raft of candidates decline to replace him atop an increasingly dysfunctional front office, Breslow steps into the uncertain breach. How he conducts his first winter in charge of the Red Sox will probably be driven by ownership’s willingness to do much of anything at all after doing their best to make the team worse in recent years. If Breslow is permitted to swing big in free agency or trade, then it may be a tell that the Red Sox are finally ready to try again. If they don’t, then it may be a tell that John Henry isn’t done with his journey from being one of the best owners in MLB to becoming one of the worst. 

Question: Will new GM Chris Getz tear it down? 
The White Sox are a bad team, and their most recent rebuild – while promising for some time – didn’t bear the expected fruit. Rick Hahn and Ken Williams are no more, and even though Getz was an internal hire to lead baseball ops he may want to put his own stamp on things with a pivot toward the future. That would likely mean a winter blockbuster that ships Dylan Cease out of town. Whatever the case, the Sox will determine their future this offseason. 

Question: How much will they spend on improving the roster?
The Cubs recently pulled off the stunner of the offseason so far when they landed coveted manager Craig Counsell. With one of the best skippers around in the fold, it’s incumbent upon ownership to make this into a contending roster. Will they do that? That’s uncertain. They haven’t spent in line with their vast revenues in some time, and even following their drought-ending World Series title in 2016 they let their foot off the gas. The Cubs have an impressive young core and a new best-in-class manager. Will the Ricketts now do their part to turn them into the division favorites in 2024?

Question: What will they do to address the rotation? 
Injuries played a role, yes, but so did a lack of depth that predated those injuries in the Reds’ failed bid to make the playoffs this past season. Nick Krall is a heady top exec, and he no doubt knows this, but he’s hamstrung by the Castellinis’ unwillingness to invest in the product. That means he’ll have to add mid-tier rotation arms and hope they can be worked up to higher levels. The name or names that land with the Reds will be interesting in that light. 

Question: Will Shane Bieber be dealt?
It’s hard to tell whether the Guards are trying to contend in the eminently winnable AL Central or whether they’re trying to tread water. The front office is a good one, and the organization is a strong pitching incubator. Ownership, however, is asleep at the controls. Whether it’s a full-on rebuild or a softer pivot, a trade of their ace is probably under discussion as Bieber enters his walk year. There are some worrisome signs of premature decline for the 28-year-old, so perhaps the time is indeed nigh. 

Question: Will they get the No. 1 overall pick for the first time? 
The Rockies this past season went 59-103, and just the Royals and A’s had worse records. These days, though, MLB draft order at the top end is determined by lottery, and by finishing in the bottom three the Rockies share the best possible odds of landing the top pick with the Royals and Tigers. Said odds are 16.5%. That’s significant because the Rockies have never before had the No. 1 overall pick in their franchise history. They could use such a thing. 

Detroit Tigers

Question: How will they replace Eduardo Rodriguez?
E-Rod this past season enjoyed a nifty renaissance, as he pitched to a 134 ERA+ across 26 starts. On a rate basis, it was perhaps the best season of his career, and that’s why opted out with $49 million remaining on his Tigers contract and became a free agent. The Tigers, plausible contenders in a division as bad as the AL Central, will need to replace those high-quality innings. If a reunion with Rodriguez isn’t possible, then they’ll have to try to turn up a hidden gem on the market (assuming they’re not going to pursue the names at the top). 

Question: Who will replace Dusty Baker?
The (future) Hall of Fame manager stepped down after winning the World Series with Houston in 2022 and helping them a seventh-straight ALCS in 2023. So who does owner Jim Crane and lead operator Dana Brown tab to replace him for 2024 and beyond? Whoever the next Astros skipper is, he’ll inherit a contending roster but one that’s getting a bit on in years at some key spots. 

Kansas City Royals

Question: Have they finally bottomed out?
The 2023 Royals tied a franchise record with 106 losses, and they did that despite playing one of the weakest schedules in all of MLB. While Bobby Witt Jr. is very much a star in the present and a superstar in the future, the organization’s pitching outlook is as dismal as can be. More broadly, the Royals have been a terrible team for a long time. Following their World Series title of 2015, the Royals notched a pair of .500-ish seasons. Since then, however, they’ve lost 104, 103, 88, 97, and 106 games. At some point, this interminable rebuild needs to show progress. 

Question: Is a deep rebuild in the offing?
The Angels have been a bad team for years despite the presence of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Now, Ohtani is almost certainly bound elsewhere via free agency, and the temptation to burn it down and improve what’s one of the worst farm systems in baseball will be tempting. That, of course, may at last involve a trade of Trout to a contender. Given how consistently the Halos’ efforts to contend have failed, maybe that’s the path forward. 

Question: Will they sign Shohei Ohtani?
With ample reason, the Dodgers are widely considered the favorites to sign the top free agent of the offseason, probably to the largest contract in MLB history. They have a clear need at DH, where Ohtani can help immediately, and they’ll have future needs in the rotation, where Ohtani can help starting in 2025. 

Question: Will new prez Peter Bendix attempt to fix the offense?
Bendix left the Rays’ front-office incubator to run baseball ops for the Marlins. The first order of business will be trying to repair an offense that’s been lacking for some time and probably cost the team a postseason berth in 2023. Updating the Marlins’ approach to evaluating offensive talents is also in order, but that’s probably a longer-term objective. As for the current roster, will Bendix attempt an overhaul now or slow-play it and use 2024 to evaluate and plan? 

Question: Will their ace be traded? 
Now that Craig Counsell has headed down I-94 to the North Side of Chicago, will the Brewers take this opportunity to shift gears? If so, a trade of their walk-year No. 1  – Corbin Burnes – may be on the docket. Such a blockbuster would partly redefine the pitching market this offseason and likely put an end to the Brewers’ run of contention. 

Question: How deep will the payroll cuts go? 
Coming off a division title and an end to the postseason losing streak, the Twins are reportedly looking to shed payroll this offseason. Will that compromise their ability to repeat as AL Central champs. Perhaps, but then again it’s the AL Central. 

Question: How will they improve their lineup?
The Yankees had a bad lineup even when Aaron Judge was healthy last season. When he was sidelined, the offense was borderline abysmal. GM Brian Cashman recently hinted that they’d be looking to add multiple outfield bats. They’ll need to be very good ones if the Yankees are going to fix their run-scoring problem in 2024. 

Question: What will be the first big move of the David Stearns era?
Well, I suppose we should say the first big non-managerial move of the David Stearns era. They need rotation reinforcements, and owner Steve Cohen is of course a willing spender. Or maybe it’s an extension for Pete Alonso? Or maybe they’re very much in the mix for Shohei Ohtani? Whatever the specifics, the Mets’ new president of baseball operations will be under the microscope during his first offseason in charge. 

Question: Will the proposed move to Las Vegas be finalized?
John Fisher, the A’s supremely miserable owner, is in the process of attempting to uproot his team and relocate it to Las Vegas, which would immediately become the smallest market in MLB. He’s doing this in part because of the public welfare he’ll receive in Nevada and in part to strengthen his club’s status as a revenue-sharing recipient so that the unearned checks keep coming his way. There’s a sense of the inevitable about the move, but it shouldn’t be assumed at this juncture. Fisher’s fellow owners must approve the relocation, but the biggest challenge will be securing private funding for his share of the stadium-construction costs. Given the uncertainties and puzzling specifics of the project, this may prove more challenging than it seems. There’s also nothing to recommend Fisher’s competence at such endeavors. Don’t assume the Las Vegas A’s are a reality just yet. 

Question: Will Aaron Nola be back? 
Nola has been a workhorse front-line presence in the Philly rotation for more than half a decade. Now, though, the 30-year-old homegrown product may be bound elsewhere via free agency. Given the Phillies’ willingness to spend and their win-now status, letting Nola walk would be out of character. Maybe, though, it would show the Phillies – the team that knows the most about Nola by a huge margin – are concerned about his declining strikeout numbers and those heavy workloads of years prior? If they do let him sign elsewhere, the leading Phillies subplot becomes how they replace him. 

Question: When will Paul Skenes reach Pittsburgh?
With the top overall pick of last year’s draft, the Pirates tabbed LSU fireballer Paul Skenes. Skenes promptly signed and made his professional debut. While the results in his first pro season were a mixed bag, the Pirates saw enough to aggressively promote him. Indeed Skenes reached Double-A after just three starts. That puts him on track to reach the majors perhaps this coming season. Once he does arrive, he’ll be regarded as the future and, heck, perhaps present ace of the Pirates. No, this isn’t exactly an offseason question, but, well, Bob Nutting’s lazy ownership doesn’t permit much in the way of such things. 

Question: Will they trade Juan Soto?
The Pads ran one of the highest payrolls in MLB last season, but coming off a disappointing 82-80 campaign it looks like they’ll be paring things down. The most obvious path to reducing payroll is trading away the star slugger they landed via blockbuster swap with the Nats in August of 2022. Soto is entering his walk year and may be headed for a $30 million salary in his final year of arbitration eligibility. That’s a lot of payroll relief if you trade him, but that’s also one of your best players stripped from the roster. Trading Soto would quite obviously harm their chances of bouncing back in 2024. 

Question: Will they finally land a big fish? 
The Giants awkwardly backed out of their Carlos Correa signing last winter, and then weren’t able to land Aaron Judge despite an aggressive push and his Bay Area roots. Even though lead exec Farhan Zaidi recently signed an extension, there’s mounting pressure on him to field a contender with star power. The Giants need to make that happen this winter. 

Question: Will they add pop to the lineup?
The M’s broke their playoff drought in 2022, but a low-effort offseason by the front office hurt their bid to return to the postseason in 2023. They have an abundance of pitching, so even if they’re not willing to invest in free agents they can improve a flawed lineup via trade. Whatever path they choose, getting more power in the lineup should be a priority for GM Jerry Dipoto. 

Question: How will they fix the rotation? 
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has said he aims to add three starters to the Cardinals’ blighted rotation. Two of those additions figure to be front-end types, so all of this means they’ll be active in free agency and in the trade market. The Cards may also be poised to be more active in Japan than they’ve ever been given the interesting arms that are on the way over to MLB. The club is working with about $40-50 million in payroll room, and they have multiple interesting position players that could be packaged in trade. It’ll be a busy winter in St. Louis. 

Tampa Bay Rays

Question: Is Tyler Glasnow on the way out?
When the Rays signed the right-hander to a two–year, $30 million deal that paid him just $5 million in year one, it seemed obvious that the miserly club would deal him this winter. Indeed, there’s a great deal of informed speculation to that end, and there’s sure to be many interested parties. It’s probably not wise, given the decimated state of the Rays’ rotation, but there remains just zero buy-in from ownership. As such, Glasnow will probably spend his walk year elsewhere. 

Question: Will they keep spending?
The Rangers, to the immense credit of ownership, are clearly willing to invest in the team’s on-field success, and the approach quite obviously yielded the best possible result in 2023. Over the last two offseasons, they’ve spent heavily on Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jacob deGrom, and others, and that’s put them in luxury-tax territory. They have rotation needs, and there’s some speculation they may be eyeballing Shohei Ohtani for the 2024 lineup. Any or all of that would come at great expense, but the Rangers have the revenues and willingness to keep the good times going. 

Question: Who will be their third baseman in 2024?
Matt Chapman remains a fielding plus at the hot corner, but his production at the plate slipped significantly as the season wore on. He’s a free agent going into his age-31 season, and it’s not certain the Jays will do what’s needed to keep him. If they determine decline has set in, they’ll need to look elsewhere. The free-agent market isn’t especially rich with non-Chapman options. Thirty-nine-year-old Justin Turner? Jeimer Candelario? Gio Urshela? Absent a trade, paying the going rates for Chapman looks more appealing considering the fallbacks. 

Question: Are the Nats for sale or not?
While waiting for the next generation of Nats stars to arrive – James Wood, Dylan Crews, and Brady House lead the way – the big unknown is when, or even if, the Lerners will sell the team. It was widely reported that the club was indeed up for bidding, but then late in the season the current owners communicated some mixed signals on that front. With inconsistent spending and a lack of clear direction from the very top, the Nationals could indeed use some fresh stewardship. Maybe we’ll soon know whether that’s in the offing. 

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