As the annual GM meetings kicked off earlier this week, we broke down where the Yankees’ 40-man roster and payroll stood, giving us an idea of what the front office has to work with going into the offseason. They will not, unfortunately, be the only contenders in the division who expect to be active on the free agent and trade markets. While we’re not going to dive into their payrolls and roster construction into as much detail as we did the Yankees’, let’s take a look at where the rest of the division stands at this point in time.
(Note: guaranteed contract info from Spotrac, arbitration estimates from MLB Trade Rumors)
Guaranteed Contracts: 1B Chris Davis ($21 million)
Deferred Contracts: SP Alex Cobb ($6.5 million), 1B/OF Mark Trumbo ($1.5 million), RP Darren O’Day ($1 million), P Andrew Cashner ($1 million)
Total Value of Arbitration Estimates: $22.7 million
Estimated Total Payroll: $53.7 million
Important Contributors: CF Cedric Mullins, SP John Means, 1B Ryan Mountcastle, DH Trey Mancini
Positions of need: Talented Players
The rebuild continues in Baltimore, as the team lost more than 108 games for the third time in four years. In a normal division, things would be starting to look up for the Orioles: Cedric Mullins had a breakout season, John Means is at worst a No. 2 starter in the rotation, and Ryan Mountcastle had a strong rookie campaign as the prospects start to make the jump to the big leagues. Unfortunately for them, however, they play in the American League East, a division that had four teams win at least 91 games in 2021. The mountain just keeps getting steeper.
For the most part, expect to see the Orioles continue with the strategy they have been pursuing, picking up low-cost starters that they can flip at the trade deadline for more prospects. While I don’t expect them to make any offers at the top of the market, it’s fair to wonder if they will attempt to reel in an impact player — perhaps a starting pitcher, which they are painfully thin at — in an effort to kick-start the rebuild into high gear, much like the San Diego Padres did with Manny Machado a few years back.
Guaranteed Contracts: CF George Springer ($25 million), SP Hyun Jin Ryu ($20 million), OF Randal Grichuk ($10.4 million), Lourdes Gurriel Jr. ($3.1 million)
Total Value of Arbitration Estimates: $43.1 million
Estimated Total Payroll: $101.6 million
Important Contributors: Springer, Ryu, 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., SS Bo Bichette, OF Teoscar Hernández, SP José Berríos
Positions of need: Third Base, Starting Pitching
The Toronto Blue Jays were the best team not to reach the postseason last year, with a powerful lineup led by two AL MVP finalists, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien. They underperformed drastically their 99-63 Pythagorean record, exceeding their actual record by a full 8 games. If they wish to maintain that dominance, they will need to put in some work this winter: Semien and presumptive Cy Young winner Robbie Ray are both free agents, and they will command big contracts.
Fortunately for them, both positions are well-stocked. Assuming the team wants to keep Bo Bichette at short — by no means a given, considering his -6 Outs Above Average at the position — they can move Cavan Biggio back to second base and chase Kyle Seager and Kris Bryant in free agency. If they’re willing to move Bichette around, they can also dive into the deep shortstop market even if they are unable to keep Semien. Additionally, the pitching market includes a plethora of options, which should allow the Blue Jays to pick up at least one pitcher at whatever level they’re shopping (e.g., front-end starters like Max Scherzer or middle-of-the-rotation guys like Eduardo Rodríguez and Michael Pineda).
Guaranteed Contracts: SP Chris Sale ($25.6 million), SS Xander Bogaerts ($20 million), DH J.D. Martinez ($22 million), SP Nathan Eovaldi ($17 million), UT Kiké Hernández ($7 million), C Christian Vázquez ($7 million), RP Hirokazu Sawamura ($1.5 million)
Total Value of Arbitration Estimates: $31.7 million
Retained Salaries: David Price ($16 million)
Deferred Salaries: RP Adam Ottavino ($3 million), Manny Ramirez ($2 million), Dustin Pedroia ($2 million)
Estimated Total Payroll: $154.8 million
Important Contributors: Sale, Bogaerts, Martinez, Eovaldi, 3B Rafael Devers
Positions of need: First Base, Second Base, Pitching, Defense
The Boston Red Sox appeared to come out of nowhere in 2021, coming dangerously close to repeating the 2013 season. Of course, a retrospective look at the 2020 last-place squad revealed a team that went 12-13 to end the season, and was likely closer to this talent level than their final spot in the standings would indicate. They were always capable of putting up runs and bunches; once their rotation clicked, winning games in bunches was a given.
That said, the Red Sox still have questions going into 2021. At the moment, they have no true first baseman, although the team is interested in bringing back Kyle Schwarber and continue his development at the position. Their infield defense was also atrocious — Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts combined for -22 OAA; perhaps position changes for the pair are in order, which would explain the team’s reported interest in the shortstop market. Lastly, their 2021 rotation was built on Chris Sale’s return from Tommy John surgery and a bunch of question marks. Looking for another sure thing to pair with their ace would arguably be the smartest move they could make.
Guaranteed Contracts: CF Kevin Kiermaier ($8.9 million), C Mike Zunino ($3 million), 2B Brandon Lowe ($4 million)
Total Value of Arbitration Estimates: $43.6 million
Retained Salaries: Evan Longoria ($5 million)
Estimated Total Payroll: $64.5 million
Important Contributors: SS Wander Franco, OF Randy Arozarena, OF Austin Meadows, C Mike Zunino, 2B Brandon Lowe
Positions of need: Starting Pitching, Designated Hitter
In many ways, the Tampa Bay Rays are built on the notion that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any true stars (although Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena are trying to change that) so long as you don’t have a hole at literally any position on the diamond. Yep, that’s where the Rays are right now: with the possible exception of a full-time designated hitter — with the departure of midseason acquisition Nelson Cruz, FanGraphs Depth Chart sees Yandy Díaz and his career 112 OPS+ as their primary DH — there’s no position on the diamond that screams, “You must find an upgrade this winter.” Sure, there’s room to add, perhaps to replace Joey Wendle at third or Manuel Margot in right, but if the team returns the same lineup in 2022 that they had in 2021, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Of course, this is the Rays we’re talking about, so it’s not out of the question that they will create a hole they need to fill by, say, dumping Kevin Kiermaier or Brandon Lowe to add to their already-stacked farm (and more importantly for them, to save a few million).
The big issue with Tampa Bay, however, might just be their pitching staff. That seems odd to say about the team that led the AL with a 3.67 ERA (3.79 FIP), but it’s true. At this point in time, the Rays have exactly three pitchers on the roster — Ryan Yarbrough, Josh Fleming and Shane McClanahan — who threw for more than 100 innings last season, and the first two had ERAs north of 5.00. While Kevin Cash always leans on his bullpen for a heavy workload — and does so with great success — expect them to try to add at least one reliable arm this winter to provide a safety net for their young hurlers.