Offseason team needs: AL East
Welcome to theScore's MLB offseason team needs, where we'll break down every club's roster and key free agents, along with how holes could be filled in free agency. Up first is the AL East.
*Player ages for 2021 season
2020 record: 25-35 (4th in AL East)
Projected 40-man payroll: $88M
Key free agents: Bryan Holaday, Wade LeBlanc
Needs: Starter, 2nd baseman, reliever
|3||Anthony Santander (S)||RF||26|
|7||Chance Sisco (L)||C||26|
|9||Rio Ruiz (L)||3B||27|
The Orioles had a surprisingly potent offense in 2020, ranking 14th in the majors in OPS and 15th in home runs despite Mancini missing the entire season. The club won't only be bolstered by Mancini's return in 2021, but also a full season of Mountcastle, who looks like a future star, and hopefully, the debut of No. 1 prospect Adley Rutschman. With the team being a few years away from playoff contention, the front office will likely look to take advantage of a deep free-agent pool and bring in some veterans on short-term deals similar to Iglesias last winter.
Baltimore received some encouraging performances from youngsters Akin and Kremer last season, while Means was solid (0.99 WHIP) despite some regression following a strong rookie campaign. There are pieces in place here, but expect the club to add a couple veteran arms to help mentor the young pitchers, eat some innings, and potentially serve as trade chips next season.
Boston Red Sox
2020 record: 24-36 (5th)
Projected 40-man payroll: $172M
Key free agents: Jackie Bradley Jr., Collin McHugh, Jose Peraza
Needs: Starter (2), 2nd baseman, center fielder, closer
|1||Alex Verdugo (L)||RF||25|
|3||Rafael Devers (L)||3B||24|
|6||Andrew Benintendi (L)||CF||27|
There's a lot to like about this offense. Verdugo, Devers, and Bogaerts are All-Star-caliber players, but the Red Sox will need bounce-back seasons from Benintendi and Martinez if they want to make a postseason run. Boston needs a center fielder with Bradley Jr. hitting free agency, while second base continues to be a revolving door with Dustin Pedroia unable to play. Expect the front office to also add help at first base to play alongside Dalbec.
The Red Sox should be heavily involved in the starting pitching market this winter after their starters combined to post a 5.34 ERA and league-worst 1.56 WHIP last season. Rodriguez's return from a COVID-related heart condition should help, but Chris Sale isn't expected to pitch until the second half, and the bottom third of the rotation comes with major question marks. The good news is that there should be plenty of resources to dedicate to the pitching staff and a number of free-agent arms available.
New York Yankees
2020 record: 33-27 (2nd)
Projected 40-man payroll: $175M
Key free agents: DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner, Tommy Kahnle, J.A. Happ
Needs: Starter (2), 2nd baseman, reliever
|1||Aaron Hicks (S)||CF||31|
|9||Tyler Wade (L)||2B||26|
The Yankees' top priority should be bringing back LeMahieu. While it would be a major blow if they're unable to retain him, there are alternatives. New York could sign one of numerous available free-agent shortstops or trade for Francisco Lindor, allowing Torres to move back to second base. Frazier's emergence as an everyday player is a big boost, but considering Gardner's potential departure, Michael Tauchman's step back in 2020, and the injury concerns surrounding Hicks, Judge, and Stanton, the team would do well to bring in another outfielder. Sanchez's future with the club is likely to be considered as well.
New York will need to fill a number of holes in its rotation, with three starters hitting free agency and Luis Severino still recovering from Tommy John surgery. German's return helps, and it's expected several of the young arms coming through the system will be ready to take on some innings, but a team with World Series aspirations will need to upgrade. Even with Cole, Yankees starters ranked 12th in ERA in 2020 and allowed the fifth-most home runs.
Tampa Bay Rays
2020 record: 40-20 (1st)
Projected 40-man payroll: $56.7M
Key free agents: Aaron Loup, Charlie Morton, Michael Perez, Mike Zunino
Needs: Catcher, starter, 3rd baseman
|1||Austin Meadows (L)||DH||26|
|2||Brandon Lowe (L)||2B||27|
|4||Ji-Man Choi (L)||1B||30|
|6||Joey Wendle (L)||3B||31|
|8||Kevin Kiermaier (L)||CF||31|
It's hard to find many weaknesses in the Rays' roster after their surprise run to the World Series. However, if they wish to repeat as AL champs, they'll need more offensive punch. Arozarena looks like a star in the making, but it would be wise to project some regression over a full season. The main focus will be bringing in a pair of catchers. Already a low-payroll club, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Tampa cut additional costs. The front office declined Morton's option and could conceivably shop Kiermaier or non-tender Hunter Renfroe.
The Rays remain elite at producing pitchers, though they'll need to look outside the organization for potentially a couple starters. Tampa had a number of internal candidates to slot into the rotation before Yonny Chirinos, Jalen Beeks, Brendan McKay, and Colin Poche all underwent major surgeries last summer, so expect some short-term deals for veterans to bridge the gap.
Toronto Blue Jays
2020 record: 32-28 (3rd)
Projected 40-man payroll: $97.5M
Key free agents: Chase Anderson, Anthony Bass, Ken Giles, Joe Panik, Matt Shoemaker, Jonathan Villar, Taijuan Walker
Needs: Starter (2), center fielder, 3rd baseman
|1||Cavan Biggio (L)||2B||26|
|3||Lourdes Gurriel Jr.||LF||27|
|5||Vladimir Guerrero Jr.||1B||22|
|6||Rowdy Tellez (L)||DH||26|
|8||Travis Shaw (L)||3B||31|
The Blue Jays are finally out of a lengthy rebuild and presumed to have money to spend, so it's time to truly commit to complementing their core of budding stars. Trading for an established third baseman should be the priority, but grabbing a shortstop and moving Bichette to another position is another option. Acquiring an established center fielder is also a must to help stabilize a below-average defensive outfield. While Guerrero's early conditioning photos are encouraging, keeping him at first base might be best for the club's long-term outlook.
Ryu lived up to his contract and even exceeded expectations in his first year with the Blue Jays. He needs lots of help in the rotation, however, as there are plenty of questions below him. Toronto's starters ranked 17th in ERA and 24th in strikeouts a season ago. Expect at least two more starters to be added following the re-signing of Ray, as he or Stripling can serve as swingmen in the bullpen. The front office should try to land a No. 2 starter to take some pressure off the young Pearson.