“Playing GM” For Every MLB Team Ahead of 2020 Offseason: American League Edition

After we were treated to a fantastic World Series between the Rays and Dodgers, it is time for us to look ahead to the offseason! This is a tricky time to be a baseball analyst, as due to the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemics, teams appear to be intent on cutting payroll.

That won’t stop us from still enjoying what really is just the “other phase” of the baseball season. After all, the offseason is where teams set themselves up to succeed now, and in the future, so if certain teams take advantage of other teams cutting costs, the ramifications could be massive.

Today, I will be playing “general manager” for every American League team. Not only will I be assessing each team’s short-term and long-term outlook, but I will also provide them with key objectives that they will need to fulfill. This will differ from traditional offseason previews; my main focus is how each team can win sustainably. Thus, not only will I be looking to see how teams can improve their roster next season, but also to continue to win in the future. A consistent long-term focus has served the Rays and Dodgers well, and it’s time for more teams to stop adopting “buyer or seller” mentalities; each team should just be trying to be a sustainable winner.

With that settled, it is time to play general manager! We will go in alphabetical order by city, and will go over the National League in a separate article.

Baltimore Orioles

Photo Cred: Baltimore Sun

Short-Term Outlook

With a 28-32 expected record this season, the Orioles played better than expected. Nevertheless, they don’t have the talent to compete for the next few seasons. It will be exciting to see them integrate some of their young starting pitchers, but they definitely don’t have much in the way of pitching depth and infielders.

Long-Term Outlook

The Orioles’ farm system is filled with a lot of pitching depth, as well as arguably the game’s most valuable prospect in Adley Rutschman. Without many trade chips, they will have to continue to build through the draft, though their prospects are nearing MLB readiness and their two big contracts (Alex Cobb and Chris Davis) will be off the books soon.

Key Objectives

  • Add up-the-middle stopgaps
  • Add pitching depth
  • Keep spots open for young players

Baltimore’s middle infield situation isn’t ideal, so they could look to add stopgaps to solve that issue. As much as they want to rely on their young pitching, though, they also need to look elsewhere to add some innings, even if it’s low-upside innings eating options. Overall, it’s going to be a quiet offseason for the Orioles, but that isn’t a bad thing. There’s not much they can do this offseason to improve their long-term well-being, so they really just need to continue to what they’re doing; they just have to keep adding to their farm system and let their key prospects develop.

Boston Red Sox

Photo Cred: Over The Monster

Short-Term Outlook

2020 wasn’t too kind to the Red Sox, yet it is not as though they cannot compete for a postseason spot next season. They still possess a lot of offensive talent, and will also benefit from the expected returns of starting pitchers Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez. If Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck can hit the right side of variance, they could surprise some people next season.

Long-Term Outlook

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom has to be the Red Sox’ main source of optimism for the future. He is rightfully regarded as one of the premier young executives in the sport, and played a tremendous role in the Rays’ ability to build a sustainable winner. He has his hands full in Boston, though, as the farm system needs much more pitching and up-the-middle depth, while their payroll is filled with large contracts through 2023.

Key Objectives

  • Hire a manager to work with Bloom
  • Acquire pitching depth
  • Don’t be afraid to get younger

First off, the Red Sox need to decide who their next manager is. They’ve interview a diverse group of quality young candidates, including Will Venable, Skip Shumaker, and Luis Urueta. There is one other candidate that is under consideration, and that’s Alex Cora. The 45-year-old led Boston to a World Series champion, but he also was involved in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He is a tremendous manager, and if he and Bloom can work together, he would be their best option.

As far as the team is concerned, pitching depth is a major need. Sale, Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Houck, and Pivetta are all relative unknowns, and the same can be said for most of their bullpen. The star talent is present, yet a winning team needs to avoid weak-links, and Boston has too many of them. Also, with their tight payroll, they need to get creative when it comes to acquiring more young talent. That means that all options should be on the table, though after trading Mookie Betts one offseason ago, I think that is always going to be case with Bloom leading this organization.

Chicago White Sox

Photo Cred: NBC Sports

Short-Term Outlook

After finishing 2020 with a 36-24 expected record, there is a lot of urgency for the White Sox to build off that success next season. At the same time, they didn’t display much in the way of plate discipline, and benefitted greatly from an easier schedule; for what it’s worth, they were only 12-20 against teams with a record above .500. That might not mean much, but I am a little skeptical of their chances of meeting their lofty expectations, given the way they have been built.

Long-Term Outlook

The White Sox have a lot of young talent on their MLB roster, but most of them are volatile players with plate discipline concerns. Outside of first baseman Andrew Vaughn, their farm system is lacking in prospect depth, especially in the way of up-the-middle players. They’ve already signed a majority of their young players to contract extensions already, which either could supply them with a lot of surplus value, or without much flexibility in the future.

Key Objectives

  • Add an on-base-oriented hitter
  • Improve pitching depth
  • Assess Garrett Crochet’s future

As we’ve discussed, plate discipline is a concern with this White Sox roster. Thus, they would benefit incredibly by someone who has displayed the consistent ability to get on base. Robbie Grossman, Joc Pederson, and Michael Brantley are logical options, depending on how much they cost. After all, they need to save some funds to acquire some stability in both their pitching rotation and bullpen, especially since some of the players they’re relying on are injury risks. Garrett Crochet could play a role, but that depends on the organization’s hopes for him. The 11th overall pick in this year’s draft has already demonstrated that he can be a dominant reliever, but for him to be the most valuable player possible, maximizing his chances of sticking in the rotation would make the most sense. Regardless, having some sort of plan, and sticking to it, is a necessity for his development.

Cleveland Indians

Photo Cred: Let’s Go Tribe

Short-Term Outlook

Right now, the focus around the Indians is the same as it appears to be every year. They’ll rely on their tremendous collection of starting pitchers, but unfortunately, they severely need more offense; they have too manyd defensive-minded players. The losses of Carlos Santana and Brad Hand, and also the likely loss of Cesar Hernandez, will definitely hurt them.

Long-Term Outlook

In case you were worried, the Indians aren’t lacking when it comes to young pitching depth in their farm system. With a very bright front office with tremendous player development acumen, they will continue to overcome their low payroll to win sustainably.

Key Objectives

  • Trade Francisco Lindor, Shop Carlos Carrasco
  • Add Cheap Offense
  • Decide if Nolan Jones is ready

The Indians have made it clear that their payroll will be even lower. Thus paying Francisco Lindor his expected arbitration price may not be reasonable, and as a small-market organization, they need to maximize on his value. That means trading him rather than letting him walk as a free agent, even if it won’t be a popular decision amongst their fanbase. Why stop there? Carlos Carrasco is due to earn $40 million over the next three years, and with their pitching depth, they can afford to trade him as they attempt to free up their player payroll and add more young talent. Speaking of young talent, corner infielder Nolan Jones has posted a 147 weighted-runs-created plus or higher in each of the past three minor-league seasons, and if they think he’s ready, he could provide them with cheap offensive production. It’ll take more than him, however, so if Cleveland can improve their outfield and middle infield with cheap upgrades, they need to do just that.

Detroit Tigers

Photo Cred: Click On Detroit

Short-Term Outlook

The Tigers have now “earned” a top-five pick in four consecutive seasons, and there is a decent chance that the same happens in 2021. Although they have some young options in the lineup, they don’t have much in the way of reliable offensive contributors. Quietly, they have a solid bullpen and pitching talent, but it won’t mean much if the offense is as poor as it is projected to be.

Long-Term Outlook

The selection of Spencer Torkelson with the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft gave the Tigers something they previously did not have: a high-end position player prospect to get excited about. They have so much young pitching depth to get excited about, and if they can complement them with some offense (Jud Fabian in next year’s draft?), they could be in a great position. After all, Miguel Cabrera is their only big contract to worry about, and the hiring of manager AJ Hinch could assist them tremendously when it comes to helping the young players they’re counting on.

Key Objectives

  • Shop Matthew Boyd and Joe Jimenez
  • Go for upside with offense and pitching stopgaps
  • Create a pitching plan for Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning

Matthew Boyd and Joe Jimenez both have more talent than their production would indicate, but it isn’t working on in Detroit. While each still hold value, it would make sense for the Tigers to shop them to organizations who believe they can better leverage their bat-missing abilities. Meanwhile, they aren’t expected to contend, so when they add stopgaps for their offense and pitching, they’d be best of taking chances on players who are looking to rebuild their value; if they pan out, they could be nice trade pieces.

Since Detroit’s future outlook depends a lot on the development of their young pitchers, it is imperative that they are committed to developing them properly. How many innings are they expecting them to work in 2021? How will they ramp them up to pitch enough innings to provide value in the future. Given the injuries that Mize, Skubal, and Manning have dealt with injuries, they need to be careful.

Houston Astros

Photo Cred: Houston Chronicle

Short-Term Outlook

The Astros may have had a losing record in 2020, but is anyone buying that? They still have a great lineup, even if they lose outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley; getting back Yordan Alvarez is huge. Plus, for all the talk about the losses in their rotation, they quietly have five reliable options, though they could use more depth. The opposite is true in their bullpen. They have a lot of young flamethrowers to be excited about, but they need more stable options.

Long-Term Outlook

With Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander under contract only through this year, Houston’s payroll is about to lighten up. That plays right into the pending free agencies of Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers Jr., though, if I’m them, I’m not rushing to try to sign them to extensions right now- neither have displayed much consistency or durability, even if their flashes are enticing. Overall, their farm system is filled with young relief options, but they would be best suited adding some up-the-middle talent.

Key Objectives

  • Don’t be too quick to block young outfielders
  • Add cheap pitching depth
  • Entertain any trades to get younger, less expensive

Part of the reason the Astros may be able to overcome the losses of Springer and Brantley is the presence of their young outfielders. Myles Straw and Chas McCormick deserve the chance to provide Houston with cost-controlled production in their outfield, and would assist them in getting younger. Speaking of, if there are any creative trades they can do to improve their future outlook (possibly trading Correa or McCullers Jr.), I don’t see how they couldn’t given the one-sided nature of their farm system. As far as trying to improve the roster for next season, I am much more optimistic on their outlook than others, so more pitching depth would be the biggest item on the shopping list.

Kansas City Royals

Photo Cred: KSHB

Short-Term Outlook

Similarly to the Tigers, the Royals have been picking at the top of drafts, and they’ll likely receive a high pick next year as well. Although their young pitchers give this team some excitement, their lineup currently features way too little in the way of on-base talent.

Long-Term Outlook

Kansas City has continued to target pitchers in the draft, which is why they have built a lot of pitching depth. Unfortunately, they have little to nothing in the way of position player prospects, and when you’re a small-market organization, that is an issue. As for their payroll, it is about to be empty; Danny Duffy and Salvador Perez are in the final years of their respective contracts.

Key Objectives

  • Add On-Base Talent
  • Actually trade Whit Merrifield
  • Assess Jorge Soler’s future

At some point, the Royals will make sure to target players who can get on base, right? They have generally ranked at the bottom of the league in on-base percentage and walk rate, and for the sake of starting to build towards some competency, that has to change.

I mentioned that they’re lacking in position player prospects, and trading Whit Merrifield would help solve that problem. His value has gone down, and I cannot explain why they’ve been so insistent of holding onto him as they’ve lost games and his age has made him less appealing, but before it’s too late, now is the time for time to acknowledge he won’t be a part of their next contending team. Will Jorge Soler be? That is for them to decide, as he’s a free agent after 2021. Small-market organizations need to capitalize on their assets, and that means they will need to choose between trading or extending 2019’s home run leader.

Los Angeles Angels

Photo Cred: The Athletic

Short-Term Outlook

When you have Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, you’re going to have some offense, but even then, the Angels don’t have enough after them. Plus, as per usual, pitching depth remains their fatal flaw.

Long-Term Outlook

I feel as though this is turning point for the future health of the Angels. As they search for a new general manager, they must prioritize someone who is invested in winning sustainably. Their farm system has outfield depth, but not much else, and as Albert Pujols and Justin Upton come off the books, they’ll have some salary clear up. Of course, Dylan Bundy and Andrew Heaney are also in the final year of team control.

Key Objectives

  • Hire a young general manager who prioritizes winning sustainably
  • Pitching depth, pitching depth, pithing depth
  • Look for cheap offensive upgrades: catcher and middle infield

Of the several candidates that the Angels have interviewed, the two that come to mind are Amiel Sawdaye and Billy Owens. Sawdaye is an accomplished executive who has been a key part of two smart front offices in Boston and Arizona, while Owens has assisted Billy Beane in Oakland for a long time. Both know what it takes to try to be consistently competitive without sacrificing the future, and I am hoping for the sake of the Angels that one of them gets hired.

After that, it’s a standard offseason for the Angels. They still need pitching depth in the worst way possible; even though they have some intriguing options in their rotation, they lack enough reliable sources of innings in their rotation and bullpen. Right now, they are prioritizing defense too much, so with catcher and shortstop being notable needs for them, hopefully they’ll add some more offense.

Minnesota Twins

Photo Cred: The Athletic

Short-Term Outlook

As the Indians appear to be rebooting while the White Sox are a major question mark, the Twins remain the kinds of the AL Central. They are loaded in terms offense, and have done a lot to improve their pitching depth. They could use some reinforcements in their bullpen, but that’s about it.

Long-Term Outlook

Minnesota has one of the best front offices in baseball in my opinion, and it shows with their ability to maintain a strong farm system with pitching depth and offensive thump. They have also already extended some of their key young players, which also boosts their future outlook.

Key Objectives

  • Non-tender Eddie Rosario
  • Take shots on pitching depth
  • Consider the futures of Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton

Eddie Rosario has a very productive player in 2017 and 2018, but his poor plate discipline has already gotten worse, and his projected arbitration price (over $10 million) isn’t worth it for a team that could use that money much better. For instance, they’re a progress organization that has had a lot of success taking flyers on talented pitchers, and Garrett Richards comes to mind as someone that fits their mold; they could look at him, while there are plenty of intriguing relievers for them as well.

Minnesota has done a nice job extending their core players, and it is time to decide whether to do the same with Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton. Both have demonstrated the ability to be valuable players, but they also haven’t been the most consistent. Try to get them before their stock raises, or play it safe? It’s a decision they have to make.

New York Yankees

Photo Cred: NJ.com

Short-Term Outlook

The Yankees are going to go into next season as a World Series favorite, but that doesn’t surprise anyone. They still have a great lineup, bullpen, and front-line starting pitching, albeit with more holes than usual; they need an extra bat and need more starting pitching.

Long-Term Outlook

Despite being in a large market that demands success, general manager Brian Cashman has done a great job being responsible and focusing on winning in sustainable fashion. He’s built a farm system filled with talented players, though must of them are at the lower levels. They are still locked into big contracts, but luckily for them, they don’t have any pending free agents after the 2021 season.

Key Objectives

  • Add reinforcements in the rotation
  • Replace DJ LeMahieu, or re-sign him if the price isn’t substantial
  • Don’t overreact

As mentioned, with James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and JA Happ all set to be free agents, the Yankees need to inject some stability into their rotation. I’d look at re-signing Paxton and/or Tanaka, but if not, Kevin Gausman, Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, and Trevor Bauer (if on a one-year deal) would all be logical fits for them. Obviously, if they part ways with DJ LeMahieu, they’ll have a major hole in their lineup. If he isn’t too expensive, they should look to retain him, but if not, they should take advantage of a deep middle infield class to acquire a cheaper replacement. Most of all, though, the key for the Yankees is to not overreact. They’ve dealt with some poor postseason luck, but we know that the playoffs aren’t a type for analysis, and they’ve continued to win a lot of games despite a substantial amount of injuries. Now isn’t the time to change their approach.

Oakland A’s

Photo Cred: athletics.mlbblogs.com

Short-Term Outlook

The A’s are likely to lose shortstop Marcus Semien and relief pitcher Liam Hendriks, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a good chance to repeat as AL West champions. Outside of their middle infield, the core of their lineup remain intact, as does their starting rotation. Their bullpen needs more depth, yet they’re well set up to once again be a very good team.

Long-Term Outlook

Right now, it appears that Billy Beane will no longer be running the A’s. Fear not, though; general manager David Forst has been his right-hand man and will continue to guide this team to sustainable winning. That will be difficult to do, however, as although they have some young talent, their farm system is very thin; that’s an issue given their low payroll.

Key Objectives

  • Solidify middle infield
  • Look into trading players who may be too expensive
  • Add cheap pitching depth who can be maximized in a creative role

Luckily for the A’s, this free agency class caters right into their needs; there are plenty of talented middle infielders for them to choose from. Tommy La Stella, Cesar Hernandez, and Semien would be ideal fits, as given our situation, I don’t think Semien is a lock to be too expensive for them. That’s particularly true if they move some of the players who may make more than they are comfortable paying, mainly Stephen Piscotty, Mark Cahna, and even Sean Manaea. Also, given some of the injury concerns with their starting pitchers and need for bullpen depth, acquiring pitchers who can succeed in a creative hybrid role, such as Drew Smyly, would be the icing on the cake.

Seattle Mariners

Photo Cred: marinersblog.mlbblogs.com

Short-Term Outlook

The Mariners had a productive season in terms of getting their young players accumulated to the majors, and that will be the focus of the 2021 season as well. They have some individual talent both in the lineup and on their pitching staff, and now, it’s more about them improving the depth of the organization in order to build a sustainable winner.

Long-Term Outlook

I absolutely love the state of the Mariners’ farm system. They have created an ample amount of pitching depth through tremendous drafting, and through creative trades, have two polished young hitters in Taylor Trammell and Jared Kelenic. Their player development is tremendous, making me confident they can develop those prospects into cost-controlled contributors. Considering that Kyle Sager and Yusei Kukuchi are in the final years of their respective contracts, and Marco Gonzales is already locked up to a team-friendly extension, it is safe to say they are in a great spot.

Key Objectives

  • Add pitching upside
  • Make a run at have-Song Kim
  • Allow young prospects the experience necessary to develop

Between their rotation and bullpen, Seattle has enough spots available to add talented pitching on one-year flyers. With them likely a year or two away from contending, acquiring pitchers who could become trade chips would be a way for them to acquire even more prospect depth. Still, it is imperative that they don’t completely block their MLB-ready prospects, given that they need to gain as much information on them as possible.

Here’s an intriguing thought; what about trying to sign Korean shortstop Hae-Song Kim? Seattle doesn’t have many young infielders, so Kim could be their shortstop of the future, especially with his on-base skills and well-rounded skill set. Still just 25-years-old, signing him would be like buying another prospect, yet one with a strong track record and someone who fits their expected timeline given that most of their prospects are nearing their MLB debuts.

Tampa Bay Rays

Photo Cred: The Athletic

Short-Term Outlook

The Rays are not an underdog. Rather, they’re a very well-constructed team with tremendous pitching and an underrated lineup, despite what they displayed during the postseason. All of their key offensive players are coming back, while their pitching staff will be much healthier. Really all that is needed is a catcher.

Long-Term Outlook

With easily the game’s best farm system and an incredible front office, there is no doubt in my mind that the Rays will continue to win 90+ games on a yearly basis. They have no pending free agents, and still have Blake Snell under contract for three more seasons.

Key Objectives

  • Fix catching situation
  • Add pitching
  • Consider trading Kevin Kiermaier

Right now, the Rays do not have a catcher on the active roster, which obviously is a problem. Tyler Flowers, Stephen Vogt, Jason Castro, and Alex Avila would all be logical targets, as I’m guessing Tampa Bay will be looking to craft a catching time share rather than have one main option. After that, even though they’ll get back Brendan McKay and Yonny Chirinos, they could look to add more depth, in order to maintain the strength of their team; could a reunion with Charlie Morton be in order?

The outfield duo fo Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier allows the Rays to be very creative, including utilizing two-men outfields. However, Kiermaier is due to make around $23 million over the next two seasons, and although he provides defense, that is a replaceable skillset. Assuming Tampa Bay decreases their payroll, Kiermaier’s contract is likely too much for them, so they may want to look into trading him.

Texas Rangers

Photo Cred: ABC7news.com

Short-Term Outlook

Currently, the Rangers lack quality offense, and don’t have enough high-end pitching to compensate for that. They have a lot of young players coming up, though, so the next few seasons will likely be developmental years for them.

Long-Term Outlook

The Rangers quietly have created a tremendous farm system filled with pitching depth and up-the-middle talent. That speaks well for their future outlook, and although Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor still have multiple yerars left on their contracts, they’ll be able to spend big eventually when the time is right.

Key Objectives

  • Shop anyone of value (Lance Lynn, Rafael Montero, Joey Gallo, Jose Leclerc, Kyle Gibson)
  • Let young players have opportunities
  • Add high-upside stopgaps where you can

The Rangers are in the midst of a “reboot”, and with several players at peak value, it makes sense for them to look into trading them, particularly Lynn and Rafael Montero. Speaking of development, it is imperative that they continue to let their young players gain the experience neccessary to gain important information on them, but when they can, they also should be looking to buy low on players who could become useful trade chips.

Toronto Blue Jays

Photo Cred: Nelson Star

Short-Term Outlook

After being very competitive in 2020, the Blue Jays appear to be set up well to continue to make more noise in the AL playoff picture in the future. I am a fan of the high-level offense they have, and also believe they have some intriguing pitchers. At the same time, winning organizations are built through possessing a lot of depth, and they still lack that.

Long-Term Outlook

Being able to draft Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin in this past draft was huge for the Blue Jays, who have a lot of young star talent, but need to improve their prospect depth. They will have to do without high draft picks, which tends to be the breaking point for teams who are trying to win sustainably; can you identify the gems of the draft rather than being in position to select a blue-chip player? Still, they don’t have a lot of money tied up for the future, and with the amount of young talent they have accumulated, they are in a good position.

Key Objectives

  • Pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching
  • Look into acquiring a veteran bat
  • Discuss extensions with Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Nate Pearson

As mentioned, the Blue Jays do not have enough pitching, and in order to complement their offense, they will need to add as many arms as possible, both in the rotation and bullpen. Speaking of their offense, a veteran hitter would be a nice fit with a very young core of position players, especially if they have on-base ability. Tommy La Stella, Justin Turner, and Michael Brantley are all logical fits, and would definitely help move the needle for them.

Shifting our attention back to the future, as a team that struggles to keep their own star players, it would make sense for the Blue Jays to try to lock up their young players. Cavan Biggio is the most polished off the bunch with his high walk rates and versatility, while signing Nate Pearson would give them the chance to sign a future ace that has all the makings of being a dominant strikeout pitchers. Given Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s minor-league track record and peripheral statistics, they could also look to buy-low on him with an extension, though I’d be careful given the fact he plays a non-valued position (first base). Bo Bichette would be the one player I wouldn’t extend, as his stock may be too high right now given the batted-ball luck he has benefitted from.

Overview

As you can see, pitching depth will be a focus for teams this offseason. In my opinion, stars move the needle, but the foundation of organizations are created with their ability to add depth, whether it’s through the draft, waiver wire, or trades. Regardless of where teams stand heading into 2021, it is clear that all have the opportunities to benefit their chances of not only winning this season, but for many years beyond as well!

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