Bowden: What I’m hearing from MLB front offices is the next move for every team

The MLB offseason is heading for home, with the start of spring training a little over a month away and almost all of the top free agents signed. However, as shown by the moves popping up around the league Wednesday, the Hot Stove is still very much on, as trade talks consume front-office execs and the remaining free agents negotiate with teams. So let’s start 2023 with a look at where things stand for every team.

I got in touch with decision-makers in all 30 MLB front offices to find out, directly from them, what organizational needs they hope to fill next this offseason. Please keep in mind they’re not allowed to talk about specific free agents, nor do they openly share trade talks, obviously, because it would hurt their efforts to complete a deal. Still, many were candid in their responses. Here’s what I’m hearing from the major-league executives and what to expect from each team as we near the end of another wild winter.

AL East

Yankees — left field

The Yankees have completed their heavy lifting this offseason by re-signing outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and landing the best left-handed starting pitcher in free agency, Carlos Rodón. (They also added righty reliever Tommy Kahnle.) They are now focused on upgrading in left field. However, they’re comfortable giving a runway to Oswaldo Cabrera, 23, to win the job and they still hope Aaron Hicks can make a comeback in 2023. That said, the Yankees are exploring trade options, including Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates, and free-agent options such as Jurickson Profar, who would be a good match if the price is right.

Jurickson Profar (Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)

Blue Jays — a complementary outfield bat and more bullpen depth

The Blue Jays are excited about how much they’ve improved their outfield defense, with a starting trio of George Springer in right field and new acquisitions Kevin Kiermaier in center and Daulton Varsho in left. However, Springer and Kiermaier come with injury risk, and the outfield offense is expected to dip compared to last season. Therefore, the Blue Jays would like to add a complementary outfield bat to help enhance their offensive potential. The Blue Jays also would like to add more bullpen depth, likely through free agency, after acquiring two relievers, righty Erik Swanson and minor-league lefty Adam Macko, in the Teoscar Hernández trade with the Mariners.

Rays — more offense

If the Rays are going to contend again in the American League East, like they always seem to do, they’ll need to add another bat or two before Opening Day. They’re confident that young stars Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena will have much better years and that a healthy Brandon Lowe will be a difference-maker again with his power. But the Rays still need more impact bats in their lineup, and I’ll be surprised if they don’t make a move or two on that front.

Orioles — a veteran starting pitcher

The Orioles have signed pitchers Kyle Gibson and Mychal Givens and improved their veteran position-player depth with the acquisitions of second baseman Adam Frazier, catcher James McCann and first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn. Orioles fans are probably disappointed the team didn’t land a bigger-name starting pitcher, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. Baltimore’s front office was aggressive in trying to sign second- and third-tier starting pitchers in free agency (the pool of starters coveted most after Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodón). The Orioles have a strong farm system they could dip into if they find an appealing, blockbuster-type trade, but their “big-splash moves” are probably a year away, which makes sense as it gives their young players further opportunity to develop and prove themselves this season.

Red Sox — additions in the middle of the field (SS/2B/CF)

The Red Sox have spent time building up their prospect pool and now have a deep 40-man roster, so they are looking to consolidate for the right controllable piece(s). In other words, they’re ready to trade prospects and from their major-league depth for a proven player, or players, entering their prime years, preferably players who reside in the middle of the field. The Red Sox front office has taken a lot of heat for its offseason moves, but remember, with six weeks until pitchers and catchers report, they still have plenty of time to improve their roster. According to an industry source, Boston has been working on trades with the Marlins, who have a veteran shortstop (Miguel Rojas) and a proven starter (Pablo López) they’d be willing to move.

On Wednesday, the Red Sox reached an agreement with third baseman Rafael Devers on an 11-year, $331 million extension, a huge win that checks off their top offseason priority.

AL Central

Guardians — a complementary bat; an impact bat if one becomes available

The Guardians fulfilled their biggest offseason goals by signing first baseman Josh Bell (who gives them a much-needed middle-of-the-order bat with power from both sides of the plate) and catcher Mike Zunino (a special defensive player who gives them more pop at the position). Now, they are mostly focused on offseason development and preparing their players for the season. However, they’re still looking to add a complementary bat. The Guardians would love to add an impact bat in a trade but don’t see that happening given the market — at least to this point.

White Sox — second base

The White Sox front office is focused on figuring out its starting second baseman, a situation that could be resolved via trade or even by tapping someone on the current roster. In the trade market, they could target players such as Brandon Lowe of the Rays, Brendan Rodgers of the Rockies, Gleyber Torres of the Yankees and Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks. Internally, Romy González and Leury García are possibilities.

Brendan Rodgers (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

Twins — shortstop and starting pitching depth

The Twins had hoped to re-sign Carlos Correa, which doesn’t look likely even though he’s yet to finalize a deal, so they’re trying to get creative in a trade for a shortstop, with younger or older options possible. They are also focused on adding starting pitching depth.

Tigers — a bat

After working to strengthen their pitching and defense this winter, the Tigers are now looking to add a bat. They are open to prospect-for-prospect trades or even continuing to trade from their bullpen depth, with adding offense their main priority.

Royals — a reliever and a right-handed bat who can play 3B/2B

The Royals are focused on acquiring a reliever and a right-handed hitter who can play second and third base. Defense is as much of a priority as offense for this player. The Royals have added a couple of veteran starting pitchers in free agency (Ryan Yarbrough, Jordan Lyles) and are keeping an eye on other starters who could fall into their price range.

AL West

Astros — a left-handed reliever and a left-handed bat (utility type)

The Astros have had an interesting offseason. On the negative side, general manager James Click departed and AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander left for the Mets. On the positive side, the defending world champs added first baseman/designated hitter José Abreu and re-signed outfielder/DH Michael Brantley and reliever Rafael Montero. Next on their agenda: adding a left-handed reliever and a lefty utility bat.

Mariners — an impact left fielder or a right-handed-hitting platoon outfielder and another bat to face righties

After acquiring right fielder Teoscar Hernández and second baseman Kolten Wong in separate trades, the Mariners have made it clear to the industry that they’re not done. In fact, they are going hard after an impact left fielder, such as Bryan Reynolds, or a right-handed-hitting platoon left fielder, like free agent Andrew McCutchen, as well as another hitter with strong splits against righty pitching. The Mariners are using starting pitchers Chris Flexen and/or Marco Gonzales as their main trade bait, but they’re open to trading more of their top prospects in the right deal.

Andrew McCutchen (Jeff Hanisch / USA Today)

Angels — a shortstop, the bullpen and a starting pitcher

The Angels have added depth throughout the roster during a strong offseason. They traded for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielders Gio Urshela and Brandon Drury, and improved their pitching staff by signing starter Tyler Anderson and reliever Carlos Estévez. They’re now focused on acquiring a shortstop, more bullpen depth and another starting pitcher.

Rangers — an outfielder and bullpen depth

The Rangers’ spending spree is not over. They’ve rebuilt their rotation with newcomers Jacob deGrom, Andrew Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi and Jake Odorizzi, and brought back Martín Pérez, who accepted the qualifying offer. With their starting pitching in place, they’re looking to add a corner outfielder and bullpen depth. It’s great to see the Rangers making this level of commitment to get back to being contenders. Under the leadership of Chris Young and Bruce Bochy, a dynamic and highly intellectual GM/manager tandem, their future is bright.

A’s — everything except catcher

The A’s have the most work to do of all 30 teams, and they know it. Their wait for a new stadium drags on and hovers over everything. They must improve all areas of the organization outside of catching.

NL East

Braves — exploring the trade market and adding depth

The Braves’ offseason has been mixed; they said goodbye to shortstop Dansby Swanson, but said hello to Sean Murphy, one of the game’s best overall catchers, whom they acquired from the A’s in a three-team trade. They said goodbye to reliever Kenley Jansen, who departed in free agency, but said hello to reliever Joe Jiménez, who arrived in a trade with the Tigers and will slot into the back end of their bullpen. They added a decent platoon player, Jordan Luplow, but still could use a stopgap at shortstop (to buy more time until Vaughn Grissom is ready) and a better outfield option. Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar are solid fits for those respective needs. The Braves aren’t looking for stars at this point, but they are trying to trade for infield, outfield and bullpen depth.

Mets — finalizing a deal with Carlos Correa and adding a backup outfielder

The Mets have set the tone this offseason, breaking payroll records in the process. Their top focus is trying to finalize a deal with third baseman Carlos Correa after his physical, again, prompted concerns. Ken Rosenthal said this week on The Athletic Baseball Show” that he expects the Mets and Correa to “get this done at some point” but settle on “a dramatically different deal” from the 12-year, $315 million contract they agreed to two weeks ago, after Correa’s original deal with the Giants broke down. Beyond that, the Mets are trying to acquire another backup outfielder.

Phillies — a back-end reliever

The Phillies, like the rival Mets, have had a tremendous offseason, signing shortstop Trea Turner, starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and relievers Matt Strahm and Craig Kimbrel in free agency. They’re still looking to add another back-end reliever to deploy at the end of games when they have the lead. On Wednesday, they acquired reliever Erich Uelmen for cash in a trade with the Cubs.

Marlins — offense and the bullpen

The Marlins have been active in offering starting pitchers (major leaguers and minor leaguers) to try to acquire offensive players who aren’t arbitration-eligible. Outside of Sandy Alcantara and Edward Cabrera, they’ll listen to offers on almost every other pitcher in the organization, but they haven’t found a deal they like yet. The Marlins are also looking to add right- and left-handed bullpen depth.

Nationals — a starting pitcher who can provide innings

The Nationals added a couple of important veteran pieces in free agency, first baseman Dominic Smith and third baseman Jeimer Candelario. Now, they want to acquire a veteran pitcher who can give them innings and also serve as a possible trade chip at the deadline.

NL Central

Cardinals — assessing the trade and free-agent markets

The Cardinals filled their biggest offseason need when they signed catcher Willson Contreras. Now they are open-minded in looking for ways to improve their team. They are actively pursuing trades and keeping tabs on the free-agent market. It is believed the Cardinals are working to acquire a certain player but want to make sure more specifics don’t become public because it would hurt their chances of completing a trade. They’re not done making moves.

Brewers — improve pitching depth by adding a starter and/or relievers

The Brewers have improved their lineup dramatically this offseason with the acquisitions of DH William Contreras and outfielder Jesse Winker. They have turned their focus to the pitching staff and are looking to add depth pieces who can provide quality innings, whether that’s a back-of-the-rotation starter, multiple relievers or both.

Update: Just before this story published Wednesday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported the Brewers and left-hander Wade Miley had agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.

Willson Contreras and William Contreras (Brett Davis / USA Today)

Cubs — bullpen depth

The Cubs rebuilt up the middle with the acquisitions of center fielder Cody Bellinger, shortstop Dansby Swanson and catcher Tucker Barnhart. They’ve improved their rotation with the signings of Jameson Taillon and Drew Smyly. Their latest addition is veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer. Overall, they’ve had a strong offseason. Next up: adding bullpen depth.

Pirates — a position player to lengthen the lineup and non-roster depth

The Pirates have worked to lengthen their lineup this offseason with veteran bats, including first basemen/DH Ji-Man Choi and Carlos Santana. They signed veteran catcher Austin Hedges to help their young pitchers, and added a couple of veteran arms, lefty Jarlín García and righty Vince Velasquez, to their staff. They’d like to acquire another position player to further lengthen their lineup and will look to add non-roster depth pieces.

Reds — a starting pitcher who can provide innings until their prospects are ready, and improve the offense

The Reds’ biggest offseason move was signing right fielder Wil Myers. They’ve acquired a couple of backup catchers, Curt Casali and Luke Maile. They’ve made a couple of trades to land infielder/outfielder Nick Solak and middle infielder Kevin Newman, but both are role players more than anything else. The Reds still want to add a starter, preferably in the form of a back-of-the-rotation veteran to hold down the fort until their pitching prospects are major-league-ready. They also want to add a bat or two.

NL West

Dodgers — an outfielder

The Dodgers’ top priority right now is to acquire an outfielder — ideally a center fielder, but it could be a corner outfielder instead. They’d prefer to trade for one and are one of the many teams that have been involved in trade talks with the Pirates regarding Bryan Reynolds.

Padres — a starting pitcher

The Padres have had another strong offseason, topped by the surprise signing of star shortstop Xander Bogaerts. They brought back right-handers Robert Suarez and Nick Martinez on multiyear deals, signed veteran infielder/designated hitter Matt Carpenter and landed righty Seth Lugo in a good under-the-radar signing. San Diego would like to land another starting pitcher if the right one becomes available in trade.

Giants — impact players

The Giants have had a solid offseason, even though they lost out on Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa in free agency despite strong offers. They signed outfielders Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto and added three quality major-league pitchers — Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling and Taylor Rogers — on multiyear contracts. They would like to add more impact players, which they tried to do with Judge and Correa, but at this point might have to wait until the trade deadline or next offseason to accomplish that.

Diamondbacks — pitching

The Diamondbacks deserve strong marks this offseason for acquiring catcher and top prospect Gabriel Moreno from the Blue Jays and outfielder Kyle Lewis from the Mariners in separate trades. They’ve added quality veteran depth players such as third baseman Evan Longoria and reliever Miguel Castro. Next on their to-do list: more pitching. (They’ve just re-signed starting pitcher Zach Davies, according to multiple reports.)

Rockies — two pitchers and a left-handed-hitting outfielder

The Rockies have tried to acquire a left-handed-hitting outfielder but missed out on Brandon Nimmo, Andrew Benintendi and Cody Bellinger; nevertheless, they’re committed to landing one before spring training, with the switch-hitting Jurickson Profar a real possibility. In addition, they want to add two more pitchers to their staff to improve their overall depth.

(Top photo of Bryan Reynolds: Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

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