Major League Baseball
Biggest roster needs, ideal player fits for all 15 AL teams
Major League Baseball

Biggest roster needs, ideal player fits for all 15 AL teams

Updated Jan. 7, 2024 12:29 a.m. ET

With less than six weeks before pitchers and catchers begin reporting, about half of the top free agents are still on the market while several other marquee players have been floated as trade chips. In Part 2 of our MLB rosters breakdown, we identify each American League club's biggest remaining need — here is the National League version — and the specific player best suited to fill it.


Baltimore Orioles
Ideal fit: RHP Dylan Cease

Baltimore has a comically talented group of young position players in its farm system, a group that includes untradable top prospect Jackson Holliday along with Coby Mayo, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Dylan Beavers, Jud Fabian and Enrique Bradfield Jr. That is what we call a good problem, considering you can play only nine dudes at one time. It would behoove the Birds to capitalize on their surplus before the bananas get mushy, and Cease is the perfect player to target in trade. He has the type of fastball shape and quality that Baltimore's pitching development group covets and would slot into the top of their rotation immediately. And if the O's can help Cease recapture his world-beating 2022 form? Watch out.

Tampa Bay Rays
Ideal fit: C Joey Bart


The Rays aren't spending big cash in free agency; they just offloaded Tyler Glasnow to the Dodgers in their seemingly annual jettisoning of an increasingly expensive frontline arm. That leaves (1) and (2) bargain bin free agents as the avenues for roster improvement, and right now, Tampa's most glaring hole is behind the plate. Its top two backstops from ‘23, Francisco Mejia and Christian Bethancourt, are no longer Rays, leaving René Pinto and his 63 career MLB games as the primary catcher heading into 2024. Bart, the second overall pick in 2018, never reached his potential in San Francisco and seems an odd man out with the Giants' addition of Tom Murphy as their backup catcher. A 27-year-old with a career 75 OPS+ isn't the sexiest offseason addition, but this is the Rays we're talking about here. Other options in trade are Jake Rogers in Detroit, Danny Jansen in Toronto and Jason Delay in Pittsburgh.

Toronto Blue Jays
Ideal fit: DH J.D. Martinez

Right now, the Jays' DH situation looks like a revolving door of unproven youngster Spencer Horowitz, catching tandem Danny Jansen/Alejandro Kirk and, well, you get the point. Plan A was obviously Shohei Ohtani. That makes the man whom Ohtani is replacing in L.A. a solid consolation prize. The 36-year-old Martinez had a nice bounce-back season with the Dodgers in ‘23, posting his best offensive numbers (.271/.321/.572 with 33 homers and a 134 OPS+) since 2019. He's exclusively a DH now, but with the Jays lineup in surprisingly dire straits, Toronto has a need for another true basher. 

New York Yankees
Ideal fit: LHP Jordan Montgomery

The Yanks missed out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, leaving their pitching rotation at least one hurler short. Montgomery spent six seasons in the Bronx as a reliable, if unspectacular, starter, before departing to St. Louis (and later Texas) by trade, where he elevated himself into a formidable Game 2-style postseason starter. With the addition of Juan Soto — a free agent after the upcoming season — 2024 is shaping up to be a crucial campaign for the Yankees. Montgomery makes that imposing road more navigable.

Boston Red Sox
Ideal fit: LHP Blake Snell

Boston just traded Chris Sale to the Braves for Vaughn Grissom, a deal that bolstered its lineup but weakened its rotation. Sale wasn't a soul-snatching Cy Young candidate anymore, and his departure was the right move for the Red Sox, but it still leaves their pitching staff lacking a true frontline guy, even with the recent addition of Lucas Giolito. That makes Snell a great fit. The 2023 NL Cy Young is going to be relatively pricy, but Boston is currently around $50 million under the luxury tax threshold. Their rotation is entirely right-handed, Snell is a southpaw. Before the winter Boston team chairman Tom Werner used the phrase "full throttle" to preview his club's offseason plans. So far they've been stuck in first gear, Snell would be "pedal to the metal."


Minnesota Twins
Ideal fit: CF Brenton Doyle

Minnesota has all but put a neon sign outside their stadium that says "We are not spending big money." And while the Twins are still a good bet to repeat in the AL Central, they need help in CF if they want to achieve that goal. Byron Buxton didn't play a single game in center field last season and with Michael A. Taylor hitting free agency, the Twins don't really have someone who can captain the grass. Enter Doyle, who was the best defensive outfielder in baseball last season. Do the Rockies have a reason to trade him? No, but who ever knows what the Rox are up to.

Detroit Tigers
Ideal fit: 2B Jonathan India

Detroit's current infield situation -- the underwhelming Zach McKinstry at 2B, the depressingly over-the-hill Javier Báez at SS and the out-of-position Matt Vierling at 3B -- has some warts. Acquiring a versatile infielder like India, who doesn't have a clear path to playing time right now in Cincinnati, would be a significant upgrade. He could mix in at 2B and 3B, allowing Vierling to see some time in the outfield, where he's a very good defender.

Cleveland Guardians
Ideal fit: Carlos Santana

Reunited and it feels so good. Santana essentially spent the first decade of his impressive career in Cleveland before bouncing around the past few seasons. The soon-to-be 38-year-old would be a great veteran presence for a young Guardians team that lacks a solidified DH situation at present. Few players in baseball post as much as Santana, who can spell Josh Naylor at first base whenever needed. Plus, there should be enough at-bats available on this roster for a Santana signing to make sense. Will Cleveland pay for it? That's another question.

Chicago White Sox
Ideal fit(s): INF Jordan Westburg, OF Colton Cowser, LHP Cade Povich and whomever else the Orioles will give up

Chicago should trade Dylan Cease this winter; the club is going to be dreary in ‘24 and could recoup big value by dealing him now. The Orioles represent the best trade partner, considering their stacked system and need for a frontline starter. Ask for the stars, settle for the moon and get along to rebuilding this sunken ship.

Kansas City Royals
Ideal fit: CF Michael A. Taylor

Kansas City has already surpassed all expectations this winter with a relative spending spree that brought in Michael Wacha, Hunter Renfroe, Seth Lugo, Will Smith and Chris Stratton for a $45 million jump in year-over-year payroll. That blast of activity doesn't make the Royals contenders, but it does make them notably better for 2024. Kyle Isbel is a solid fourth outfielder, but was offensively overmatched last year. Taylor, who spent 2021 and 2022 with K.C., would fill that void in center field for a Royals team looking to leap up the kiddie pool AL Central.


Houston Astros
Ideal fit: RHP Brandon Woodruff

The Brewers non-tendered Woodruff, who is set to miss most if not all of 2024 with a shoulder issue. Houston's roster is pretty set for the upcoming season, but its rotation has a plethora of question marks for ‘25 and beyond. Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez are both free agents after this season. Woodruff would give the Astros some certainty in 2025 while being a potential October wild card if he returns to health this season.

Texas Rangers
Ideal fit: LHP Josh Hader

What gift do you get somebody who has everything they want? The best closer in baseball. Texas overcame a rickety bullpen to capture its first title in franchise history, but its relief corps still needs a bit of refurbishing. Hader would provide exactly that. The Rangers spent huge money to build their World Series winning club but have yet to cash in on the windfall that typically comes with a trophy. Hader, who is trying to break the record for the biggest relief contract ever, would be pricy, but would make Texas a formidable contender to repeat.

Seattle Mariners
Ideal fit: 3B Matt Chapman

It's been an odd winter for the Mariners, who, after a flurry of recent moves, have finally upgraded their offensive group heading into 2024. The return of Mitch Hanger and the addition of Luke Raley takes that lineup from big yikes to squarely sufficient. But if this team is serious about winning a title, they need to keep adding. Yes, Seattle's front office has been incredibly open about their hesitancy to spend big cash, but Chapman would be an obvious upgrade at a position of need. Luis Urias is a nice low-risk add, but he and second baseman Josh Rojas represent the weak point in Seattle's lineup. This move won't happen, but it should.

Los Angeles Angels
Ideal fit: OF/DH Joc Pederson

The Shohei Ohtani era is over, but the Angels still seem intent on competing in ‘24 and their roster is equipped for that better than you might think. It's foolish, though, to expect anything from walking infirmary Anthony Rendon. Adding Pederson to DH would let Brandon Drury roam the diamond as a super utility-type who could fill in at the hot corner when Rendon inevitably hits the shelf. 

Oakland Athletics
Ideal fit: 1B/OF Joey Gallo

The A's appear a mess, but a high-ceiling veteran free agent like Gallo is exactly who they should be targeting over the winter. His ability to play both first base, both corner outfield spots and center in a pinch ensures that he wouldn't be robbing too much playing time from youngsters. Give the big-swinging basher a one-year deal, hope he catches fire and deal him for prospects at the deadline.

Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He played college baseball, poorly at first, then very well, very briefly. Jake lives in New York City where he coaches Little League and rides his bike, sometimes at the same time. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.


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