You might have noticed that baseball's Hot Stove season is far from finished. There are -- and this is admittedly a rough estimate -- eleventy nine bajillion free agents still available, and the possibility still exists that some big names like Chris Archer, Christian Yelich, Gerrit Cole and Manny Machado could be moved between now and Opening Day, to say nothing of the smaller, bench-building-type moves that will take place.
There simply aren't many (any?) clubs with rosters that appear 100 percent complete, which means there is plenty of offseason business left to be accomplished in January and February. Below are five teams whose winter work appears especially incomplete, and some thoughts on next moves they may consider in the very near future.
2017 finish: 75-87, fourth place in National League Central
2018 projection (all projections in this piece are from FanGraphs): 81-81, third place in NL Central
If the Pirates are going to make a serious effort to contend with the Cubs and Cardinals and the NL Wild Card field in 2018, they've got some work to do, because good health alone might not be enough to bridge the gap after consecutive losing seasons. Alternatively, if they're going to significantly retool their roster by trading away some soon-to-be-expiring assets, well, they've got some serious work to do there, too.
Either way, the offseason really has yet to begin for the Buccos, whose exact plans for the New Year remain unclear.
This is a very methodical front office, and it is also one that embraces the idea of maximizing the value of assets in a small market and with a limited budget. So it wouldn't be a surprise if, eventually, a Gerrit Cole trade gets done. He has two years of arbitration control yet, and the still-pressing starting pitching need across the Major League landscape gives him strong trade value, even if his results, to date, have not yet lived up to his stuff and pedigree. Andrew McCutchen, at 31 and with one year remaining before free agency, is obviously less valuable but still tradeable. Josh Harrison, under team control for three years and versatile enough to play all over, has obvious value, too.
Should the Pirates move forward with their roster intact, they have a need for an experienced arm in the rotation and power in the lineup (though they would largely be counting on improvements from Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco).
2017 finish: 76-86, fourth in American League East
2018 projection: 83-79
Toronto has made it pretty clear to other teams that it has no intention of moving Josh Donaldson for anything less than a king's ransom. The Blue Jays' rise to prominence in 2015 had the great impact of re-engaging the fan base, and they don't take that support for granted -- even though one of the oldest rosters in the big leagues (to say nothing of Giancarlo Stanton's arrival to the Bronx) presents a pretty strong argument for initiating a bit of a rebuild here.
If the 2017 results are any indication, the Blue Jays could be destined for another subpar season in which they wind up flipping the pending free agent Donaldson (and perhaps others) at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. But the above projection is a window into the pure possibility that exists here, should a healthy Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez and Russell Martin help elevate the Jays to something more closely resembling their 2015 and '16 standard. FanGraphs currently has them finishing five games behind the Angels in the AL Wild Card pursuit, so there is a not-at-all-outrageous argument here for making an earnest attempt to bridge that gap. What that will likely mean, in real terms, is the addition of outfield help (probably not J.D. Martinez, but Lorenzo Cain, Jay Bruce, Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez are among the options here) and possibly a starting arm of significance.
Basically, if you are going to keep Donaldson, you'd better make it worth your while.
2017 finish: 86-76, second in NL Central
2018 projection: 73-89, fourth in NL Central
As you can see above, FanGraphs sees the Brew Crew as a piece of meat for the Regression Monster. I don't know if they are in danger of such a steep fall from grace (FanGraphs currently has them finishing just a game ahead of the Reds and 19 games behind the Cubs team they surprisingly pushed hard in '17), but I do know the Cardinals are making every effort to elevate the bar in this division and sometimes it's harder to maintain than it is to surprise.
The Brewers made two additions just before the end of 2017 to try to bolster their pitching group, signing Jhoulys Chacin and old friend Yovani Gallardo. With Jimmy Nelson on the shelf following shoulder surgery, the Brewers needed bodies in their rotation, but Chacin's enormous home/road splits while with the Padres last year (he was brilliant at pitcher-friendly Petco Park and not-so-brilliant elsewhere) and Gallardo's ghastly 5.57 ERA the last two seasons accentuate the risk here.
Anyway, the Brewers still need help at second base and in the bullpen, and they could/should still go out and add a starter whose situation seems a bit more secure (they've been linked to Alex Cobb in recent days).
2017 finish: 64-98, fifth in NL West
2018 projection: 81-81, third in NL West
This is basically the opposite of the Brewers' projection. FanGraphs sees a sort-of return to normalcy for a club that went backward in a big way in 2017. If a .500 finish in '18 feels optimistic right about now, it ought to. The Giants have added Evan Longoria, but that's hardly the answer to all of their questions after a year in which the team slugging percentage was .380 (for the sake of comparison, Carlos Beltran had a .383 SLG last year and knew it was time to hang 'em up). A current projected outfield of Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Hunter Pence ain't going to cut it, and the Giants know it. That's why they have been tied to Cain, Bruce and others in free agency and to McCutchen on the trade market. The starting rotation -- even with Madison Bumgarner presumably back for a full season -- is looking a little thin, too, betting big on bouncebacks from Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, and with Matt Moore now out of the mix.
The Giants will likely wind up going over the luxury tax threshold again in 2018 as they try to piece together a dramatic improvement in the standings. But they really have no choice but to go for it. The fan base has been so supportive and the trade values of many of their star players are too compromised to totally blow this thing up. Clearly, though, there is unfinished business here if the Giants are going to make the roughly 25-win leap it might take to get back to October in -- say it with me now -- an even year.
2017 finish: 85-77, second in AL Central (won second Wild Card spot)
2018 projection: 81-81, second in AL Central
The Twins went into this winter hungry to prove their sudden -- and very much unexpected -- entry into a one-and-done postseason appearance was no fluke and that, with the right pitching additions to a roster with a lot of emerging upside in the lineup, they can potentially push the Indians in their division. So far, the Twins have been able to add two veteran presences to their bullpen in closer Fernando Rodney and lefty Zach Duke. Obviously, neither guy is a sure thing, with Duke coming off a 2017 season in which he was limited to 27 appearances following Tommy John surgery and Rodney entering his age-41 season after logging a 4.23 ERA while logging 39 saves for the D-backs. The Twins could still add an additional arm to their bullpen, but Rodney and Duke likely mark the largest extent of their efforts there.
So attention turns to the rotation, which received an outstanding showing from veteran Ervin Santana and some breakout strides from Jose Berrios in '17. The Twins have signed Michael Pineda to a two-year contract this offseason, but with Pineda coming off Tommy John surgery, that was a move made with 2019 in mind. Right now, the Twins have a projected payroll just shy of $100 million. They've gone north of $100 million in the recent past, and they don't have any major monetary commitments on the books beyond the $13.2 million owed to Phil Hughes in 2019. So there is room to go after a top-of-the-market arm like Yu Darvish (who has a prior working relationship with Twins GM Thad Levine from their time in Texas) or certainly after the next tier featuring Cobb, Lance Lynn and others.
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Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.