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Chicago Cubs’ Top Free-Agent, Trade Targets Post New Year

Fresh off a long-awaited World Series title and with a young core that rivals any in baseball, the Chicago Cubs entered the offseason with a fairly short to-do list.

Wade Davis and Koji Uehara have been added to the back of the bullpen, and veteran outfielder Jon Jay was signed to pair with Albert Almora Jr. in replacing Dexter Fowler in center field.

With those moves made, there appear to be two major areas the team may still look to address before the starting of spring training:

  • Starting pitching depth: The departure of Jason Hammel will likely push Mike Montgomery into the starting rotation as the No. 5 starter behind the returning staff of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Also, losing Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill leaves the team without much in the way of depth, so at the very least a capable arm or two that can be stashed in Triple-A seems like a must.
  • Left-handed reliever: With Montgomery slated to start and Wood unlikely to be re-signed, the Cubs top lefty relief option is currently veteran Brian Duensing, who was signed to a one-year, $2 million deal. Rule 5 pick Blake Smith and waiver claims Jake Leathersich and David Rollins are also options, but the team would benefit from a better primary lefty option.

So who might the team be targeting to fill these areas of need?

Ahead is a look at five players who make sense as perhaps the finishing touch on what would be another successful offseason for the defending champions.

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MLB Free Agency: Team-by-Team Report Cards at the Start of 2017

There is roughly one month remaining before pitchers and catchers begin reporting to spring training, but there are still a number of impact options on the free-agent market.

Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Matt Wieters, Mike Napoli and Michael Saunders headline the remaining available position players; Jason Hammel and injury returnee Tyson Ross are the top starting pitchers still looking for a new home; and Neftali Feliz, Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, Joe Blanton and Greg Holland represent impact relief options.

Where those remaining free agents wind up landing can still change the complexion of the offseason heading into spring training.

For now, though, we can get a pretty good gauge on how all 30 MLB teams’ offseason activity looks and whether they’ve come away a better team after a busy winter.

With that in mind, what follows is an offseason report card for each team.

The following factors went into grading each club’s offseason:

  • Talent Lost vs. Talent Gained: The easiest place to start is to simply look at the cumulative effect of the players added this offseason compared to the players lost.
  • Payroll Factors: For some teams, it’s not simply a matter of re-signing their top talent and filling roster holes with big signings. It’s often about minimizing their losses and filling holes by signing cheaper replacements.
  • Prospect Talent Added: Rebuilding is an inevitable part of the game, and for teams not in a position to contend in 2017, improving the farm system becomes the No. 1 priority. So, did a team get the most out of the assets it moved?
  • Remaining Needs: A simple question of how well each team addressed its areas of need this offseason.


Note: The number in parentheses following each prospect addition reflects where the player currently ranks among the organization’s top 30 prospects, according to’s Prospect Watch.

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All 30 MLB Teams’ Updated To-Do List Heading into 2017

As always, it’s been a busy offseason around Major League Baseball, with teams already crossing off a number of items on their winter shopping lists.

Earlier this offseason, a piece entitled “All 30 MLB Teams’ Blueprint to an ‘A’ Grade in the 2016-17 Offseason” was written by yours truly as a to-do list of sorts for each team to follow.

As we get set to flip the calendar over to 2017, now seems like the perfect time to look back on that piece and provide an updated look at what each club has accomplished and still needs to accomplish before the start of spring training.

Ahead you’ll see the same to-do list we offered up for each team back on Nov. 10, with certain items crossed out based on what additions have already been made and a full breakdown of each item.

Also included are a few new shopping-list items for some teams, which are noted with a “New Addition” mention.

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Lesser-Known MLB Players Who Will Have Breakthrough Years in 2017

Each season, we are treated to a handful of out-of-nowhere breakout performances from around Major League Baseball as lesser-known players become significant contributors.

Position players like Aledmys Diaz (STL), Adam Duvall (CIN), Jake Lamb (ARI), Brad Miller (TB), Trevor Story (COL) and Jonathan Villar (MIL) were good examples this past season.

As for pitchers, Kyle Hendricks (CHC) ascended several levels to emerge as a Cy Young candidate, and starters Junior Guerra (MIL), Drew Pomeranz (SD/BOS) and Dan Straily (CIN), as well as reliever Alex Colome (TB), are also worthy of mentions.

So who will break through in 2017 and go from relative unknown to household name?

Ahead is a look at seven guys worth keeping an eye on.

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Every MLB Team’s Biggest Missed 2016-17 Offseason Opportunity 2 Months In

The MLB offseason is still far from over, but most of the big dominoes have already fallen on another busy winter.

Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Mike Napoli, Matt Wieters and Michael Saunders headline what’s left of the position-player market, while Jason Hammel is the top unsigned starter and Neftali Feliz, Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan and Greg Holland are all capable of helping at the back of a bullpen.

In other words, there is still a lot to be done before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, but already teams may be left with a few regrets on how this winter has played out.

As we stand two months removed from the World Series, let’s take a look at all 30 teams’ biggest missed opportunity so far this offseason.

In some cases it’s not too late to avoid regret, whether it’s signing a still-available free agent, selling high on a trade chip or locking up a key player with an extension.

For other teams, like those that were targeting Chris Sale on the trade market or Edwin Encarnacion in free agency, the damage is already done.

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2016-2017 MLB Offseason ‘Recruiting’ Updates for All 30 Teams

Let’s pretend for a moment that each MLB team’s offseason was evaluated in a way similar to that of a college football or basketball program. Free-agent signings and trade additions would be assigned a rating from 1-5 on the “star” scale, and the complete class of new additions would be graded from there.

Rather than assessing how well needs were filled, how much money was spent by each team or how much cumulative talent was added compared to who was lost in free agency and trades, the focus would solely be on how much overall talent was added to the roster.

First, we need to decide what constitutes a 5-star player, 4-star player and so on. Here is my take on who belongs in each category:

  • 5-Star (10 points): A superstar-caliber position player, front-line starting pitcher or elite closer.
  • 4-Star (7 points): An above-average everyday position player, middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher or plus late-inning reliever.
  • 3-Star (3 points): A league-average everyday position player or reserve likely to see extended playing time, No. 5 starting pitcher/swingman or above-average reliever. High-upside bounce-back candidates can be found here.
  • 2-Star (1 point): Solid organizational depth likely to be on the big league roster at some point, if not on Opening Day. Rule 5 draft picks can be found here.
  • 1-Star (N/A): Everyone else. Players signed to minor league deals and unlikely to make any sort of impact at the big league level this coming season. Not included here; don’t count toward a team’s overall offseason rating.

From there, points were awarded to each recruit as listed above, and each team’s total recruit point total was determined. Players were graded based solely on their expected contributions during the 2017 season, so prospects were evaluated on their expected big league contributions for the upcoming season and not their overall ceiling.

Teams were then ordered from worst to first based on the overall level of talent they’ve added so far this winter. The tiebreaker in the case of two teams having the same score was which team has added more high-star players.

For example, a team that added one 5-star player (10 points) ranks ahead of a team that added one 4-star player and one 3-star player (10 points).

As with college rosters, returning players are not considered recruits, so anyone re-signing with the team he played for last year was not considered for this. That means no Yoenis Cespedes, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Rich Hill or Carlos Gomez, among others.

The end goal here was simply to put a different and fun spin on evaluating what each MLB team has done so far this offseason. So take this for what it is, and enjoy.

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Playing Panic or Patience on MLB’s Least Active Contenders This Offseason

Nothing raises the ire of a fanbase during the offseason more than inactivity.

It’s hard to get excited about a Rule 5 selection or a non-roster invitee when other teams are spending millions of dollars on established MLB talent and filling roster holes left and right.

Of course, recent seasons have proved that a loud winter does not guarantee success during the upcoming season.

Just ask the 2015 San Diego Padres.

It’s also only the middle of December, so there’s plenty of time for an inactive team to make a splash before the offseason ends.

With that in mind, the following is a look at five potential contenders that have been largely inactive so far this offseason, and whether it’s time for panic or patience with regard to their offseason approach based on remaining roster holes, salary flexibility and the rumor mill.

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Each MLB Team’s Prospect Who Will Become a Household Name in 2017

Not every baseball fan keeps an eye on prospect development and the minor league ranks, but most are familiar with the top prospects around the league.

It wasn’t just Boston Red Sox fans and Washington Nationals fans whose ears perked up when they heard that Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito had been traded during the winter meetings.

So what exactly is it that makes a previously unheralded prospect a household name? We’ll lump them into two categories:

  • Breakout Prospect: If a lower-level prospect turns in a breakout season that vaults him into the top tier of prospects in his organization and perhaps onto leaguewide top-100 lists, there’s a good bet he’ll become a household name along the way.
  • MLB Impact: Even if a player is not a top-tier prospect, he can make a name for himself by contributing at the MLB level. Few knew who Ryon Healy was prior to the 2016 season, but a strong showing after he joined the Oakland Athletics made him a household name.

Ahead we’ve taken a crack at identifying one prospect from each MLB team that has a chance of falling into one of those two categories this coming season.

For the sake of clearly identifying which prospects already rank as household names, anyone that appeared on Baseball America‘s midseason top-100 list was not eligible to be included.

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1 Perfect Remaining Offseason Move for Each of MLB’s 30 Teams

The MLB winter meetings have come and gone with no shortage of excitement, but there are still several notable free agents left unsigned and holes to be filled on all 30 rosters around the league.

Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Matt Wieters, Mike Napoli, Michael Saunders, Rajai Davis, Welington Castillo, Brandon Moss and Chase Utley are among the top position players still searching for a new home.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching market still features the likes of Ivan Nova, Jason Hammel, Doug Fister, Colby Lewis, Travis Wood and intriguing bounce-back candidate Tyson Ross.

The closer market has played out but there are still several impact relievers as well, headlined by Brad Ziegler, Neftali Feliz, Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, Mike Dunn, Daniel Hudson, Sergio Romo, Joe Blanton and another intriguing injury returnee in Greg Holland.

So with all of those capable contributors still looking for a new contract, let’s take an updated look at one potentially perfect target for all 30 MLB teams.

Some targets are potential trade candidates, but most are remaining free agents. Some target suggestions are based on rumors of team interest, while others are purely speculative.

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Impact MLB Deals That Will Still Go Down Before the New Year

The annual winter meetings provided the MLB world with plenty of excitement, but there’s still work to be done this offseason.

A number of notable free agents are still searching for new homes: Justin Turner, Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, Matt Wieters, Ivan Nova and Jason Hammel, among others.

Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox are open for business after trading Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, the Tampa Bay Rays have a number of intriguing arms in a thin pitching market and the Kansas City Royals could continue dealing after moving closer Wade Davis.

So which domino will fall next in the MLB offseason?

Ahead, we’ve taken a crack at predicting a handful of notable deals that could go down before the calendar turns over to 2017 in a few weeks.

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