The first week of free agency provides all 30 teams with some measure of hope. It’s easy to dream of completed winter shopping lists and vastly improved rosters, even if making meaningful changes often proves difficult.
Here’s an overview of each American League team’s needs along with the names of free agents they could have interest in this winter:
MLB Team Needs | National League
New York Yankees – Fans hope Brian Cashman’s pockets are as deep as his shopping list is long. The Yankees need starting pitching and lots of it. They need outfield help. They could use an established catcher. Oh, and they might want to replace Mariano Rivera. They’ll be in on all the big-name players.
Free agent fits: Robinson Cano, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury
Boston Red Sox – Even the defending World Series champions have many needs this winter. Four of their starting position players are hitting free agency (Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ellsbury).
Free agent fits: Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Franklin Gutierrez, Stephen Drew, A.J. Pierzynski
Tampa Bay Rays – May not need a massive overhaul, but figure to pursue first basemen, catchers and versatile bench players. Plus, there's Tampa's annual search for bargain relievers.
Free agent fits: Justin Morneau, Jesse Crain, Juan Uribe, Corey Hart, Ryan Madson
Baltimore Orioles – Will determine whether it’s time to move on from Brian Roberts at second base and pursue upgrades for the starting rotation while trying to find a more productive designated hitter.
Free agent fits: Kendrys Morales, Mark Ellis, Nate McLouth, Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana
Toronto Blue Jays – Starting pitching tops the list, but the success of their off-season also depends on their ability to stabilize second base and, potentially, catcher.
Free agent fits: Omar Infante, Mark Ellis, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Masahiro Tanaka
Free Agent Preview | Hitting market
Cleveland Indians – Will work to replace free agent starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir while seeking bullpen arms available for reasonable prices.
Free agent fits: Bartolo Colon, Jason Vargas, Dan Haren, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Veras
Detroit Tigers – After hiring manager Brad Ausmus they must address the bullpen and find a second baseman. Already has the makings of a 2014 title contender.
Free agent fits: Omar Infante, Robinson Cano, Mark Ellis, Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour
Chicago White Sox – Don’t appear close to contention, even after adding Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu. They figure to pursue pitching (rotation and bullpen) while exploring catching options.
Free agent fits: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chad Gaudin, Roberto Hernandez, Curtis Granderson, Jason Hammel
Kansas City Royals – In the aftermath of their best season in years, they will pursue starting pitching, second basemen and right fielders. They must add to their offence.
Free agent fits: Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson, Corey Hart, Mark Ellis, Bronson Arroyo
Minnesota Twins – Need pitching after posting a staff ERA of 4.55 in 2013. Expect them to pursue starters as their strong core of prospects creeps closer to the MLB level.
Free agent fits: Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, Roberto Hernandez, Paul Maholm, Ricky Nolasco
Free Agent Preview | Pitching market
Seattle Mariners – Even after a 91-loss season, they could be aggressive, adding rotation depth while considering outfielders, including some big names.
Free agent fits: Jacoby Ellsbury, Kendrys Morales, Roberto Hernandez, Phil Hughes, Edward Mujica
Houston Astros – Far from contention, but could they spend on the right young free agent? They’re expected to boost payroll and their needs are many. At the very least, they’ll offer field time to players looking to rebuild value.
Free agent fits: Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Joel Hanrahan, Jesse Crain
Los Angeles Angels – After spending big on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in recent years, owner Arte Moreno may decide it’s time to slow down. They need pitching and could obtain it in free agency or by moving one of their many trade chips.
Free agent fits: Phil Hughes, Masahiro Tanaka, Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Joe Nathan
Texas Rangers – A quiet approach last off-season didn’t lead to a playoff berth in 2013, so expect them to bid aggressively on many of the top players available. They need starting pitching and outfield help.
Free agent fits: Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka, Mike Napoli
Oakland Athletics – Free agency has never been Billy Beane’s go-to method for team-building, and this winter won’t be an exception. Expect them to seek pitching reinforcements on the open market.
Free agent fits: Bartolo Colon, Randy Messenger, Mike Pelfrey, Jose Veras, Francisco Rodriguez