Last week, we looked at the wish lists for National League clubs now that the Hot Stove season has heated up in force. This time, let's look at what American League teams are trying to acquire this offseason:
Angels: Re-signing right-hander Zack Greinke to top the rotation is paramount after Ervin Santana was traded to the Royals and Dan Haren's club option was declined, making him a free agent. Many baseball people believe the Angels and AL West rival Rangers will get into a bidding war for Greinke. The Angels also need to strengthen the bullpen.
Astros: The team with the worst record in baseball the last two seasons could use just about everything. While they plan to stay the course with their young players, the Astros are most open to adding an outfielder with some pop.
Athletics: A shortstop tops the list after the A’s declined Stephen Drew’s option for 2013 and Cliff Pennington was traded to the Diamondbacks. They would like to add a reliable catcher who could take some of the workload off young Derek Norris and serve as a mentor.
Blue Jays: They pretty much addressed their needs between the 12-player blockbuster trade with the Marlins and the signing of free-agent left fielder Melky Cabrera.
Indians: There are three big holes in the lineup at first base, left field, and designated hitter. Cleveland could also use a reliable starting pitcher for the middle of the rotation. The Indians are likely going to have to trade either shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera or right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to shake up their roster, as new manager Terry Francona is going to find out quickly that he isn't in Boston anymore.
Mariners: They need hitters, and lots of them, after finishing last in the AL in runs scored for the third straight season. General manager Jack Zduriencik is hoping that moving Safeco Field’s fences in will make Seattle a more popular destination for free-agent hitters, but he will likely will have trade some of his pool of young pitchers to improve the offense. Colorado center fielder Dexter Fowler is one of the Mariners' trade targets.
Orioles: For the first time in a long, long time, this is a club without a bunch of gaping holes. In fact, general manager Dan Duquette insists he won't be pushed into making any moves, and there is no reason not to believe him.
Rangers: Since it seems unlikely either Josh Hamilton or Mike Napoli will return, a power-hitting outfielder and a frontline catcher are the primary needs. Texas could also use two starting pitchers. It is a long shopping list for a franchise coming off three consecutive 90-win seasons. In addition to Greinke, the Rangers are said to have a lot of interest in free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Rays: There are openings at catcher, first base, shortstop, left field, and designated hitter. That's a pretty daunting list, but the good news is that the Rays have an excess of pitching and can deal some of it for offense. They are willing to part with right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in the right trade.
Red Sox: They have plenty of money to spend after offloading the contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers in August. They also have plenty of holes to fill, most notably a frontline starting pitcher and a middle-of-the-order bat at either first base or a corner outfield spot.
Royals: General manager Dayton Moore beat the rush and got most of his shopping done early by re-signing right-hander Jeremy Guthrie and acquiring Santana from the Angels. The Royals wouldn't mind adding one more starter and are willing to move designated hitter Billy Butler in the right deal. They will also listen on outfield prospect Wil Myers.
Tigers: Now that Torii Hunter has been signed to play right field, the Tigers need to find a closer. The Tigers say they have faith in rookie Bruce Rondon taking over the job in 2013, but it's hard to fathom a team desperately trying to win a World Series opening the season with someone so inexperienced in that role.
Twins: They are looking to add three experienced starting pitchers, which would be quite a feat in one offseason. If they have any money left over, the Twins would also like to upgrade at third base and shortstop.
White Sox: If Pierzynski leaves, then catcher is right at the top of the list. If he returns, third base will be the only hole unless the White Sox re-sign Kevin Youkilis.
Yankees: They are a team in need of some rebuilding, but their market and tradition dictate that they can't tear down and start over. Thus, the Yankees will look to add another starting pitcher even after re-signing Hiroki Kuroda, along with a catcher and right fielder. They might use center fielder Curtis Granderson as trade bait.
A few minutes with Twins general manager Terry Ryan
On what the Twins need to do to return to being competitive after losing over 90 games in each of the last two seasons, following a run of six American League Central titles in nine seasons: "We have to upgrade the starting pitching. I think anyone who watched our club knows that's our big weakness. I like our lineup and I like our bullpen, but we've got to find starting pitching wherever we can, whether it be in free agency, making trades, internationally, off the waiver wire, or the Rule 5 draft. I feel in order for us to compete in the American League Central next season, we're going to need to add three starting pitchers."
On whether the Twins will have enough money to compete for free-agent pitchers with a payroll of around $100 million: "Money is not going to be an issue. By that, I'm not saying we have unlimited funds and can sign anybody and everybody we want, but we're going to have enough money to improve the club. You don't need a big payroll to win. We won a lot of division titles with $60-$70 million payrolls, and we've lost 90-plus games with a payroll in excess of $100 million. It’s not how much you spend but who you spend it on."
On if the Twins might be better served by trading for pitching: "We're certainly exploring that possibility. When you lose over 90 games, you have to be open to everything to make your club better, and you don’t have many untouchables. The most difficult part, though, is that there are 29 other teams out there looking for more starting pitching. There is a lot of competition."
On what the Twins' sales pitch is to free-agent pitchers: "Target Field is one of the better pitching parks in the game and that is certainly a selling point. Even though we've had a couple of down years, I think we're still very much respected as an organization within the game, and (manager) Ron Gardenhire and (pitching coach) Rick Anderson are very well respected. I think we certainly have good things to offer pitchers or positions players, too, for that matter."
Front-office types' takes:
Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera: "You can call the Blue Jays hypocrites all you want, but the bottom line is there are still a lot of guys in the game using stuff. It's not as rampant as it was 10 years ago, but guys are still breaking the rules so they can gain an edge, and I guarantee he won't be the only guy who signs this winter that has used stuff within the last few months."
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons: "It's a really bold move by Alex Anthopolous, but it's a good move. It's easy to criticize them from bringing Gibbons back, but he's a good baseball man and deserves a second chance to be a major-league manager. He has the reputation of being a hard ass, but he really isn't. Guys like playing for him. He is the right guy for that situation."
Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie: "They needed to bring him back. He found a comfort level in Kansas City. He's not going to win the Cy Young, but he can help, and three years and $25 million is the going rate for a pitcher of his ability in today's market."
Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda: "It's a good move by the Yankees to bring him back. He showed he could handle making the switch from the National League to the American League last season and also that he could handle playing in New York. They can really use him for another season because they are short on pitching."
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner: "He can say publicly that he has no interest in selling the team, but people who know Hal know he really wants no part of the Yankees. He inherited the team from George and feels an obligation to carry on the legacy, but his heart isn't in it. I bet he sells sooner rather than later."
Anthony Vasquez, who pitched in the major leagues with the Mariners in 2011, underwent emergency brain surgery last week and it's a miracle that he is still alive, according to MLB.com's Greg Johns in this week's Must Read.
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