MLB

What’s the top item on every MLB team’s holiday wish list? World Series ring, an owner who will spend and more

What’s the top item on every MLB team’s holiday wish list? World Series ring, an owner who will spend and more

Knocking the outfielder trade out of the park. At some point this offseason, the D-Backs will trade an outfielder. They have seven MLB or near-MLB-ready outfielders and all of ’em hit left-handed. GM Mike Hazen has said he’s ready to use his outfield depth to address other needs on the roster. There just aren’t enough roster spots for these guys and platoons aren’t possible, so a trade is inevitable, and this holiday season I hope Hazen & Co. nail the outfielder trade and net a great return that helps get Arizona back to the postseason. A Max Fried extension. How does eight years at $20 per hour plus tips sound? In all seriousness, the Braves have done a remarkable job locking up their core players to extremely affordable long-term extensions, and it stands to reason Fried, the staff ace, is next. He is two years away from hitting the market, and with Dansby Swanson leaving as a free agent, the team has plenty of money burning a hole in its pocket. A Fried extension would be a wonderful stocking stuffer. A Nathan Eovaldi signing. Weird offseason for the Orioles! They improved by 31 wins this year and took an enormous step forward, and the front office’s reward for fans who sat through that rebuild is … Adam Frazier and Kyle Gibson? That really the best you can do? GM Mike Elias said the O’s don’t want to threaten their long-term plan by spending frivilously now, which is weak. You can spend in a way that doesn’t endanger the long-term outlook. An expanded postseason spot is there for the taking and Eovaldi is sitting out there to be signed. He would meaningfully improve the O’s outlook next year without derailing Baltimore’s master plan. A Rafael Devers extension. Mookie Betts is a Dodger and Xander Bogaerts is a Padre. Surely the Red Sox won’t let Devers get away too, will they? The Red Sox and Devers are said to be far apart in contract extension talks and he’s only a year away from free agency, so they don’t have much time to get this wrapped up. Given the contracts we’ve seen this offseason, it’s pretty clear Devers is a $300 million player. Boston’s made some bad decisions lately. Losing Devers would be worst of all. A Cody Bellinger rebound. Bellinger can’t be done as an above-average player, can he? He is still only 27 and his MVP season wasn’t that long ago. The Cubbies took a smart one-year flier on Bellinger this offseason and perhaps the change of scenery can get his career back on track. If it does, it could go down as the best signing of the offseason. The Cubs are beginning to take steps toward contention and a Bellinger rebound would move the timetable up considerably. A full season of Eloy Jiménez. Shoulder and knee injuries have limited Jiménez to only 139 games the last two years, during which he’s managed 26 homers and an .808 OPS. Imagine what he could do with good health? Jimenez just turned 26 and it feels like he’s still scratching the surface of what he can be. A full season of Eloy is the kind of thing that could vault the White Sox to the top of a winnable AL Central. New ownership. Hands down, the most shameful moment of the 2022 baseball season was Reds president Phil Castellini telling fans who are frustrated with the team’s direction, “Well, where you gonna go?” just days after he and his ilk ended an unnecessary lockout that shut the sport down for 99 days. That’s the time when he should have been trying to win fans back. The team is bad, attendance is down more than a million fans from 2015, and the president is talking to fans like that? The Reds are a proud, historic franchise with an incredible fan base. They deserve better and I hope they get better ownership this holiday season. A Steven Kwan clone. Kwan was a trendy breakout pick heading into 2022 and he delivered with a Gold Glove season that saw him post 5.5 WAR and walk more than he struck out. Now if only the Guardians had another one of him. That would be very good and very fun, and would help elevate an offense that was middle of the pack more than World Series caliber. Kwan is one of the most productive and most entertaining players in the sport. Every fan base should be so lucky as to have a player like him on their favorite team. A Kris Bryant home run in Coors Field. This is the baseball version of getting a pair of socks for the holidays. Injuries limited Bryant to 42 games in his first year with the Rockies and he did not hit a single home run in his 26 home games. He hit all five homers on the road. Bryant hasn’t gone deep in Coors Field since 2017, when he was still with the Cubs. Socks are good and useful even if they’re an unspectacular gift. Bryant hitting a home run in his home run-friendly home ballpark is similarly good and useful, even if it’s supposed to come with the territory. A Javier Báez rebound. Báez’s first season with the Tigers could not have gone worse, and he’s still signed for another five years at big dollars. He’ll be part of the team for the foreseeable future, so if the Tigers are going to snap out of this perpetual rebuild and return to contention, Báez will have to be part of the solution. He just turned 30 and is a year removed from a 31-homer, 4.6 WAR season. That Báez is still in there. It’s just a matter of finding him again. Shooting Star throwbacks. What do you get the team that has everything, including a World Series championship and a dynamite core that will keep the team in contention for the foreseeable future? I’m going with sweet Shooting Star throwback uniforms. These are so awesome. My holiday wish for the Astros is wearing those regularly. A classic, spectacular look. Do it, Astros. An overhauled pitcher development department. The Royals have a new general manager (J.J. Picollo) and a new manager (Matt Quatraro), but what they really need is a solution to the pitcher development problem that has plagued the franchise in recent years. Other than Brady Singer, they’ve had a lot of talented pitching prospects and high draft picks stall out. It will be close to impossible for Kansas City to return to contention without developing their own arms. This is one of those “asking for something I need, not something I want” holiday gift requests. A Shohei Ohtani extension. This is the time of year when you ask for things you know you probably won’t get. In all likelihood, Ohtani will test free agency next offseason, and if the Angels don’t go to the postseason next year, it’s not hard to envision him leaving for a team better positioned to contend. A record-setting extension would be the perfect holiday gift for Angels fans. As for something a bit more realistic, how about owner Arte Moreno selling the team to the West Coast version of Steve Cohen? I don’t know who it is, but that person is out there. A Bryan Reynolds trade. The Dodgers have been fairly quiet this offseason. They re-signed Clayton Kershaw and signed J.D. Martinez and Noah Syndergaard to sensible one-year contracts, and that’s really it. The Dodgers have a glaring need in center field, and not only has Reynolds requested a trade, the Pirates are said to want young pitching in return. The Dodgers have plenty of it to offer in prospects Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, Gavin Stone, et al. Feels like the perfect holiday trade match. An average offense. I’m not greedy. I could ask for one of the best offenses in baseball, but I didn’t. An average offense would represent a huge upgrade for a Marlins team that has ranked 28th, 29th, 21st, 29th, 30th, 11th, 27th, 29th, 16th, and 30th in runs per game in the last 10 seasons. That’s an average finish of 25th. The Marlins can really pitch, but the offense is a constant letdown, and they’ve been unable to find anyone willing to take their money to improve it this offseason. Give the Marlins an average offense this holiday season. It just might be good enough to get them to the postseason in 2023. The return of Christian Yelich’s power. After hitting 44 home runs in 130 games in 2019, Yelich has knocked just 35 in 329 games since, and he’s slipped from MVP caliber to a tick better than league average. Considering the small payroll Brewers owe him north of $160 million through 2028, Yelich’s decline is a potential franchise-crusher. They badly need him to drive the bus rather than be a passenger. Yelich still gets on base at a good clip, but without the power, he’s rather ordinary. He doesn’t have to return all the way back to his 2018-19 form for this to be a good holiday gift, though I’m sure the Milwaukee faithful would welcome it. A healthy Royce Lewis. It feels like Lewis, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, has been A Guy forever, but he’s still only 23 and has just 12 games of MLB experience. The pandemic is partly to blame for that, as is a pair of ACL tears, including one this past May. The Twins expect him back sometime in the first half next year, and now that Carlos Correa is no longer around to man shortstop, the position is there for the taking. Lewis coming back strong and playing a full season, and cementing himself as the shortstop of the present and future, would be an A+ holiday gift for the Twinkies. A World Series title. I mean, what else can you get them at this point? Owner Steve Cohen has committed more than $500 million to his 2023 team between player salaries and competitive balance tax penalties, and he didn’t do that just to celebrate an NL East title and maybe a trip to the Championship Series. He’s in it to win it. The Mets are like the rich kid who already has everything. Everything except a World Series ring. That’s the only gift worth asking for now. Anthony Volpe on Opening Day. The Yankees have passed on a lot — A LOT — of premium shortstops the last two offseasons because they believe so much in Volpe as their shortstop of the future. The 21-year-old reached Triple-A this past season and has done everything he needs to do in the minors. Yankees fans have been hearing about the kid for a few years now and they’re eager to see him. Volpe winning the shortstop job in Spring Training, making the Opening Day roster, and having a Rookie of the Year caliber season would be a great holiday gift. A new stadium in Oakland. It feels like ownership wants to move the team to Las Vegas and is dragging their feet until it is the only viable solution, but I hope the Athletics remain in Oakland. They belong there and the fan base deserves better. The proposed Howard Terminal stadium is only a few miles north of the Coliseum and would keep the team in the city they’ve called home since 1968. It’s a shame ownership seems so hellbent on moving the A’s elsewhere. A quick return for Bryce Harper. Despite playing most of the year with a torn ligament in his elbow, Harper had another productive season in 2022 and he was a monster in October, hitting .349/.414/.746 in 17 postseason games. The bill came due on that elbow ligament after the season and Harper is expected to miss much of the first half next year recovering from Tommy John surgery. A quick return (say, late May?) would do wonders for the Phillies’ odds of winning the NL East and repeating as National League champs. Oneil Cruz figuring it out. It seemed like things started to click for Cruz down the stretch this past season, when he cut down on his chases and his walk rate exploded. He’s 6-foot-7 with a big strike zone, so strikeouts will always be part of his game, but a more disciplined approach is what will allow him to make the jump from exciting tools freak to bona fide superstar. We saw hints of things coming together late this season. Cruz fully figuring it out next year would be the best holiday gift Pirates fans have received since Andrew McCutchen showed up more than a decade ago. Adam Wainwright’s farewell to go as well as Albert Pujols’. Pujols just had an all-time great farewell season, which of course included his 700th career home run, and it came after a five-year run in which he looked done. Like done done. Wainwright announced 2023 will be his final season and he’s been really good these last few years, but a monster farewell season a la Pujols sure would be awesome. Let’s get one more look at vintage 2009-14 Wainwright, the guy who finished top three in the Cy Young voting four times. It would be fun and also really help the Cardinals repeat at NL Central champs. A more mature Fernando Tatis Jr. A motorcycle accident and then a performance-enhancing drug suspension kept Tatis off the field in 2022 and will again early in 2023, and the Padres were not shy about saying they were unhappy with him. All the distractions make it easy to forget Tatis is only 23 and a transcendent talent who performed at an MVP level as soon as he arrived in the big leagues. The Padres are one of the best and most fun teams in the sport. Add a healthy and more mature Tatis to the mix and they’ll be even better and much more fun. Some 2021 magic. I feel like Giants fans need a hug more than anything right now. It has been a disastrous offseason for the Giants and I honestly have no idea how they can salvage it after the Carlos Correa fiasco, or if it’s even salvagable. As always, the best cure is winning, especially winning unexpectedly, and the Giants sure did a lot of unexpected winning in 2021. A return of the mix-and-match magic that led the team to 107 wins would be a great holiday gift. Sorry, Giants fans. I didn’t know what else to get you. This is the “cash in an envelope” gift. Does the job, but it lacks personal touch. Jarred Kelenic figuring it out. Kelenic was one of the five to ten best prospects in baseball as recently as two years ago, but the MLB numbers are ugly: .168/.251/.338 in 147 games. He’s still only 23 and he isn’t the first top prospect to struggle in his first taste of the big leagues, but still, Kelenic has been bad. Julio Rodríguez was everything Mariners fans hoped and dreamed he would be in 2022. I can’t think of a better holiday gift for the Mariners faithful than Kelenic figuring it out and joining Julio as a franchise cornerstone outfielder. Realignment. Baseball is in the middle of its longest expansion drought since the league first expanded in 1961. That’ll change soon, right? Expand to 32 teams and go with four four-team divisions per league. When that happens, moving the Rays out of the same division as the big market Yankees and Red Sox (and Blue Jays) would be a fantastic gift for the franchise. Life would be a little easier for the small payroll Rays in a division without those big market behemoths. Imagine if they’d traded places with, say, the Twins? The path to the World Series would be much easier outside the AL East. A healthy Jacob deGrom. For my money, deGrom is the best per-inning pitcher of his generation, but it has been four years since he’s threw even 100 innings in a season. Obviously the pandemic played a part in that. Still, I enjoy watching great players and we haven’t seen deGrom enough the last few years. The Rangers gave him a big five-year contract and I want him to stay healthy all five years on his way to Cooperstown. There are few things on this year’s holiday wish list I want more than a healthy deGrom. A José Berríos rebound. Leading the league in earned runs is definitely not what the Blue Jays had in mind when they gave Berríos a seven-year extension last offseason. The right-hander’s fastball got hit hard in 2022, though that is an outlier relative to the rest of his career, and Berríos has a long track record of munching innings at a better than average rate. Berríos returning to his pre-2022 form would give Toronto one of the best rotation top fours in the sport alongside Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and the newly signed Chris Bassitt. A Stephen Strasburg comeback. Look, the Nationals aren’t giving their fans much to be excited about right now. Maybe the Juan Soto trade proves to be a franchise-altering deal like the Mark Teixeira trade was for the Rangers, but that is still years into the future. So, a good holiday gift is a healthy Strasburg and a return to his World Series MVP form. If the team is going to be bad — and all signs point to the Nationals being bad again in 2023 — it would at least be nice to see a franchise icon back on top of his game.





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