There’s still plenty of time left in the offseason for teams to check items off their winter to-do lists, but with the spirit of holiday shopping in the air, let’s take a look at what baseball’s teams have already done to fix their roster’s weakest links from last season. Using Baseball Reference’s list of how each team performed (as per bWAR) by position in 2022, let’s start with the 15 National League clubs….
Braves (Pinch-hitting, 0.3 bWAR): We’ll start with a team without many weak points, as the Braves amassed 104 wins thanks mostly to one of the best offensive lineups in baseball history. Atlanta’s everyday players were so good and so durable that the bench didn’t get much of a chance to even hit the field, even as late-game subs. As to how the bench depth might improve, Vaughn Grissom is expected to take on a larger role, and David Fletcher was acquired from the Angels as a backup infield upgrade over Nicky Lopez.
Brewers (First base, 0.4 bWAR): Carlos Santana is a free agent, Rowdy Tellez was non-tendered, and Mark Canha was traded to the Tigers as the Brew Crew might more or less completely reshuffle their first base mix. GM Matt Arnold did hint that Santana could return and highly-touted prospect Tyler Black could factor at either corner infield position, but for now, first base remains somewhat in flux. Jake Bauers was acquired from the Yankees and currently projects to work with Owen Miller in a platoon at the cold corner.
Cardinals (Pinch-hitting, 0.2 bWAR): St. Louis’ rotation problems have been well-documented, and their 4.1 rotation bWAR ranked 28th of 30 teams. However, pinch-hitting was technically the Cardinals’ weakest point by pure bWAR metrics, and this area might just improve with better results from the team’s in-house options. On paper, the Cards have plenty of versatile position-player depth, though they need to figure out which members of this group will be lineup regulars or perhaps off the team altogether.
Cubs (First base, 0.4 bWAR): Even with Cody Bellinger getting a big chunk of the playing time at first base, he hit only .267/.310/.467 over 200 plate appearances as a first baseman, in contrast to his red-hot .323/.381/.548 slash line in 339 PA as a center fielder. A Matt Mervis/Patrick Wisdom/Christopher Morel combination is currently in place at the cold corner, yet it doesn’t feel like the Cubs are going to just stand pat the position. Wrigleyville has been linked to such trade and free agent targets as Pete Alonso, Josh Naylor, and Rhys Hoskins, plus a reunion with Bellinger can’t yet be ruled out.
Diamondbacks (Third base, 0.0 bWAR): The NL champions only got replacement-level production at the hot corner last year, but Arizona has already made a big move by adding Eugenio Suarez in a trade with the Mariners. It’s a possible short-term fix since 2024 is the last guaranteed year of Suarez’s contract, though he should provide the D’Backs with some extra power while the team gets some more time to evaluate Jordan Lawlar’s readiness at shortstop (which could shift Gerardo Perdomo to third base in the future).
Dodgers (Pinch-hitting, 1.3 bWAR): Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers’ “weakest position” is still pretty respectable. The return of Gavin Lux and the acquisition of Manuel Margot should raise the talent floor on the roster in terms of bench depth, as younger players like Miguel Vargas or Michael Busch could contribute in backup or part-time roles, rather than being relied on (as Vargas was last season) for a high-pressure starting role. The left field position also generated 1.4 bWAR in 2023, and Los Angeles hopes that the addition of Margot can help on that front, plus a return to form for Chris Taylor would help a ton.
Giants (Shortstop, -1.3 bWAR): Longtime shortstop Brendan Crawford battled injuries all season long and wasn’t very productive when he was on the field, leaving the Giants short-handed at one of the most important positions on the diamond. Top prospect Marco Luciano made his MLB debut last season and will get a longer look in 2024, but San Francisco is also looking around for shortstop help, perhaps just as a one-year stopgap to help Luciano ease into the big leagues.
Marlins (Catcher, -0.6 bWAR): Jacob Stallings wasn’t tendered a contract, and Christian Bethancourt was acquired from the Guardians as president of baseball operations Peter Bendix picked up another of his former players from the Rays. The Bethancourt/Nick Fortes tandem is at least a defensively-stout pairing behind the plate, though Miami isn’t done in exploring the market for more catching help, and former Cardinal Andrew Knizner is reportedly of interest.
Mets (Third base, -1.2 bWAR): No team got less from the hot corner than the Amazins, but New York’s initial plan for the offseason was to keep rolling with younger players like Brett Baty, Ronny Mauricio, or Mark Vientos. However, Mauricio will now miss most or all of the season due to a torn ACL, reducing the options to Baty, Vientos, or utilityman Joey Wendle. Justin Turner is reportedly a player of interest for the Mets, which could fit since Turner would also get a lot of time as a DH, allowing for the youngsters to get action at the third base spot. If not Turner, some other veteran infield depth option could be obtained, yet the Mets want to give their top prospects some time since 2024 is looking like something of an evaluation year for the team.
Nationals (Designated hitter, 0.7 bWAR): Joey Meneses got the bulk of DH at-bats in 2023, and he couldn’t keep up the magic of his surprising 2022 breakout, hitting only .275/.321/.401 in his second year in the majors. Meneses could get more time at first base now that Dominic Smith has been non-tendered, and Washington also brought in Juan Yepez and Lewin Diaz on minor league deals. In short, both the DH and first base spots are basically open-call auditions at this point, as the Nationals probably aren’t likely to acquire a longer-term answer for either position while the team is still rebuilding. The designated hitter role might not be addressed directly, as the Nats might end up cycling several players through the position.
Padres (First base/pinch-hitting, 0.5 bWAR): San Diego’s crowded infield picture resulted in Jake Cronenworth getting most of the first base opportunity, and he struggled after posting some very solid numbers from 2020-22. Cronenworth is still the favorite for the position at this point, and his big contract makes it likely that he’ll still be on the roster next year even though Cronenworth’s name has surfaced in some trade talks. Manny Machado will be used as a DH early in the season until he fully recovers from his elbow surgery, which somewhat complicates any plans San Diego might have in obtaining a slugging first base/DH type, yet such a player might still be a wise addition if the Padres feel confident Machado won’t need too much time to get fully healthy. As much as the Padres’ offseason has been defined to date by payroll cuts, their recent signing of reliever Yuki Matsui indicates that the team is still planning to contend, and getting another big bat in the lineup seems like a must.
Phillies (Third base, 0.4 bWAR): Alec Bohm and Edmundo Sosa mostly split the third base duties in 2023, as Bohm saw a lot of time at first base with Rhys Hoskins out and until Bryce Harper was ready to take over as the regular first baseman. Harper will be sticking at first base in 2024, so Bohm will be back as the full-time third baseman. The former top prospect has been roughly a league-average hitter in his four MLB seasons and his glovework at third base still garners mixed reviews, so if the Phillies did want to make a bigger move to their everyday core, Bohm might be a candidate to be the odd man out. That said, president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski has indicated that the Phils are more or less done with their top-tier winter shopping.
Pirates (Catcher/shortstop, -0.9 bWAR): The answer is the same at both positions for the Bucs — get full and healthy seasons from two of their best young players. Oneil Cruz missed almost the entire season due to ankle surgery, while Henry Davis made his MLB debut but barely played any catcher, mostly seeing time as a right fielder instead. Unfortunately, another top catching prospect in Endy Rodriguez will miss the entire season due to UCL surgery, so Davis now looks to be the top choice behind the plate unless the Pirates prefer to use Jason Delay and Ali Sanchez while Davis gets more acclimated to the position.
Reds (Right field/DH/Pinch-hitting, 0.7 bWAR): Cincinnati had a three-way tie in the “weakest position” race, and the answer to all three positions might be internal improvements. Or, at least a shuffle caused by the signing of Jeimer Candelario, which will further crowd the infield and push Spencer Steer into a clear left field role. This will in turn make Will Benson and Jake Fraley into the right field platoon, and Christian Encarnacion-Strand or Jonathan India might now be in line for DH duty now that the Reds have parted ways with Joey Votto. There are plenty of moving parts here for the Reds, not to mention the fact that Cincinnati might still move one of their infielders in a trade for pitching.
Rockies (First base/second base, -0.6 bWAR): Colorado hopes to have Kris Bryant and Brendan Rodgers healthy, which would automatically make things better at the two lackluster infield positions. It’s been a pretty quiet winter to date for the Rockies, as their limited transactions to date have understandably been focused on addding pitching. Colorado only received 0.6 bWAR from its starting pitchers in 2023, the lowest mark in baseball.