With spring camps getting underway, we look at the biggest question facing each American League club as preparations begin for the 2024 MLB season.Baltimore Orioles: Is another starting pitcher needed? Ron Jenkins / Major League Baseball / GettyThe Orioles made one of the best moves of the offseason by trading for 2021 NL Cy Young Corbin Burnes. The right-hander gives the Orioles a bona fide ace, which is something they've been desperately searching for. However, injuries to Kyle Bradish and John Means have put the Orioles in somewhat of a precarious position. Baltimore still has plenty of assets to trade if it chooses to go that route, but adding a free-agent pitcher like Michael Lorenzen or Hyun Jin Ryu could also add some depth until one or both of Bradish and Means return.Boston Red Sox: Can Story find his All-Star form? G Fiume / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Red Sox haven't gotten much return on their investment after dishing out a six-year, $140-million contract to Trevor Story in March 2022. The 31-year-old has recorded 19 homers, 80 RBIs, 23 stolen bases, and a .685 OPS over a combined 137 games since inking his deal. He hit 158 long balls with 100 steals and an .863 OPS over the first six years of his career with the Rockies, earning two All-Star nods. He's also been limited to just 35 starts at shortstop with Boston. The club needs Story at his best to make a run at a wild-card spot.Chicago White Sox: When will Cease be traded? Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / GettyDylan Cease has been mentioned in trade rumors all offseason amid a rebuild for the White Sox. A deal hasn't materialized with Chicago's front office reportedly asking for multiple high-end prospects. The 2022 AL Cy Young runner-up is arbitration-eligible through the 2025 campaign. However, a potential return for the right-hander could be diminished if the club waits too long to deal a player who won't likely be on the South Side when the White Sox are competitive again.Cleveland Guardians: How will they find more power? Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyThe Guardians finished 30th and 29th in home runs over the last two seasons, respectively. Jos Ram rez and Josh Naylor both hit more than 20 home runs in 2023, but there wasn't much else beyond those two. Cleveland is certainly hoping slugging prospect Kyle Manzardo can provide an infusion of power to the lineup.Detroit Tigers: Can young core lead charge to division title? Ron Schwane / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Tigers finished nine games behind the Twins in the underwhelming AL Central after accruing 78 wins. Detroit appears to have narrowed the gap heading into 2024 after a solid offseason that included bringing in Kenta Maeda, Jack Flaherty, and Mark Canha. Meanwhile, Minnesota failed to make any big additions and lost AL Cy Young runner-up Sonny Gray. The Tigers also have a chance for significant internal improvement if Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Kerry Carpenter, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning can stay healthy and produce.Houston Astros: Will this be Bregman's last year in Houston? Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettyAlex Bregman is entering his final season under team control and is expected to be one of the marquee free agents next offseason. The 29-year-old is among the game's most consistent third basemen as he pairs strong defensive play with a 137 wRC+ at the plate over eight MLB seasons. Bregman should command at least $200 million in free agency. The Astros also have decisions to make on Kyle Tucker and Framber Valdez after the 2025 campaign, so there's a strong possibility Bregman could be playing his final year in Houston.Kansas City Royals: Can Ragans turn into a legit No. 1 starter? Ed Zurga / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Royals haven't had a true ace since Zack Greinke won the 2009 AL Cy Young. Cole Ragans showed his potential to be dominant following a trade with the Rangers last season, amassing a 2.64 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 11.2 K/9 over 71 2/3 innings (12 starts). The 26-year-old left-hander also placed in the 97th percentile in baseball in offspeed run value, 89th in fastball velocity, and 83rd in whiff percentage.Los Angeles Angels: How will they make up for the loss of Ohtani? Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / GettyThe Angels lost their best hitter and ace when Shohei Ohtani fled to the state rival Dodgers. The club also hasn't done a thing this offseason to attempt to replace the production the Japanese superstar provided with his bat (44 homers and 1.066 OPS) and arm (3.14 ERA with 167 strikeouts). Mike Trout said he's not ready to ask for a trade, but surely his patience is being tested without any meaningful additions to the roster. The young players on the team will need to make a big impression this spring.Minnesota Twins: Is Lewis the next face of the franchise? Ron Schwane / Getty Images Sport / GettyRoyce Lewis put himself on the map with a strong postseason performance in 2023, hitting four home runs with a 1.119 OPS. The 24-year-old belted 15 home runs with 52 RBIs in 217 regular-season at-bats and appears poised to become a household name in 2024. It wouldn't be surprising if Lewis emerges as the Twins' best offensive player.New York Yankees: Is Snell the missing piece of the puzzle? Harry How / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Yankees reportedly have an offer on the table for reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell. However, a deal doesn't appear imminent. New York would become the favorite to win the loaded AL East should it sign the star left-hander. The addition of Snell would also counter the Orioles' acquisition of Burnes. The duo of Gerrit Cole and Snell would lead a rotation with serious upside while Juan Soto and Aaron Judge bring the thunder to one of the deepest lineups in the majors (if healthy).Oakland Athletics: Can Gelof become a star? Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport / GettyNot a whole lot is going right for the Athletics coming off back-to-back 100-plus-loss campaigns. The team also doesn't know where it will play following this season amid a messy relocation process aimed at bringing the club to Las Vegas in 2028. Yet, Oakland has a potential future All-Star to build around after Zack Gelof hit the ground running last year. The 24-year-old went deep 14 times with 14 steals and an .840 OPS over 69 games in his first taste of MLB action.Seattle Mariners: Will Rodr guez put together an MVP-type season? Alika Jenner / Getty Images Sport / GettyJulio Rodr guez's 2023 campaign was a tale of two halves. The 23-year-old posted a .721 OPS and 13 home runs before the All-Star break before exploding for a .941 OPS with 19 home runs following the break. Rodr guez's second-half performance almost catapulted Seattle into the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The two-time All-Star is already emerging as a popular preseason pick to win his first MVP. That's a very realistic outcome if he can avoid some of the valleys he endured in 2023 and remain more consistent at the plate.Tampa Bay Rays: Is the rotation good enough to compete in the AL East? Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe Rays will have to navigate life without the services of Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen for most, if not all, of the 2024 season due to injuries. Tampa Bay has made a habit of defying long odds and expectations and will need to do so again to make the postseason for a sixth straight year. The Rays will need strong performances from young arms like Taj Bradley and Ryan Pepiot to stay competitive in the AL East.Texas Rangers: Can the rotation hold up until reinforcements arrive? Sam Hodde / Getty Images Sport / GettyThe defending World Series champions will have to navigate the first few months of the season without Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Tyler Mahle in the rotation as the three recover from injuries. A reunion with Jordan Montgomery seems unlikely, leaving Bruce Bochy with a rotation of Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, and potentially Cody Bradford to start the campaign.Toronto Blue Jays: What version of Guerrero will show up? Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettyVladimir Guerrero Jr. enters camp in great shape after a disappointing 2023 season by his standards. The 24-year-old hit 26 homers with a .788 OPS while struggling defensively at times following a Gold Glove nod at first base two years ago. The last time the three-time All-Star made a concerted effort to work on his fitness was in 2021 when he ultimately finished as the AL MVP runner-up after belting an MLB-best 48 round-trippers with a 1.002 OPS. Guerrero is slated to test free agency following the 2025 campaign, but a big season could help land a lucrative extension.Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.
More updates on Tyler Mahle, Max Scherzer
The long, slow Major League Baseball offseason isn't quite over, but it's never too early to look ahead. Next winter is set to feature a loaded group of players on the open market, including some of the biggest stars in the sport. Here's an early look at the top 20 free agents in 2024-25.1. Juan Soto Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: LF/RF2024 Team: YankeesAge (as of July 1): 26Career fWAR: 28.4There's no question that Soto is next winter's crown jewel. Arguably the best all-around hitter in baseball, Soto is an on-base machine with power who walks more than he strikes out, has never posted an OBP below .400, and has collected a World Series ring, batting title, and four Silver Sluggers before turning 26. This is the kind of charismatic superstar every franchise dreams of building around - and he'll be available to everyone in the middle of his prime. Soto's worth every penny of the exorbitant price he'll command.2. Gerrit Cole Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettyPosition: RHP2024 Team: YankeesAge (as of July 1): 34Career fWAR: 43.9There's no guarantee that Cole will hit the market. He has an opt-out clause after this season, but if he exercises it, the Yankees can immediately void that decision by adding a 10th guaranteed year at $36 million to his contract. Barring injury, that seems like an easy choice for New York. Still, it's nice to dream about seeing Cole in free agency again. He'd be the best available pitcher by a mile.3. Alex Bregman Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettyPosition: 3B2024 Team: AstrosAge (as of July 1): 30Career fWAR: 35.2One of baseball's best all-around third basemen will likely be open for business next winter. Bregman's a two-time All-Star whose quiet consistency on both sides of the ball has made him one of the heartbeats of the Astros' AL West dynasty. A Scott Boras client who's likely to ask for a long-term deal heading into his age-31 season may scare some teams off, but the smart clubs will be all over the second-best position player of this class. Bregman's a winner and can be a difference-maker for any contender with a hole at the hot corner.4. Corbin Burnes John Fisher / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: RHP2024 Team: OriolesAge (as of July 1): 30Career fWAR: 17.7If Cole isn't available, Burnes instantly becomes the top free-agent starter. The 2021 NL Cy Young winner is a strikeout machine, averaging 11 K/9 for his career and leading the NL in strikeouts (243) in 2022. Moving to pitcher-friendly Camden Yards should boost his walk-year numbers at the perfect time. Despite never throwing a complete game, Burnes has proven durable over the last three years and should remain a top-tier ace for a long time.5. Max Fried Rob Tringali / Major League Baseball / GettyPosition: LHP2024 Team: BravesAge (as of July 1): 30Career fWAR: 15.7Fried dealt with some injuries in 2023 and will be a free agent heading into his age-31 season. But, when healthy, he's one of the most dominant lefties in baseball - as he showed while putting up a 2.55 ERA with 9.3 K/9 in only 14 starts last year. Fried, the NL Cy Young runner-up in 2022, consistently carves up hitters with a devastating six-pitch arsenal and is one of the best at limiting the long ball. He'll have no shortage of suitors if he hits the open market.6. Zack Wheeler Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: RHP2024 Team: PhilliesAge (as of July 1): 34Career fWAR: 31.8After his dominant run with the Phillies, Wheeler's shown few signs of slowing down nearing age 34 and continues to rack up the strikeouts while anchoring Philadelphia's staff alongside Aaron Nola. The Phillies will certainly have a fight on their hands to try and keep him. Wheeler's experience will likely make him a wanted man for contenders seeking a hardened veteran to help push them to the next level.7. Paul Goldschmidt Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyPosition: 1B2024 Team: CardinalsAge (as of July 1): 36Career fWAR: 57.4Goldschmidt remains one of the best first basemen in the sport, even at 36. He might not win another MVP, but there's no reason to dismiss him as a mid-order threat. Goldschmidt's glove remains solid (three defensive runs saved last year), which adds to his value since he's not a strict DH. He should still be a top option among available sluggers next year.8. Jose Altuve Boston Globe / Boston Globe / GettyPosition: 2B2024 Team: AstrosAge (as of July 1): 34Career fWAR: 52.6Like him or not, Altuve is still a brilliant hitter who would fit perfectly at the top of any lineup. The three-time batting champion and former AL MVP may not be a lock for 200 hits anymore, but he's one of the few consistent .300 hitters in today's game and couples that talent with elite power for his position (and stature). Whoever gets him will be buying a future Hall of Famer and potentially get the chance to watch him reach 3,000 hits in their uniform.9. Pete Alonso Rich Schultz / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: 1B2024 Team: MetsAge (as of July 1): 29Career fWAR: 14.5Alonso isn't a perfect player. His OBP declined last year, he walks less than some might want for a "three true outcome" hitter, and over one-third of his 123 hits in 2023 were home runs. But if it's power you're looking for, the Polar Bear is your guy. Flaws aside, Alonso is a lock for 35-plus homers and 100-plus RBIs annually and will always be a danger in the middle of the lineup. As the premier power bat of the 2024-25 class, he'll command a large salary in free agency - with good reason.10. Kenley Jansen Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyPosition: RP2024 Team: Red SoxAge (as of July 1): 36Career fWAR: 23.4Jansen has quietly continued his excellence at the back of the bullpen in Boston and is showing no signs of slowing down. MLB's active saves leader has never posted a K/9 rate below 10 in his career and is coming off a 29-save All-Star campaign. Barring injury, Jansen should be the best reliever on the market next year and will certainly have plenty of suitors since he's unlikely to sign a long-term deal at his age.11. Anthony Santander David Berding / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: OF2024 Team: OriolesAge (as of July 1): 29Career fWAR: 6.9Santander's one of the more underrated success stories of the Orioles' rebuild. Among switch-hitters over the last three seasons, only Jos Ram rez has hit more home runs than Santander's 79. He's placed top-10 in his league in extra-base hits twice and was second in the AL in doubles last year. Santander's set to hit free agency squarely in his prime and presents a solid switch-hitting option for teams in need of outfield help.12. Christian Walker Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / GettyPosition: 1B2024 Team: DiamondbacksAge (as of July 1): 33Career fWAR: 12.4Walker is one of the most consistent players in baseball. He's quietly become a perennial 30-homer threat in Arizona and is among the best active defensive first basemen, earning two consecutive Gold Glove awards. Though Walker won't be the best first baseman available, he's an excellent option for teams who will balk at the prices for Goldschmidt and Alonso.13. Shane Bieber Icon Sportswire / Getty ImagesPosition: SP2024 Team: GuardiansAge (as of July 1): 29Career fWAR: 20.7If Bieber can shake off his rough 2023, he'll be in the perfect position to cash in next winter. When healthy, the former Cy Young winner is a reliable workhorse who can front almost any rotation. At age 29, he may be viewed as a better long-term option than some of his fellow starters.14. Justin Verlander Daniel Shirey / Major League Baseball / GettyPosition: SP2024 Team: AstrosAge (as of July 1): 41Career fWAR: 81.3No one can reasonably expect Verlander to win another Cy Young at this point - but no one expected him to win one at age 39 following Tommy John surgery, either. Verlander continues to defy Father Time, and while he's now more of a mid-rotation pitcher at this stage of his career, he can still bring plenty to the table. If he throws 140 innings this year, Verlander will trigger a player option that would likely be declined since he'll have proven to still be a workhorse at 41. That would make him a wanted man in 2025.15. Ha-Seong Kim Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: IF2024 Team: PadresAge (as of July 1): 28Career fWAR: 8.6Kim has a mutual option for 2025, but those are rarely picked up by both sides, so he'll likely be available next winter. He presents an intriguing infield option thanks to his solid but unspectacular bat, excellent baserunning, and brilliant defense at three infield positions that won him last year's utility Gold Glove. Kim's age should also work in his favor, as he's younger than some other free-agent infielders.16. Danny Jansen Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: C2024 Team: Blue JaysAge (as of July 1): 29Career fWAR: 8.6Jansen will headline next year's crop of free-agent catchers, and it'll be fascinating to see what his market looks like. He's only played in 100 games once in his career, although some of his many injuries were freak incidents. Jansen hit a career-high 17 homers in only 301 plate appearances last year, has excellent career splits batting with the bases loaded and with runners in scoring position, and is defensively sound. He may not light the world on fire, but there are worse options than a healthy Jansen behind the plate.17. Eugenio Su rez Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: 3B2024 Team: DiamondbacksAge (as of July 1): 32Career fWAR: 24.4Su rez is the ultimate "three true outcome" player. He's led his league in strikeouts three times but walks enough (his career BB% is above 10%) and hits more than enough home runs to offset the Ks. He's also a consistent presence, playing at least 143 games in every full season since 2016. Should the Diamondbacks decline his club option, Su rez will offer plenty of value in the second tier of infielders and DH bats.18. Gleyber Torres Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: 2B2024 Team: YankeesAge (as of July 1): 27Career fWAR: 13.8It feels like yesterday that Torres was a top prospect headlining a blockbuster trade, and now he's poised to hit free agency. Torres' career hasn't always been smooth, but he is a two-time All-Star with pop who can play both second and shortstop as needed and is still a few years away from his 30th birthday. One more solid season in the Bronx will make him a wanted man in free agency as one of the better middle infielders available.19. Willy Adames Lachlan Cunningham / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: SS2024 Team: BrewersAge (as of July 1): 28Career fWAR: 17.1It feels unlikely that the Brewers will extend Adames, meaning he's a lock to become the best pure shortstop in next year's class. At the plate, he hasn't been able to fully replicate the .886 OPS he put up during his first year in Milwaukee and his OBP has also dropped, but the power (55 homers over the last two seasons) is still there. He's never won a Gold Glove, but his defense - 17 defensive runs saved and 25 outs above average since 2022 - is among the best at the position. There are far worse options to grab at shortstop on a long-term deal.20. Max Scherzer Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images Sport / GettyPosition: SP2024 Team: RangersAge (as of July 1): 39Career fWAR: 72.5No, he's not the old Mad Max anymore. It's fair to ask questions about a soon-to-be 40-year-old pitcher with chronic back problems who could miss the entire first half following back surgery. But if he's healthy, would you want anyone else on the mound? As long as his back holds up in the second half, this version of Scherzer on a short-term deal will be among the best pitchers available.Copyright © 2024 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.