Those are two of the very best players in the sport, and it’s easy to make the case that those moves will go down as the biggest trade and biggest signing of this offseason. None of that means the Yankees or Dodgers are finished — far from it. But at least they have a tentpole addition around which to continue building their rosters for 2024.
The same cannot be said for some other clubs hoping to contend. Some pursued a Soto trade and/or an Ohtani signing and came up short. Others were perhaps already taking a different approach. Either way, there is much left to be done.
We asked seven MLB.com writers to each pick one other club that still faces the greatest need to make a significant Hot Stove splash this winter. Here are the results:
Why they need a splash: The Giants have whiffed on several marquee free agents in recent years. They missed out on Bryce Harper in 2019. They ostensibly finished in second place for Aaron Judge and saw their deal with Carlos Correa fall through last year. Their offer to Ohtani was “very comparable” to what he received from the Dodgers, but the Giants were left watching the game’s most talented player join their biggest rival. San Francisco finished 21 games behind Los Angeles in the NL West last season, and Ohtani creates more distance between the two clubs. Plus, the National League champion D-backs have already made a notable addition this offseason, fortifying their rotation with Eduardo Rodriguez. The Giants have to act if they don’t want to get left behind in the division.
How they could make one: There is no one-to-one replacement for Ohtani, so the Giants need to finalize multiple significant transactions to gain ground on the Dodgers. They did make a splash of sorts on Tuesday, agreeing to a six-year, $113 million contract with KBO star Jung Hoo Lee, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. That is the third-richest contract the Giants have given to a free agent, and they have their sights on other players who could command a nine-figure deal.
Even after adding Lee to their outfield, the Giants may still be in on Cody Bellinger. His power is needed in an outfield that recorded the lowest slugging percentage in the National League this past season (.682). MLB Network insider Jon Paul Morosi sees third baseman Matt Chapman as an option for the Giants. Chapman, a California native, played under current Giants manager Bob Melvin while with Oakland from 2017-21. Of course, San Francisco could really make waves by signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The club reportedly met with the 25-year-old Japanese ace on Sunday. But many clubs — including some on this list — are making a big push for him as well.
Why they need a splash: Talk about a whirlwind of emotions for Blue Jays fans. For a while, it looked like the Blue Jays could land Ohtani. Instead, the two-way superstar signed a record-breaking contract with the Dodgers last weekend. It also looked like Soto was a potential match for the Blue Jays before the divisional-rival Yankees traded for him. Missing out on two generational superstars stings, and there’s no remotely comparable player to whom the Blue Jays could pivot. Still, the fact that Toronto was in on both Soto and Ohtani suggests that it’s willing to do what it takes to make a big move to get over the hump and win its first playoff game since 2016. Making a big move (or two) will help the Blue Jays boost their chances in an ultra-competitive AL East.
How they could make one: No Ohtani or Soto replacement is available, but there’s no shortage of players the Blue Jays can target instead. Yoshinobu Yamamoto could be in play; the Blue Jays have been linked to him this offseason. Adding Yamamoto could give Toronto one of the best rotations in the sport — or the club could use its pitching surplus to trade for a position player. In terms of hitters, third baseman Matt Chapman could return to Toronto, while center fielder Cody Bellinger has also been linked with the Blue Jays. Given that the team reportedly made a “very competitive” offer for Ohtani, there’s evidence that Toronto is willing to spend quite a bit to improve.
Why they need a splash: The Cubs’ interest in Ohtani was not only genuine, but they believed they were in the running to land the best player in the world until as recently as the Winter Meetings. But with Ohtani instead choosing the Dodgers, Chicago now needs to execute its backup plan — and quickly. Missing out on Ohtani obviously hurts, but the Cubs also need to account for Cody Bellinger, Marcus Stroman and Jeimer Candelario all hitting free agency. Candelario already signed a three-year, $45 million deal with the division-rival Reds, but the other two remain on the market. With the NL Central once again figuring to be a wide-open division, the Cubs certainly don’t want to head to Spring Training in a worse position than they finished the 2023 season.
How they could make one: Even after missing out on Ohtani, the good news for the Cubs is there are still plenty of ways they can make some noise this winter. The most obvious would be re-signing Bellinger, whose bounce-back performance in his debut season on the North Side earned him the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. As for replacing Candelario, the Cubs could turn to four-time Gold Glove winner Matt Chapman, who is a free agent after spending the past two seasons in Toronto. On the pitching side, there are enticing options available via either free agency (Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Shōta Imanaga) or trade (Shane Bieber). Oh, and let’s not forget the bullpen, where free-agent closer Josh Hader could slot in nicely for his former manager, Craig Counsell.
Why they need a splash: The Dodgers got Ohtani. The Yankees got Soto. The Mets … crickets. This is a New York team that needs to make a big move to get back on the level of its big-market rivals. The Mets need a star who can jump-start a turnaround back into World Series contenders. And not a short-term guy, either. It has to be someone who can open up a multi-year window of contention.
How they could make one: Yoshinobu Yamamoto. It has to be Yamamoto. There’s a case the Mets should’ve been in on Ohtani, even though they weren’t, since Ohtani’s return to being a two-way player in 2025 would’ve lined up with New York’s 2024 “bridge year” plans. There’s a case they should’ve tried to trade for Soto, too — since he’s, you know, a 25-year-old future Hall of Famer — if not for the uncertainty of locking him up with an extension before he hits free agency next winter. But those ships have sailed. And there’s only one big ship left: Yamamoto. He’s as young as Soto, 25. He was even better than Kodai Senga in Japan, and Senga was a Cy Young contender in his Mets debut. Yamamoto has ace potential for way beyond just 2024, and he’s Step 1 in putting the Mets back on the map. He’s the rare pitcher who just might be able to fill the shoes of a deGrom or Verlander or Scherzer in Queens.
Why they need a splash: After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2023 — they were only two wins behind the Astros and the eventual World Series champion Rangers — all the Mariners have done this offseason is subtract from their lineup. Seattle didn’t make a qualifying offer to free-agent right fielder Teoscar Hernández, then traded third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the D-backs and left fielder Jarred Kelenic to the Braves. With catcher Tom Murphy also reaching free agency and DH Mike Ford getting non-tendered, the Mariners have lost five of their nine leading home run hitters from last season. They need to capitalize on this window — at a time when teams around the Majors are paying big bucks for starting pitching, the Mariners are loaded with young, controllable arms, not to mention a frontline starter under contract for only $21.6 million per year in Luis Castillo. That could give Seattle a huge edge, but any advantage will be mitigated if the team doesn’t improve on the other side of the ball.
How they could make one: The Mariners need multiple outfielders, a third baseman and a designated hitter. Fortunately for Seattle, those positions are among the stronger areas in this year’s free-agent class, with Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Justin Turner, J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler all still available. Former Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins could also be a DH option if they don’t want to displace Ty France at first. Another possibility? Revisiting trade talks with the Rays for outfielder Randy Arozarena and third baseman Isaac Paredes.
Why they need a splash: Because their time is now. The Orioles’ rebuild came together in a hurry in 2023, resulting in 101 wins and an AL East title — albeit one followed by an ALDS sweep to Texas. Baltimore has exciting young talent on the Major League roster and much more on the way, something that would be the envy of just about every team. But let’s not forget: Nothing in baseball is guaranteed, and windows have a habit of slamming shut sooner than expected. This is a franchise that has gone 40 seasons (1984-2023) without a World Series appearance, and the AL East is not going to concede anything. A bold move or two may be needed in order to capitalize on the Orioles’ favorable position.
How they could make one: By adding starting pitching. Baltimore had roughly a middle-of-the-pack rotation in 2023 and lost Kyle Gibson to free agency. Grayson Rodriguez offers significant upside entering his age-24 season, and the potential for a full season from John Means helps. Still, this is the easiest way for Baltimore to raise its ceiling, especially given the incredible depth of young position-player talent it has available to deal. Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman, and No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday are going nowhere, but just about anyone else should be considered a potential trade chip. Dylan Cease of the White Sox (two years of control) or Logan Gilbert of the Mariners (four years) are two possible targets that would make a great deal of sense, assuming Baltimore doesn’t simply want to use its readily available payroll flexibility to haul in a top free-agent starter such as Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery.
Why they need a splash: With identical 78-84 records in 2022 and 2023, the Red Sox finished last in the AL East in back-to-back years for just the second time since divisional play began in 1969. Boston needs a big move — or several big moves — to compete in a division featuring the 100-win Orioles, a perennial contender in the Rays, a talented Blue Jays team also hoping to make a splash, and a Yankees club that just paired Soto with Aaron Judge. If the Red Sox — winners of four World Series since 2000 and in the ALCS as recently as 2021 — intend to compete, they need to make some moves. Boston could stand to add to a starting rotation that pitched the fourth-fewest innings in MLB in 2023, and it certainly needs to bolster a defense that posted -50 outs above average last season, tied for the second-worst total since the metric was created in 2016. Adding two-time Gold Glove outfielder Tyler O’Neill will help, but the Red Sox can’t stop there.
How they could make one: Go get Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Sure, the Red Sox aren’t the only contender for his services, but few teams need the 25-year-old ace more than Boston. All seven pitchers to make 10 or more starts for the Sox in 2023 had ERAs above 4.00. Meanwhile, Yamamoto posted a 1.82 ERA in seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and seems like a safe bet to be an ace in MLB. He won’t come cheap, but Boston — which ran just the 13th-highest payroll in the Majors in 2023 — should pony up to stabilize its rotation. Red Sox chairman Tom Werner has said his team will go “full throttle” when it comes to aggressive spending this offseason, and perhaps no move would back that up more than bringing Yamamoto to Boston.