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Returning to October a difficult task

Returning to October a difficult task

Returning to October a difficult task

The task of rebuilding a World Series winner has been an elusive one for more than a dozen years, with not a single successful defense and only one champion returning to the Fall Classic the following season since 2001.

As the Red Sox approach that project this offseason, they're not the only ones trying to find that formula that takes a championship club one year and makes it as good or better the next.

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Any team that made the postseason this year obviously wants to do it again, so really there are 10 clubs seeking that perfect balance between what worked in 2013 and what will work in '14.

With the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on the horizon next week, here's a look at the teams that made it to the October party last year and how they're going about trying to get back in 2014:

Red Sox: With Jacoby Ellsbury donning pinstripes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia gone to Miami and Mike Napoli being courted, the defending World Series champions will have some different pieces. Veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski was their first offensive addition, and the Sox remain on the lookout for at least one more big bat, perhaps a corner outfielder like veteran Carlos Beltran to allow Shane Victorino to shift back to center field.

They might also bring young Jackie Bradley Jr. into the fold, and there could be a multiyear reunion with Napoli and/or a return of shortstop Stephen Drew. But particularly with Ellsbury gone, the Red Sox have some maneuvering to do.

Boston began bolstering its bullpen by agreeing on Thursday to a two-year deal with right-hander Edward Mujica, who closed for the National League champion Cardinals for much of last season before fading down the stretch.

Cardinals: Getting a jump on the Winter Meetings, the Cardinals already signed free agent Jhonny Peralta to play second base, shifting breakout hitting star Matt Carpenter to third. That's where David Freese used to reside, but he was traded to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos, filling another need. And that might be all she wrote for the defending National League champs, who are solid through their young and talented pitching staff and a deep lineup.

Tigers: These cats from Detroit have made a lot of noise this offseason already, breaking out a blockbuster by bringing in second baseman Ian Kinsler in a trade for Prince Fielder, adding veteran closer Joe Nathan to plug what has been a hole in their postseason runs the last two years and dealing away starter Doug Fister for prospects. But the Tigers still head to the Winter Meetings knowing they still have a need for a big left-handed bat now that Fielder is gone.

Dodgers: No other team has been as active or has spent as much as the Dodgers over the last 18 months. So what do you get for the team that already went out and got everything? The Dodgers will head to the Meetings looking for bullpen help -- though they did finalize a deal to bring back Brian Wilson on Thursday -- and needing to shore up their infield, where second base and third base are still question marks. They also have a four-man outfield, which means longtime Dodgers Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp might be made available.

A's: With a flurry of activity this week, the A's haven't left a lot on their to-do list for Florida. They addressed the back end of their bullpen, acquiring closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles and setup man Luke Gregerson from the Padres. They also signed veteran pitcher Scott Kazmir, and flipped talented Michael Choice for versatile outfielder Craig Gentry for the fourth-outfield spot. That pretty much does it for the two-time defending AL West champs, but 2013 Executive of the Year Billy Beane and his staff will continue to monitor how they might improve for '14.

Rays: After acquiring Wil Myers in a swap last year that kept them in contention this year, the drums of a David Price trade have been beating for weeks and only figure to become louder at the Meetings. While gauging what kind of package they can gain for Price, they Rays will likely look for a first baseman to replace free agent James Loney. They've already brought in veterans in catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell.

Pirates: After reaching the postseason for the first time since 1992, what will the Bucs do for an encore? They head to the Meetings looking for a first baseman and perhaps a right fielder, the latter likely a placeholder for Gregory Polanco, their next prized prospect on the cusp.

Braves: With two key veterans gone -- starter Tim Hudson to the Giants and catcher Brian McCann to the Yankees -- the Braves aren't expected to make anywhere the noise they did a year ago in bringing the Upton brothers into the fold. They are seeking a veteran for the rotation and might gauge the market for second baseman Dan Uggla, but the Braves have arbitration issues to deal with internally as well.

Indians: No recruiting showcases are expected this year like the Tribe put on last year for Nick Swisher. The Indians made their moves last winter count with a Wild Card berth in the fall, and they head into this offseason looking for a veteran for the middle of the rotation and some bullpen help, shopping for value in those markets.

Reds: With Shin-Soo Choo and Hanigan already out the door, the rumors began flying that second baseman Brandon Phillips might be next. Reds GM Walt Jocketty talked to Phillips this week and said, "At this point, we really haven't had any talks with clubs about him." The Reds, now under the guidance of rookie manager Bryan Price, still have a strong core of talent, so there isn't a whole lot else they need to do heading into 2014.

Getting back to October isn't easy, so all these teams have their work cut out for them. Only the 2009 Phillies returned to the World Series since the Yankees' 1998-2000 appearances, and the longest current streak of postseasons is at a mere three, shared by the Tigers and Cardinals.

For any of the 2013 postseason teams, another bite at the delicious fall apple is the foremost consideration as the wheeling and dealing hits its winter peak next week.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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