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Inbox: Who will be Padres' Opening Day SS?

Beat reporter AJ Cassavell answers questions from San Diego fans
MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- The next month will be an active one for A.J. Preller and the rest of the Padres' front office.

The Friars have a handful of roster decisions to make by next Tuesday. They're still kicking the tires on shortstops, third basemen, starting pitching and relief pitching. And the Winter Meetings (Dec. 9-13) loom in Las Vegas.

SAN DIEGO -- The next month will be an active one for A.J. Preller and the rest of the Padres' front office.

The Friars have a handful of roster decisions to make by next Tuesday. They're still kicking the tires on shortstops, third basemen, starting pitching and relief pitching. And the Winter Meetings (Dec. 9-13) loom in Las Vegas.

:: Submit a question to the Padres Inbox ::

With that in mind, here's a look at some of your most pressing questions surrounding the Padres this offseason:

Right now, who's the favorite to start at shortstop on Opening Day?
-- William

Let's expand on this because there are so many options, and really no clear favorite. Here are my (totally hypothetical) Opening Day shortstop odds for the Padres:

Luis Urias: 3-to-1
Freddy Galvis: 3-to-1
Greg Garcia: 8-to-1
Adeiny Hechavarria: 10-to-1
Alcides Escobar: 20-to-1
Asdrubal Cabrera: 20-to-1
Jordy Mercer: 20-to-1
Javy Guerra: 25-to-1
Jose Iglesias: 30-to-1
Marwin Gonzalez: 40-to-1
Fernando Tatis Jr.: 50-to-1
Christian Villanueva: 100-to-1
Manny Machado: 500-to-1

The Padres have been dropping hints that Urias is an option to play shortstop early next season. He's their second baseman of the future, but they really like his positional flexibility. Urias would have started a handful of September games at short if his callup hadn't been cut short by a left hamstring injury.

Of course, if Galvis is back, he's going to start at shortstop on Opening Day. (And he'll likely start there regularly until Tatis, MLB Pipeline's No. 2 overall prospect, is ready). Right now, Galvis is drawing plenty of interest elsewhere, and the chances of a reunion aren't great. But it's still very possible.

Video: ARI@SD: Galvis makes difficult over-the-shoulder grab

As for the other internal options: Garcia could serve as something of a stopgap, rotating with Urias until Tatis is ready. But he's a lefty hitter, and the Padres open next season against the Giants (and presumably Madison Bumgarner). That also hurts Guerra's chances, and it makes Villanueva a long shot, even though he's clearly a third baseman. Meanwhile, Tatis remains likely to start the year in the Minors, having played only four months at Double-A last year before he was sidelined due to left thumb surgery.

Among the non-Galvis free-agent options, Hechavarria seems like the best fit. He'd be a versatile bench piece when Tatis arrives, and he'd probably come pretty cheap. Mercer, Iglesias and the like will be looking for more regular opportunity. As for Machado -- that's just not happening.

Video: Padres Prospects: Shortstops

Considering the organization loves Franmil Reyes, he's unlikely to be part of any deal, right? More likely options are Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe, and I doubt anyone wants to touch Myers' contract. So Hunter is the odd man out, right?
-- Jeremy

Yes, the Padres are probably going to trade one of those three corner outfielders. But there are a lot of assumptions in that question. There's a hint of truth to all of them. But be careful with the absolutes.

Indeed, the organization loves Reyes. He was excellent during the second half, and he has a bright future. That doesn't mean that Reyes is off-limits. If there's another club that agrees on his high ceiling (especially an American League club where he could serve as designated hitter), San Diego won't shy away from a deal.

Video: SD@SF: Reyes smacks game-tying RBI single in the 9th

And sure, Myers' contract is burdensome. That doesn't mean it's untradeable. He's pieced together a resume that's miles better than those of Renfroe and Reyes, even if he's coming off consecutive down years. No question, the Padres would be selling low if they traded Myers this offseason. But doing so would also give them a chance to embrace Renfroe and Reyes as their corner outfielders.

Finally, I'll agree with the assertion that Renfroe is the likeliest of the three to be dealt. He's a certifiable big league slugger, and he has five years of team control remaining. Renfroe would help fetch a nice return. But he's not an overwhelming favorite to be traded. In fact, it's probably likelier that he stays in San Diego.

Are the Padres actually going to let Joey Lucchesi throw 185-195 innings next year, or are they going to keep pulling him unnecessarily in the in the fifth or the sixth?
-- Danny

San Diego's coaching staff treated Lucchesi with kid gloves last season, and justifiably so. He was the first pitcher on any team to reach the big leagues from the 2016 Draft class, and he spent nearly an entire season in the Majors. That's quite the leap.

Video: ARI@SD: Lucchesi strikes out Pollock to end the frame

The Padres are planning to take those gloves off next season. But that doesn't necessarily mean Lucchesi is going to rack up innings. Many of his early exits came of his own undoing. Most pitchers have poor splits their third time through the order. But Lucchesi's were particularly bad.

First two times through: .234/.295/.429
Third time through: .354/.411/.557

Lucchesi fell apart in the latter stages of his starts. He needs to implement a third pitch -- whether it's a curveball or a cutter -- to make hitters a bit more uncomfortable. San Diego would like for Lucchesi to develop into something of a workhorse this season. But he'll have to earn those late innings.

Is Anderson Espinoza ever going to become relevant again?
-- Todd

Yes -- presumably six days from now, when the Padres add the 20-year-old right-hander to their 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.

Video: Padres Prospect: Anderson Espinoza

Espinoza, the No. 12 prospect in the system, underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2017. He's on track to face hitters during Spring Training. San Diego will be very cautious with his progression, but he's absolutely in the club's plans moving forward.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres

Inbox: Should Cardinals overhaul the infield?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from fans
MLB.com

ST. LOUIS --  As we wait for the Hot Stove season to start warming, let's take a dive into another batch of reader questions. As always, thanks to all who made submissions.

Which players that are currently likely to be on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster should they consider parting ways with to create an opportunity for better talent? I'm not necessarily thinking of Minor Leaguers pushing for a spot, but veterans that are decent, not great, but might bring some value in a trade. Everyone is focused on right field and third base as areas of need, but are there other positions that could be improved?
-- Nathan H.

ST. LOUIS --  As we wait for the Hot Stove season to start warming, let's take a dive into another batch of reader questions. As always, thanks to all who made submissions.

Which players that are currently likely to be on the Cardinals' Opening Day roster should they consider parting ways with to create an opportunity for better talent? I'm not necessarily thinking of Minor Leaguers pushing for a spot, but veterans that are decent, not great, but might bring some value in a trade. Everyone is focused on right field and third base as areas of need, but are there other positions that could be improved?
-- Nathan H.

As you consider the current composition of the Cardinals' roster within the context of what the club hopes to accomplish this winter, there are a few players who may not be obvious fits moving forward. Let's start with Jedd Gyorko. Though Gyorko has finished as the team's primary third baseman the last two years, the Cards are clear in their intentions to upgrade that position. If the Cardinals check that offseason box, they would prefer not to pay Gyorko $13 million to be a utility player when Yairo Munoz, Tommy Edman and/or Edmundo Sosa could fill that role for around the Major League minimum.

Submit your question to the Cardinals Inbox

Jose Martinez is another. Yes, it seems counterintuitive that a club seeking to improve its offense would entertain trading its most consistent offensive performer from 2018. But that's where the Cardinals are with Martinez. He remains a defensive misfit in a league without a DH option. If the Cards find value for Martinez on the trade market, they could make that move knowing they have additional right-field coverage in Dexter Fowler, Tyler O'Neill and, perhaps, an offseason signing to be named later.

Understandably, the Cardinals are looking to upgrade at third base. Is an upgrade at first base, which might include trading Matt Carpenter, being considered by management? He has been a tremendous Cardinal, but he is streaky offensively and a below-average defender with well-below-average speed at this point in his career. It's unlikely his value would ever be higher than it will be this offseason.
-- John D., Carmel, Ind.

I continue to be perplexed by the number of questions I get pushing for the Cards to trade Carpenter. But since it's clearly on the minds of many, I'll address it. First off, for a team trying to get better offensively, I'm not sure what would be gained by dealing away its best offensive player.

By the end of the week, Carpenter will be a Top-10 finisher in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting, punctuating a season in which he ranked fifth in the NL in wRC+ and sixth in OPS. That's a bat the Cardinals need. Carpenter's reasonable $14.5 million salary for 2019 adds to that value, too.

I'm not going to argue that Carpenter is superb on the bases or in the field. But he did show improvement last year. He posted a plus-6 Defensive Runs Saved mark at third base and a plus-1 DRS mark at first base. FanGraphs calculated Carpenter's BsR (Baserunning Runs Above Average) at 1.3. These figures suggest Carpenter was slightly above average in both areas.

Keep in mind that Carpenter's versatility creates more options for the Cardinals in their offseason search for another big bat. If they acquire a first baseman, Carpenter will move to third. If another third baseman arrives, Carpenter sticks at first. But having him in the lineup remains imperative.

Do the Cardinals have a long-term plan similar to the Astros (though not necessarily a full rebuild), or are they going to continue adding single pieces every year (i.e. Marcell Ozuna, Fowler, Bud Norris, Brett Cecil, etc.) to try to contend, similar to the Dodgers?
-- Nate J.

The Cardinals are not going to take a competitive hit by intentionally stripping their roster to rebuild. Ownership doesn't believe it's an ideal model for a franchise that draws 3.4 million fans annually and one that, despite missing the postseason for three straight seasons, still has the eighth-most number of wins in the Majors during that span.

The club believes in its core, and thus will continue to spend to complement pieces already in place. While that will require annual additions, the Cardinals will also seek to make long-term investments so they aren't engaged in the same searches year after year.

Any chance the Cardinals package some of their young pitching for a big, middle-of-the-order bat?
-- Eric M. (@shockereric56)

That is certainly a possible path, especially if the team strikes out in its free-agent pursuits. The Cardinals' strength is in their pitching depth, and with at least 10 candidates for five rotation spots, the team can afford to package some of those arms to address other needs.

Last offseason, the Cardinals used their surplus of outfielders to plug other holes. This year, they are best suited to plunge into the trade market by maximizing that pitching depth.

How far away is Nolan Gorman? I feel like the answer frames everything else related to the Cards' offseason activity.
-- Matthew M. (@BroTaguchi)

Gorman made the quick climb to Class A Peoria after being drafted last summer. But at 18 years old, there's still a lot of growth necessary before he's knocking on the big league door. Gorman will need at least two more full seasons in the Minors, which means you're looking at a 2021 arrival, at the earliest.

The Cardinals don't like blocking young talent once it's on the cusp of being Major League-ready. But with Gorman still so early in his development, that can't be a concern right now. For one, it's never a guarantee that a prospect will pan out. And two, the Cards need to improve their production from that spot in the interim.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

St. Louis Cardinals

Inbox: Will Marlins extend Mattingly beyond '19?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Do you think the Marlins will have a new coaching staff after the 2019 season when manager Don Mattingly's contract is up?
-- @kevinsantos1212

As you noted, Mattingly's four-year contract expires after next season. But I wouldn't be surprised if he and the Marlins agree on an extension either before the start of Spring Training or before/during the regular season. The Marlins like Mattingly and the calming influence he has on a young roster. I could see the two sides agreeing on a deal, which would create more continuity. So I'm not looking at Mattingly as a lame duck in 2019. I think he will be part of a long-range plan. As for his staff, there is usually some level of turnover after every season.

Do you think the Marlins will have a new coaching staff after the 2019 season when manager Don Mattingly's contract is up?
-- @kevinsantos1212

As you noted, Mattingly's four-year contract expires after next season. But I wouldn't be surprised if he and the Marlins agree on an extension either before the start of Spring Training or before/during the regular season. The Marlins like Mattingly and the calming influence he has on a young roster. I could see the two sides agreeing on a deal, which would create more continuity. So I'm not looking at Mattingly as a lame duck in 2019. I think he will be part of a long-range plan. As for his staff, there is usually some level of turnover after every season.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

What do you think the return for a guy like J.T. Realmuto could be?
-- @tLLoyD199

From the Marlins' standpoint, the asking price is pretty high, meaning a top-prospect caliber talent to headline a package likely of three or four players, depending on the quality of the return. At the recent General Managers Meetings in Carlsbad, Calif., eight to 10 teams expressed some level of interest in Realmuto. Clubs like the Braves, Astros, Dodgers, Nationals, Brewers and more are among the possibilities.

Video: Michael Hill discusses J.T. Realmuto trade rumors

It's important to note that even though Realmuto's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, has stated publicly that his client is not open to signing an extension, the Marlins still have no urgency to make a trade. There's speculation that the Marlins need to move Realmuto now to maximize his value, rather than risk losing him through free agency after the 2020 season. In theory, that could be the case, but it doesn't mean the return won't be high if a deal is made in July or even next offseason. Also, if clubs now are reluctant to part with their top prospects, then Miami may be better off retaining Realmuto to at least start the season. After all, he's affordable. In his second season of arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors projects Realmuto's salary will jump from $2.9 million to around $6 million.

I have said this from the start, and nothing really has changed: Realmuto's presence on the Marlins for at least the start of 2019 comes down to the offer on the table. If something makes sense, a trade could happen. Otherwise, the Marlins have no rush to do anything.

What is the Marlins' No. 1 priority in the free-agent market?
-- @Svenstipher

President of baseball operations Michael Hill is already on record saying the organization is in the market for more offense. That could come either via trades or free-agent signings. The free agents we're talking about are not the big names out there, such as Miami native Manny Machado. The type of free agents that are potential targets are first basemen like Matt Adams and veteran infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, who can play all four infield positions. Corner infielders and corner outfielders are free agents who will be explored.

Do you think Dan Straily and Starlin Castro will get moved for some prospects to build up more Minor League depth? If Castro is traded, is Isan Diaz an option at second base in 2019?
-- @PoldiAnslinger

At the start of the offseason, I felt more strongly that Straily would not be back. But now I'm getting the sense the right-hander indeed may be part of the rotation next season. Straily enters his second season of arbitration, and he's been a steady veteran. What raises a potential red flag is Straily was injured at the start and end of the season. If he's dealt, look for the Marlins to try to add a veteran free-agent starter to help log innings so the organization won't feel tempted to rush prospects.

As for Castro, the veteran second baseman is set to make $11 million in the final year of his contract. Because of his salary, it will make it difficult to find a trade partner this offseason. A more realistic trade scenario for Castro is July.

Diaz is worth paying attention to. The 22-year-old second was part of the Christian Yelich deal with the Brewers, and he is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 9 prospect. Diaz opened the season at Double-A Jacksonville before finishing up at Triple-A New Orleans. Diaz probably will start off 2019 again at New Orleans, and he indeed could be ready to reach the big leagues midseason, should Castro be dealt.

Is Peter O'Brien still the front-runner to be the Marlins' starting first baseman in 2019?
-- @Athletics89

A native of Hialeah, Fla., O'Brien made the most of his September callup. The 28-year-old belted four home runs and drove in 10 runs in 22 games after being promoted in September. Granted, it was a small sample size -- just 66 at-bats -- but the staff was impressed with his approach. On a team that ranked last in the Majors in runs scored and home runs, O'Brien provides power. His average exit velocity, according to Statcast™, was 92.1 mph on all balls put in play. The MLB average is 88.4 mph.

Among internal candidates, O'Brien is the front-runner. But look for Miami to add some competition.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins

Inbox: How much will Lindor earn in arbitration?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian fields Indians fans' questions
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Questions regarding Francisco Lindor hitting arbitration, free agent Michael Brantley and more are answered in this week's Inbox.

CLEVELAND -- Questions regarding Francisco Lindor hitting arbitration, free agent Michael Brantley and more are answered in this week's Inbox.

Tweet from @b_lui1131: Do you think Lindor will set a new first year arbitration salary record? Brian - Willoughby, OH

This will be an interesting story to follow later this offseason, especially given the Indians' need to keep its payroll around the same operating range as last year. Shortstop Lindor is hitting arbitration for the first time, and Cleveland will try to table an offer in an effort to avoid a hearing.

A year ago, Cubs star Kris Bryant set the first-year arbitration record with a one-year, $10.85 million contract. He was coming off his age-25 season. Lindor just wrapped up his age-24 campaign and might finish in the top five in American League Most Valuable Player voting for the second year in a row. We'll know if that's the case when the MVP balloting results are revealed in an MLB Network special at 6 p.m. ET on Thursday.

All teams are required to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players by Nov. 30 and then the two sides exchange proposed salary figures for 2019 on Jan. 11. I'm not going to try to project the precise salary that Lindor might earn next season, but I can show you how he compares to Bryant's record-breaking case.

Bryant headed into last offseason with a .288/.388/.527 career slash line in 457 games with Chicago. He had 94 homers, 104 doubles, 274 RBIs, 319 runs scored and 28 steals. Per Baseball-Reference, Bryant had posted 19.7 WAR to that point (or 0.043 WAR per MLB game). His 141 OPS+ indicated that he had performed 41 percent above league average. Bryant had a National League Rookie of the Year trophy (2015) and NL MVP ('16), plus a World Series triumph in '16, on his career resume.

Video: CWS@CLE: Lindor smacks a triple to center in the 8th

Entering this offseason, Lindor has posted a .288/.350/.487 slash line in 574 games, with 98 homers, 138 doubles, 310 RBIs, 377 runs and 71 steals. The switch-hitting shortstop has a 119 OPS+ in his career to go along with 23.9 WAR (0.042 per game). Lindor is a three-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger recipient and has a Gold Glove Award in his trophy case. While Bryant has the better offensive showing in the samples given, Lindor is one of MLB's elite defensive talents.

Lindor might have a shot at a first-year arbitration record, but that's ultimately a footnote. The larger issue is how the Indians will fit whatever he earns into the payroll picture -- along with other raises through arbitration and guaranteed contracts -- while addressing the team's needs this winter. That is why there are already a surplus of trade rumors involving Cleveland swirling in the bubbling Hot Stove pot.

:: Submit a question to the Indians Inbox ::

Tweet from @SarahRissler: Why not extend the qualifying offer to Brantley? If he declines, we get a draft pick. Now we get nothing. #IndiansInbox

During the qualifying offer process, the Indians' front-office evaluators not only needed to determine whether players such as Brantley were worth the one-year proposal (worth $17.9 million for '19), but the likelihood that such an offer would be accepted. If the analysis shows that the player might accept, well, then the team has to know that it can fit that salary into the payroll.

That decision was due five days after the conclusion of the World Series. The Indians know they probably need to shed salary in order to add salary this winter, so committing nearly $18 million -- with a list of other roster issues still unsettled -- was problematic that quick into the offseason. True, Cleveland now loses out on any potential Draft pick compensation, but the team did not feel it could risk locking in that type of salary so early into baseball's offseason.

Is there a realistic chance that the Tribe tries to offload Edwin Encarnacion this offseason?
--Sid C., Wesson, Miss.

I think that would be a tall task. Encarnacion is set to earn $21.7 in '19 and he will turn 36 years old in January. There is also a $5 million buyout for his $20 million team option for '20. Encarnacion has a strong track record, but teams do not view aging sluggers the same as in previous eras. He is also limited to first base and designated hitter, limiting the list of potential suitors and hurting his value.

The Indians will certainly explore the market for Encarnacion, along with first baseman Yonder Alonso, whose deal is not nearly as hefty. Alonso is owed $8 million in '19 and has a $9 million team option (or $1 million buyout) for '20. Cleveland is surely looking into what teams would offer for one of its catchers, Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez. Again, the Tribe will likely need to free up some cash in order to fill some offseason holes.

Tweet from @Wildcard316: #IndiansInbox would trading Kluber be moreso having faith/confidence in Bauer being the Ace compared to trading Cookie and keeping Kluber?

I don't think being open-minded to listening to trade offers for Corey Kluber has anything to do with viewing someone else as the new "ace" of the rotation. That said, Cleveland has three arms capable of being labeled as a No. 1 starter (Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer), plus a rising star in Mike Clevinger. There is depth there and, even if there are questions about the back-end depth, the Indians would still head into '19 as the AL Central favorites if they dealt an arm to address some other areas of need.

Tweet from @BrianBosheff: Do you see a scenario where Jose Ramirez moves back to 3B? He was a Golden Glove finalist while his play at 2B left a lot to be desired...at least this past season.

If the Indians find a way to open up at-bats for Yandy Diaz at first or DH, then Cleveland could keep Jose Ramirez at third base. Right now, though, Diaz looks like the likely starter for third, with Ramirez staying put at second base. In that latter scenario, Jason Kipnis could take over in left field.

Tweet from @Domi_Rella: Regardless of what happens with Kluber or Carrassco, is Adam Jones in our price range? Does the potential of Oscar Mercado coming up mid-summer effect how they shop the OF position this winter? #IndiansInbox

Yes, Adam Jones -- or someone similar -- looks like a potential fit on the surface, especially if the outfield remains intact with no trades. Cleveland would be in the market for a right-handed complement to play multiple outfield positions. It can't be emphasized enough, though, that the Indians may not be much of a player in free agency unless something budges with the payroll. As for Oscar Mercado, he will be an interesting prospect to watch this year, but I doubt he impacts any winter plans. I would think center fielder Bradley Zimmer's pending return -- possibly midseason -- might factor into the team's thinking, though.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: #IndiansInbox Yu Chang excelled in the Arizona Fall League. What do you think the chances are that he sees time on the major league club in 2019?

I definitely think Yu Chang is on the '19 radar, but there are a few players in his path at the moment. With Lindor locked in at short, Chang has tried his hand at third base. Well, that's where Ramirez and Diaz fit into the MLB picture right now. Similar to Diaz's situation, if at-bats open at first base, leading to some position shuffling, Chang could have a better route to the big leagues. Expect him to be back at Triple-A next season. 

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor

Inbox: How will Cabrera fare in '19?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans
MLB.com

It's time to clear out the leftover questions in the Tigers' Inbox ahead of Thanksgiving.


I've always thought that Miguel Cabrera's ability to hit for average and contact would age better than his power thanks to his ability to hit to the opposite field, similar to how Magglio Ordonez remained a .300 hitter through age 36. The ruptured biceps tendon that ended Cabrera's 2018 campaign as well as the surgery to repair it create some questions as to what his swing will look like in the aftermath.

It's time to clear out the leftover questions in the Tigers' Inbox ahead of Thanksgiving.

Tweet from @LeeHarrison93: If Cabrera stays healthy all year and gets 500 AB���s, what do you realistically expect his AVG, HR���s, and RBI #���s to be?
I've always thought that Miguel Cabrera's ability to hit for average and contact would age better than his power thanks to his ability to hit to the opposite field, similar to how Magglio Ordonez remained a .300 hitter through age 36. The ruptured biceps tendon that ended Cabrera's 2018 campaign as well as the surgery to repair it create some questions as to what his swing will look like in the aftermath.

Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox

Cabrera was having a nice bounceback season before the injury, batting .299 with an .843 OPS despite the miserable early-season weather. His average launch angle had dropped from the 12-degree range to 7.3, according to Statcast™, but his hard-hit rate jumped to 54.6 percent, his highest since Statcast™ started tracking such things in 2015. His strikeout rate, which rose in 2017 as he struggled to reach fastballs off the plate, returned close to his career norms.

Steamer projections via Fangraphs predict a .282 average for Cabrera with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 649 plate appearances over 150 games next season. The Bill James Handbook projects Cabrera to hit .301 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs in 530 plate appearances. We'll see what PECOTA projects from Cabrera later this offseason. I still think Cabrera's capable of hitting .300 with 20-25 homers and an .886 OPS. What he does in terms of run production depends on the lineup around him.

Tweet from @CAwlJacKs: Does Miguel Cabrera have more to offer the @Tigers than Albert Pujols has to offer the @Angels?
Pujols is three years older, but has been healthier than Cabrera the last couple years. Cabrera has a litany of injury concerns following him, but he has been the more productive player when healthy. I think Cabrera has more to offer based on age and productivity, but with both players, health is such a major factor.

Tweet from @AndrewPieschke: Does anyone anticipate Daniel Woodrow fitting into the Tiger's future? I didn't really know anything about him until he started popping up in AFL reports.
Woodrow has opened some eyes in the Arizona Fall League, both with his hitting (.370 entering Monday) and his speed (11-for-11 in stolen bases, including a steal of home). His lack of power is a detriment, but with his speed and contact, plus the ability to play across the outfield, he could have a chance to compete for a spot on the Tigers' roster down the road. The style of play manager Ron Gardenhire is trying to instill in Detroit favors Woodrow's skill set. For 2019, his future is at Triple-A Toledo.

Tweet from @YoungGreekOpa: Do you see Jimenez taking over the closers role at the start of the season and using Greene as a 8th inn/fireman role like 2017?
First, we have to see if Shane Greene remains a Tiger next spring or if he's traded. (My guess is that he stays.) If he stays, I don't see a change in the closer's role at the start of the season. I do think Joe Jimenez is the Tigers' closer of the future, but it's not necessarily the immediate future. I also think the Tigers would like to see how Greene is throwing in Spring Training and into the season, for both competitive reasons and for potential trade value.

Tweet from @therealjklebba: Seeing how TV ratings were down and we could use a boost, if the cubs wanted to go for Harper and need to move Schwarber, do you think we could trade a guy like Boyd in a trade for Schwarber?
The Cubs would need to do a lot more than trade Kyle Schwarber to create payroll space for Bryce Harper. And while I think Schwarber is an exciting player, I don't think trading for him would do nearly as much for fans as winning would.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers

Inbox: Should Bucs pursue free-agent infielders?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
MLB.com

I like the second basemen on the market more than I like the outfielders who will probably be in the Pirates' price range (a.k.a. not Andrew McCutchen). Could they get an infielder and move Adam Frazier to the outfield until Gregory Polanco is ready, then play Adam every day if he deserves it?
-- Jeff L., Pittsburgh

Sure, that's something I touched on in a recent story about Frazier. His versatility gives the Pirates some flexibility this offseason.

There is indeed a pretty deep class of interesting free agents at second base, including veterans with bounce-back potential like Brian Dozier or Pittsburgh's own Neil Walker. Someone like Asdrubal Cabrera or Daniel Descalso could fill that spot at second or bounce around the infield in a utility role.

I like the second basemen on the market more than I like the outfielders who will probably be in the Pirates' price range (a.k.a. not Andrew McCutchen). Could they get an infielder and move Adam Frazier to the outfield until Gregory Polanco is ready, then play Adam every day if he deserves it?
-- Jeff L., Pittsburgh

Sure, that's something I touched on in a recent story about Frazier. His versatility gives the Pirates some flexibility this offseason.

There is indeed a pretty deep class of interesting free agents at second base, including veterans with bounce-back potential like Brian Dozier or Pittsburgh's own Neil Walker. Someone like Asdrubal Cabrera or Daniel Descalso could fill that spot at second or bounce around the infield in a utility role.

Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox

The Pirates have internal options beyond Frazier at second base, too. If they add a shortstop this offseason, Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer -- both bound to improve after shaky debuts -- could hold down second, then eventually move around the infield. Kramer could claim second for himself, really, if he hits the way he did at Triple-A Indianapolis (.856 OPS).

In either of those scenarios, Frazier would be freed up to play right field, while Polanco finishes his recovery from left shoulder surgery. Frazier could then return to second base on an everyday basis or play that 2014 Josh Harrison, everyday-player-without-an-everyday-position role.

Frazier hit well enough to earn a spot in the lineup every day. He improved at second base last season, and perhaps he'll settle in there eventually. But for now, given the uncertainty with Polanco's recovery and the number of infield options available this offseason, his versatility is an asset.

Video: Berry on Frazier's development, outlook for 2019

Polanco's timetable is still up in the air, too. (As Neal Huntington joked at the GM Meetings, Polanco will be ready in April as soon as they say June, and it'll be June as soon as they say April.) If he's going to be good to go within a few weeks of Opening Day, it seems more realistic to think they could get by with what they have and dedicate those resources to improving elsewhere. Time will tell.

Glad to see Corey Dickerson win the Gold Glove. He worked so hard. Will he be back in left field next season?
-- Jerry S., Columbus, Ohio

Dickerson certainly earned it, Jerry. He is a thoughtful, hard-working player -- and there's no doubt he was fueled by the constant doubts about his defense and the Rays' decision to designate him for assignment. Dickerson made an effort to improve his defense and cut down on his strikeouts, and he nailed both.

Anyway, yes, you can expect to see Dickerson back in left field and batting somewhere prominent in the Pirates' lineup next season. He is eligible for arbitration for the final time this offseason and projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $8.4 million through that process.

The Pirates could try to extend Dickerson's contract, perhaps guaranteeing his salary for next season and a few years into the future, but that's the kind of deal that would require concessions from both sides. If Dickerson puts together a 2019 season like his '18, he'll be an in-demand free agent next winter.

Video: Corey Dickerson discusses 2018 with the Pirates

Will the new hitting coach help Josh Bell hit more home runs? We need a power hitter at first base and third base, too.
-- Ron W., Sarasota, Fla.

I think Rick Eckstein was an interesting hire, especially for a hitter like Bell. Something manager Clint Hurdle said down the stretch about Bell, as he was repeatedly asked about his decreasing power (and rising on-base percentage), is that he'll have to decide what kind of hitter he's going to be.

Huntington was asked a similar question on the last day of the season and offered a familiar answer, saying the Pirates believe Bell will be "a good hitter with power." In other words, an all-around threat instead of a one-dimensional slugger. You didn't think of McCutchen as just a power hitter, right? At his best in Pittsburgh, he was an elite hitter with power.

"He's shown at times he's a good hitter. He's shown at times he's a power hitter, last year approaching 30 home runs," Huntington said of Bell on Sept. 30. "We still believe there's a quality batting average in there, a quality offensive player. Candidly, that's what we need him to be."

Video: Eckstein discusses new role as Pirates' hitting coach

It's a little early for Eckstein to speak with authority on specific players like Bell or Colin Moran -- he hasn't worked with them yet -- but I asked him generally about the idea of hitters sacrificing power in favor of contact and vice versa. The Pirates didn't hit for much power last season, but one of their strengths was their refusal to strike out.

"You shouldn't have to sacrifice solid contact to try to do the all-or-nothing home run. There's nothing wrong with good, hard, solid contact, right?" Eckstein said. "Over time, when you learn how to make consistent solid contact -- the adage, 'learn how to hit' -- you start to understand that if I put my body in a better position, I can create better leverage, I can create better angles into the baseball that create more of a launch."

In other words, Eckstein wants that "good hitter with power." Given his focus on individualized coaching, he seems like a good choice to help the Pirates, especially the younger players, figure out what kind of hitters they're going to be going forward.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson, Adam Frazier

Inbox: Does Harper sway Nats' offseason plans?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from fans
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The General Managers Meetings in California this week introduced us to Bryce Harper's "bazaar," the term coined by his agent, Scott Boras, to describe the highly anticipated free agency for his client. And this week also opened up a new batch of questions to consider about Harper's options and the Nationals' offseason.

What happens to a crowded outfield if the Nationals do re-sign Harper? And what about those other needs for the club in 2019? How does Washington plan to operate while it waits for Harper? This installment of the Nationals Inbox begins there, taking a look at general manager Mike Rizzo's "parallel plans" this offseason: one that includes Harper, and one that does not.

WASHINGTON -- The General Managers Meetings in California this week introduced us to Bryce Harper's "bazaar," the term coined by his agent, Scott Boras, to describe the highly anticipated free agency for his client. And this week also opened up a new batch of questions to consider about Harper's options and the Nationals' offseason.

What happens to a crowded outfield if the Nationals do re-sign Harper? And what about those other needs for the club in 2019? How does Washington plan to operate while it waits for Harper? This installment of the Nationals Inbox begins there, taking a look at general manager Mike Rizzo's "parallel plans" this offseason: one that includes Harper, and one that does not.

What are the odds the Nationals do the smart thing and sign everybody else they need before Bryce signs somewhere else rather than after?
-- @jbanal

Considering the way the Nationals quickly added two pieces in the bullpen in Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal, they are not going to sit around and wait for Harper's ultimate decision. Rizzo seems to have concurrent offseason plans in place: one with a path that ends in re-signing Harper, and one that does not. And he has put those in motion already.

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"It's going to be a challenge to put the best product on the field that we can. That could include Harp, and that could be doing things without Harp," Rizzo said this week. "We had to come to reality that we would love to sign him, but we may not. We have to have a strategy and a plan put together to win baseball games. We have to do what's best for the franchise, not only for 2019, but beyond."

Rizzo and the Nationals understand they have more needs to fill in their offseason to-do list than just Harper, including a catcher, a starting pitcher and perhaps a second baseman. The pursuit of Harper will naturally bring some hindrances to that process if Washington has to save a portion of its budget to devote to him. But that is why Rizzo also said it would "behoove" the Nats to have a deadline before pivoting away from Harper at some point this offseason. That would still give them time to use that money to pursue other marquee free agents, perhaps a front-line starting pitcher.

For now, no one on either side has closed the door on a reunion between Harper and the Nats, but at some point, Washington may be ready to move on.

If Bryce is re-signed, how does the outfield shake out for next year? Or does he play first base?
-- @kegstandkeg

An already crowded outfield could get even more tricky if Harper comes back to D.C. To be clear, this is a quandary for the Nationals -- deciding what to do with so many good outfielders -- that they would have to solve nonetheless.

Assuming Harper returns, he and Juan Soto are untouchable and would be best suited to play the corner outfield spots. The Nats could then pursue trade options for Adam Eaton or, perhaps, Victor Robles, although Rizzo said this week it would be "very difficult for us to move him." The club has held Robles tight the past few offseasons, but he would almost certainly garner the largest return in a trade package.

The rumors of Harper playing first base have picked up some traction lately, and while I do think it could eventually be a good fit for him should his outfield defense not improve, I don't think the Nationals would sign him to make that move next season. For one, Ryan Zimmerman is still under contract. Also, Harper is an athletic 26-year-old in his prime. The Nats believes he should be able to roam the outfield, so re-signing him would very likely mean they would have to move another outfielder. Who that is would depend on what they can get in return.

What's a fair expectation for Victor Robles next season?
-- @Brandon_Warne

I expect that whichever uniform Robles is wearing when next season begins, he will have a chance to play full-time in the Majors. Perhaps that is in Washington, likely coinciding with the departure of Harper, or if the Nats find a way to re-sign Harper and make him and Robles work. Or maybe Robles will get traded to another team which sees him as Major League ready after cracking the big leagues the past two seasons.

The short version is I have no idea what Robles will bring next year. I've been impressed by what I've seen from him the past two Septembers, but it's impossible to tell what will translate from those stints. Here's what is encouraging: Robles rarely looks uncomfortable in the batter's box, his speed is real and he has been good for a defensive highlight almost every other night he starts.

"He's a talented player," Rizzo said. "The metrics like him in the Minor Leagues to translate into Major League Baseball. His skill set is off the charts. It's as good as it gets, and we think his skill set is applicable to Major League pitching. So we know what he can do defensively, on the basepaths, throwing arm, that type of thing. He's got power. It's all about adaptation to Major League pitching, and we've seen flashes of brilliance. We believe that he's going to be a really good player for us."

Should the Nats be looking at a second baseman/utility man (a Josh Harrison type) given the lack of production at second and the unknowns of Howie Kendrick's rehab?
-- @jett_mahler

When asked about the situation at second base this week, Rizzo said he likes the Nats' situation up the middle.

"It's not a necessity or a need for us," he said. "It would have to be a very good value for us [to make a move]."

I was a little surprised by this, because I do think this is a pretty big area of need. If the season began today, the Nats would likely use a combination of Wilmer Difo and Kendrick to fill in at second base. Kendrick has continued to remain productive at the plate late in his career, but by the start of 2019, it will have been more than two seasons since he played even 100 games in a year. He turns 36 next July and is coming off a torn right Achilles. Difo is overall a pretty good defender, which is helpful on a team in need of them, but in the past two seasons, he has compiled at 74 OPS+ at the plate, providing the potential for another dead spot in the lineup.

Washington believes a pair of its young prospects -- Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia -- are on the way at the position soon and likely does not want to sign someone who will block them. Even if they do not go after the top free agents at the position, I think the Nationals should try to find some sort of upgrade at second, freeing up Kendrick to be the No. 1 pinch-hitting option and roam around the field as a utility player, while allowing Difo to serve as a utility infielder and spot starter.

Do you feel it's more realistic for the Nats to address an everyday catcher via the free-agent market or via a trade?
-- @RayRay3322

I think Washington will explore all options to search for a catcher, but I'm starting to think free agency is more likely. There are so few good catching options available, and the teams with good catchers are not readily letting them go.

The one team that will are the Marlins, who have had catcher J.T. Realmuto on the block for some time now. The Nationals have discussed Realmuto with Miami for nearly as long, and yet the two sides have not been able to work out a deal. I'd expect the two sides to engage again if they have not already, but by now, I'm sure Washington has a good idea what the Marlins want for Realmuto. Things can change, but that a deal has not been agreed upon already makes me doubt it ever will unless one side changes course.

However, the Nationals' catching depth is thin, and they will need to address it in some way for next season and beyond. If they cannot re-sign Harper, it especially makes sense for them to spend some of that money on a free-agent catcher, such as Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos.

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals

Inbox: Is 2019 time for Acuna to roam center?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans questions
MLB.com

Do the Braves see Ronald Acuna Jr. as a center fielder or corner outfielder? And is this a factor when looking into trades and/or free agents?
-- @baldheaded1der

Ender Inciarte has won three consecutive Gold Gloves and is accurately still defined as one of the game's elite outfielders. As he prepares for his age-28 season, his glove, legs and arm still provide significant value. But when you have another option like Acuna, it makes sense to debate whether the longevity of that immediate value is best served in your current lineup or what could be brought back in return from a trade.

Do the Braves see Ronald Acuna Jr. as a center fielder or corner outfielder? And is this a factor when looking into trades and/or free agents?
-- @baldheaded1der

Ender Inciarte has won three consecutive Gold Gloves and is accurately still defined as one of the game's elite outfielders. As he prepares for his age-28 season, his glove, legs and arm still provide significant value. But when you have another option like Acuna, it makes sense to debate whether the longevity of that immediate value is best served in your current lineup or what could be brought back in return from a trade.

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Inciarte produced a MLB-high 21 Outs Above Average last year, which matched his total from 2017 and stood as three less than his league-leading total in '16. We haven't seen a noticeable decline yet, but defensive decline stands as the primary concern for all outfielders as they approach 30 years old.

So it would at least make sense for Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos to evaluate the current trade value for Inciarte, who will remain a bargain with a $5.7 million salary next year. The Venezuelan outfielder will make $7.7 million in 2020 and $8.7 million in '21. His $9 million team option for the '22 season includes a $1.025 million buyout.

Given that Inciarte distanced himself from his first-half struggles against left-handed pitchers by hitting .361 against southpaws after the All-Star break, he would most certainly draw interest from a team like the Indians, who will not part ways with Corey Kluber or any of their top starting pitchers without getting a significant Major League piece in return.

If the Braves could land a top starting pitcher in return for Inciarte, they certainly should feel comfortable transitioning Acuna, who looked more comfortable in center field than in left this past season. He was credited with 4 Defensive Runs Saved in 74 2/3 innings in center and -2 DRS over 839 1/3 innings in left field.

Acuna's sample size in center field is small, but the eye test seemed to support the projection of these numbers. With that being said, Atlanta will not move Inciarte unless it is getting a significant return. Next offseason might be a more appropriate time to be concerned about the inevitable defensive decline.

There has been discussed interest in Michael Brantley. What kind of contract do you think he would receive?
-- @koos_C

Earlier this week, a source said Brantley and catcher Wilson Ramos were among the Braves' top free-agent targets. But for now, I'd say they are simply among the options Atlanta is evaluating to fill its two definitive needs. We're still in the courting stage where teams show interest in many free agents just to get a feel for the potential interest and cost.

Video: Bowman on Braves' interest in outfielder Brantley

Brantley finished third in balloting for the 2014 American League MVP Award, but he has battled right shoulder injuries, which have necessitated a pair of surgeries. He finally proved to be healthy again this year, hitting 17 home runs with an .832 OPS in 143 games. But like Ramos, Brantley is a health risk who is on the wrong side of 30. For now, I would view both of these potential targets as nothing more than secondary options.

Who do you think are our untouchable prospects at this point?
-- @oldmanpierce

Acuna and Freddie Freeman are the only members of the organization who should be viewed as untouchables. The surplus of high-quality starting pitching prospects makes each of them expendable. Lack of depth at the respective positions might make it more painful to part ways with third-base prospects Austin Riley or Cristian Pache.

While the option exists to make Johan Camargo something other than the primary third baseman, his presence and the fact that his contract is controlled through the 2023 season allows you to view Riley as one of those potential casualties of, "To get something good, you have to part with something that is potentially good." As for Pache, his expendability would be influenced by the expected quick rise of 2017 second-round Draft pick Drew Waters.

Why is there still talk about needing a third baseman? Carmargo has the job! Concentrate on the pitching staff and leave Johan alone!
-- @Gcracker3321

Because you have to evaluate all of your options, especially when you have somebody like Camargo, whose overall value is enhanced by his versatility. The Braves could certainly benefit from the power potential possessed by some of the other third-base options. So it makes sense to at least remain open to the possibility of acquiring a third baseman and transitioning Camargo to the shortstop role.

Anthopoulos has repeatedly said he would feel comfortable with Camargo at third base. He's also been very complimentary of the strides made by shortstop Dansby Swanson. With that being said, would it be wise for Anthopoulos to simply remain content and ignore the potential to possibly upgrade his offense at two positions with a move that could potentially garner more value if it would lead to Swanson being included in a trade? There's a chance that Atlanta will open next season with Camargo at third base and Swanson at shortstop. There's also a chance we'll see Swanson make more strides offensively next year with a healthy wrist. But it just doesn't seem wise to lock yourself into this plan, especially in early November.

We have outfield figured out. We're getting Bryce Harper. I don't know what you don't understand about that, Bowman.
-- @MatthewWinston

Let's just say that the Braves had the financial means to responsibly give Harper the $400 million to $500 million deal that he hopes to get. I just don't see how you can responsibly make this kind of commitment without having a firm understanding of agent Scott Boras' Madness Compelling Replacement theory.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr.

Inbox: Will White Sox take next step in rebuild?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers fans' questions
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's edition of the White Sox Inbox, with the Hot Stove heating up around the South Siders.

How persuasive can the White Sox be to attract good, effective veteran players to a team that has lost nearly 200 games over the last two seasons? Is there reason to hope for an improved win-loss record in 2019? So far, the Sox are regressing each year in losses. Is at least a .500 season still out of the question?
-- Michael, Melbourne, Fla.

CHICAGO -- Here's this week's edition of the White Sox Inbox, with the Hot Stove heating up around the South Siders.

How persuasive can the White Sox be to attract good, effective veteran players to a team that has lost nearly 200 games over the last two seasons? Is there reason to hope for an improved win-loss record in 2019? So far, the Sox are regressing each year in losses. Is at least a .500 season still out of the question?
-- Michael, Melbourne, Fla.

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn already has talked about 2019 being a competitive season -- if not one for contention -- so expect the White Sox to make moves in that direction. Remember: Hahn predicted Year 2 of the rebuild being the most difficult before it even began, so the 100 losses clearly aren't ideal but also aren't indicative of overall development within the organization.

Selling free agents like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, as prime examples, on the team might be the most difficult White Sox task for a pair of players accustomed to winning. But the White Sox can point to the critical mass of young talent assembled, potentially making this team a postseason contender for years to come, and Machado or Harper becoming the face of the franchise. Chicago is not a bad city to have in the background as well.

Video: Merkin on White Sox interest in Harper, Machado

Any updates on Dane Dunning's rehab?
-- Dennis, Dallas, @Decker98

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Dunning finished well in instructional league, per White Sox director of player development Chris Getz. The fall work was a good test for his right elbow, and Getz added that Dunning passed with high marks. The White Sox expect a healthy and competitive Dunning, who ranks sixth among White Sox prospects, come Spring Training.

Do you think the Sox will spend big money in free agency this offseason?
-- Kevin, Westmont, Ill., @BarnacleKevin

The White Sox will spend this offseason, with the same meticulous and directed approach they've employed throughout the entire rebuild. The plan appears to be there to make a significant step forward if all stars align.

Video: Rosenthal discusses White Sox, Reds' free agent plans

Rick Renteria made a point of removing and disciplining players for not putting in effort or not running out ground/fly balls. Where do you think the breaking point is as we get better? Will he still remove better players as the team needs the wins more?
-- Daniel, Chicago, @DanielL59980553

Those Renteria rules apply to all players and will apply for years moving forward based on his extension news. As Renteria pointed out in-season, there's some interpretation to be made. But this is the culture he has established along with his coaching staff within the entire organization.

I keep hearing the White Sox will make a run in 2020. Why can't they make a run in '19? What is going to happen in '20 vs. next year?
-- Rod, Lockport, Ill. @hotrodexpress

Rebuilding is an extended process, and while the White Sox never have set a year for planned contention, it's commonly thought to be starting in the 2020-21 window. With the American League Central standing as probably the weakest division in the Majors, a few key moves and continued development from the young players could quickly put the White Sox on the fringe of the mix in '19. Yes, it would be a long, long way to travel from 100 losses, but stranger things have happened.

Do we re-sign James Shields on the cheap?
-- Joe, Milwaukee, @jnez50

I always thought Shields was a possibility to return, and Hahn made comments to reporters recently indicating the right-hander remains in the picture. Shields wants to keep pitching and was probably the most reliable starter on the White Sox staff across the board. People might downplay the mentor factor in the short term, but he has had a positive influence on several younger players.

What was the theme to your Bar Mitzvah?
-- Jon, Deerfield, Ill. @jon_greenberg

I don't remember the theme, but I do remember DePaul beat UCLA to reach its only Final Four on the afternoon of my Bar Mitzvah. We watched the last few minutes at the lounge in the Harvey Holiday Inn. I miss the days when DePaul basketball was a national power.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox

Inbox: Was bringing back Escobar a good deal?

Fans ask about Goldschmidt, Corbin, Pollock, Mathis and Greinke
MLB.com

What is your opinion on the D-backs re-signing Eduardo Escobar to a three-year deal?
-- Matt H., Phoenix

The consensus around the game, Matt, was that it was a great deal for the D-backs at a total cost of $21 million, and I certainly agree. Escobar brings a lot of versatility to the table by being able to play third and second. Rather than cut off future options this offseason, his signing actually keeps all their paths open. A lot of people said Escobar could have made a lot more money had he waited and been open to signing with other teams, but give him credit: He liked his time in Arizona, felt comfortable here and did not want to leave. That's also a tribute to the D-backs organization for making him feel welcome. That still goes a long way.

What is your opinion on the D-backs re-signing Eduardo Escobar to a three-year deal?
-- Matt H., Phoenix

The consensus around the game, Matt, was that it was a great deal for the D-backs at a total cost of $21 million, and I certainly agree. Escobar brings a lot of versatility to the table by being able to play third and second. Rather than cut off future options this offseason, his signing actually keeps all their paths open. A lot of people said Escobar could have made a lot more money had he waited and been open to signing with other teams, but give him credit: He liked his time in Arizona, felt comfortable here and did not want to leave. That's also a tribute to the D-backs organization for making him feel welcome. That still goes a long way.

:: Submit a question to the D-backs Inbox ::

Quick question about the offseason: If trading Paul Goldschmidt is the route the organization decides to take, what should we expect (or hope to expect) in return from whomever decides to trade for him? Obviously, I'd miss Paul Goldschmidt immensely, but if an amazing package is included in return for him, then it would bring me solace as a fan knowing that the team should be right on track in the coming seasons.
-- Ryan, Andover, N.J.

That's a great question, Ryan, and it's something I'm sure the D-backs front office will try to figure out here in the coming weeks -- how does the rest of baseball value one year of Paul Goldschmidt? Obviously if he had more years of control, he would generate more of a return. The D-backs are in a good spot because they certainly don't have to trade him. In fact, they probably would rather not deal him. So if someone were to offer a few top quality prospects for him, maybe they would consider it. But if the return is not, as you put it, "amazing," my guess is they would hold on to him.

What are the chances that either Patrick Corbin or A.J. Pollock take the qualifying offers and come back next year?
-- Nick R., Phoenix

I really don't see a scenario where Corbin would accept the qualifying offer. Especially with Clayton Kershaw going back to the Dodgers, Corbin is now the best pitcher on the free-agent market and will no doubt have plenty of suitors and sign a megadeal. With Pollock, I'm a little less certain. I say that only because after missing time with the avulsion fracture of his left thumb, he was not able to find the consistency at the plate that he's shown in the past. It's possible he could decide he would like to take the qualifying offer, come back to Arizona for one year figuring he will be healthy -- and when healthy he showed himself in 2015 to be one of the top players in the game -- and then sign an even bigger free-agent deal next offseason.

If the D-backs don't reach a pact with Jeff Mathis, do you take that as an indicator Zack Greinke is on the move? And if Greinke gets traded, would you expect them to re-sign Mathis?
-- Tyler, Phoenix

I think regardless of whether Greinke is dealt, the D-backs will try to bring Mathis back. Yes, there was a lot made of the fact that Mathis caught Greinke and the two had a great rapport. However, that was not the only reason the organization valued Mathis. Keep in mind when Corbin and Robbie Ray had some struggles, manager Torey Lovullo would pair them up with Mathis to snap them out of it. They love his ability to call a game and work with the pitching staff.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Patrick Corbin, Eduardo Escobar, Paul Goldschmidt, Jeff Mathis, A.J. Pollock

Inbox: Who's on Tigers' offseason radar?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fan questions
MLB.com

DETROIT -- The weather is cooling in a hurry in Michigan, but hopefully there's a Hot Stove to temper that a bit. At least some of these tweets to the Inbox seem a bit warm:

DETROIT -- The weather is cooling in a hurry in Michigan, but hopefully there's a Hot Stove to temper that a bit. At least some of these tweets to the Inbox seem a bit warm:

Tweet from @justposa: Who are some names to look for for 5th starter/ Vet on a cheap deal to play SS/2b?

My MLB.com colleague Jon Morosi, when he stopped beaming about Michigan's football win over Penn State on Saturday, chimed in on the shortstop market Monday morning from the GM Meetings, noting various levels of Tigers interest in free agents Adeiny Hechavarria, Freddy Galvis and Jordy Mercer. I've heard some of the same names, with potentially Alcides Escobar as a fallback option.

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The pitching market is a little trickier, since there's more widespread interest in the market and plenty of teams will be looking for bargains. Mike Fiers wasn't a free agent at this point a year ago because the Astros hadn't non-tendered him yet.

MLB Trade Rumors pegged Garrett Richards as a potential match as he tries to rebound from injury-shortened seasons, but he's likely out for 2019 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. He'd be a two-year deal for a team with a goal of pitching in '20, but Detroit hopes to have pitching prospects knocking on the door by then. Drew Pomeranz fits the Fiers profile, having gone from a 17-win season in '17 to an injury-plagued season this year.

Tweet from @jlongstories: What's the timetable for the team to feel like they can be above .500? Are we looking at one more year of player development and focusing on competing in 2020?

Look for the rebuild to continue in 2019: General manager Al Avila and manager Ron Gardenhire made that clear in their season-ending comments. The pitching prospects that make up the Tigers' top five on MLB Pipeline's list won't begin arriving until late next season at the earliest, so most of the season in Detroit will be about identifying who sticks around for the next phase. What happens in '20 and beyond depends a lot on how the pitchers develop once they arrive, and what the Tigers can get offensively from the farm system.

Part of the Tigers' timetable, too, will probably be determined by how the other rebuilds in the American League Central progress, notably the White Sox. Chicago has a wealth of young talent but hasn't translated that into progress yet. The Twins' future could look bright again if Byron Buxton blossoms into a star many have been waiting to see. The Indians have a window for dominating this division but might not face another long-term rebuild if they can maneuver this winter.

Which brings up this …

Tweet from @AustinPoprocks: If the Indians decide to go into a rebuild, who wins the AL Central?

I think Cleveland can move some players and still expect to win the AL Central this year, unless the Twins and White Sox get aggressive and try to move up their timetable (such as the reports of potential White Sox interest in Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper). Cleveland isn't looking to tear it all down and start over. If anything, the Tribe is looking to extend the window.

Tweet from @SifferMichael: Listened to interview with ATL GM. Mentioned they were looking for power corner outfielder. Sounds to me like Nick Castellanos would fit. Let���s make a deal?

Haven't sensed much interest in Nicholas Castellanos from anywhere so far, in no small part due to the question of what position he ultimately plays. The Braves are trying to replace a Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder in Nick Markakis. Atlanta already has a star first baseman with Freddie Freeman and no DH slot.

Tweet from @bp200219: With quite a few OFers ready to choose from and a few very close in AAA, will the Tigers push to trade Castellanos/move him to first? Or even move Stewart to first?

The Tigers have been willing to listen to trade interest on Castellanos since last offseason, but no deal has been close. Part of Detroit's problem in changing positions with him is what it might do to any trade value. If Castellanos can improve as an outfielder, he's more valuable than he is as a first baseman. But any improvement hasn't shown in the metrics.

If the Tigers were to sign Castellanos to a contract extension -- and there have been no signs of that so far -- then it becomes easier to move him to first. But I don't think Detroit wants to bounce him around between first base and right field. The club wants him focusing on one defensive position.

Another factor is that I don't foresee Miguel Cabrera as a full-time DH next year. Even as he nears age 36 with back-to-back injury-shortened seasons, his instincts and glove make him a better first baseman than anybody the Tigers can come up with at this point. A reliable first baseman can make an entire infield better, especially a young infield like what Detroit is likely to field next year.

Tweet from @jcall_e_o: Is Michael Fulmer being traded this winter?

Never say never, but I can't see it happening this offseason. Clubs already had questions about his health before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July, and with Fulmer now rehabbing from knee surgery, interest is unlikely to pick up until he can get back on a mound next season and show not just health but effectiveness.

One interesting point on the latter: Despite being limited to 24 starts and 132 1/3 innings this year, Fulmer ranked eighth in the American League with 1,116 pitches over 95 mph, according to the just-released Bill James Handbook. He threw 1,319 fastballs and sinkers, according to Statcast™, and both pitches averaged nearly 96 mph. The spin rate on both pitches was up from 2017, but still slightly down from '16. While the batting averages on both pitches were on par with previous seasons, the exit velocity was up, and the launch angle off the fastball was way up.

Tweet from @DAMNITRYAN: Is there any chance tigers look at DJ lemahieu?

The possibility created some buzz around town when MLB Trade Rumors made a match as part of its free-agent predictions. DJ LeMahieu graduated from Brother Rice in nearby Birmingham and still has ties to the area. But unless the market really cools on him, it's a long shot. If the Tigers sign a second baseman, the plan has been for a short-term deal to hold down the spot until Dawel Lugo gets more seasoning. LeMahieu isn't exactly old at age 30, but with Detroit still likely a few years away from contending, he'd obviously be an older second baseman by that point.

That being said, if the Tigers are looking for a veteran addition to help out a young infield, including likely a young shortstop in 2020, LeMahieu would be a very good way to go.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Nicholas Castellanos, Michael Fulmer

Inbox: How will Twins approach offseason?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins completed their first major goal of the offseason in hiring Rocco Baldelli as their manager, and now they're working on filling out the coaching staff while also eying free agency and trades to improve the club after a disappointing 2018.

The Twins surprisingly have more money coming off the books this offseason than any other club, so they have the flexibility to spend and add to the team heading into Baldelli's first year. There are plenty of questions about this club, so here's this week's Twins Inbox.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins completed their first major goal of the offseason in hiring Rocco Baldelli as their manager, and now they're working on filling out the coaching staff while also eying free agency and trades to improve the club after a disappointing 2018.

The Twins surprisingly have more money coming off the books this offseason than any other club, so they have the flexibility to spend and add to the team heading into Baldelli's first year. There are plenty of questions about this club, so here's this week's Twins Inbox.

Tweet from @n8olson31: What free agents should they target, and do you think they will sign? Do you think that the team will work to shed its history of low velocity pitchers and contact hitting with a new manager?

It's obvious Minnesota needs pitching help, and the Twins are likely to add at least one starter and several relievers, including a closer. They also are in the market for a middle infielder and potentially a corner infielder/designated hitter if Joe Mauer decides to retire as expected. It's hard to predict who they will sign, but they will have interest in just about any available starter or reliever.

Submit a question to the Twins Inbox

As for Baldelli's role, I don't think having him as manager changes what kind of players they are targeting in free agency this offseason. But it will be interesting to see what kinds of changes are in store with a new pitching coach and bullpen coach next year. James Rowson is back as hitting coach, so that philosophy isn't expected to change much.

Tweet from @docmunson: Question #1: of course they WONT, but SHOULD the Twins make a run at Machado &/or Harper? a 3 year $120M would get either...or BOTH. and could afford short term deals.

Minnesota does have the payroll flexibility to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but it still remains much more likely the club uses that money to add to several holes on the roster rather than making a big splash for either player. Harper wouldn't make as much sense given its crowded outfield, but Machado would certainly be a huge upgrade to the left side of the infield.

The Twins, though, are better off waiting to make that kind of move once they are closer to being a legit contender in the American League. They have top prospects in shortstop Royce Lewis (No. 1 in the organization per MLB Pipeline) and outfielder Alex Kirilloff (No. 2) on the way in the next few years, and Minnesota is more likely to build around those players than sign a star this offseason.

Tweet from @ngunder2: Has Mauer given any indication on when he will make a decision? Before winter meetings? Closer to spring training?

Mauer is expected to make a decision whether or not to retire soon -- and it could come as early as this week -- as he doesn't want to hold up the front office as it looks to improve the club going into 2019. Mauer is still likely to retire, especially after his memorable sendoff in the last game of the season that saw him serve as catcher for one pitch.

Video: CWS@MIN: Mauer gets standing ovation behind home

If Mauer retires, the Twins will be in the market for a corner infielder/designated hitter they could group with third baseman Miguel Sano and first baseman Tyler Austin. There aren't many free-agent first basemen this offseason, as the top two available are the right-handed-hitting Steve Pearce and the left-handed-hitting Matt Adams.

Tweet from @areynolds0: Thoughts on Mike Moustakas signing and shifting Sano to 1B/DH?

It could make some sense, given how there isn't much of a first-base market this offseason. Minnesota, though, still believes Sano can play third, so it's not likely he moves full-time to first base just yet. But Moustakas would be an upgrade, add some power to the lineup, and he could rotate with Sano. But roster-wise, the Twins are more likely to look at versatile players such as free agent Marwin Gonzalez, especially after Eduardo Escobar re-signed with the D-backs.

Tweet from @JordanDeCaro12: When is Brian Dozier coming back?

I still don't see a reunion with the Twins, considering they didn't meet with him or his agent about an extension in Spring Training and traded him to the Dodgers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. It'll be interesting to see what kind of deal Brian Dozier gets after a down year, but he's not expected back in Minnesota.

Tweet from @docmunson: Final one... Would the Twins consider bringing back Santana at a smaller, incentive laden deal?

It's unlikely the Twins bring back Ervin Santana, but it can't be ruled out. He was solid during his time in Minnesota and seemed to enjoy his teammates and his place with the club. He'll pitch in the Dominican Winter League to try to show his velocity is back after last offseason's right middle finger surgery that limited him to just five starts. But it seems more likely he goes elsewhere this offseason.

Tweet from @hasart10: The Twins need bullpen help, so what free agent relievers are on the Twins��� radar?

Minnesota's biggest need this offseason is bullpen help, and fortunately there are plenty of solid free-agent relievers to choose from this winter. Craig Kimbrel is the top closer on the market, but the Twins are more likely to look at relievers such as David Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Andrew Miller, Joe Kelly, Zach Britton or Joakim Soria. They could also look to buy low on former closers they know from the division as former Indians closer Cody Allen and former Royals closer Kelvin Herrera are also free agents.

Trevor May has the stuff to be a closer, but look for Minnesota to sign a veteran to take that role, much like it did last offseason when the club inked Fernando Rodney to a one-year deal with an option.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Minnesota Twins, Joe Mauer