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Inbox: Will LeMahieu or Torres start at 2B?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch fields Yankees fans' questions
MLB.com

Is there any chance that DJ LeMahieu would start over Gleyber Torres at second base?
-- Emily P., Newark, N.J.

The use of LeMahieu figures to hinge upon Troy Tulowitzki's health. If Tulowitzki is ready for everyday duty at shortstop, then LeMahieu can bounce around the infield, envisioned as a Ben Zobrist-type of super-utility player who can fill in at second base, third base and shortstop. Because Tulowitzki hasn't played in a big league game since July 28, 2017, that plan is hardly a lock.

Is there any chance that DJ LeMahieu would start over Gleyber Torres at second base?
-- Emily P., Newark, N.J.

The use of LeMahieu figures to hinge upon Troy Tulowitzki's health. If Tulowitzki is ready for everyday duty at shortstop, then LeMahieu can bounce around the infield, envisioned as a Ben Zobrist-type of super-utility player who can fill in at second base, third base and shortstop. Because Tulowitzki hasn't played in a big league game since July 28, 2017, that plan is hardly a lock.

LeMahieu has won National League Gold Glove Awards in each of the past two seasons, so the middle infield seems to be secure if Tulowitzki is unavailable and Torres has to hold down shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns this summer. LeMahieu said that he was told to "bring a lot of gloves" to camp, so all possible scenarios should be covered in the Grapefruit League.

:: Submit a question to the Yankees Inbox ::

Since the primary need is a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, who are the best pitchers who might be available via a trade?
-- David K., Washington, D.C.

The Yankees remain engaged with the pitching market, both starters and relievers. The most enticing buzz connected them to the Indians' Corey Kluber and the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, though obviously no match has been found as of yet. There was also a link to the Mets' Noah Syndergaard that dominated bar discussion for one evening at the Winter Meetings in December.

Latest Hot Stove rumors

General manager Brian Cashman entered the offseason aiming to add at least one prominent starter, which they believe was accomplished by securing James Paxton and J.A. Happ, but they are open to adding more.

How much playing time will Clint Frazier get in 2019 if he's healthy?
-- Alexander P., Gainesville, Va.

How about 162 games? At least, that's what Frazier recently replied to a fan on Twitter. Why not set the bar high? The outfield picture has not changed much from last year, when Frazier came in facing an uphill climb due to the crowded outfield. Brett Gardner is envisioned as the starter in left field, with Frazier among a cast of characters challenging him.

Frazier logged only 41 big league plate appearances last year, but had he been healthy for all of 2018, there would have been more time available -- consider that Billy McKinney, Jace Peterson and Shane Robinson combined for 69 plate appearances and Andrew McCutchen got 114, largely in response to Aaron Judge's injury. In addition, manager Aaron Boone believes that Gardner played more in the second half than he should have, a workload that could have been eased by a healthy Frazier.

Video: NYY@DET: Frazier singles in Didi for 1st RBI of 2018

What are the chances that the Yankees would trade Gardner and sign Bryce Harper?
-- John A., Casselberry, Fla.

This should probably be two separate questions, as Gardner alone is not what is keeping Harper out of the outfield. Over the years, there have been numerous overtures from other clubs about Gardner (including this offseason), but Cashman has thus far rejected everything to cross his desk. It seems unlikely that they would have moved so quickly to re-sign Gardner, then attempt to send him elsewhere. More on Harper in the next question.

I have been dreaming about Manny Machado being the third baseman since his rookie year. Why is he not a Yankee yet?
-- Ruben E., Rockport, Texas

A couple of years ago, when the Yankees were unloading veterans and embracing the "Baby Bombers" prior to the 2016 Trade Deadline, it was easy to look at this offseason and wonder if they might spend a half-billion dollars to add both Harper and Machado, perhaps in one wild Las Vegas Winter Meetings spending spree. That clearly has not turned out to be the case.

It's simplistic and incorrect to say that the team isn't spending -- Giancarlo Stanton's mega-contract hit the books a year ago, and they are on track to exceed the luxury-tax threshold in 2019 -- but Cashman has said several times this offseason that the preference is to "field the best team you possibly can, at a cost-effective price if possible."

Hot Stove Tracker

Those words have been ringing in my ears over the past few weeks, as the likelihood of a Machado deal seems to have faded and they have appeared to sit out the Harper sweepstakes. As we learned with Stanton, it's wise to never say never. I'll believe they're truly out when Harper and Machado have news conferences holding up other teams' jerseys.

Judge is eligible for arbitration next year. When does Judge get locked up in a long-term deal?
-- Bob C., Hoboken, N.J.

The Yankees have historically opted for the headache of the salary-arbitration process, though there have been exceptions. In February 2008, they pounced on a deal with Robinson Cano -- then 25 -- that paid about $55 million over the next six years, with the team picking up options for '12 and '13.

The dollar figures would be greater, but as someone that the team is building the future around, there is logic in controlling Judge's salary beyond his arb years. Then again, with Luis Severino appearing to be headed for a hearing over $850,000, a Judge deal might have to wait.

Why not extend Dellin Betances? He could be the best reliever on the market next season, and we wouldn't have to worry about the back end of the bullpen.
-- Nathan K., Waimanalo, Hawaii

Cashman recently said that there have been internal discussions about extending Betances, Gregorius and Aaron Hicks, all of whom are potential free agents. Even with Gregorius' injury, we should expect to see the topic broached with all three of those players at some point before Opening Day.

It's worth noting here that Betances said the free-agency process "will be a little easier" after his contentious February 2017 arbitration hearing, though those fences seemed to have been mended in '18.

What are some of the records that CC Sabathia would be about to tie or break?
-- Kevin S., Comerio, Puerto Rico

The Yankees' media-relations team compiles a list of potential milestones prior to each game, and they will once again be busy with regard to Sabathia this coming year. Sabathia's 246 wins rank 50th on the all-time list, and he is 14 strikeouts shy of becoming the 17th member of the 3,000-strikeouts club.

Sabathia's 2,986 strikeouts rank third all-time among lefties, where he'll remain behind Randy Johnson (4,875) and Steve Carlton (4,136), and he leads all American League left-handers with 2,858 strikeouts.

On the franchise list, Sabathia is fourth all-time in strikeouts (1,539), trailing Ron Guidry (1,778), Whitey Ford (1,956) and Andy Pettitte (2,020). Sabathia is seventh in starts (284), 11th in wins (129) and 12th in innings pitched (1,810 2/3).

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees

Inbox: Will Vlad Jr. make Opening Day roster?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm fields Blue Jays fans' questions
MLB.com

Are you able to explain the logic behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. not starting on Opening Day? I keep reading they need to hold him back until the end of April.
-- Michael, Melbourne, Australia

At this point, it's basically a foregone conclusion that Guerrero will start the year in the Minors, and it's all because of service time. Toronto gains an extra year of control by delaying his Major League debut another few weeks. Why? According to to the rules, a full year of service is defined as 172 days on the Major League roster, but the season spans 187 days. So the only way to guarantee 2019 won't count as a full year is by pushing back Guerrero's arrival date.

Are you able to explain the logic behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. not starting on Opening Day? I keep reading they need to hold him back until the end of April.
-- Michael, Melbourne, Australia

At this point, it's basically a foregone conclusion that Guerrero will start the year in the Minors, and it's all because of service time. Toronto gains an extra year of control by delaying his Major League debut another few weeks. Why? According to to the rules, a full year of service is defined as 172 days on the Major League roster, but the season spans 187 days. So the only way to guarantee 2019 won't count as a full year is by pushing back Guerrero's arrival date.

• Vlad Jr. highlights 2019 infield

The Blue Jays can't say any of this publicly because it would provide clear-cut evidence the club is manipulating Guerrero's service time. Instead, expect Toronto to focus on the aspects of Guerrero's game that could use a little bit of work before it's on par with the rest of his skill set. The Cubs did something similar in 2015 when Kris Bryant was left off the Opening Day roster, only to be promoted on April 17 before going on to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

:: Submit a question to the Blue Jays Inbox ::

Don't the Blue Jays need to trade an outfielder? Using a Teoscar Hernandez/Billy McKinney platoon doesn't really make sense because they need to find out if both can be productive everyday players.
-- Christopher M., Richmond Hill, Ontario

You're not wrong. At some point the Blue Jays need to make a decision, but it doesn't have to be right away. There should be plenty of at-bats to go around if Toronto puts together an outfield rotation that sees Randal Grichuk making some occasional starts in center and Hernandez receiving occasional at-bats at DH. With five players -- including Kendrys Morales -- for four spots, playing time should not be that big of an issue.

If McKinney and Hernandez have strong camps and get off to hot starts, the Blue Jays might have a problem on their hands, but it's one they'll be more than happy to deal with. Neither player would benefit from yet another stint in the Minors, so the Blue Jays might as well see what they've got at the Major League level, even if it's not in the traditional everyday role. After all, Hernandez is already 26 and McKinney is 24.

Do you think just releasing Troy Tulowitzki was really best for the team when they could have traded him for prospects and not have to pay for him to play for another team?
-- Justin M., Chicopee, Ontario

In order to trade Tulowitzki for prospects, there would've needed to be an offer on the table to make it happen. There wasn't. There also wasn't a scenario in which the Blue Jays could have avoided paying almost the entire $38 million he was owed over the next two years, no matter what happened.

The only thing up for debate here is whether Toronto should have waited a little bit longer before making a final decision. If Tulowitzki showed up in Spring Training and proved he was healthy, would the Blue Jays have been able to get something for him in return? Possibly, but no matter how good he looked, no team was taking on that money, so the downside doesn't go nearly as deep here as most people think. This was always going to be a sunk cost.

Everyone talks about Danny Jansen as the latest "catcher of the future." But what do you think about Reese McGuire? I feel like his arm/defense is superior to Jansen and that there's more to his bat than people think. Could he supplant Jansen as the catcher of the future?
-- Jay P., Cambridge, Ontario

Jansen will get the first crack at the full-time role, but McGuire will have plenty of opportunities over the coming months and years to take the job away. These two have pushed each other at the Minor League level for well over a year, and that trend will continue at the Major League level for the foreseeable future.

McGuire does have the superior arm, and the 23-year-old has drawn a lot of praise for his work with a pitching staff. The bat you referenced hasn't developed as hoped, though, with a .651 OPS for the Bisons last season. McGuire had some offensive success earlier in his Minor League career, but he currently projects as an elite backup. If Jansen struggles early, that could change. But for now, the job is his to lose.

Video: CLE@TOR: McGuire cuts down Ramirez at second

If the Jays find themselves in a similar situation to the Rays last year near the Trade Deadline (vastly overperforming), do you think that'll change any of their sell-off plans for the veterans (Marcus Stroman, Justin Smoak, etc.)?
-- Aren B., @ArenBergstrom, Toronto

If the Blue Jays are contending midway through the year, they won't be selling off any assets. If anything, they'll be looking to make some short-term additions to strengthen the roster while making a run at the postseason. Even so, it's easy to see why that's not the expected outcome for this organization. The Yankees and Red Sox are coming off seasons in which they won at least 100 games, and both clubs are expected to just as good this year.

Toronto, meanwhile, features a lot of promising young talent and is in the midst of a rebuild that will extend into 2020. If the young players develop early and this team contends ahead of schedule, the Blue Jays would be overjoyed. There just won't be too many people who expect it will happen that quickly, and that's why Stroman, Smoak and others should be on their way out before long.

Any teeny chance that Jose Bautista could be brought back, maybe play a final year in a Blue Jays uniform? Paid league minimum last year ... could still smack a few, mentor newbies, maybe one more bat flip?
-- Carla, @CarlaCarmact, Halifax, Nova Scotia

There's no chance of Bautista returning to play another game in a Blue Jays uniform, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities that he will eventually retire as a Blue Jay. Toronto honored Roy Halladay that way when the future Hall of Famer announced his retirement in 2013, and it would only seem fitting to give Bautista a similar send-off.

I'd say there's more than a decent chance that could happen at some point, but it will be determined by Bautista, who has yet to show any kind of indication that he plans to retire. The 38-year-old was a late signing in 2018, and he might be one again this year. It just won't be in Toronto.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Inbox: Who'll round out Astros' 2019 rotation?

Beat reporter Brian McTaggart fields questions from fans
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- It's hard to believe Astros pitchers and catchers will be working out in West Palm Beach, Fla., in less than a month. A year ago at this time, the Astros were coming off a World Series title, but the expectations haven't changed heading into 2019.

So let's open the Inbox to see what's on your mind about the Astros as we plow closer to the pitchers and catchers report date:

HOUSTON -- It's hard to believe Astros pitchers and catchers will be working out in West Palm Beach, Fla., in less than a month. A year ago at this time, the Astros were coming off a World Series title, but the expectations haven't changed heading into 2019.

So let's open the Inbox to see what's on your mind about the Astros as we plow closer to the pitchers and catchers report date:

Let's assume the Astros go into Spring Training without having made a significant addition to the rotation. Who could be a dark horse to make the starting rotation out of ST? Assuming that Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Collin McHugh are locks with Josh James, Brad Peacock, Framber Valdez, Forrest Whitley and Corbin Martin as the main candidates for the 4 and 5 spots.

Your assumptions are spot on. Barring another addition to the rotation -- and let the record show I still think the Astros will acquire another veteran arm -- the final two spots in the rotation will be between the kids, as well as Peacock. I think you can rule out Whitley and Martin starting the season in the big league rotation, but James and Valdez will have great shots to win a starting rotation spot. Peacock might be too valuable of a weapon in the bullpen at this point, but his success as a starter in 2017 (10-2, 3.22 ERA in 21 starts) remains fresh in the memory.

:: Submit a question to the Astros Inbox ::

What are the chances you see the Astros' front office re-signing both Verlander and Cole to extensions?
-- Christopher S., San Antonio

They're both free agents after the 2019 season, as you know, which is why the team's window to win another championship remains wide open this year. But I think it would be very difficult for the Astros to come up with enough payroll flexibility to pay both of them the huge contracts they're going to demand. Jose Altuve gets a raise in 2020 that will pay him $29 million a year, and George Springer could push $20 million a season by then in his final year before free agency.

The point is the Astros are facing some impact contract decisions coming up with some of their core players and won't have the luxury of signing a pair of starting pitchers to massive deals. The Astros don't operate like that, anyway. They could let Verlander and Cole walk and try to make another deal like they did a year ago with Cole, getting an up-and-coming star in a trade a couple of years prior to becoming a free agent.

Which Astros arbitration candidates will get their full asking price in their hearings?
-- Allen A., Bay City, Texas

It's hard to say. The arbitration process is something that's difficult to predict. The Astros have three former All-Stars headed to arbitration -- shortstop Carlos Correa, Cole and relief pitcher Chris Devenski. Correa is asking for $5 million, and the Astros have countered with $4.25 million; Devenski is asking for $1.65 million, and the Astros have countered for $1.4 million; and Cole is asking for $13.5 million, and the Astros countered with $11.425 million.

I certainly wouldn't want to make a case against Cole coming off the year he had, but the Astros are hoping to save more than $2 million in arbitration in his deal. Correa seems like a bargain for $5 million, especially if healthy, but he didn't have a great season. The Devenski difference is only $250,000, but the Astros will be aiming to win arbitration cases after losing last year to McHugh and Ken Giles.

Will Lance McCullers Jr. be a full go this time next year?
-- Marc A., Benton, Ark.

If not, then he'll be really close, barring a setback. He had Tommy John surgery on Nov. 6, and the timetable for a full recovery is typically 18 months, though it can be shorter. He'll miss the entire 2019 season and should be ready for game action around the start of the 2020 season. McCullers is a bulldog competitor, so he'll attack his rehab as hard as he can.

Video: McCullers discusses Tommy John rehab on High Heat

With the realistic possibility now that either Tyler White or Tony Kemp could begin the season in Triple-A again after bouncing between there and the big leagues for the past three seasons and seemingly proving some of their worth at the big league level last year, can that begin to have a negative effect on those players in the near future?
-- Logan K., Valley Mills, Texas

The roster, in its current composition, wouldn't seem to support a spot for both White and Kemp, especially following the addition of Michael Brantley. Both men have bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues in the past couple of years and made the most of their opportunities with nothing left to prove in the Minors. Sure, not making the big league club is certainly going to affect a players' psyche, but White and Kemp are both professional enough to approach it with the proper mindset.

Do you believe the Astros will trade Kyle Tucker and Max Stassi for J.T. Realmuto? If the Astros trade for a starting pitcher, who do you believe it might be?
-- Roland L., Houston

I think if the Astros were going to acquire Realmuto from the Marlins in a package that included top position-player prospect Tucker they would have done it already. Either they've decided not to trade Tucker, or the Marlins have said "No thanks." Of course, if they decided not to trade Tucker, they could always change their minds. Stay tuned.

A couple of names to keep an eye on in terms of starting pitchers: Sonny Gray of the Yankees and Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays.

Hot Stove Tracker

Any news on Correa's back progress? Do you think he will be a long-term Astro?
-- David W., Houston

Correa has laid low this offseason so we haven't had any updates, but we were told rest was going to be the best medicine for back issues which led to a long DL stint last season. He's likely gotten plenty of that.

The Astros would definitely love to tie up Correa long term, but he'll be a free agent at 27 years old in 2022. He could command Manny Machado-Bryce Harper money, whatever that might be. Will the Astros be able to afford it? We will have to wait to find out.

Tags, given the dysfunction of the FA market these days, what do you think are the chances that either Dallas Keuchel or Marwin Gonzalez re-signs with the Astros?
-- Lance P., Houston

I think the closer we get to the start of the season and the longer they're unsigned, the chances grow higher. That's probably true more for Keuchel, because the Astros are still in need for a starting pitcher. Maybe if the market for Keuchel isn't what he thought in a month, he'd decide to come back to Houston. The Astros traded for Aledmys Diaz as the supposed replacement for Gonzalez, so I think it's less likely he returns.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Houston Astros

Inbox: Should Red Sox improve behind the dish?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Do the Red Sox feel they need to upgrade the offensive production from their catching position? Christian Vazquez (.207 average) and Sandy Leon (.177) combined for eight home runs and 38 RBIs last year. It seems tough to be able to compete (again) in the American League East with that production.
-- Bob R., Utica, N.Y. 

For many years, the Red Sox have heavily prioritized defense at the catching position and have been willing to sacrifice offense for it. Last season was extreme with the offensive futility at that spot, but they still won the World Series. The same group of position players are back for another year, so the Sox don't necessarily feel like they need to get a big bat at catcher. Also, Boston firmly believes that Vazquez is a better hitter than he showed last season. Remember, he did hit .290 in 2017. Put it this way: I don't think it would be possible for the team to get less cumulative production from the catching spot than last season.

Do the Red Sox feel they need to upgrade the offensive production from their catching position? Christian Vazquez (.207 average) and Sandy Leon (.177) combined for eight home runs and 38 RBIs last year. It seems tough to be able to compete (again) in the American League East with that production.
-- Bob R., Utica, N.Y. 

For many years, the Red Sox have heavily prioritized defense at the catching position and have been willing to sacrifice offense for it. Last season was extreme with the offensive futility at that spot, but they still won the World Series. The same group of position players are back for another year, so the Sox don't necessarily feel like they need to get a big bat at catcher. Also, Boston firmly believes that Vazquez is a better hitter than he showed last season. Remember, he did hit .290 in 2017. Put it this way: I don't think it would be possible for the team to get less cumulative production from the catching spot than last season.

Submit a question to Red Sox Inbox

What's the word on Blake Swihart lately? I saw he signed a one-year contract before the arbitration deadline. Do you think he'll be with the club come Spring Training? Do you think we could get something for him on the trade market? 
-- Jon D., Germantown, Md

As it relates to the question I answered above, Swihart is a player who could boost the team's offense behind the plate. With the limited playing time (192 at-bats) he got last year, it was hard for him to demonstrate what type of hitter he is. This is why the Red Sox are likely to go from three catchers to two in 2019. It remains to be seen which catcher will be on the move, but I don't expect all three to still be on the roster for Spring Training. Swihart would likely bring the best return in a trade. But don't rule out president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski dealing Sandy Leon or Christian Vazquez so the club can finally get Swihart on the field on a more consistent basis.

I know that Steven Wright had surgery earlier this offseason. Will he be ready to go for Spring Training or will he start the season on the DL? 
-- Michael C., Orlando, Fla.

Much like with Dustin Pedroia, the hope the Red Sox have for Wright is that he will be a full go this season. Perhaps we haven't heard as much about Wright as we should this offseason when discussing the bullpen. He can be a real multi-inning weapon when that knuckleball is right and he is also valuable insurance for the starting rotation.

Given Chris Sale's track record in the second half of the last two seasons, would he and the Red Sox consider making him the closer? 
-- Evans D., West New York, N.J.

I can categorically give you a "no" on this one. First of all, this is Sale's walk year, and it would leave a bad taste in his mouth if he couldn't fully demonstrate his value as a starter. Secondly, Sale's dominance as a starter is simply too great to devalue him by decreasing his innings. The best-case scenario for Sale and the Red Sox is for the lefty to have another big season in the rotation -- one in which he stays healthier than last year.

Is it possible top hitting prospect Michael Chavis would play second base this season? 
-- Roger, The Villages, Fla.

I think it's more likely that Chavis will continue to get more exposure to first base. Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce both are eligible for free agency at the end of 2019. If Chavis has a strong enough season, he could convince the Red Sox that he's ready to take over first base in '20. As far as second base, this could become a more realistic possibility if Pedroia has more injury complications. But at this point, the Sox are hopeful that Pedroia can get back on the field.

Top prospect Chavis eager to return to Sox camp

Why wouldn't the Red Sox explore a trade for Cleveland's Corey Kluber in the event that they could lose Rick Porcello and Sale to free agency after the 2019 season? 
-- Todd H., New Brunswick, Canada

That's not as easy as it sounds. It would likely take a highly enticing prospect and/or impact player who is young and at a controlled cost to land Kluber. The Red Sox are still rebuilding the farm system after the recent trades that helped build last season's championship team, so trading a top prospect probably isn't the way to go. And the way the roster is presently constituted, the Sox think they have a strong chance to repeat, and trading premium talent from the current roster wouldn't help them reach that goal.

Top 30 Red Sox prospects 

In the short term, the starting rotation is one of the top strengths for Boston. Dombrowski will confront the long term when it comes to his pitching rotation after the 2019 season.

I'm a lifetime Red Sox fan and would like to know if Hanley Ramirez is still on their payroll.
-- Patrick T., Ridgefield Park, N.J. 

Ramirez is no longer on the payroll. If you recall, when he was released last May, it eliminated the chance that his 2019 option could vest.

What do you see Brandon Workman's role being next season after his tough postseason? 
-- Liam G., Houston

This is a crucial year for Workman, because he is out of Minor League options. Over the past few seasons, the Red Sox have always been able to keep the righty in the organization. They can no longer do that this year, which means Workman is going to have to perform consistently to earn his spot. He did have some good moments last season, but the hope is that he didn't lose too much confidence after his shaky postseason. Workman has a chance to establish himself with a setup crew that lost Joe Kelly to free agency. There's also a chance another key setup man could be elevated to closer in Matt Barnes.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez

Is signing Machado or Harper the right move?

Scott Merkin answers questions from White Sox fans
MLB.com

I don't like to see the White Sox willing to commit a large portion of future spending to one position player. Remember that it was great starting pitching that got us the 2005 championship. And while we have several very good prospects in the pipeline, they are not a sure thing. Any huge contract for a position player has to be one that can be traded away later if starting pitching is needed. Do you agree?
-- Kurt, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I don't agree in this case. You don't add a player such as Manny Machado or Bryce Harper with the thought of trading either. These are players you build winning franchises around. The White Sox targeted this offseason as part of this rebuild and have plenty of payroll flexibility over the next few years. Pitching remains important, but the White Sox are developing young hurlers and will add via free agency if the situation dictates.

I don't like to see the White Sox willing to commit a large portion of future spending to one position player. Remember that it was great starting pitching that got us the 2005 championship. And while we have several very good prospects in the pipeline, they are not a sure thing. Any huge contract for a position player has to be one that can be traded away later if starting pitching is needed. Do you agree?
-- Kurt, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I don't agree in this case. You don't add a player such as Manny Machado or Bryce Harper with the thought of trading either. These are players you build winning franchises around. The White Sox targeted this offseason as part of this rebuild and have plenty of payroll flexibility over the next few years. Pitching remains important, but the White Sox are developing young hurlers and will add via free agency if the situation dictates.

:: Submit a question to the White Sox Inbox ::

Would signing Harper bring national attention to the White Sox and improve their attendance? Or would Harper's image (face of MLB) be hurt by him signing with the White Sox?
-- John, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Harper is a national brand, even more so than the supremely talented Machado. He would do all you mentioned for the White Sox, not to mention be the face of a new television network. Harper won't hurt his image joining the White Sox with the up-and-coming talent they possess and the exciting brand of baseball they hope is coming to the South Side. Machado could become that same face of the franchise if he signs with the White Sox.

Video: CHC@CWS: Lopez strikes out 8 over 7 strong innings

Am I delusional, or could Reynaldo Lopez contend for the Cy Young if he gets even average run support? He received so little last season. I submit he would have won close to 20 games with a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Astros.
-- Sol, New York

Wins and losses matter very little in regard to Cy Young Award voting at this point. Take a look at past winners such as Felix Hernandez from 2010 (13-12 record) and Jacob deGrom in the National League last season with a 10-9 record. Lopez certainly has the makeup to be a top-of-the-rotation sort of hurler, as his 1.38 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 45 2/3 innings during his last seven starts of '18 would indicate. I also like Lopez's second gear he switches into in tough situations -- not every pitcher possesses that intangible.

Do you think we can find a bona fide leadoff hitter and No. 1 starter?
-- Bob, LaGrange Park, Ill.

That leadoff spot will be sort of a fluid one during 2019, although I projected Jon Jay there in our recent preseason lineup stories. Nick Madrigal would be a good fit but isn't big league ready at this point. There are a number of No. 1 starter candidates, from Lopez to Carlos Rodon to Michael Kopech to Dylan Cease. But that slot will play out as the rebuild does. A pure ace isn't quite as essential as five quality starters, as the 2005 White Sox could attest.

Video: A.J. Pollock is hitting the free-agent market

Could the White Sox sign Machado, A.J. Pollock and Mike Moustakas and have more impact than signing Harper and Machado?
-- Michael, St. Charles, Ill.

I'm still of the belief no team signs both Harper and Machado. I also believe the White Sox won't execute any more moves near this level to close this offseason past their pursuit of these two. They aren't looking for an incremental bump in 2019. They are looking for players who fit this rebuild now and in the future and certainly are in play for either one of these two, with Machado as the top signing candidate.

What reasonable expectations should Sox fans have of Eloy Jimenez once he comes up?
-- Zack, Schaumburg, Ill.

People should expect Jimenez to be so overwhelmingly good discussions concerning his jersey retirement start almost immediately. I kid. But in all honesty, the White Sox No. 1 prospect looks as if he could be the real fulcrum of this rebuild, so penciling him in as a prime Rookie of the Year candidate in '19 is not far-fetched.

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: Will Woodward use opener strategy?

Beat reporter T.R. Sullivan answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Have we gotten a feel about how manager Chris Woodward feels about the concept of "openers"?  
-- Joe S., Garland, Texas

Woodward was asked about this at the Winter Meetings. The Rangers would obviously love to have a rotation like the Astros and Indians had last season, but not many Major League teams are that fortunate. The Rangers are less fortunate than most, so Woodward understands the need to be open-minded and creative when it comes to his pitching staff. He also knows there is data that supports the idea that many pitchers are effective for no more than two times through the lineup. But this whole idea of "openers" is still in the experimental stage, so there is no telling yet if it will become standard operating procedure or a passing fad.

Have we gotten a feel about how manager Chris Woodward feels about the concept of "openers"?  
-- Joe S., Garland, Texas

Woodward was asked about this at the Winter Meetings. The Rangers would obviously love to have a rotation like the Astros and Indians had last season, but not many Major League teams are that fortunate. The Rangers are less fortunate than most, so Woodward understands the need to be open-minded and creative when it comes to his pitching staff. He also knows there is data that supports the idea that many pitchers are effective for no more than two times through the lineup. But this whole idea of "openers" is still in the experimental stage, so there is no telling yet if it will become standard operating procedure or a passing fad.

Submit a question to Rangers Inbox 

Is there any possibility the Rangers would jump into the Manny Machado sweepstakes? If the price really is falling to the $175 million range, it feels like a major bargain, and he'd be an ideal fit in this lineup. 
-- Mark M., Little Rock, Ark.

Machado would be a great fit in any lineup, but right now, the inside word from the Rangers is they are not in the Machado sweepstakes and have no plans of entering into it. That's where it stands right now for Texas.

When do you see the Rangers adding a third baseman, or even a right-handed-hitting outfielder?
-- Tony N., Waskom, Texas

The Rangers are determined to sign a veteran third baseman before their offseason work is over. Club sources have made that clear. Obviously, Mike Moustakas is the best third baseman on the free-agent market, but it seems like he will attract plenty of attention from serious contenders once Machado has made a decision. Once you get past Moustakas, the candidates are more utility-type players. Josh Harrison, Yangervis Solarte and Marwin Gonzalez are among the best of the bunch. Certainly, the Rangers are determined to add someone to go with rookie Patrick Wisdom.

When will Jose Trevino get his shot? I know he's coming off an injury but there's not a better defensive catcher in the system and he has definitely proved he's a winner.
-- Jon B., Amarillo, Texas

Trevino has been getting after it this offseason and has been a regular member of the daily workouts at the Youth Academy in West Dallas. He is a talented defensive catcher but still could use more development offensively. Trevino has played in 151 games at Double-A Frisco over the past two years, hitting .239 with a .278 on-base percentage and a .326 slugging percentage. There is room for improvement.

I realize we are in a rebuilding time, but I would like to see the Rangers bring in a veteran right-handed bat on a two-year deal to bridge the gap for the up-and-coming outfielders. 
-- Greg K., Sunnyvale, Texas

The guy that seems to make a lot of sense would be Adam Jones, a right-handed-hitting, free-agent outfielder who can play all three positions and can be used at designated hitter. He could also provide some experience and leadership on a young, rebuilding team.

What is general manager Jon Daniels' thought process about signing pitchers that have had Tommy John surgery?
-- Michael G., Dallas

It's a signing that is often misleadingly labeled as a "low-risk, high-reward" proposition. Certainly, the financial outlay is not as significant as it would be for a healthy pitcher, and the hope is the pitcher will eventually be as good or better than he was before the surgery. The reality is, clubs and pitchers have had mixed results in coming back from the procedure.

It seems that the past 2-3 years, the Rangers signed no less than three pitchers who were coming off serious injuries. Those pitchers were almost immediately ordained as starters. Is the front office hoping against hope that it will work out this time? Are they biding time and saving money in an attempt to sign a proven starter or two next year when the new park opens?
-- Jim C., Stephenville, Texas

The Rangers' strategy last offseason and this one has been quite obvious. Their farm system is barren of young pitchers at the top end, and they have an abnormally high number of openings in the Major League rotation. The Rangers have been relentless over the past 18 months in trying to restock their Minor League pitching and have made significant progress. But it has required them to buy in bulk on the free-agent market to rebuild the big league rotation, and they have had to take chances on pitchers with questionable physical and performance issues. If the Rangers' farm system can start being productive again, they can get back to being more selective and more aggressive in playing at the higher end of the free-agent market in the near future.

After the Rangers have gone pitching-strong in the Draft and through trades, I feel like we've built up a good amount of pitching prospects. Now let's look into this year's Draft. What position do you think the Rangers will try to draft next?
-- Miguel G., Arlington, Texas

Pitching. Then once they feel they have enough pitching, they should draft some more. Look, obviously if there is a sure-fire position player that is clearly too good to pass up, then the Rangers should draft him. But all things being equal or close to it ... pitching, pitching, pitching.

Any news on Josh Hamilton? Have the Rangers remained in contact with him? Any plans to put him in the Rangers Hall of Fame or maybe add to the staff as a special assistant to the general manager?
-- Jimmie B., Sweetwater, Texas

At some point, Hamilton would be a strong candidate to be in the Rangers Hall of Fame. Right now, there is no indication of Hamilton looking into a front-office role in baseball.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers

Inbox: Are Rays still in mix for Realmuto?

Beat reporter Juan Toribio answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Are the Rays still in the mix for J.T. Realmuto and/or Jose Martinez?
-- @theicchamp11 via Twitter

Even with the acquisition of outfielder Avisail Garcia, the Rays will continue to look for ways to improve, and that includes going after Realmuto, Martinez and others. The Marlins have been consistent with their asking price, and it remains to be seen whether any club will meet their demands. Tampa Bay can check off every box on Miami's asking price, which includes a young Major League player and a variety of top prospects. Realmuto is one of the best catchers -- if not the best -- in baseball and the Rays will look to acquire someone of that caliber if the offer fits their plans.

Are the Rays still in the mix for J.T. Realmuto and/or Jose Martinez?
-- @theicchamp11 via Twitter

Even with the acquisition of outfielder Avisail Garcia, the Rays will continue to look for ways to improve, and that includes going after Realmuto, Martinez and others. The Marlins have been consistent with their asking price, and it remains to be seen whether any club will meet their demands. Tampa Bay can check off every box on Miami's asking price, which includes a young Major League player and a variety of top prospects. Realmuto is one of the best catchers -- if not the best -- in baseball and the Rays will look to acquire someone of that caliber if the offer fits their plans.

:: Submit a question to the Rays Inbox ::

It's also worth noting that Realmuto only has two more years of control, which could play a factor in Tampa Bay's pursuit. The Rays believe they can compete in 2019 and '20, but they also don't want to trade away too many of their younger players, as their goal is to have sustained success with its young nucleus.

As for Martinez, it still remains to be seen whether St. Louis is willing to trade him. With the addition of Paul Goldschmidt, it appeared that the Cardinals were going to begin shopping Martinez, but nothing has come to fruition over the past couple of months. Martinez is under control for four more seasons, so the Cards aren't forced to make any quick decision on him.

Any chance the Rays bring back Sergio Romo? He was a great clubhouse guy and would help the bullpen.
-- @KyleSmelter via Twitter

There's always a chance, especially with how slow the reliever market has been moving along, but odds are that Romo will be playing elsewhere in 2019. Romo served as the team's primary closer over the last couple of months of the season, finishing with 25 saves, but he saw a reduced role in September as the Rays continued to evaluate some of their young pitchers.

The 35-year-old had a very good impact in the clubhouse, especially with the young relievers, but it might be in the best interest of Romo and Tampa Bay to go their separate ways.

Video: Top Prospects: Brandon Lowe, 2B, Rays

If the Rays do trade from their prospect depth for a middle-of-the-lineup bat, who would you say is the odd man out on the current roster?
-- @m_nantai via Twitter

If the Rays were to add another impact bat via trade, it would likely cost them a player or two from their current 40-man roster, plus prospects, depending on the player.

The decision of who the odd man out would be depends on who the player is and what position he is expected to play. If it's another outfielder, there's a chance that Guillermo Heredia, who still has options, starts off the season in Triple-A Durham. The same goes for Brandon Lowe, despite his ability to play second base.

If the move was for an infielder, then the decision becomes even tougher for the Rays. Tampa Bay has a lot of depth in the infield, and every player is deserving of playing in the big leagues. At the end of the day, if the Rays were to make any more additions to its roster, it'll likely be paired with another really tough roster decision. But that's a good problem to have.

What young players do you think will break out and make a name for themselves this spring, even if they don't break camp with the MLB team?
-- @z_awkwardturtle via Twitter

The Rays' farm system continues to be absolutely stacked, and there's going to be a lot of attention in the back fields when Spring Training gets going in less than a month. It's hard to pick breakout names because the Tampa Bay's Minor League Pipeline is so highly regarded, but some of the names that I will keep my eye on this spring include: outfielder Jesus Sanchez, catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, infielder Vidal Brujan, outfielder Joe McCarthy, infielder Lucius Fox, outfielder Tanner Dodson and pitchers Shane McClanahan, Brendan McKay and Curtis Taylor.

None of these players will break the 25-man roster out of camp, and there's a chance we won't see any of them until 2020, but the potential they offer is something to watch.

Hernandez projects as the catcher of the future after hitting 21 home runs in 2018. Sanchez and McCarthy were added to the 40-man roster this offseason and could make an appearance with the big league club if all goes right in the Minor Leagues, while Brujan and Fox are dynamic athletes who provide a lot of excitement.

Dodson and Taylor aren't as highly rated as the other players on the list, but Dodson, who was drafted with the 71st pick in 2018, has the potential to be another two-way player for the Rays. Taylor, who finished with a 2.37 ERA with Double-A Montgomery last season, was used as an opener four times and could be another option for the club in that role.

Video: SEA@TB: Arroyo laces a single to left, scores Smith

I was excited about the profile of Christian Arroyo when we acquired him. I understand he has had trouble staying on the field, but I hear little talk about his future. Is he still in the team's plans or has his star faded?
-- @brucecarr53 via Twitter

Yes. Arroyo is still in the team's plans, but the Rays have a couple players that are a bit more big league ready right now. The infield remains a logjam, even without considering Arroyo, and the 23-year-old still has something to prove in the Minor Leagues after suffering a plethora of injuries over the past few seasons.

The talent itself isn't in question when it comes to Arroyo, but he has dealt with multiple surgeries on his left hand, an oblique injury and even suffered a concussion while playing with Triple-A Durham last season.

Tampa Bay has a lot of options in the infield, so there's a strong chance that Arroyo begins the season in Durham, with the chance to contribute at the big league level as the season goes on.

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com.

Tampa Bay Rays

Inbox: How many position players will KC carry?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan answers questions from Royals fans
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- This could be an exciting camp for the Royals as they inch closer to pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training on Feb. 12.

There will be obvious battles at the back end of the rotation, all over the bullpen and certainly for the right-field job (and outfield backups).

KANSAS CITY -- This could be an exciting camp for the Royals as they inch closer to pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training on Feb. 12.

There will be obvious battles at the back end of the rotation, all over the bullpen and certainly for the right-field job (and outfield backups).

:: Submit a question to the Royals Inbox ::

With that in mind, let's get right to your questions in this week's Royals Inbox:

Tweet from @duvy_013: What���re the chances that the Royals choose to start Opening Day with just 11 position players on the roster? Cam Gallagher and Chris Owings on the bench. Whit and Owings in super utility roles, rotating DH. There���s a ton of pitchers that could use big league innings.

I hate to use the tired "anything is possible" line, but of course, that's true. However, I don't see a scenario for that to happen because with Terrance Gore among the 11 already -- they signed him with the plan he would be a late-inning pinch-running weapon -- that would mean releasing someone like Brian Goodwin. That seems unlikely. While Jorge Bonifacio and Brett Phillips have options, there's still a chance one of those could crack the 25-man roster and get a decent amount of playing time to justify not sending them to Triple-A Omaha. The other factor is, while having Whit Merrifield and Chris Owings gives manager Ned Yost plenty of lineup versatility, if the Royals pinch-run Gore as often as they project, they'll need that extra guy on the bench if they stretch games to extra innings. Gore would be a candidate to pinch-run for Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Ryan O'Hearn and possibly Jorge Soler, Goodwin and Bonifacio (if he makes the team). They might even go with 13 position players.

Tweet from @burgmuleman: How do you see the outfield shaking out? Several options for this season...Gordon, Hamilton, Bonifacio, Goodwin, Soler, Phillips, Gore...

This will be a hot topic in camp. Obviously, Gordon and Billy Hamilton have two spots in the outfield. Who will be in right field? Soler, Phillips, Goodwin and Bonifacio all will be candidates. As mentioned, Phillips and Bonifacio have options, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of them makes the 25-man roster and gets enough playing time to warrant the decision. Soler, if healthy, is going to get most of the at-bats in any right field/designated hitter rotation. That's a fact. I could still see them carrying one more outfielder beyond Goodwin, though he could be a guy that is dealt at some point as the Royals begin to look toward the future with No. 2 prospect Khalil Lee and others.

Tweet from @RoyalsGo: Do you see Duffy and/or Kennedy moving to the bullpen?

Yes, I have written about this several times this offseason. Moving either Danny Duffy or Ian Kennedy to the bullpen would be something that would play out in Spring Training and the early season. The Royals don't have any preconceived notions of making such a move, but they are open to it. I still think Kennedy, because of his command, could make sense as a late-inning guy.

Duffy focused on reviving velocity, career

Tweet from @mredbaseball: Of all the players invited to spring training who has a chance of making team? Like Jason Adams?

Jason Adam has a big league fastball, no doubt. He needs to be able to command a breaking ball to get back to the bigs. He's not on the 40-man roster anymore, so he'll have to wow Yost and his staff in camp.

Tweet from @ZACHilker: Do you think we will make a Chris Young/Chien-Ming Wang type of deal this spring training? Sign a veteran and end up shocking everyone?

Count on it. They've already found one in right-hander Michael Ynoa, once a top prospect in the A's organization.

Tweet from @davehamiltonpbw: will we see Khalil Lee in the majors before a September call-up ?

I think they'll show some patience with Lee, who was just elevated to Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year. He's not on the 40-man roster yet, but hey, if he comes out on fire in the Minors, he could force the Royals' hand.

Tweet from @SpruceGoose_: Will this be Ned Yosts final season

Yost reiterated at the Winter Meetings what he said at the end of the season: The skipper, who enters his 10th season in Kansas City, could definitely see himself coming back in 2020. He has a lot of energy for this rebuild and wants to see it through.

Tweet from @jbryanlarson: Can we expect big tjings from Keller or sophomore slump?

Actually, if anything, I think Brad Keller has a chance to get even better. We don't know what his ceiling is by any stretch. He began to get more swings and misses as the season went on. Opposing hitters have told me he is a very "uncomfortable at-bat."

Tweet from @gingerylocks: Royals? I forgot about them...lol. (j/k)Will we see Kowar or Singer some time this year? Or do you think it���ll be next year?

Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer probably start out at Class A Advanced Wilmington, and there's no need to rush them to the Majors. Let them matriculate (hat tip Hank Stram in honor of the Chiefs' AFC Championship Game this Sunday) through the system.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.

Kansas City Royals, Jason Adam, Danny Duffy, Terrance Gore, Brad Keller, Ian Kennedy, Jackson Kowar, Khalil Lee, Brady Singer, Michael Ynoa

Inbox: Can analytics solve Davis' struggles?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Orioles FanFest is right around the corner, and Spring Training shortly after that. Before you know it, the O's will be filing into camp at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., with as many questions as anyone.

But now, it's time for yours. Thank you to all those who again filled my Inbox and Twitter feed this week with inquiries. Please continue to do so, so we can hit on as many topics as possible before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12.

Orioles FanFest is right around the corner, and Spring Training shortly after that. Before you know it, the O's will be filing into camp at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Fla., with as many questions as anyone.

But now, it's time for yours. Thank you to all those who again filled my Inbox and Twitter feed this week with inquiries. Please continue to do so, so we can hit on as many topics as possible before pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12.

Submit a question to Orioles Inbox 

How is Chris Davis coming along? Will analytics help him?
-- Rivka M., Baltimore

The short answer is, data has the potential to put any player in a better position to succeed, even if some are reluctant to utilize it. The new analytically-inclined Orioles regime will make sure Davis has access to as much information as he wants, and there are certainly areas of his game that it seems, at least in theory, more data could help improve. Think more advanced scouting reports of pitchers, how they attack him in specific counts, how well he performs against certain pitches, things like that.

That said, I've been sensing a hope among O's fans that general manager Mike Elias and company will be able to wave a magic analytics wand and instantly fix Davis. That's not going to happen. The numbers are not a cure-all by any stretch, particularly for a player like Davis, whose skills were diminished, in large part, by advanced data (think: shifts). I'm more curious about how they'll be able to help him -- stay with me here -- on the mental side.

Davis has admitted how his confidence plummeted last summer, and that led to his slump snowballing into what it eventually became. When reading about that, I'm always drawn to what Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter went through last April. Carpenter wound up putting up National League Most Valuable Player Award-type numbers, but if you remember, he began the season in a dismal slump. The 32-year-old hit .145 over the season's first month, at which point Carpenter -- who doesn't dig into data often -- solicited St. Louis' front office for help. Was there anything, he asked, in the numbers that could explain his struggles?

The Cardinals came back with spreadsheets that essentially said, yes. But the diagnosis wasn't dire. The gap between Carpenter's expected stats and actual stats were wider than any player's in baseball. While a lot of players feel like they're hitting into bad luck, Carpenter actually was, and the data proved it. The Cards suggested he keep everything in his swing the same, to stay the course. Relieved, Carpenter listened. He ended up having one of the best seasons of any hitter in the NL in 2018.

I'm not saying Davis' problems were all mental last season. But Carpenter's story is an example of how analytics can sometimes can provide a player with something as simple as piece of mind, and how sometimes that translates into improved production on the field.

What core group of players in the organization do you think the front office will build around?
-- Ryan Beckwith (@_beckwith_ryan), via Twitter

Outside of a few prospects already in the system (Yasiel Diaz, Ryan Mountcastle, DL Hall, etc.), the majority of those players probably aren't in the organization yet, to be completely honest. The new regime's focus this season will be on bringing young talent in, possibly via trade and definitely through the Draft. All eyes will be on the No. 1 pick, but the Orioles' work will not stop there. To truly crank their rebuild into gear, they'll likely have to hit on a number of selections over the course of those three days at the Draft in June.

When does the front office start addressing the outfield?
-- Steve (@fairwayguy2), via Twitter

Probably next, but that'll be whenever the market dictates. Literally nothing has changed on this front since we tackled the possibility of Adam Jones returning in last week's Inbox; all but one outfielder available then -- Danny Santana, who inked a Minor League deal with the Rangers -- remains unsigned. The O's can be as patient as anyone, and will probably have to be, given their status as a full-on rebuilding club.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.

Baltimore Orioles, Chris Davis

Inbox: Who's on first? Santana or Bauers?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from fans
MLB.com

With Spring Training officially under a month away, let's take a look at some of the questions that still surround the Indians heading into 2019 in the latest Inbox.

With Spring Training officially under a month away, let's take a look at some of the questions that still surround the Indians heading into 2019 in the latest Inbox.

Tweet from @schersonator455: Are the Indians planning on Bauers playing all year at 1b or will Santana split time between DH and 1b?

The Indians are planning to "blend" Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers at first base this season, but they haven't said who would get the majority of the starts. Spring Training will obviously help determine that, but my best guess is it will also depend on the rest of the team's offseason moves in the next few weeks.

Submit a question to Indians Inbox 

As of now, it seems safe to assume that when Santana is at first base, Bauers will be penciled in as the designated hitter and vice versa. This rotation between the two could work out for the Indians, especially if Bauers gets off to the same hot start at the plate that he did in 2018. But if Bauers is needed in the outfield, then things will start to get tricky.

With Bauers in either corner outfield spot and Santana at first, there aren't many other big bats that the Indians have on their current roster to fill in as a designated hitter. If the team can add another bat via trade or free agency before Opening Day, that could make this process a little easier, especially if Cleveland doesn't pick up another outfielder. Santana could then be an everyday first baseman to allow Bauers to assist in the grass.

Now, if the team does add at least one outfielder and doesn't get a bat, then that could result in Santana and Bauers splitting time or just having Santana shift into more of a DH role, leaving Bauers to man first.

Tweet from @TRAV_asaurusREX: What���s the plan for Bobby Bradley? Any chance he gets a shot of winning the 1B job out of camp or am I thinking a year to early?

It will most likely be a year too soon. But Bobby Bradley is definitely a big bat to keep an eye on. The 22-year-old hit 27 homers with 83 RBIs between 97 games in Double-A and 32 in Triple-A last season. In 2016, he launched 29 long balls and knocked in an impressive 102 runs at Class A Advanced Lynchburg.

There's no doubt Bradley has the power that the Indians' lineup needs, however, the young infielder will most likely need some more time at Triple-A before making his debut. In 2018, he struck out 148 times and hit .224 in 483 Minor League at-bats. Once Bradley reduces his number of strikeouts and gets his average up -- while hopefully maintaining his power numbers -- then he could get the call to the Majors. The question that remains is whether Bradley will be able to do so by the end of this season or if Indians fans will need to wait until 2020 to get their first glimpse of him.

Tweet from @alexcollins205: With Kluber being rumored to being traded to the Padres, would it take one of their top 5 prospects to pry him from the Indians even if they will flip him?

If a Corey Kluber trade would happen, which is still a big "if" at this point, no matter which team he'd end up going to, the return would need to be quite large. It's been said plenty of times, but with Kluber being a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner who has placed in the top three in voting in four of the last five years, the Indians need to get their money's worth.

If Kluber wound up in San Diego, yes, I think they would need at least one of the Padres' top prospects to complete the deal. When the rumors involving the Padres began last month, both Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe were mentioned as options for the deal, but in recent trade talks there has been no mention of who the Indians would receive in return.

There's a reason a deal has yet to be made when plenty of teams have shown interest. The Indians want to get what they feel they deserve, which is most likely going to be a lot (and should be when dealing with a player of his caliber), including both Major League-ready talent and prospects.

Tweet from @chadyoung: Should we just stop hoping for a legit FA addition? Talking Pollock or Moustakas or even a legit pen arm. I won't bother asking about Machado or Harper....

I'd definitely skip asking about Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but don't give up hope for a couple of reasons. One, both Harper and Machado are still on the market. Until they are signed, I wouldn't expect many other big-name signings to occur. Once they are officially off the board, then everything else will most likely get moving.

Secondly, last offseason we saw more free-agent signings during Spring Training than in previous years. At Tribe Fest last weekend, Indians general manager Mike Chernoff noted in a question and answer session that we could see the same this season.

"We really saw a major change last year, working under a new collective bargaining agreement," Chernoff said. "With some of those changes, what I think happened is teams started to delay their decisions a little bit and they had certain amounts of money or certain assets they wanted to allocate and didn't want to jump the gun too quickly. … Last year, that was the first time that happened and we're seeing signs of that happening again this year."

Tweet from @pzbydnowski: Are they 4 years too late on trading kipnis and 14.5 mil?

With the amount of second basemen on the free-agent market, it's very unlikely that the Indians would be able to move the $14.7 million that's owed to him in 2019.

Tweet from @SethGoTribe: There has been a lot written about the Indians OF situation, however I don't see mention of Zimmer or Naquin, both former first round picks. The Indians still view them as valuable pieces, I presume?

Bradley Zimmer isn't quite a contender just yet in the outfield, so that would probably be why you haven't seen his name as often as others when discussing the Tribe's current need beyond the dirt. Zimmer is recovering from right shoulder surgery and has been hitting off a tee and throwing to 75 feet with no issues, according to the Indians. How he feels throughout Spring Training will determine how quickly he can rejoin the big league club.

As of now, Tyler Naquin is a likely candidate to get a lot of playing time in the outfield (I even have him penciled in as the Indians' Opening Day right fielder), so he is definitely still viewed as a valuable piece.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.

Cleveland Indians, Jake Bauers, Carlos Santana

Inbox: How will Detroit's prospects stack up?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
MLB.com

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.

With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position, and eventually top 100, how many top 100 prospects do you think we will have to start this season? And who?
-- @tonydombrowski on Twitter

Time to dig back into the Tigers Inbox as the offseason rolls along. The Tigers Winter Caravan and TigerFest should provide some opportunity to answer more questions next week, but for now let's examine what we have.

With MLB Pipeline beginning to release its lists of top prospects for each position, and eventually top 100, how many top 100 prospects do you think we will have to start this season? And who?
-- @tonydombrowski on Twitter

The Tigers had five prospects, all starting pitchers, on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list at the end of last season. They'll likely have at least four on the next list, possibly five. Their chance at getting six hinges on all five pitchers staying on the list, plus Daz Cameron getting a bump after rising from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo last year. Christin Stewart could also crack the list, but that would be temporary until he has enough time in left field with Detroit to graduate him from prospect status.

Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox

Tweet from @lenny_padilla: The Detroit Tigers should call up Casey Mize. He's already 21 with three years of college experience. The Tigers clearly are going to be terrible. So why not let Mize learn on the fly?

Once upon a time, the idea of jumping a pitching prospect to the Majors quickly wasn't that far-fetched. Jeremy Bonderman opened the 2003 season in the Tigers rotation at age 20 after ending the previous season in Class A ball. Rick Porcello did the same six years later. Justin Verlander made his Major League debut in 2005 barely a year after he was drafted.

Those moves rarely if ever happen anymore. Part of that is organizational planning: Teams try to time prospects' arrivals so that they can build a window to contend with young talent before players become eligible for free agency. Part, too, stems from the way teams watch pitchers' innings from year to year in hopes of avoiding too big of a jump that could increase risk of injury.

So, while there's a strong possibility Casey Mize opens Spring Training in Major League camp for the experience like Alex Faedo did last year, I don't expect him to get to the big leagues until next year.

Tweet from @AustinPoprocks: What���s the situation with Iglesias? Haven���t seen him mentioned at all on the market especially with the whole Machado sweepstakes...

I haven't heard much on Jose Iglesias, who remains a free agent. Shortstop is one of the positions on the free-agent market that hasn't had much movement this offseason, with Freddy Garcia, Alcides Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria and Asdrubal Cabrera also still unsigned. An eventual Manny Machado signing could put the rest of the market in motion, but there's such a big gap between Machado and the rest of the market. Trades have also had an impact, with the Phillies acquiring Jean Segura.

Tweet from @SLealWilhelm: Could the Tigers give Granderson a shot to keep his career going?

As great as it would be to see Curtis Granderson bring his career full circle, it's hard to see a fit in Detroit as the roster currently stands. Nicholas Castellanos is set as an everyday right fielder unless he's traded. Left fielder Stewart is a left-handed hitter like Granderson. The Tigers could have an opening for a part-time bat at designated hitter, but that would be a lot for which to pay Granderson at this point in his career. A Castellanos trade would create an opening for a good amount of at-bats in right field.

Tweet from @Bienats77: Is Miguel going to play 1st or DH?

The plan is for Miguel Cabrera to play primarily first base, and get some days at DH to keep his bat in the lineup while taking some wear and tear off his legs and back.

Video: DET@BAL: Cabrera belts 3-run homer to deep right

Tweet from @DanHogan95: What do you see as a reasonable return in a Castellanos trade? A top-100 guy? A top-30?

Tigers general manager Al Avila referenced this at the Winter Meetings with a quote I wrote about a couple weeks ago. His point was that it's unfair to pinpoint a return he should get for Castellanos, that it's up to what the market will bear. That relies on competition for a player's services, and right now -- much like J.D. Martinez in 2017 -- the Tigers don't have much competition building to acquire Castellanos right now. Maybe that changes once Bryce Harper and Machado sign and teams start scrambling for hitters, but it's far from guaranteed.

Tweet from @liljohn325: If the tigers do sign a 2B this year, who left on the market do you think they target

There are not many players left on the second-base market after last week's flurry of signings. Josh Harrison will likely have too much interest given his versatility. Neil Walker, Logan Forsythe, Asdrubal Cabrera and Brandon Phillips are still out there.

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: Which prospects will make MLB debuts?

Beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park answers Twins fans' questions
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the dateline on this story indicates, I've finally relocated to the Twin Cities since the last installment of the Twins Inbox, and I am looking forward to meeting many of you across Twins Territory. I'll be trekking across Minnesota with the Twins Winter Caravan in a few days and reporting on TwinsFest next weekend.

In the meantime, another Inbox column will have to suffice.

MINNEAPOLIS -- As the dateline on this story indicates, I've finally relocated to the Twin Cities since the last installment of the Twins Inbox, and I am looking forward to meeting many of you across Twins Territory. I'll be trekking across Minnesota with the Twins Winter Caravan in a few days and reporting on TwinsFest next weekend.

In the meantime, another Inbox column will have to suffice.

Tweet from @Nate75216260: Which twins/prospects do you think will have their major league debut this year.

Looking around the Twins' 40-man roster, the only players that have yet to make their Major League debuts are pitcher Lewis Thorpe, outfielder LaMonte Wade and infielders Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon.

I could see Thorpe, the Twins' No. 10 prospect per MLB Pipeline, making the jump this year. He missed two seasons in 2015-16 after Tommy John surgery and a bout of mononucleosis during his rehab. But the Australian lefty has pitched well at every level of the Minors, including a 3.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts and six walks in four Triple-A starts to end the 2018 season.

:: Submit a question to the Twins Inbox ::

Wade and Gordon both had growing pains at the plate after being promoted to Triple-A Rochester last season, but with strong showings in Spring Training and early in the season, they could make their cases for promotions in the case of injuries on the Major League roster. Wade, the Twins' No. 13 prospect, has a good eye at the plate, outfield versatility and could compete with Zack Granite to be the next man up. Similarly, Gordon has infield versatility, but he might need to compete with Ronald Torreyes for Major League time.

Gordon eager to prove he belongs with Twins

Arraez made the jump from Class A Advanced Fort Myers to Double-A Chattanooga in 2018, and he has showed an ability to get on base with good bat-to-ball skills at every level of the Minors so far. But given a recent ACL tear that sidelined him for most of '17 and the Twins' relatively crowded infield, I don't think he'd come up this season.

Of the players not on the 40-man roster right now, keep an eye on Luke Raley and Brent Rooker, who have good power potential and finished last season in Double-A.

Tweet from @DsrdDoescher: We say we need pitching, we sign a 38 yr. old DH(great move) and let go of a young pitcher🤔, we sign a 33 for one year and let go of another young pitcher. The top people say they are building for the future. How does that work?

It's a balance between building for the future and taking advantage of an opportunity to contend. The American League Central is up for grabs right now, and if the Twins get bounceback seasons from Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, this roster looks to have the ability to contend for the postseason. The front office is moving accordingly with the recent acquisitions of Nelson Cruz and Blake Parker.

Letting go of Aaron Slegers and John Curtiss takes away two able arms for the future, but there's organizational depth to keep the pitching pipeline populated moving forward. Eleven of the Twins' top 30 prospects are pitchers, and Minnesota currently has many young arms that, like Slegers and Curtiss, are on the brink of establishing themselves at the Major League level: Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Fernando Romero, Zack Littell, Adalberto Mejia, Chase De Jong and Gabriel Moya, to name a few.

And if the Twins' 2019 push falls short? In that case, Minnesota can deal some of these players to contending teams for more prospects, just like it did at last year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Tweet from @goyshahomer: Will @Twins keep Austin on the bench? He offered a good amount of power and potential.

Tyler Austin definitely showed good power potential last season, when he hit 17 homers with a .767 OPS over 69 games with the Yankees and Twins. He's also under team control through the 2023 season, while C.J. Cron is eligible for free agency after the '20 campaign.

The Twins need to dedicate a roster spot for Cruz, who shouldn't play regularly in the field, which means that versatility will be at a premium on Minnesota's bench. Two spots will need to go to a fourth outfielder (likely Jake Cave) and a backup catcher (likely Mitch Garver), with utility man Ehire Adrianza probably getting a bench spot, too. That leaves one more spot -- if the Twins go with a 12-man pitching staff.

Without Austin, the Twins wouldn't have a true backup first baseman. Adrianza has made 15 appearances at first over six seasons. Sano has played first, but that would force Adrianza into action at third, without any infield wiggle room on the bench. So the Twins have a need for first-base depth, but it'll be up to the front office to decide how it will address that, whether it's via giving Austin a roster spot or perhaps getting Max Kepler more reps at first base or something of the sort.

Don't you think getting a veteran as the fifth starter would work out better? For example, Clay Buchholz pitched well for the D-backs last season and is still a free agent. As far as closers are concerned, don't you also agree that getting a free agent is already proven to be better than staying in-house and taking a chance on not making the playoffs? -- Ronald C., Surprise, Ariz.

I wouldn't say that getting a free agent is necessarily proven to be better than staying in-house, and I also wouldn't say that staying in-house is taking a chance on not making the postseason.

Free-agent relievers carry a certain degree of volatility, especially among those not named Craig Kimbrel in this year's market. The Twins have made cost-effective and timely additions all offseason, and there's still some offseason left for prices to come down, given that the market isn't exactly moving quickly. With that said, I think there's room in the bullpen for the Twins to make another move.

As for a fifth starter, I agree that adding some depth to the starting-rotation options for the right price would make sense in case none of the young arms are ready for consistent Major League exposure over a full season. As you mentioned, Buchholz could be an interesting high-ceiling candidate. That market is also moving quite slowly, so you might need to be patient for things to take shape.

Tweet from @cellan17: What are you looking forward to most while covering the @Twins ?

While I was growing up in Minnesota, my family didn't really travel to major cities -- we'd mainly go to state or national parks to hike and camp. Because of that, I've actually only been to five active ballparks: Target Field, Yankee Stadium, AT&T Park, Oakland Coliseum and Wrigley Field. I'm really looking forward to checking some more off the list.

Cheesy as it may sound, I'm also excited to spend time with La Velle Neal, Phil Miller, Dan Hayes and Betsy Helfand -- the other members of the traveling Twins beat -- throughout the season. They're good people.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.

Minnesota Twins, Ehire Adrianza, Luis Arraez, Tyler Austin, Jake Cave, Nick Gordon, Lewis Thorpe, LaMonte Wade