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Inbox: How will Pirates fill outfield hole?

Beat reporter Adam Berry answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Now that Jordan Luplow is gone, will we sign a right fielder who can be the fourth outfielder when Gregory Polanco comes back? I'd like to see Bucco killer Jon Jay in black and gold.
-- James T., Pittsburgh

It certainly seems more likely now that the Pirates will sign or trade for another outfielder. I honestly thought they might try to get by with some combination of Adam Frazier and Luplow -- their initial plan for left field last year -- and maybe sign a veteran infielder to temporarily handle second base.

Now that Jordan Luplow is gone, will we sign a right fielder who can be the fourth outfielder when Gregory Polanco comes back? I'd like to see Bucco killer Jon Jay in black and gold.
-- James T., Pittsburgh

It certainly seems more likely now that the Pirates will sign or trade for another outfielder. I honestly thought they might try to get by with some combination of Adam Frazier and Luplow -- their initial plan for left field last year -- and maybe sign a veteran infielder to temporarily handle second base.

But the fact that they dealt away Luplow, their most likely fourth outfielder heading into the offseason, leads me to believe Pittsburgh will address that need with another acquisition. GM Neal Huntington hinted at that possibility when we talked last week about the trade's impact on their roster.

:: Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox ::

"We felt that we had a better chance to get an outfield corner bat externally that fills the need more than we did getting another quality option at shortstop," Huntington said. "We will continue to explore the trade market, and we will continue to explore the free-agent market to see if there's someone out there that makes us better than our internal options."

Those internal options are not ideal if Polanco's recovery turns out to be a matter of months and not weeks. Putting Frazier there takes him away from second base. Pablo Reyes had a strong September, but is he ready for that responsibility? Jose Osuna's range is limited in the outfield, and he hasn't hit much in the Majors. Minor League signee Patrick Kivlehan hasn't proven himself at the Major League level.

It's hard to say what could happen on the trade front, but there are plenty of veteran outfielders available via free agency. Really, there are so many outfielders who may be competing for the few available starting jobs that it may increase the appeal of Pittsburgh's part-time role, because at least there will be an extended stretch of everyday at-bats available here.

One of them is Jay, indeed a "Bucco killer," although he may not be an ideal fit as a left-handed hitter. I don't think this would drive their decision-making process, but it'd probably be better to have a righty-hitting reserve, since Polanco and Corey Dickerson bat lefty and Starling Marte, oddly, has struggled against lefties the past two years.

Keep in mind the Pirates didn't land Dickerson until last spring, but there are a lot of names to watch as the offseason activity ramps up . Austin Jackson and Cameron Maybin are righty-hitting veterans who can play all three spots. Our friend Jim Duquette recently wondered if even Adam Jones, a proven hitter who moved to right field late last season, might have a slow-developing market.

Could the Pirates put Jung Ho Kang at second base and use Frazier in right field?
-- Alex R., Lakewood Ranch, Fla.

I wouldn't bet on it. The Pirates made it pretty clear in late September that Kang's comfort zone is at third base, so that's where he will compete for a spot. He's no longer a shortstop, and he has more recent experience there than second base. Kang is already going to have to shake off a lot of rust to return to form offensively, and I simply can't see the Pirates putting even more on his plate by having him work at a new position in Spring Training. Maybe they'll reconsider if Colin Moran comes out and leaves no room for competition at third.

Will the Pirates hire an assistant batting coach to replace the old one?
-- Keith Y., State College

Yes, it is my understanding that the Pirates will add an assistant hitting coach to their staff. They already hired Rick Eckstein to replace dismissed hitting coach Jeff Branson. Eckstein and the new hire will work together on a daily basis, so it makes sense that they want him involved as they go about filling the assistant hitting coach position.

What role will Pablo Reyes play next season? I like the way he played in September. We need more guys like him who play like they have something to prove.
-- Greg B., Tampa, Fla.

Greg, I agree that Reyes was a breath of fresh air in September. After the last game of the season, Clint Hurdle smiled and asked reporters, "How much fun did he have?" He played with energy, hit surprisingly well and gave us a chance to tell his story, which I'm not sure many fans knew about.

The addition of utility man Erik Gonzalez clouds Reyes' future a little bit, because a couple more additions -- say, a starting shortstop and another outfielder -- might make it tough for Reyes to crack the Opening Day roster. (At this point, he would probably make it as a super-utility player/extra outfielder.) Either way, his defensive versatility is valuable and should put him in position to make an impact at some point.

"We don't want to put a ceiling on Pablo," Huntington said last week. "His initial pathway to our Major League club is that defensive versatility. He has incredible value to a Major League club and manager because he can play so many positions adequately, and he's a fearless hitter."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Inbox: Could Reds reel in free-agent pitching?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from fans
MLB.com

We all know the Reds need starting pitchers. What is the possibility of the Reds signing top-tier pitchers like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin, or even guys like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu?
-- Josh K., Cincinnati

Since you sent this question, Ryu accepted the qualifying offer to remain with the Dodgers another year. With an increased payroll and a desire to get better sooner than later, the Reds should be more aggressive with free agents than in years past. However, it would seem overly optimistic to believe they can win a bidding war against teams like the Yankees or Red Sox for the likes of Keuchel or Corbin. I've been saying since the end of the season that Gonzalez and/or Miley would likely be good fits as pitchers and in price.

We all know the Reds need starting pitchers. What is the possibility of the Reds signing top-tier pitchers like Dallas Keuchel or Patrick Corbin, or even guys like Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu?
-- Josh K., Cincinnati

Since you sent this question, Ryu accepted the qualifying offer to remain with the Dodgers another year. With an increased payroll and a desire to get better sooner than later, the Reds should be more aggressive with free agents than in years past. However, it would seem overly optimistic to believe they can win a bidding war against teams like the Yankees or Red Sox for the likes of Keuchel or Corbin. I've been saying since the end of the season that Gonzalez and/or Miley would likely be good fits as pitchers and in price.

Hot Stove: Latest offseason rumors

Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams didn't sound like someone planning to blow out the budget for the best two free-agent starting pitchers.

"We've always been hesitant to make the commitments at the very top end of the market because they have a lot more risk carried with them," Williams told me on Friday. "We'll chase down as many different options as we can. Historically, we've been careful about that top end of the market."

:: Submit a question to the Reds Inbox ::

It often perplexes me when I hear of a potential trade or speculation relative to a trade. The most recent is trading Eugenio Suarez for pitching. The problem with this is that the pitching had better be ready or near ready to pitch in MLB, not prospects; those days have passed, in my opinion. What are your thoughts on trading a future superstar by position for ready-to-wear starting pitching?
-- Neb N., Pasadena, Calif.

First, while appearing on the Reds Hot Stove radio show last week, Williams shot down the idea of trading Suarez by saying a rumor was unfounded. The San Diego Union-Tribune had reported that the Padres coveted Suarez in possible trade talks.

I wouldn't trade Suarez, especially with his club-friendly seven-year, $66 million contract with six years left. But if the Reds do move to acquire top-end pitching via a trade, they are going to part with very good players and/or prospects. I can imagine any team with a viable ace on the trade block would ask for the likes of Hunter Greene, Nick Senzel, Raisel Iglesias and others. The Reds dealt four quality players and top prospects to get Mat Latos from San Diego before the 2012 season.

Video: PIT@CIN: Suarez crushes a solo homer to center in 4th

I wish I could be more upbeat regarding either the signing of a free-agent pitcher or trading for one. With deals like the Cubs got into with Yu Darvish, that route seems risky. How are the Reds going to protect themselves from getting into situations like the Cubs did with Yu or like the Reds did with Ryan Madson a few years ago?
-- John J., Indianapolis

When Madson blew out his elbow during 2012 Spring Training, there were no known signs that he would break down like that. The good thing for Cincinnati was that Madson had a one-year contract. The bad news was the club paid $8 million without him throwing a single pitch in a game. The Cubs are probably a bit nervous about Darvish, who had a rough first season after signing a six-year, $126 million contract that runs through 2023. The Reds had no expectation that Homer Bailey would be somewhat injury-prone after he signed his six-year, $105 million deal in 2014.

Before clubs like the Reds make trades or sign free agents, they do all the due diligence possible -- physicals, examining past medical records and tests, background checks and more -- to protect themselves for a potential big investment. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out.

Weird how Adam Duvall was shipped off for a sack of taters, don't you think? Never heard of any of the guys that came back helping the club soon. Definitely missed his bat and defense in second half, and we got worse without him. Any insight?
-- @theAgent_Z on Twitter

Duvall wasn't really having a great third full season in Cincinnati after two years of robust power. Before he was dealt to Atlanta on July 30 for right-handed pitchers Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler and outfielder Preston Tucker, Duvall was batting .205/.286/.399 with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. After the trade, he batted .132 in 33 games with zero homers and zero RBIs, so I'm not sure what you're seeing about missing his production. The Braves even moved to reacquire Tucker a month later. Yes, Duvall's defense was stellar again, but his poor offense made him a likely non-tender candidate as he headed into arbitration eligibility for the first time.

Will Michael Lorenzen get a legitimate look at possibly making the starting rotation in camp?
-- Shawn E., on Facebook

It's hard to say right now, since the Reds have yet to acquire anyone outside the organization. New manager David Bell also has yet to weigh in. Former interim manager Jim Riggleman was certainly willing to let Lorenzen compete for a rotation spot but also noted his value as a versatile reliever and pinch-hitter. Lorenzen definitely wants to start, and I imagine he will lobby Bell and new pitching coach Derek Johnson for the opportunity to prove himself.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds

Inbox: Are the Red Sox trying to keep Eovaldi?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I saw Eovoldi is being considered as a closer by teams. Are the Sox interested in this possibility? Also, with David Robertson wanting to pitch closer to his offseason home in Rhode Island, does that mean the Sox will be a player for him?
-- @JKo119

Yes, that's interesting that teams are looking at Nathan Eovaldi to close. Personally, I think that's a waste of his skill set. I think we just saw that Eovaldi's biggest value is that he has the ability to dominate as a starter and in a relief role. Why limit his innings by making him a closer? That's just my opinion. I'd be surprised if the Red Sox are looking at him as a closer. I do think Robertson is a target for the Red Sox and geography helps their cause. But there are several other spots -- Yankees, Mets, Orioles, Phillies and Nationals- - that are plenty close enough to Rhode Island.

Submit a question to the Inbox

I saw Eovoldi is being considered as a closer by teams. Are the Sox interested in this possibility? Also, with David Robertson wanting to pitch closer to his offseason home in Rhode Island, does that mean the Sox will be a player for him?
-- @JKo119

Yes, that's interesting that teams are looking at Nathan Eovaldi to close. Personally, I think that's a waste of his skill set. I think we just saw that Eovaldi's biggest value is that he has the ability to dominate as a starter and in a relief role. Why limit his innings by making him a closer? That's just my opinion. I'd be surprised if the Red Sox are looking at him as a closer. I do think Robertson is a target for the Red Sox and geography helps their cause. But there are several other spots -- Yankees, Mets, Orioles, Phillies and Nationals- - that are plenty close enough to Rhode Island.

Submit a question to the Inbox

What are the Red Sox doing to keep Eovaldi?
-- @EmptySeatsNovel

Like many other teams, the Red Sox are keeping in contact with Eovaldi's representation to get a gauge on what it's going to take to sign him. The one advantage the Red Sox have is that Eovaldi gained familiarity in Boston and had the most gratifying success you can have there. But this is likely to be the one chance in Eovaldi's career that he has a chance for a big payday, so I'm sure he will look for as much long-term security as he can get.

Will the Red Sox be able to extend Mookie Betts after they see what Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sign for?
-- @samvanrest

This is why the Red Sox tried to extend Betts to a longer-term contract in previous years. With Machado and Harper on the verge of getting big contracts, you can understand why Mookie's representation decided to wait. I know the Red Sox would like to keep Betts in their uniform for a long time and are prepared to pay him a lot of money. But Betts has to decide if he wants to stick with what he already knows or explore other alternatives, as he certainly has earned the right to do. The good news is that Betts has two more years in Boston no matter what.

How much money do the Red Sox have to spend this offseason, and when will they be free of the salaries of Rusney Castillo, Pablo Sandoval and Allen Craig?
-- @Sonrics6

With the amount of talent the Red Sox have on the current roster, expect ownership to give president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski the green light to do whatever he can -- within reason -- to bolster the chances of a repeat. The one thing the Red Sox haven't done during this golden era of four World Series titles in 15 years is go back to back.

As for the seemingly-endless Castillo contract, there is at last some light at the end of the tunnel. Castillo is owed $11 million in 2019 and $13.5 million in '20. He also can opt out after the '19 season, but he would be leaving a lot of money on the table by doing that. The 2019 season is the last in which the Red Sox will be paying Sandoval. Craig's contract already expired, but the Red Sox did have to pay $1 million to buy out his option for 2018.

There's no way they can keep three catchers, is there? Which one goes?
-- @icegod35301

I agree that it's a tough way to sustain the roster for another season. If one of the catchers gets moved, I think it will be Blake Swihart, because he still has the potential to bring in the best return in a trade.

Any chance Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec are in the lineup in 2019?
-- @BrantleyMichael

If that happens, it would mean there was an injury or underperformance at first base, third base or designated hitter. I think it's more likely both players will be September call-ups.

With Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland's contracts expiring in '19, do you see the Sox in play for Paul Goldschmidt?
-- @Madbeers51

I think the preference for the Red Sox would be to spend big dollars to keep some of their own players. Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts are on track to be free agents after '19. J.D. Martinez has an opt-out. And as discussed above, keeping Betts long-term remains a priority. If all goes well, Chavis or Dalbec could be in the mix at first base by '20.

Will Dustin Pedroia finally be named captain of the Red Sox and wear the "C" on his jersey? Way overdue.
-- @joetompatrick

Pedroia's lone priority at this point is getting healthy and being able to play next season. He has no problem being a leader without the "C."

How will the late-June London trip impact team performance? Positive, negative or neutral?
-- @tomquintal

This is nothing like going to Japan. The travel isn't nearly as taxing. A Boston to London non-stop flight is six-and-a-half-hours. It really isn't much different than flying to Seattle. Obviously, the time change will be an adjustment. But the team has two days off prior to that first day in London, and another day off before getting to Toronto after those two games. I don't think it will be a big deal.

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

Boston Red Sox

Inbox: Will Rox pursue star starting pitcher?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers questions
MLB.com

How much do you think the emergence of German Marquez and Kyle Freeland (and to a lesser degree the rest of the pitching staff) will have an effect on the upcoming offseason? It doesn't seem like the Rockies need to go after a big name starting pitcher.
- @Eric_C_Swanson

How much do you think the emergence of German Marquez and Kyle Freeland (and to a lesser degree the rest of the pitching staff) will have an effect on the upcoming offseason? It doesn't seem like the Rockies need to go after a big name starting pitcher.
- @Eric_C_Swanson

Tweet from @Eric_C_Swanson: How much do you think the emergence of Marquez and Freeland (and to a lesser degree the rest of the pitching staff) will have an effect on the upcoming offseason? e.g. it doesn���t seem like the Rockies need to go after a big name SP.

The two years of this incarnation of Rockies' rotation -- based on young pitchers -- has been more successful than forays into free agency -- no matter how accomplished the names -- have ever been. Jon Gray is just a year removed from a solid season, and he appears to have a workable plan after a difficult 2018, and Chad Bettis was regaining his pre-testicular cancer form before chronic finger blisters sidelined him and eventually forced him to the bullpen.

:: Submit a question to the Rockies Inbox ::

Tyler Anderson could be next to reach prominence. He proved his durability by making 32 starts in 2018 -- the first time he had started more than 23 games in any professional season. Antonio Senzatela had a couple of injury bouts in '18, but he made a step forward by being productive at the end.

What do you think of DJ LeMahieu's future playing elsewhere should that happen? Is Ryan McMahon the Opening Day second baseman in 2019?
- @natejundt

Tweet from @natejundt: What do you think of DJ���s future playing elsewhere should that happen? Is McMahon opening day 2b in 2019?

If LeMahieu signs elsewhere, and there is no indication of the Rockies making a bid to retain him, or if he comes back, my assessment is the same. He's a standout defender, he can hit for average and hit a career-high 15 homers last season, so he'll be a winning player wherever he goes.

If the Rockies are replacing LeMahieu, I'm far less concerned about Opening Day than the long-term plan. Second base is one of several routes to playing time for McMahon, a left-handed hitter, and right-handed-hitting Garrett Hampson.

We keep hearing about Garrett Hampson playing the outfield. Does he have experience or is this just an idea?
- @SamCampfield

Tweet from @SamCampfield: We keep hearing about Garrett Hampson playing the outfield. Does he have experience or is this just an idea?

Hampson has played center for nine Minor League games and for three innings for the Rockies last season. Rather than make a judgment on the small sample size, I'll pass along senior player development director Zach Wilson's assessment.

"We did a number of things with Hampson because of his unique tool set," Wilson said. "He can run and he has great instincts for the game. A year ago he was in instructional ball and we gave him some opportunities in center field.

"Last year when the opportunity arose, we put him in center field and he was very natural, very fluid out there -- without a lot of experience or practice time."

Should the Rockies go after a big-name free-agent outfielder like Michael Brantley (Indians) or A.J. Pollock (D-backs)? Also what are the chances they land Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto?
- @ZSchwaGaming

Tweet from @ZSchwaGaming: Should the Rockies go after a big name outfielder like Brantley or Pollock? Also what are the chances they land Realmuto?

Early indications had the Rockies exploring value in the relief and catching markets. The Rox, and just about everyone else, have been linked to former Astros multi-position player Marwin Gonzalez. But there are many ways to improve the offense. Brantley's consistent contact and low strikeout rate would make him a fit, as would Pollock's consistent production when healthy. There are many ways to improve the offense.

As I reported earlier in the offseason, based on a Major League source, it doesn't appear Rockies will offer the bounty the Marlins would want for Realmuto.

Will the new hitting coach be a former player of the Rockies?
- @Dlmtheman

Tweet from @Dlmtheman: will the new hitting coach be a former player of the rockies?

The departures of first-base coach Tony Diaz, who became the Twins' third-base coach, and hitting coach Duane Espy, who parted ways with the club, leave two openings. But the hitting coach opening, after the team won 91 games despite a franchise-low .256 team batting average, has drawn much speculation. But I'm wondering more about the structure of the job.

The success of the pitching staff is at least partly due to the creation of a director of pitching operations job, when then-general manager Dan O'Dowd hired Mark Wiley after the 2012 season. Wiley's work with pitchers and coaches in the Minors and Majors has helped focus the teaching and strategy.

Can the hitting program at the Major League level be restructured?

When Bud Black took over as manager, the Rockies expanded from one hitting coach to two, with Espy and former Rockies outfielder Jeff Salazar filling the roles. Much of baseball had already done that, since dealing with the needs of individual hitters is more than a one-person job.

But with the long-acknowledged difficulty of balancing the difference between hitting at Coors Field and on the road, would the Rockies be best served with a game-plan supervisor in addition to one or two hands-on hitting coaches?

Will baseball ever do a salary cap? Why should fans attend games if three players on a rich team make more than your team's entire roster?
- @Maureen_Burnett

Tweet from @Maureen_Burnett: Will baseball ever do a salary cap? Why should fans attend games if three players on a rich team make more than your team���s entire roster?

I can't see a salary cap happening, but to answer the second question, I don't think it's necessarily a big deal. Two of the last four World Series champions were the Royals and the Astros, who proved you can win with a rebuilding franchise as long as you make the right moves when the opportunity comes.

You still have more balance in baseball than the NFL, where the few championship-type quarterbacks rarely change teams, or the NBA, which has its championship determined by less than a handful of players.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies

Inbox: How much would it cost for Realmuto?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I'm in all in for a J.T. Realmuto trade, but what would the cost be for the Braves and what are the odds they make that move?
-- @23Cooperd

Over the past few weeks and months, we've extensively discussed why Atlanta seems to be a good landing spot for Realmuto. But it takes two to tango, and at this moment the Marlins don't seem interested in dancing with the Braves.

I'm in all in for a J.T. Realmuto trade, but what would the cost be for the Braves and what are the odds they make that move?
-- @23Cooperd

Over the past few weeks and months, we've extensively discussed why Atlanta seems to be a good landing spot for Realmuto. But it takes two to tango, and at this moment the Marlins don't seem interested in dancing with the Braves.

Sure, just like with last offseason's talks regarding Christian Yelich and Realmuto, the Marlins would be interested in any deal that includes Ronald Acuna Jr. I'd equate this to a team telling agent Scott Boras that it is interested in signing Bryce Harper to a deal that includes an average annual value below $20 million.

Submit your question to the Braves Inbox

Any trade discussion that includes Acuna is a waste of time. Fortunately for the Braves, they can look elsewhere to satisfy their need for a catcher and to validate a willingness to shop their surplus of top-quality prospects on the trade market.

There's some thought the Marlins are not willing to trade within the National League East Division. This seems short-sighted, considering they're shopping a catcher who will be a free agent long before they are competitive again. It also seems ridiculous when you consider a year after trading Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, Miami doesn't have a player within MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list.

The Marlins aren't in a position where they can be picky. But at the same time, they also have the right to take their time in their search for the right deal. I just don't get the sense the Braves are interested in waiting around to see if a potential deal for Realmuto develops.

Obviously, part of the appeal of landing Realmuto would be the fact that he'd be a cheaper option than Yasmani Grandal and possibly Wilson Ramos. Consequently, there would be more remaining financial flexibility to address other needs. But gaining that desired wiggle room could also be realized via other trade and free-agent options.

With the Braves having the 9th and 21st overall Draft pick next year, do you think it will have as much of an impact on a decision to sign any of the six players who declined a qualifying offer?
-- @cmilner2

We know the Braves aren't going to sign Harper or Manny Machado. We also know it is highly unlikely Craig Kimbrel's asking price drops into Atlanta's comfort zone. The post-2015 version of A.J. Pollock is not necessarily appealing and there seems to be a strong expectation Patrick Corbin will end up signing with the Yankees.

So, this seemingly leaves Dallas Keuchel as the only member of this group who seems like a potential target for the Braves. The fact he declined his qualifying offer will have no effect on Atlanta's two first-round picks.

As one of the 16 teams that received revenue sharing and did not exceed the competitive balance tax, the Braves would simply forfeit their third-highest Draft pick.

How far is Cristian Pache away from being deemed Major League-ready?
-- @EricGarcia75

While there's at least a chance Pache could be a September roster addition next season, it's best to target him for a 2020 arrival. The young prospect may indeed be the best defensive outfielder in the entire organization, and there's no doubt his natural physical maturation provided us a better understanding of his capabilities this year. But as he produced a .630 OPS over 109 plate appearances (29 games) after being promoted to Double-A, he showed he's far from a finished product.

It was certainly beneficial for Pache to spend the past six weeks playing in the Arizona Fall League, but it's never wise to put much stock in AFL stats. He'll likely begin this season at Double-A Mississippi and possibly move to the Triple-A level at some point. But we're not talking about an Acuna-level prospect. We're talking about a 20-year-old outfielder who had never homered before this past season.

As the Braves evaluate their outfield needs this winter, they can optimistically project Pache to be ready by 2020. But his presence alone will not prevent the team from targeting outfielders who can be controlled for more than the next two seasons.

Any word on a pitching coach in Atlanta?
-- @rodneykesler

The Braves are still evaluating internal and external candidates. They requested permission to talk to Chris Young, who was subsequently promoted to the role of Philadelphia's pitching coach. Young's rise led to the dismissal of former Phillies pitching coach Rick Kranitz, who now joins Bryan Price as a pair of experienced pitching coaches who are now free agents.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned Rick Knapp as a candidate for Atlanta's vacant position. But it does not appear he was ever seriously considered for the job. Young's recent promotion has kept the search fluid and created reason to believe general manager Alex Anthopoulos might have been accurate when he said this search may extend into December.

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

Atlanta Braves, J.T. Realmuto

Inbox: Will Nats extend Rendon long term?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from D.C. fans
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Although he has flown under the radar for now -- which is exactly how he prefers it -- by this time next year, it is possible Anthony Rendon will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Even though he rarely gets the recognition for it, Rendon has been as important as anyone to the Nationals in recent years, one of the most steady and consistently brilliant players on the team.

For now, Bryce Harper will command the headlines as the club's biggest free agent, and rightfully so. But might the Nats explore locking up Rendon long term this offseason, as well? We begin today's Nationals Inbox there.

WASHINGTON -- Although he has flown under the radar for now -- which is exactly how he prefers it -- by this time next year, it is possible Anthony Rendon will be one of the most sought-after free agents on the market. Even though he rarely gets the recognition for it, Rendon has been as important as anyone to the Nationals in recent years, one of the most steady and consistently brilliant players on the team.

For now, Bryce Harper will command the headlines as the club's biggest free agent, and rightfully so. But might the Nats explore locking up Rendon long term this offseason, as well? We begin today's Nationals Inbox there.

• The latest Harper free-agent rumors

Is an extension for Rendon coming this winter?
-- Harry P., The Villages, Fla.

I think the Nationals are going to have further discussions with Rendon and his agent, Scott Boras, about a potential contract extension this offseason and make every effort to keep him in D.C. for the long term. Whether they actually get something done, however, is impossible to say.

:: Submit a question to the Nationals Inbox ::

Rendon will be a free agent next offseason and is also entering his final year of arbitration eligibility. The Nationals have avoided going to arbitration hearings the past few seasons and will try to do so with Rendon. During those discussions, the club will likely try to negotiate a long-term deal.

In fact, general manager Mike Rizzo told the Washington Post earlier this month, the Nats have "made efforts" to extend Rendon in the past year. Rizzo also said that it is not contingent on whether Washington retains Harper in free agency.

Last offseason, Rendon expressed how happy he was in Washington and that he would like to play for the Nationals long term. Those words were not a mandate but an expression of comfort by a low-key player.

But Rendon's performance on the field continues to set him apart as one of the best players in the National League. He ranks seventh among hitters in all of baseball in Wins Above Replacement over the past three seasons, according to Fangraphs. In the open market, Rendon, who turns 29 next season, could be one of the premier free agents and command a high price. The Nats must make him an offer that would make him and Boras comfortable giving up that flexibility.

Wouldn't you rather have another ace pitcher and catcher? I think it is money better spent. We need a new ones anyway.
-- Eric M., Derwood, Md.

This question is a reference to Harper and whether the Nats are better allocating the money they would use signing him elsewhere. To start, there is no salary cap in baseball and the Nationals are shedding about $80 million in salary. They absolutely can spend on all of the above. Now the reality is this is unlikely, because after exceeding the luxury tax threshold the past two seasons, the Nats want to come in under that mark in 2019. So, Rizzo is operating under some sort of budget restrictions.

If you're going to let Harper walk, the Nats will also need to replace his production. That either means having huge expectations for Victor Robles, or counting on a combination of that slack to get picked up from Robles and the next starting catcher. The only catcher available who is likely to approach that would be the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, but it's unlikely the Nats can acquire him without trading Robles.

Point being, ideally, yes -- spreading Harper's money around seems more efficient, but I'm not sure there's a great way to do that and replace the production lost from your best hitter. It is possible the Nationals can still be really good in 2019 without Harper, and there's a scenario where they can be even better. But it is not a certainty and life without him will be much harder if they do not adequately replace him. The Nats are going to have to spend in free agency to return to the postseason next year, and I'm still not convinced other options beside Harper give them the best chance to do that.

Tweet from @JackDaJew: What pitchers do you think the Nats will target? I imagine they go after a starter and some bullpen arms.

I expect the Nationals will at least be involved in the market for the top pitchers on the market this year, especially left-hander Patrick Corbin, who is younger and coming off a better season than Dallas Keuchel, the other top free agent pitcher on the market. Especially if the Nats do not re-sign Harper, this is the easiest way to see them reallocating funds. There are a few pitchers reportedly available in the trade market -- James Paxton from Seattle or one of Cleveland's aces such as Corey Kluber -- but I'm not sure Washington has or would be willing to pay the prospect price, which would almost certainly include Robles.

• The latest Paxton trade rumors

The Nats' front office believes starting pitching is still the foundation of a successful team, even as starters across the Majors are throwing fewer innings than ever. What separates the Nationals from nearly every other team in baseball is they have elite starters in Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. One of the biggest reasons the team missed the postseason last year was its lack of rotation depth once Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson went down with injury.

"You never have enough starting pitching," Rizzo said at the General Managers Meetings earlier this month. "We'd love to get ourselves a guy that we can throw out there and gives us a chance to win every time he goes out there."

And despite already adding Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough to the bullpen, Rizzo did not rule out adding another reliever. If the Nats did that, I'd expect them to try and find a reliever they think is undervalued instead of a big free-agent signing.

Tweet from @leah_bh: How do you feel about Nats AAA moving to Fresno? I haven't really paid much attention to what level call ups come from most, AA or AAA, but maybe that'll have to change? Maybe they'll keep some best prospects in AA, so they're closer DC?

Usually, Major League teams with long commutes to their Triple-A squad will "stash" a few players at a closer Minor League affiliate, in case the team needs to make a quick callup in the event of an injury. So expect the Nationals to keep a third catcher, extra infielder, a starter or long reliever at Double-A Harrisburg to take advantage of the shorter trip to D.C.

Tweet from @Terren_in_VA: How to read into Joe Ross���s performance in September. Fully healthy headed into Spring?

It's almost cliche, but just seeing that Joe Ross was healthy was the biggest takeaway. His fastball velocity was slightly up, and the pitched looked lively, with a lot of movement. More often than not, Ross looked rusty during his three starts down the stretch, when he posted a 5.06 ERA with seven strikeouts and four walks in 16 innings, but he showed flashes of getting back to his old self. The Nats believe Ross is fully healthy and ready to compete for a rotation spot entering Spring Training in February.

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

Washington Nationals, Anthony Rendon, Joe Ross

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.

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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