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Inbox: When will Blue Jays name new skipper?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from fans
MLB.com

When do you expect the Blue Jays to hire a manager? And who do you think it will be? Rocco Baldelli would be a great hire.
-- Logan W., Kingston, Ontario

The Blue Jays have entered the final stage of their interview process, and a final decision should be made in the near future. Astros bench coach Joe Espada was in Toronto earlier this week for an interview, and Baldelli is believed to be a finalist as well, while also drawing interest from the Twins.

When do you expect the Blue Jays to hire a manager? And who do you think it will be? Rocco Baldelli would be a great hire.
-- Logan W., Kingston, Ontario

The Blue Jays have entered the final stage of their interview process, and a final decision should be made in the near future. Astros bench coach Joe Espada was in Toronto earlier this week for an interview, and Baldelli is believed to be a finalist as well, while also drawing interest from the Twins.

The final decision ultimately will come down to which skillset the Blue Jays prefer. Espada has more experience in a traditional coaching background with one year as a bench coach and three more as a third-base coach with the Yankees. He's bilingual, and his ability to speak Spanish has to be considered a major asset by the Blue Jays, who have emerging players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

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

Baldelli, a former big leaguer, has four years' experience as a special assistant in baseball operations for the Rays. He spent time as a first-base coach and Major League field coordinator, but his background in player development is particularly intriguing for an organization that is concerned not only with the 25-man roster but also the entire Minor League system.

According to Sportsnet, Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo and Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde remain in the mix as well, but Espada would be my pick as the favorite. Teams typically avoid making major announcements during the World Series, but the Blue Jays should have someone in place by the end of the postseason, or at least before the start of the General Managers' Meetings from Nov. 5-7.

What is the top priority this offseason? What type of moves should we expect?
-- Mason M., Burlington, Ontario

The top priorities are centered almost entirely around the pitching staff. The list of position players should remain relatively unchanged except for some minor tinkering, but the rotation and bullpen are a different story. Toronto's rotation next year will be Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Ryan Borucki. And then, who knows? Expect one free-agent addition while the final spot could come down to a competition between veterans on Minor League deals or a group of prospects including Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, Jacob Waguespack and the recently acquired Julian Merryweather.

Are the Blue Jays going to spend some money this offseason and go after some top free agents? Or is Ross Atkins going to search for bargains through free agency and trades?
-- Pauline L., Kamloops, British Columbia

The Blue Jays are going to spend some money in the rotation and bullpen, but the club is not going to make a run at the top free agents. Expect Toronto to do its shopping in the secondary and third-tier markets to find a couple of undervalued assets. It's similar strategy to last offseason, when Toronto spread its money around to acquire Jaime Garcia, Tyler Clippard, Seunghwan Oh, John Axford and Curtis Granderson. The focus will be on one-year deals for guys who can help out right away and potentially turn into an asset at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. If a long-term asset is acquired, that will likely be through trade.

Will the Jays be able to get anything for Yangervis Solarte?
-- Gio R., Barrie, Ontario

The Blue Jays might look to deal one of their surplus infielders. But when it comes to Solarte, it's doubtful a trade will surface. Instead, his $5.5 option likely will be declined and he's expected to become a free agent. Even if that happens -- and even if Troy Tulowitzki doesn't return next year -- Toronto has too many infielders for too few spots. Gurriel, Devon Travis, Aledmys Diaz, Brandon Drury are all in the mix, and that's before Toronto even factors in a promotion for Guerrero. Putting someone in the Minors could be an option, but if there's an enticing offer for Diaz, Travis or possibly even Drury, the Blue Jays would probably jump all over it. Regardless of what happens, it's safe to assume Solarte's days in Toronto are over.

Is there any chance Marco Estrada will be back next year?
-- Nathan O., Swift Current, Saskatchewan

Estrada's time in Toronto is not definitively over, but it seems unlikely that he will be back. There's always a chance that Estrada could return on a low-level contract with some incentives, but the Blue Jays are expected to seek a little bit more certainty from whichever pitcher they choose to join their rotation. Toronto has a clear need for a veteran who can eat up innings, and that's something Estrada has not been able to do the last two seasons because of recurring back issues. There would be more interest in a possible reunion with J.A. Happ, but it seems improbable that the Blue Jays would be able to come away with the top bid.

What's the deal with Dalton Pompey? Is he ever going to play for this team again?
-- Jessica F., Mississauga, Ontario

It would be pretty shocking if he does. Pompey was the only player on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster who did not receive a September callup. His omission was glaring and appears to indicate that the former top prospect no longer has a future with this organization. The 25-year-old is out of options and will have to clear waivers if he doesn't make the team out of next year's Spring Training. It's unlikely to even get that far, though. The Blue Jays tried to find a taker for Pompey earlier this year to no avail, and with spots on the 40-man roster at a premium, there's a good chance Pompey will simply be cut loose this winter.

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: Changes coming to coaching approach?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers questions from fans
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals begin this offseason filled with question marks, from Bryce Harper's looming free agency to holes at second base and catcher, in the rotation and in the bullpen. The team that takes the field in 2019 will likely look a lot different than the team that did so in 2018, but will the faces in the dugout remain the same? Today's Nationals' inbox begins there, wondering whether change is on the horizon for Dave Martinez's coaching staff:

Do you see any changes Dave Martinez might make in his staff for 2019 season?
-- Andy C. via email from Lexington, Ky.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals begin this offseason filled with question marks, from Bryce Harper's looming free agency to holes at second base and catcher, in the rotation and in the bullpen. The team that takes the field in 2019 will likely look a lot different than the team that did so in 2018, but will the faces in the dugout remain the same? Today's Nationals' inbox begins there, wondering whether change is on the horizon for Dave Martinez's coaching staff:

Do you see any changes Dave Martinez might make in his staff for 2019 season?
-- Andy C. via email from Lexington, Ky.

During the final weekend of the regular season, Martinez said he wanted his entire coaching staff back for next season, and on Tuesday sources confirmed to me that the group would remain intact.

"They worked their butts off all year long, and they're really good," Martinez said in Denver. "They've been very positive. They're a big part of keeping this aloft. They really are."

But while the personnel might look the same, Martinez did hint at some potential changes in their approach.

"I'll have meetings this winter with the coaches, and we'll have a different approach to Spring Training as far as doing fundamentals and what I want to see," he said. "We're just going to work on defense, hitting the cutoff man, turning double plays, turning double plays from shifts positions, pickoff plays ... We're going to do those little things and make sure when the season starts next year, we're not going to second guess."

Tweet from @LeonTrout: Watching the 2nd half & the playoffs & noticing so many 'starters' being used from the bullpen - not even full "bullpenning". w/ Fedde & Rodriguez - maybe some other names who step forward (Voth, McGowin), are the Nats are inclined to look at them as multi inning bullpen pieces?

This is something I wondered near the end of the season while watching a few of the Nats young starters -- Erick Fedde, Jefry Rodriguez and Joe Ross -- make starts down the stretch. So many great relievers are just converted starting pitchers, and recently, it seems more teams have someone to fill the multi-inning reliever role as well. I think the history of elbow injuries for Ross and Fedde could make them a bit tricker to convert to relievers when they have never done it before, plus Rodriguez's arsenal fits much better. Down the stretch, Rodriguez even made a few short and long stints in the bullpen, in part to limit his innings, but Martinez also admitted he was curious to see what it looked like.

For now, the organization values starters much more heavily, and starting pitching depth is already an issue they will need to address this offseason. The Nats seem committed to let these players prove themselves as starting pitchers first before they discuss converting them into relievers, but it's an intriguing thought.

Could the Nationals possibly trade Tanner Roark?
-- Avi S. via email from Alexandria, Va.

Probably not. First off, Roark's trade value is probably not very high considering he just turned 32 this month and posted a 4.67 ERA in 2017 and a 4.34 ERA in '18 without great peripherals to back him up. Secondly, the Nationals need more starting pitching this offseason, not less. I'm not sure how trading Roark would solve that issue. For the right deal, of course the team could be open to it, but it seems unlikely.

What do you think the Nats will do at catcher? With Matt Wieters contract being up and his health and bat being inconsistent, do you see them bringing in a new catcher or has Spencer Kieboom done enough?
-- Charley Hays via email from Springfield, Va.

I think the Nationals will almost certainly have a new starting catcher from outside the organization come Opening Day in 2019. Wieters was well-liked and had strong stretches, but during his two seasons in Washington, the Nats received the worst production in the Majors from their catchers (-0.7 WAR). Pedro Severino was once the catcher of the future, but took a step back in 2018. And while Spencer Kieboom might have exceeded expectations, he still only posted a 71 OPS+ (100 is league average). So the truth is, the Nationals will likely need multiple catchers to fill out their depth chart next year.

Who exactly they will target remains unclear, but there are some options at catcher available. I expect the Nats to re-engage the Marlins on J.T. Realmuto, but notable free agents include Yasmani Grandal, Wilson Ramos, Jonathan Lucroy and Robinson Chirinos.

Do you not think the money we could save on not signing Harper could be used to create an awesome bullpen? We have no stable pitchers besides Scherzer and how many years does he have [left]? Shouldn't the bullpen and some stable starters be Washington's [priorities]?
-- Steven Boomer via email from Garner, N.C.

The reality is the Nationals need to address each of these areas if they believe they will compete again in 2019. They need a starter or two and to rebuild their bullpen, and they will not let a potential superstar talent in Harper walk away without trying to re-sign him. And while Rizzo will point out he has never been restricted or under any sort of payroll mandate, he also does not operate without any sort of budget. That's why the Nationals may only be willing to bid to a certain price for Harper, because of a hesitation to commit too much of their future payroll to just one player. Of course, this is a wise move to make sure they can field a competitive team around him in the future.

The Nats have also not had a great track record of signing free agent relievers and have been hesitant to hand out too many multi-year deals considering the volatile nature of bullpen arms, which are difficult to predict the success of from year to year. As we saw with their trade for reliever Kyle Barraclough, the Nats are likely going to explore some creative measures to fill their needs, because not all of them will come via free agency.

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

Washington Nationals

Inbox: Which OF prospects are future starters?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Who do you see as the Giants' future starting outfielders? They've got Heliot Ramos, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Sandro Fabian and Steven Duggar all in their farm system. Who do you think will make it?
-- Dylan H., Merced, Calif.

Put your money on Duggar, who almost certainly will emerge as the everyday center fielder. He appeared poised for a strong finish before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in early September. Giants manager Bruce Bochy already has cited Slater as a potential backup for 2019. Shaw, Ramos and Fabian possess tremendous power but have yet to master strike-zone awareness. Thus, at least one prospective Giants outfielder could be acquired through free agency or trade.

Who do you see as the Giants' future starting outfielders? They've got Heliot Ramos, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Sandro Fabian and Steven Duggar all in their farm system. Who do you think will make it?
-- Dylan H., Merced, Calif.

Put your money on Duggar, who almost certainly will emerge as the everyday center fielder. He appeared poised for a strong finish before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in early September. Giants manager Bruce Bochy already has cited Slater as a potential backup for 2019. Shaw, Ramos and Fabian possess tremendous power but have yet to master strike-zone awareness. Thus, at least one prospective Giants outfielder could be acquired through free agency or trade.

Video: ARI@SF: Dugger drills a 2-run homer to right in 2nd

Submit a question to the Giants Inbox

The Kung Fu Panda [Pablo Sandoval] looks like he could help the Giants in a bench or utility man's role. Thoughts?
-- Robert P., Omaha, Neb.

He certainly helped them as a reserve this year. His credentials included batting .323 with runners in scoring position and .286 as a pinch-hitter. Moreover, Sandoval maintained a superb attitude whether he was playing or sitting, and established himself as a respected clubhouse presence. And that doesn't begin to address his oustanding relief pitching.

Video: Must C Curious: Sandoval tosses perfect 9th inning

In your last Inbox, you mentioned the possibility of trading Madison Bumgarner. Would management really do this? To me, Bumgarner perfectly represents who the Giants are -- not the most spectacular in the regular season, but the grittiest in the postseason. I still believe this group could find some magic if they could just manage to get in the postseason.
-- Austin H., Blaine, Minn.

In no way does management want to trade Bumgarner. But the Giants' decision makers owe it to themselves to discover what other teams would give up for him. They might be surprised. However, the problem with trading Bumgarner is obvious: If the Giants parted with him, they'd create a fresh void for themselves becaused they'd need an ace pitcher to anchor the staff.

How much longer will the Giants stick with Brandon Belt? It has been many years since the first-base position has provided quality offensive production.
-- Joel B., Eagle River, Wis.

Belt's contract would hamper any effort by the Giants to trade him. He's due to receive $16 million in each of the next three seasons. Also, the Giants lack an adequate replacement for him, unless catcher Buster Posey agreed to switch to first. Addressing Belt's status is among the many issues awaiting the arrival of the club's new general manager.

Why don't the Giants, given the fan base in the Bay Area, more aggressively pursue players from Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea?
-- Scott S., Palo Alto, Calif.

They have, albeit not overly aggressively. International scouting simply hasn't been a Giants forte, though they pioneered player acquisition in Latin America in the 1950s and signed the first Japanese Major Leaguer, left-hander Masanori Murakami, in 1964. Recent Giants rosters have included Japanese right-hander Keiichi Yabu (2008), Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang (2017) and Japanese outfielders Kensuke Tanaka (2013) and Nori Aoki (2015). None of these performers were drafted and developed by San Francisco.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants

Inbox: Can the Mariners upgrade at catcher?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Here's a look at your Mariners questions this week, with an eye toward what to expect in 2019.

As Mike Zunino struggled once more at the plate in 2018, are there any better options for catcher at this point for the Mariners?
-- Joe G., Port Angeles, Wash.

Here's a look at your Mariners questions this week, with an eye toward what to expect in 2019.

As Mike Zunino struggled once more at the plate in 2018, are there any better options for catcher at this point for the Mariners?
-- Joe G., Port Angeles, Wash.

To be honest, no. And I'm not saying that as a bad thing. I think Zunino provides far more value than most fans believe. Of course, it would be better if he hiked his batting average back up after slipping to .201 this season. But it's a mistake to rate a catcher strictly on batting average and Zunino brings numerous other strengths that are difficult to find in a backstop, namely his defense, pitch framing and ability to work with pitchers, all of which are among the best in the game.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

Zunino ranked among MLB's best catchers in Defensive Runs Saved and defensive WAR, he was greatly improved in shutting down opponent's running games, and he very well could be a top three Gold Glove finalist in the American League this year.

Zunino's slash line of .201/.259/.410 with 20 homers in 113 games was a disappointment after his .251/.331/.509 breakthrough in 2017. But the average line for AL catchers this year was .227/.291/.366, so he's essentially above average power-wise and a little under in average and on-base, while providing strong defense and leadership at a key position.

And here's an interesting stat worth pondering: The Mariners' record was 62-39 this year in games Zunino started at catcher, compared with 27-34 when he wasn't in the lineup.

Did Ben Gamel do something to alienate Mariners brass? He should be an everyday player. And now as I read stories on our prospects for next season, I rarely see his name. Please explain what is going on?
-- Sam B., Chehalis, Wash.

I like Gamel as well, and he remains part of the future, but his lack of power limited his playing time in a lineup shy on left-handed punch in other spots. Most teams look for some power out of their corner outfielders and Gamel didn't offer much there at all with a .370 slugging percentage and one homer and 19 RBIs in essentially half a season of playing time with 293 plate appearances.

Video: SF@SEA: Gamel ties game in 6th on RBI single to left

Gamel definitely has value with his ability to get on base and run. His slash line of .272/.358/.370 was similar to Denard Span's .272/.329/.435, except that Span delivered the superior slugging percentage thanks to seven homers and 28 extra-base hits compared with Gamel's one homer and 19 extra-base hits in very similar playing time. That and Span's ability to grind out lengthy at-bats gave him the edge when Seattle was struggling to find its offense in the second half.

Do you know when will they be announcing the new name for Safeco Field?
-- Daniel S., Seattle

There will be no announcement on a new naming rights partner until the Public Facilities District that oversees the stadium votes on the 25-year lease extension currently on the table, which is expected to happen in late November or early December.

So it sounds like December at the earliest to finalize that process, at which point the Mariners will be in a race against time to design and make new signs, get the proper permit approval and then install all the signage at the park before the March 28 home opener against the Red Sox.

Safeco does own the naming rights through Dec. 31.

It seems all the teams in the playoffs this year have their hitters keyed up and ready to go on the first pitch to them. None seem to embrace a "control the strike zone" approach to hitting. Is Scott Servais holding back our guys, trying to change the approach they have brought to the big leagues?
-- Jim C., Edmonds, Wash.

While Seattle's pitching staff did an excellent job controlling the zone this year, issuing the fewest walks in the Majors, I'd argue that the offense got away from that concept. Contrary to your premise, the World Series-bound Dodgers are outstanding in that regard as they led the Majors in walk rate this year at 10.2 percent, followed by the Nats and Yankees. The Astros were fifth, the Red Sox ninth. Seattle was 27th at 7.1 percent.

Dee Gordon's 1.5 percent walk rate (nine in 556 plate appearances) was the lowest mark in the Majors of any hitter with more than 110 plate appearances. Jean Segura (5.1 percent), Ryon Healy (5.2), Zunino (5.9) and Kyle Seager (6) were also well below league average.

The Dodgers also swung at the lowest percentage of pitches of any team (43.5 percent). The Astros were second in that category, the Yankees fourth, the Red Sox 12th. Seattle was 17th.

When Robinson Cano was suspended, could the Mariners have voided the remainder of his contract or anything like that?
-- Davey K., Calgary, Alberta

No. That is an issue that arose as well in 2014 when Alex Rodriguez was suspended for a full year while still having five years and $114 million remaining on his contract with the Yankees. Players are suspended without pay, thus Cano's 80-game suspension cost him about $11.8 million of his $24 million contract for 2018. But he still has five years and $120 million left on his deal with Seattle.

The only way a team can withhold further salary following a suspension is if a player is injured as a result of their violation of MLB's drug policy or if they can't play due to legal proceedings or a jail sentence caused by the violation.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Mike Zunino

Inbox: Is there an impact bat in the system?

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

DETROIT -- Opening the Tigers inbox as we wait for the World Series and the Hot Stove season that follows.

DETROIT -- Opening the Tigers inbox as we wait for the World Series and the Hot Stove season that follows.

Tweet from @nbierma: How big of a concern is the lack of impact bats in the system? Can those be acquired when it's time to contend, a la 2006?

Finding impact hitters has been a concern for the Tigers since they began exploring trading veterans at this time two years ago. They've been hoping to trade for offense, and did add some hitting with Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes, the club's No. 13 prospect, in the trade with the Cubs for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. They had hoped a top hitter would emerge for them with the top pick in the Draft, but never found a bat to move them off of Casey Mize, though their second-round pick of Parker Meadows has the potential to be that guy. At this point, they're hoping next summer's Draft (they pick fifth) can net them another hitter, but they also acknowledge it's a need they might have to eventually fill with a trade or two once their rebuild is further along. That's part of the reason why they're trying to get some payroll flexibility for the long term.

:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::

Tweet from @AWTower22: Do you see the Tigers going after a stop gap veteran (Hechavarria, Escobar) to play SS in 2019, trading for a blocked major league ready guy (Trahan, Rodgers), or rushing one of their young prospects (Castro, Paredes, Alcantara)?

Look for the Tigers to go the stopgap route. They're hopeful of Willi Castro or Sergio Alcantara within a year, but general manager Al Avila believes they could benefit from a veteran presence at the position in the meantime, especially if they go young at second base with Dawel Lugo.

Tweet from @TheGhostWatch: Would the Tigers think about just bringing back Pete Kozma to play shortstop? I know his career batting average is under .220 and his OBP is about the same. However, he is a superb defender with a decent arm. He is also a veteran presence with postseason experience and is cheap.

I think the Tigers, especially manager Ron Gardenhire, would like having Pete Kozma, 30, back on another Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. But I don't think they see him as more than a fill-in option at short, and that creates a problem. Assuming the Tigers find somebody else to start at short, then Kozma would either have to sit the bench as a utility player or go back to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers already have utility infield options with Niko Goodrum (if he doesn't start the season at second base) and Ronny Rodriguez. And Castro and/or Alcantara are expected to hold down the shortstop job in Toledo.

Have the Tigers given up on Dixon Machado?
-- George K., Madison, Wis.

The Tigers had hopes of replacing Jose Iglesias with Machado at some point over the last couple years, which is why they carried Machado on the roster through the 2017 season. However, the 26-year-old's struggles at the plate this year proved too much to endure. He could be a last-resort option for the Tigers as a stopgap, but at this point I expect Machado and the Tigers will move on.

Tweet from @bennietheblade: Is the organization souring on Mahtook? Seems like he got a raw deal this past season.

The Tigers liked what they saw late in the season from Mikie Mahtook after he struggled in Spring Training and early in the year. But with Christin Stewart and Nicholas Castellanos penciled into the corner outfield spots, and JaCoby Jones likely to get every chance to hold down the starting job in center, Mahtook, 28, will probably have to try to make the team as an extra outfielder, providing insurance in left field and a right-handed bat off the bench. His ability to play all three outfield spots helps his cause.

Tweet from @BrianSheehy_: In light of the Tigers being FA scrap-heap, bargain hunters, how did they miss on Max Muncy last winter?

Kind of expected this question would've come up at some point. The Dodgers signed Max Muncy to a Minor League contract after the A's released him at the end of Spring Training in 2017. He had come off a bad '16 season between Oakland and Triple-A Nashville, and the A's didn't want him to block some of their younger players. Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi knew him from his time in the A's front office and placed a call.

The Tigers made some early-season veteran depth signings that year, including first baseman James Loney and outfielder Matt den Dekker, but didn't go after Muncy. At that point, those signings were more about insurance in case of injuries on a team still hoping to contend, rather than finding bounceback candidates for a rebuilding club. If Muncy had more of a big league resume at the time, or if Muncy's release happened this past Spring Training instead, the Tigers might have had more interest.

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 Pittsburgh bring Kang back?

Beat reporter Adam Berry fields Pirates fans' questions
MLB.com

Why not take the chance on Jung Ho Kang?
-- Jim R., Ephrata

A few days after the World Series ends -- so, within the next two weeks -- the Pirates must officially pick up Kang's $5.5 million option or buy it out for $250,000. They've yet to tip their hand, but they made it quite clear that they still value their relationship when they called him up for the final weekend of the season.

"Kang is still interesting, so we want to keep that door open. The easy answer is picking up the option. We'll make that decision as we go through the process," general manager Neal Huntington said on Sept. 30. "If we don't, we'd have significant interest in seeing if there's a middle ground where it makes sense to have him come back. And if Kang plays the way Kang is capable, he has [an] everyday opportunity here."

Why not take the chance on Jung Ho Kang?
-- Jim R., Ephrata

A few days after the World Series ends -- so, within the next two weeks -- the Pirates must officially pick up Kang's $5.5 million option or buy it out for $250,000. They've yet to tip their hand, but they made it quite clear that they still value their relationship when they called him up for the final weekend of the season.

"Kang is still interesting, so we want to keep that door open. The easy answer is picking up the option. We'll make that decision as we go through the process," general manager Neal Huntington said on Sept. 30. "If we don't, we'd have significant interest in seeing if there's a middle ground where it makes sense to have him come back. And if Kang plays the way Kang is capable, he has [an] everyday opportunity here."

I still think the most likely outcome is that "middle ground" coming in a new deal, but let's look at some arguments for and against picking up Kang's option. Jim asked "why not," so we'll start there.

Against: He has 77 plate appearances over 19 games in the Majors/Minors since 2016, so it's nearly impossible to project how he'll perform going forward based on recent results. He turns 32 in April and, thus, might be entering the back end of his prime. He's strictly a third baseman now, according to the Pirates. His December '16 DUI arrest in South Korea led to a suspended eight-month jail sentence, which he reportedly will not have to serve if he avoids further charges for another year, and kept him from acquiring a work visa until earlier this year. Kang was also investigated, but not charged, by Chicago police in '16 after a sexual assault allegation was made against him.

For: Kang took responsibility for his drunken-driving arrests, acquired a work visa and, upon his return to the United States, vowed to continue "honoring" the treatment program recommended jointly by the MLB and MLB Players Association. He seemed remorseful and grateful for another chance, which management awarded him in late September. The Pirates entered last season with $10 million committed to role players David Freese and Sean Rodriguez, so $5.5 million isn't out of their range for a veteran reserve with the potential to be more. Kang would be a natural platoon partner, at worst, with lefty-hitting third baseman Colin Moran. Pittsburgh needs power, and there are only a few players on the roster who can match Kang's potential to slug.

:: Submit a question to the Pirates Inbox ::

Might the Pirates trade Moran, given the number of options at third base and Ke'Bryan Hayes looking to be better and only suited for third?
-- Matthew L., Burlington, N.J.

Moran is their presumptive Opening Day starter at third right now, and I don't see him going anywhere just a year after joining the organization in the Gerrit Cole trade. Maybe they'll bring in another player, or keep Kang, and those two will share time. Jose Osuna, Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer are among the young players who could back up Moran at third early next season, but there aren't any prospects who could take his job by April.

It was an uneven year, but Moran, 26, showed some promise during his rookie season. He hit for a respectable .277 average and got on base at a .340 clip while displaying a strong and accurate arm. The Pirates could use more power at the plate and better overall defense, however, especially if he's going to be a regular.

The way he hit in September, after making a Polanco-esque adjustment, was certainly encouraging. Huntington also mentioned in late September that they were seeing improvement in Moran's turns to second base and his first-step quickness. Moran is a smart player and a hard worker, and there's no doubt he'll focus on his defense heading into next season.

Hayes, the best position player prospect in the Pirates' system, is already an incredible defender at third. Everyone raves about his glove, and his bat started to catch up this year. I wouldn't be surprised if the job belongs to Hayes at some point in 2020, but he's ticketed for Triple-A to start next season.

Do you think Andy Barkett would be a good hitting coach for the Pirates?
-- Dwayne S., Columbus, Ohio

More than anything, hitting coaches are judged based on their results, so only time will tell. But I think Barkett, the only person publicly linked to the job thus far, is an extremely logical and qualified candidate.

He possesses plenty of experience, having played 11 years of professional baseball. He has put in his time as a coach and instructor, serving various Minor League roles for the Braves, Tigers and Marlins from 2006-15. There's also the familiarity factor, as Barkett -- who saw his only MLB action with the '01 Pirates -- worked in Pittsburgh's system in '16 and managed Triple-A Indianapolis in '17.

Along with analytically inclined hitting coach Tim Hyers, Barkett has had success with a talented group of hitters as the assistant hitting coach for the World Series-bound Red Sox. Barkett was very popular with players in Indianapolis, and a huge part of coaching at the MLB level is building relationships to establish trust. Not to say he's the only candidate out there, but there's a reason the Pirates and Rangers are reportedly interested.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jung Ho Kang, Colin Moran

Inbox: What's the Cubs' closer situation?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I know Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein does not like to spend long-term money on closers. Given the concern with Brandon Morrow staying healthy for a full season, do you think the Cubs will look for another closer in the offseason?
-- Michael T., Chicago

Morrow is projected as the Cubs' closer in 2019. The club may be a little more careful in how it uses him, and again, it wants to make sure there are other options. That doesn't mean the Cubs will look specifically for a closer, but they would like relievers with experience in those situations. They did have pitchers who fit that description this season in Brandon Kintzler, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop.

I know Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein does not like to spend long-term money on closers. Given the concern with Brandon Morrow staying healthy for a full season, do you think the Cubs will look for another closer in the offseason?
-- Michael T., Chicago

Morrow is projected as the Cubs' closer in 2019. The club may be a little more careful in how it uses him, and again, it wants to make sure there are other options. That doesn't mean the Cubs will look specifically for a closer, but they would like relievers with experience in those situations. They did have pitchers who fit that description this season in Brandon Kintzler, Justin Wilson, Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop.

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

"I think we're very comfortable with Morrow as part of a deep and talented 'pen," Epstein said at the end of the season wrapup. "We have to recommit to him in a very structured role, and stick with it to do our best to keep him healthy and set some rules and adhere to them and build the pen around that."

What helps is that the Cubs have had experience with Morrow's injury -- a bone bruise that was diagnosed after he had right forearm discomfort -- which Alec Mills has recovered from.

I was blessed to be able to travel from Puerto Rico with my son and dad to see Game 162 and were even treated to Game 163. With the concern about the Cubs' hitting this year, I wanted to know what was the process in selecting a new hitting coach. I thought someone like Carlos Beltran or similiar would be someone the players could respect and relate to. He could connect with both players from the U.S. and Latino players. Why was the process of selecting a hitting coach done so quickly?
-- Rafael P., Arecibo, Puerto Rico

The Cubs most likely moved fast to hire Anthony Iapoce because he became available after the Rangers dismissed manager Jeff Banister, and they didn't want him picked up by another team. One of the strong points in bringing Iapoce back is that he knows quite a few of the young Cubs players in his previous job as the team's Minor League hitting coordinator. Iapoce said he learned a lot after three seasons with the Rangers and working with players such as Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Nomar Mazara and Mike Napoli.

The Cubs seemed to hit a brick wall offensively after the All-Star break. What was their batting average, batting average with runners in scoring position and runs scored before and after the break? What do you think caused this?
-- Chris C., Rock Island, Ill.

The Cubs batted .265 before the All-Star break, tops in the National League, and .249 in the second half (eighth in the NL). They batted .250 with runners in scoring position in the first half and .242 after the break. They led the NL in runs scored in the first half with 476 and totaled 285 in the second half, which ranked eighth in the NL.

What caused the drop? Epstein and Co. are trying to figure it out. That was one of the topics during the exit interviews with players.

"We hit more ground balls in the second half than any other team by a huge margin," Epstein said. "Something happened in our offense in the second half. We stopped walking, we stopped hitting home runs, we stopped hitting the ball in the air and we stopped being productive."

What are the Cubs' plans to address the leadoff position in the batting order? It did not seem that there was a consistent table-setter in 2018.
-- Randy P., Omaha

It's on the list of things to do, but Epstein says it's not No. 1. Just guessing that one of the reasons fans keep clamoring for one is because of how well the Cubs functioned with Dexter Fowler at the top in 2016. This past season, the Cubs used 10 leadoff men (they had 11 in 2017). Here are the records for each one:

Albert Almora Jr.: 46 games (27-19)
Anthony Rizzo: 31 games (18-13)
Daniel Murphy: 30 games (20-10)
Ben Zobrist: 27 games (16-11)
Ian Happ: 13 games (7-6)
Kris Bryant: seven games (4-3)
Javier Baez: four games (3-1)
Tommy La Stella: three games (0-3)
Willson Contreras: one game (0-1)
Kyle Schwarber: one game (0-1)

I was at the last Cubs-Cardinals game, and I was surprised to see that Carl Edwards Jr.'s velocity was down quite a bit. His fastball was consistently registering 90-91 mph. What's going on with him.?
-- Diana H., Chicago

Edwards apparently was trying to pitch despite some soreness in his right forearm. He was not included on the Wild Card roster because of that.

Dakota Mekkes keeps impressing with his stats. His only plus pitch is his average fastball with "80 grade deception." Will he ever make it to the Cubs?
-- John D., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Mekkes, 23, did have impressive numbers this season, compiling a 0.81 ERA over 22 1/3 innings in 16 games at Double-A Tennessee and a 1.44 ERA over 31 1/3 innings in 25 games at Triple-A Iowa. Also worth noting is that he struck out 71 over 53 2/3 innings while walking 29. He needs to develop his other pitches. For those who don't know, he was the Cubs' 10th-round pick in the 2016 Draft.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Inbox: Which young players will step up in '19?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers Colorado fans' questions
MLB.com

DENVER -- The first offseason installment of the Rockies Inbox is chock full of questions about players who could be making an impact in 2019.

DENVER -- The first offseason installment of the Rockies Inbox is chock full of questions about players who could be making an impact in 2019.

Tweet from @colohockeygirl: I have 2 pitcher questions. Is Estevez expected to be healthy and part of the team next year? Also, what happened to Hoffman? I was kind of surprised he wasn���t called up at the end of the year when the Rox were desperate for a fill-in starter.

Carlos Estevez suffered a couple of freak injuries -- an oblique strain when he bent to pick up a ball while playing catch in Spring Training and a right elbow strain when he pushed to get up off the bench after pitching in a game at Albuquerque. He was healthy enough to finish the Triple-A season, but his strike-throwing was not at a level that justified a callup.

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As for Jeff Hoffman, after seeing his decidedly mixed performance in the Major League bullpen, the Rockies judged him to strictly be a starter. Hoffman had a mixed second half at Albuquerque (6.06 ERA but with several stellar performances), and when the Minor League season ended in early September, there wasn't a spot for him in the rotation. When they were short a starter on Sept. 25, that was way after Hoffman's season had ended so they went with Chad Bettis in the 10-3 win over the Phillies.

Both pitchers will be expected to compete for the Opening Day roster next season. Going into 2018, Estevez had one Minor League option and Hoffman had two. The official MLB ruling on options for next season will be made after the World Series.

Tweet from @CharlieDrysdale: What's the plan with Tapia in 19? Has only 1 option left, had 27 PA's in 25 games. Was a top 100 prospect by Prospectus 4 years in a row. Has a career MiLB avg of .319. Finished this season with same OPS+ as Parra.

Once the Rockies signed Carlos Gonzalez in March, Raimel Tapia's opportunity to break into the regular lineup to start the season disappeared, then David Dahl emerged and surpassed him. Whatever the OPS+ comparison over Gerardo Parra's full season and Tapia's partial one, Parra slashed .292/.469/.417 in his 24 plate appearances as a substitute in the second half and earned trust in those situations.

Do the Rockies go back to Parra or even Gonzalez as an outfield bench bat? It's a similar situation to the one at the starting second base job; do you go with a veteran or turn it over to Tapia after years of development in the system? For his part, Tapia is working to become stronger and faster for next season.

Tweet from @JWMountain1: Does Brendan Rodgers make a meaningful impact in 19? Does he make the opening day roster or begin the year in Albuquerque?

The guess here is Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies' No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, would begin next season in Triple-A, unless he becomes Trevor Story of 2016 in Spring Training and forces a decision. Rodgers had an excellent performance at Double-A Hartford, but recurring hamstring issues slowed his performance at Albuquerque and kept him out of the Arizona Fall League.

Tweet from @SamCampfield: Can you please inform us about the Rockies TV deal. It's been one of the worst in baseball. Any chance that changes it improves soon? RSN's are one of the most important things in baseball and I'd love to learn more about the Rockies position.

The Rockies' television deal runs through 2020. And to your point about its worth, here is a 2016 Fangraphs article that ranks the clubs' television contracts by estimated revenue for the club. The Rays, listed below the Rockies by Fangraphs, have since signed a new contract.

If current trends hold, the Rockies and several other teams with expiring TV deals could see revenue bumps, in part because MLB has been a leader in technology and viewership trends.

Tweet from @JJGill7: I���m a season ticket holder. I���ve called inquiring whether we���ll see ticket price increases. I���m willing if we lock Nolan longterm and sign DJ asap. Any ���insider��� info???

My job would be a heck of a lot easier if I sat in on their meetings. But could a potential new TV deal mentioned above make signing Nolan Arenado to a multi-year deal possible? Certainly. To me, DJ LeMahieu comes down to the Rockies deciding if they want to compete on the market or if they feel comfortable turning over second base to Garrett Hampson. It's always a decision in a draft-and-develop organization.

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, Jeff Hoffman, Gerardo Parra, Raimel Tapia

Inbox: Will Realmuto be with Marlins in '19?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from Miami fans
MLB.com

If J.T. Realmuto doesn't sign an extension, will he be traded [next] season or will the Marlins wait until 2020 to trade him?
-- @patrick_rotella

What's next for Realmuto will be the top Hot Stove storyline for the Marlins, because many believe the All-Star catcher will not agree to an extension. In my opinion, for that to change, the Marlins must present to the 27-year-old a path to contending within the next two years. Otherwise, they probably should look to make a trade.

If J.T. Realmuto doesn't sign an extension, will he be traded [next] season or will the Marlins wait until 2020 to trade him?
-- @patrick_rotella

What's next for Realmuto will be the top Hot Stove storyline for the Marlins, because many believe the All-Star catcher will not agree to an extension. In my opinion, for that to change, the Marlins must present to the 27-year-old a path to contending within the next two years. Otherwise, they probably should look to make a trade.

Submit a question to the Marlins inbox

Realmuto has two more years left in arbitration before he qualifies for free agency. He is reaching his prime at a time the Marlins appear to still be a few years away from seriously contending. But, if the team expresses to him that by 2020 it can be knocking on the door for a playoff spot, and the contract offer is right, then perhaps Realmuto commits long-term to Miami.

That said, the Marlins likely will still explore trade scenarios this offseason to see what may be out there. Like last offseason, if something makes sense, the front office will consider it. Either way, Realmuto promises to be a prominent name to follow once free agency and trades pick up after the World Series. Potential trading partners could be the Yankees, who have said they will keep Gary Sanchez, Astros and Nationals.

Who's the next prospect you foresee being someone worth watching aside from the ones you have mentioned this year?
-- @rla1999

I'm going to give you two right-handed relievers, and both are currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Keep an eye on Tommy Eveld and Chad Smith.

Acquired from the D-backs in July for Brad Ziegler, Eveld is a 6-foot-5, 24-year-old. He's a towering figure with a mid-90s fastball. In some ways, he draws comparisons to current Miami reliever Drew Steckenrider, a rangy, right-hander with a heavy fastball. Eveld likely will open next year at Triple-A New Orleans. His combined Minor League numbers were a 1.07 ERA in 50 1/3 innings with 61 strikeouts and 11 walks.

Smith, 23, was an 11th-round pick in 2016 by the Marlins from the University of Mississippi. He had 45 strikeouts in 35 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Jupiter. On Wednesday night in the Arizona Fall League, his fastball was between 94-99 mph.

Any word on the potential logo change and what it will mean for the 2019 season?
-- @luisrdavi

We've known for some time that Marlins ownership has been planning to rebrand the logo and uniforms for 2019, and an unveiling could take place sometime next month. In many ways, this was an evaluation year for the new ownership, as it assessed every department from top to bottom. As we saw, orange was largely phased out after Spring Training. The team didn't wear the color once in the regular season.

Video: Michael Hill on the Marlins building for the future

An official rebranding is expected sometime in November, after the World Series and before Thanksgiving. Exact details remain to be seen, but the Marlins have been gathering feedback from fans through their Dimelo (Talk to Me) program. The input from fans is being factored into whatever the final logo will be, including colors, design and what type of font is used. Many fans are wondering if teal, which was prominent in the early years of the franchise, will make a comeback. I wouldn't be surprised if it does, but I don't know if it will be the primary color.

Will the Marlins look into the possibility of signing Manny Machado?
-- @bsschiller

As much as I'd like to see the Marlins bring in more players from South Florida, it's also important that they are the right fit. Despite being a Miami native, Machado will hit free agency likely wanting to be on a contender, not with a team in the second year of a building process.

The timing isn't right for the organization to pursue a free agent expected to sign for more than $250 million. Such a deal is way too risky for the Marlins, who are still in the process of trying to work out a new local television deal with Fox Sports Florida. Also, a naming rights partner isn't expected until 2020, at the earliest. So, there aren't those revenue streams at this point to justify spending so heavily on one All-Star, when the club is more than a player away from seriously contending.

[Is] Drew Steckenrider the early favorite for closer?
-- @DavidMarcillo77

I'd say that's a safe assumption, especially when you consider Kyle Barraclough was traded to the Nationals earlier this month. Dealing Barraclough opened the door for Steckenrider to at least be considered the front-runner to close heading into Spring Training. I wouldn't be surprised if the club also pursues a veteran who has either closed or pitched in high-leverage situations in the past. But I don't anticipate that being a pricy free agent.

The Marlins aren't knocking on the door to being a playoff team right now, and allocating resources on a closer is not a priority. Steckenrider is a strike thrower, and he misses bats. He had a 10.30 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate this year. Adam Conley is another possibility, but he is a lefty and may be more valuable in a setup role, because he can pitch multiple innings.

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

Miami Marlins, J.T. Realmuto, Drew Steckenrider

Inbox: Will Rays eye familiar free-agent faces?

Beat reporter Bill Chastain answers fan questions about offseason
MLB.com

Do you see the Rays re-signing Wilson Ramos this offseason? I believe the team is well-rounded but could become even better with an improvement in the catching department. A full year of Ramos would provide some extra power to an already potent lineup.
-- Bryce P., Tampa

I don't see the Rays re-signing "The Buffalo." For starters, he'll likely be out of their price range, but more to the point, they've got three catchers they like in Jesus Sucre, Michael Perez and Nick Ciuffo. I'm more interested to see which of those three will be the odd man out by Opening Day.

Do you see the Rays re-signing Wilson Ramos this offseason? I believe the team is well-rounded but could become even better with an improvement in the catching department. A full year of Ramos would provide some extra power to an already potent lineup.
-- Bryce P., Tampa

I don't see the Rays re-signing "The Buffalo." For starters, he'll likely be out of their price range, but more to the point, they've got three catchers they like in Jesus Sucre, Michael Perez and Nick Ciuffo. I'm more interested to see which of those three will be the odd man out by Opening Day.

Submit a question to the Rays Inbox

Hello, I was wondering what you thought [were] the most blatant issues the Rays need to address this offseason? I was thinking the back-end of the 'pen is the main problem -- I'm assuming Sergio Romo isn't coming back -- so having someone for the ninth and the eighth. If Jose Alvarado or someone else isn't going to fill the [role], finding a closer seems to be pretty important based on some of the games near the end of this season.

The offense seems pretty stable, assuming players will be consistent with how they performed this year, which I can imagine won't always be the case. Especially hoping people like Jake Bauers can have a full and more consistent year.
-- Fernando G., Hollister, Calif.

I would agree with you, the back-end of the bullpen is a concern. If they don't bring back Romo, which isn't necessarily a given, I think they'll use Alvarado and Diego Castillo to close games. "Opener" Ryne Stanek also seems to be a viable option, and perhaps Jaime Schultz.

As for the offense, I think the Rays have a chance to be better on offense next season since there weren't many players in the lineup who had career years in 2018. I believe Bauers has the right stuff to be a quality Major Leaguer, so I would expect his numbers to move more toward what they were in the Minor Leagues.

We did very well with our trades this year, especially for Austin Meadows. We also got a steal in getting Nick Solak from the Yankees. Any chance of him playing second base in 2019?
-- Michael B., Bonn, Germany

Solak indeed had a good year, hitting .282 with 19 home runs and 76 RBIs. But he did so for Double-A Montgomery. Thus, I think he'd be a longshot to be with the Rays at least until the second half. The Rays have a healthy problem at the Major League level with a host of quality middle infielders.

I've only been following baseball for a couple of years now so there might be something I'm missing, but why is Joey Wendle not being considered for [the American League] Rookie of the Year [Award]? He's been one of the most consistent hitters all year, and from what I've seen, he's the Rays best fielder in three different positions (second base, shortstop and third base).
-- Michael G., Darlington, England

Who says he's not in contention? I think he'll definitely get some votes, though I don't think he'll get enough to win the award. I've got to say, I certainly was impressed at how Wendle played the game. He ran hard to first base on every ball he hit, and he always seemed to be a tough out late in the game.

In your last Inbox, you suggested that James Shields returning to the Rays might be a good fit. I've got another one. How about bringing Nathan Eovaldi back?
-- Todd R., Tampa

I like the idea of Eovaldi returning to the Rays, and other years I might say such a suggestion would be ridiculous given that the Rays normally don't like to go to market for free-agent starting pitching. However, I'm not sure what the market's going to look like this offseason. Last year, everybody seemed to spend their money to fortify their bullpens. Will that trend continue, and will that trend hurt what starting pitchers get on the market? That could be the case given the fact that the starting pitcher's role seems to be getting minimized. Having said that, Eovaldi should be attractive to many suitors, so I don't believe the chances of the Rays signing him are likely.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.

Tampa Bay Rays, Nathan Eovaldi, Wilson Ramos, Nick Solak, Joey Wendle

Inbox: Who is on the White Sox offseason radar?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers early offseason questions
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Here's a look at this week's White Sox questions, with the answers coming fresh off Monday's Eagles concert at the United Center.

Submit a question to the White Sox inbox

CHICAGO -- Here's a look at this week's White Sox questions, with the answers coming fresh off Monday's Eagles concert at the United Center.

Submit a question to the White Sox inbox

With the impending wave of young arms in the system, what kind of deal makes the most sense for a free agent pitcher this season?
Ryan, @Dunt1

Locking up a younger, veteran-type pitcher makes sense for the overall White Sox position, with maybe a two-year deal and an option for a third. Someone such as Nathan Eovaldi, the 28-year-old who started Game 3 of the ALCS for Boston, fits that mold. The White Sox have an apparent strong core of young starters, with Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Carlos Rodon and Michael Kopech already in the Majors, and Dylan Cease, MLB Pipeline's Pitcher of the Year and the White Sox Pitching Prospect of the Year, not far behind.

But the White Sox know a more experienced type of presence is needed in the group. They will probably go after a couple of starters, but one might be more of the bridge variety.

What is your assessment of the results produced by the current batting coach during his five seasons in that role?
Bill, Williamsburg, Va.

Paul Konerko once dubbed baseball's hitting coach position as the worst job in sports. Or maybe it was the toughest job in sports, but he isn't wrong in either direction. If the hitters come through, it's because of their talent. If they fail, a new hitting coach is needed.

White Sox hitters need to make more contact after a record-breaking strikeout season. At the very least, they need to do more with the at-bats where they aren't striking out. I don't necessarily think a change from Todd Steverson is needed in relation to that fact, if the hitters are connected to his work and there seems to be a central theme throughout the system.

This might be a stupid question, but here goes: Would the Sox consider using Matt Davidson out of the bullpen on a somewhat regular basis next season?
Sol, New York

Davidson has spoken about expanding his role to include part-time reliever and spoke of a planned offseason conversation with the White Sox to potentially explore that new role. He was not scored upon in three relief outing during the 2018 season and certainly looked more polished than a position player filling innings in a blowout, but the White Sox didn't seem quite as devoted to the added pitching responsibilities. It would have been interesting to see Davidson pitching in a somewhat higher leverage role for at least one game in September.

Video: NYY@CWS: Davidson works scoreless 9th, K's Stanton

In reference to Tim Anderson's extension early in his career, should we be expecting (general manager Rick) Hahn to try and extend guys like Giolito, (Yoan) Moncada and Lopez anytime soon?
John, Hinsdale, @jbomba14

The tremendous contracts involving Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton locked down key core players, and eventually enhanced their trade return, and in turn, the rebuild. The White Sox have been good about targeting the right players for these sorts of contracts and will almost certainly try again.

Which free agents do you think the Sox should target either this offseason or next offseason to finish the process?
Troy, Mokena, IL, @TroyTeske1

I've already mentioned Eovaldi. Going after Manny Machado this offseason or Nolan Arenado after 2019 obviously makes sense, as does Jeurys Familia or Adam Ottavino out of the bullpen. A multi-purpose player such as Marwin Gonzalez also fits well, or maybe a reunion with infielder Eduardo Escobar. These are just a few names, and remember, trades are also in play as part of the finishing process.

Better fit in free agency -- McCutchen or (A.J.) Pollock?
Jeremy, Highland, Ind., @jeremyrat47

I'd go for Andrew McCutchen for a couple of years. He would be a good fit with the younger players, although he's not a center fielder any longer, which would fit more of the White Sox need. The White Sox are prospect rich in the outfield, so it will be interesting to see how deep they go with outside additions in that area.

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: Is Senzel destined for Reds' outfield?

Beat reporter Mark Sheldon answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Does it make sense to convert Nick Senzel to an outfield position? The outfield already seems pretty set with Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Billy Hamilton and Phillip Ervin. Meanwhile, Scooter Gennett could bring in quite a haul through trade, and Senzel could play second base, where he already has experience. Thoughts?
- Matthew T., Lexington, Ky.

The Reds aren't converting top prospect Senzel to an outfielder as much as they are exposing him to a new position to increase his versatility and to create more avenues to get him to the big leagues. As the Cubs have demonstrated with Kris Bryant playing three positions besides his natural third base, a manager has flexibility to create better matchups with his lineups. Before Senzel had elbow surgery last week to remove some bone chips, the Reds liked what they saw from Senzel in the outfield at instructional league. It was the perfect place to try it out.

Does it make sense to convert Nick Senzel to an outfield position? The outfield already seems pretty set with Jesse Winker, Scott Schebler, Billy Hamilton and Phillip Ervin. Meanwhile, Scooter Gennett could bring in quite a haul through trade, and Senzel could play second base, where he already has experience. Thoughts?
- Matthew T., Lexington, Ky.

The Reds aren't converting top prospect Senzel to an outfielder as much as they are exposing him to a new position to increase his versatility and to create more avenues to get him to the big leagues. As the Cubs have demonstrated with Kris Bryant playing three positions besides his natural third base, a manager has flexibility to create better matchups with his lineups. Before Senzel had elbow surgery last week to remove some bone chips, the Reds liked what they saw from Senzel in the outfield at instructional league. It was the perfect place to try it out.

:: Submit a question to the Reds Inbox ::

Also, I would argue the Reds' outfield isn't set. Winker is coming off a major shoulder surgery. Schebler endured a lot of injuries last season, and Hamilton has underperformed at the plate. Ervin did really well with his opportunity in the second half, but he has a lot of work to do for improving defensively.

What if a team like the Reds -- who probably could not offer Bryce Harper or Manny Machado a long-term deal -- pay one of them well above what they would get per year on a long-term contract by offering a two-year, $100 million contract?
-- @JGideon818 on Twitter

I do not see it. While money is a big part of the equation, so is the security of a long-term contract. What if Harper or Machado were injured or had a dreadful season in the second year of the contract while heading into another free-agent year? Their value would plummet.

If the Reds do not hire Jim Riggleman, would he go back to bench coach? And what would happen to Pat Kelly? Also, do you think that Reds will keep interim pitching coach Danny Darwin?
-- Mason A. Oxford, Ohio

Riggleman said on the final day of the season that he would be willing to remain in the organization in just about any role. As for bench coach, it would really depend on who the new manager would want and who he is comfortable with. Kelly and Darwin were told they could remain in the organization if they weren't retained as big league coaches.

Will Cody Reed have a chance to be a starting pitcher next season?
-- Lily F., Cincinnati

Reed will likely get a shot after showing improvement and increased confidence at both the Triple-A and big league levels. The good thing about the lefty is that he could potentially be a starter or reliever, and he's shown enthusiasm about working in either role.

How does this franchise get away with not interviewing top diverse talent for their manager opening? We interviewed exclusively old white men for the manager opening outside of Billy Hatcher and Freddie Benavides.
-- Jordan S., Cincinnati

You forgot that Cincinnati also interviewed Hensley Meulens and Charlie Montoyo.

Do the Reds know now who will be available for Rule 5 Draft, or does that come later?
-- Al Lautenslager on Facebook

Teams must protect eligible players on 40-man rosters by Nov. 20. That leaves a few weeks to go over the board before Dec. 13, when the Rule 5 Draft is held on the final day of the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Since everybody scouts at all levels of each organization, I'm sure all teams have a reasonable idea of who they would like should they be left unprotected. But I wouldn't get your hopes up that anyone selected will be a huge difference-maker. The Reds' last Rule 5 pick to last the whole season was backup catcher Stuart Turner a couple of years ago. It's been over a decade since the 2006 Rule 5 Draft, when Cincinnati got both outfielder Josh Hamilton and reliever Jared Burton.

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: Who's on list to lead O's into new era?

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Any word on the manager and general manager search?
-- Scott L., White Marsh, Md.

It's been fairly quiet on the front-office front, and you can expect the search will start from the top. The new general manager will have a say in who manages, and the coaching staff and other smaller hires trickle down from there. What's interesting to me is how many names have leaked out for other front-office jobs -- such as the Mets -- but you haven't heard anything out of Baltimore. This could be because they're still compiling a list, want to interview people who are involved in teams still playing or are just really good at keeping secrets. (Doubtful on that last one as these things always have a way of getting out.) Regardless, I'd be surprised if there isn't some movement in the next week. Yes, it's a big hire. But the Orioles can't afford to go into the offseason without a plan in place.

Any word on the manager and general manager search?
-- Scott L., White Marsh, Md.

It's been fairly quiet on the front-office front, and you can expect the search will start from the top. The new general manager will have a say in who manages, and the coaching staff and other smaller hires trickle down from there. What's interesting to me is how many names have leaked out for other front-office jobs -- such as the Mets -- but you haven't heard anything out of Baltimore. This could be because they're still compiling a list, want to interview people who are involved in teams still playing or are just really good at keeping secrets. (Doubtful on that last one as these things always have a way of getting out.) Regardless, I'd be surprised if there isn't some movement in the next week. Yes, it's a big hire. But the Orioles can't afford to go into the offseason without a plan in place.

:: Submit a question to the Orioles Inbox ::

What are the chances the Orioles will sign Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa?
-- Carlos V., Dundalk, Md.

Similar to the GM/manager search, not a whole lot has leaked in regard to how serious a pursuit the Orioles are planning. We know they had a small contingent on hand recently in Miami to watch outfielders Victor Victor Mesa -- the top-ranked international prospect by MLB Pipeline -- Victor Mesa Jr. and pitcher Sandy Gaston. We know the Orioles and the Marlins are the top two landing spots, as they're the two clubs with the most international bonus pool money still available.

The front-office situation doesn't really come into play here. The Orioles have interim GM Brian Graham and vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson is still in his current role. They have people who can make decisions and deals can still be made. (The one that always springs to mind is the O's claiming Darren O'Day off waivers before they hired Dan Duquette.) The sides have talked. I'm sure numbers have been exchanged. But there's no timetable and no way to handicap if the O's will secure Mesa, his brother or Gaston. But it would be a heck of a way to open a long offseason.

I know it's a rebuild, but will the Orioles do anything exciting in free agency? Add a veteran starting pitcher, maybe?
-- Joe L., Reading, Pa.

Depends on what you deem exciting. Obviously the O's shed a lot of payroll in all of the in-season trades. And they will save even more by hiring a manager who won't command the $3 million or so that Buck Showalter did. The Orioles will add a few relievers, maybe a starter or two. But the real issue has to be the infield. Will Baltimore look for a few cheap defensive-minded players? You have to consider in a rebuild how important it is to develop some of the younger pitchers. Guys have to be able to make the plays, and the Orioles' defense was awful last year. I'm more interested in what the O's will do there than if they add a starter.

What are the chances of bringing back any of their free agents?
-- Sara H., Dumfries, Va.

Slim. The Orioles traded players like Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Brad Brach in-season, because they didn't factor into the team's future plans. Machado is way out of the O's price range, and as for the other two, a rebuilding team doesn't need to spend its resources nailing down a back end of the bullpen.

Outfielder Adam Jones is the most interesting case, as I don't think anyone knows what that market will look like. I'd expect the 33-year-old will want a multiyear deal, but free agency hasn't been kind to older position players in recent offseasons. I could see a scenario in which Jones' market isn't there and the Orioles bring him back as a veteran on a shorter deal. It's not out of the question. But there are a lot of bridges to pass before that becomes even a possibility.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

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Inbox: Could Salazar replace Miller and Allen?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from fans
MLB.com

This will be an interesting storyline to follow throughout this offseason and during Spring Training. Right now, the Indians' goal is to get Danny Salazar healthy, while weighing whether it makes sense to tender him a contract through the arbitration process.

Tweet from @AndyMees216: With the likely exits of C Allen & A Miller, is Danny Salazar a possibility to be a late inning reliever to bridge the gap to closer Brad Hand? Andy Mees, Sandusky #IndiansInbox

This will be an interesting storyline to follow throughout this offseason and during Spring Training. Right now, the Indians' goal is to get Danny Salazar healthy, while weighing whether it makes sense to tender him a contract through the arbitration process.

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Salazar avoided arbitration with a $5 million contract last season and -- considering he did not throw a pitch in the Majors in 2018 -- it stands to reason that his '19 salary would be in the same range. If the Indians think Salazar can contribute next season, then I would think that would be a worthwhile gamble, especially given the cost of pitching on the open market.

If Cleveland returns with its rotation intact, the cast is five strong between Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Adam Plutko is next in line at the moment. The depth behind that group is thin, making Salazar and fellow righty Cody Anderson potentially important alternatives. Anderson is coming back from Tommy John surgery (March 2017), but should be unrestricted come Spring Training.

During a season-end sit-down with reporters, manager Terry Francona noted that both Salazar and Anderson would head into the preseason with the plan of being built up as starting pitchers. Then, if there is a need in the bullpen, both right-handers could then be considered for that type of role. It is worth noting that Salazar has no Minor League options remaining, while Anderson has one.

Salazar underwent an arthroscopic debridement and bursectomy on his right shoulder on July 2 and, barring any further setbacks, could resume throwing by November. When he's been healthy, Salazar has boasted an elite fastball and split-change combination, making the righty one of baseball's best in terms of missing bats. If Cody Allen and Andrew Miller indeed leave via free agency, a healthy Salazar would be a very intriguing bullpen weapon.

Tweet from @nathan_carder: #IndiansInbox What are the realistic chances Michael Brantley is back next year? He was a steady force in a shakey outfield. Nathan CarderPaw Paw, WV

Michael Brantley, Allen and Miller are the free agents that Cleveland will need to mull extending a one-year Qualifying Offer ($17.9 million for 2019) to this offseason. Given the season Brantley just turned in, I could see the Indians floating that one-year deal for the left fielder. The Indians rolled the dice on his $12 million club option last winter and Brantley posted 3.5 WAR (per Fangraphs). In terms of free-agent dollars, that showing was valued at $28 million, according to Fangraphs. The Indians have question marks at all three outfield spots, so trying to retain Brantley, who has been with Cleveland for parts of 10 seasons, makes a lot of sense.

Tweet from @oldwriter1: Any thoughts on an outfield of Brantley, Martin and Andrew McCutchen with Greg Allen as fourth outfielder?

Greg Allen can switch-hit, play all three outfield spots and offers speed, so I do think he fits the roster well as a fourth outfielder. As noted in the previous question, I also think it makes sense to try to retain Brantley. As for Leonys Martin, Cleveland needs to weigh whether going to arbitration with him makes sense, considering the serious health scare he had in the second half.

If Martin continues to recover well this winter, then keeping him in the fold via arbitration would seem like a logical decision. The extra year of control, after all, was a part of what made Martin an attractive acquisition for the Tribe. Bradley Zimmer (recovering from right shoulder surgery) might not be ready until mid-season and Tyler Naquin might be sliding to right field now that Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting free agency.

As for Andrew McCutchen, I like where your head's at, Tim. It's not a given that Cleveland will pick up Brandon Guyer's $3 million club option. If he is not retained, the Indians should target a right-handed complement for their outfield. McCutchen fits the mold, can offer depth at all three positions (while best utilized in the corners) and his 128 OPS+ against lefties indicates that he was 28 percent better than league average against left-handed pitching.

Tweet from @cday2626: Any chance Indians keep Miller/Allen? #IndiansInbox

Given the subpar season he just had, Allen does not seem like a candidate for the one-year Qualifying Offer. It could also be risky to extend that offer to Miller, even though he seems like a safer bet to have teams overlook his health issues of '18 when considering a multi-year contract. Either way, it seems very unlikely either is back with Cleveland in 2019.

Tweet from @CAD_Alaska: #IndiansInbox I���ll play devil���s advocate: trading for Machado would have been better than Hand/Cimber in light and hindsight of, the DS results. Agree or disagree?

Disagree. Part of the reasoning behind acquiring Brad Hand and Adam Cimber was to guard against Allen and Miller leaving via free agency this offseason. It was not only with the 2018 postseason in mind. On top of that, Cleveland acquired Josh Donaldson for the stretch run and playoffs. That was the Tribe's "Machado," so to speak. Now, did Donaldson hit in October? No, he went 1-for-11, but the Tribe's lineup as a whole went ice cold against Houston's overpowering pitching. I liked how the Indians went about those trades. Alas, results do not always align with process.

Tweet from @HattMuml: With all due respect to him, why is VanBo still around? Cubs fired their hitting coach. It seems a shakeup is necessary after our offense collapsed in back to back playoffs. #indiansinbox

First, let's run "VanBo" through the Terry Francona translator. That's the manager's nickname for hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, who has held that role since Francona came to Cleveland in 2013. After the playoffs, Francona said Van Burkleo, along with the rest of the coaching staff, were in the plans for 2019, barring anyone leaving for jobs with another team.

Francona's reasoning for standing pat and standing by Van Burkleo was looking at the season's body of work -- not just three October losses. In the regular season, the Indians ranked third in the Majors with 818 runs scored, while ranking fourth overall in weighted on-base average (.330), fourth in OPS (.766), sixth in home runs (216) and tied for sixth in weighted runs created plus (105). Cleveland's strikeout rate as an offense (18.9 percent) was also the best in baseball in the regular season.

Tweet from @GODEVLS: #IndiansInbox What do you think the future holds for Jason Kipnis? - Ryan in Tempe, AZ

Well, as things currently stand, Jason Kipnis is set to earn $14.7 million in 2019 with Cleveland. If the Indians are unable to trade him this offseason -- the team nearly had a deal with the Mets last winter -- then the question will be how to handle Kipnis' place on the field. If Kipnis is in the plans for center, maybe the Indians won't tender a contract to Martin. If Brantley isn't in the plans, maybe Kipnis will slide over to left field.

Francona made a point in his season-end gathering to mention that the team needs to find a way to get a good look at Yandy Diaz in 2019. The easiest way to do that would be to hand him the keys to third base, meaning Jose Ramirez would stay put at second. That would seal Kipnis' fate as an outfielder, if he stays.

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