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Inbox: Who is White Sox likeliest trade chip?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Between now and the non-waiver Deadline, if you had to rate a player's chance of getting traded between 1 and 5, how would you rate Jose Abreu, Luis Avilan, James Shields and Joakim Soria? And why?
-- James, Highland Park, @ChiSoxJames

If 5 is the most likely to be traded and 1 represents the least likely, I would rate Soria and Avilan a 4. I would rate Shields a 3 or 2 and Abreu a 1. I still don't believe the rightfully high value the White Sox place upon Abreu will be matched by opposing teams, but quality late-inning relievers such as Soria and Avilan will be in demand.

Between now and the non-waiver Deadline, if you had to rate a player's chance of getting traded between 1 and 5, how would you rate Jose Abreu, Luis Avilan, James Shields and Joakim Soria? And why?
-- James, Highland Park, @ChiSoxJames

If 5 is the most likely to be traded and 1 represents the least likely, I would rate Soria and Avilan a 4. I would rate Shields a 3 or 2 and Abreu a 1. I still don't believe the rightfully high value the White Sox place upon Abreu will be matched by opposing teams, but quality late-inning relievers such as Soria and Avilan will be in demand.

Assuming a spot in the rotation opens up after the Trade Deadline, who will be the first in line to fill the void? Michael Kopech? Jordan Stephens? Maybe Carson Fulmer?
-- Antonio, Chicago, @Squints1914

Go with Kopech (ranked No. 2 in the team's farm system by MLB Pipeline). Remember it's all about Kopech being deemed ready for the promotion by the White Sox, whether or not there's an opening. But that time should come soon for Kopech, who has 20 strikeouts vs. two walks over his past two starts. Fulmer appears to be following a reliever's path at this point for Triple-A Charlotte.

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

Is there a greater than zero chance a big-name superstar comes to the South Side in free agency?
-- Joe, Milwaukee, @jnez50

Without a doubt. Per Cot's Contracts, the White Sox have $10.9 million in pre-arbitration payroll commitments going into 2019, a mere $4.5 million in '20, and $7.25 million in '21, so they have plenty of room to maneuver. Those superstars need to want to come to the South Side, but the White Sox are putting together an impressive young core as a selling point. Bryce Harper or Manny Machado would obviously make any team considerably better, but the White Sox don't have to add one of those two to necessarily make a sizeable difference.

How long do we wait until Yoan Moncada's mistakes are not attributed to his inexperience? There are a lot of 23-year-olds in the world expected to perform. When do you predict he'll be in the All-Star Game?
-- Darrin, Carlinville, Ill., @CoachDeNeve

You can certainly wait more than 141 games, which is Moncada's total played with the White Sox entering Friday's series opener in Seattle. From start to finish, he has not had an overwhelming 2018 season.

But Moncada's underwhelming season still includes 19 doubles, 12 home runs, five triples, 41 RBIs and 47 runs scored. He's also hitting .356 with a .453 on-base percentage over a current 12 game on-base streak. There would be greater reason for concern if some of the same basic mistakes, basic issues offensively or defensively, still are occurring next season.

If, and it's a big if, general manager Rick Hahn got bowled over in a deal for Abreu, how badly might that affect guys like Moncada and Luis Robert in their development and feelings toward the organization?
-- Roger, @comedyoferrors

Moncada has talked about the great bond forged with Abreu, and although they haven't played together aside from Spring Training, Abreu has a similar positive influence over Robert (ranked No. 3). But both young players are professionals and understand the business. They would prefer to eventually win with Abreu, but they would get through without him.

Which White Sox prospects should we expect to see before September? In September?
-- Jeff, Indianapolis, @IndyJeffrey

I would think Eloy Jimenez (No. 1), assuming he stays healthy, and Kopech before September. Players such as Fulmer, Aaron Bummer and reliever Ian Hamilton (No. 18) would be a few players to watch for after Sept. 1.

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

Chicago White Sox

Inbox: Will Rockies be active at Trade Deadline?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers questions
MLB.com

DENVER -- By winning eight of their last 10 games, the Rockies erased some of the damage of a difficult June. What's next?

Submit a question to Rockies inbox

DENVER -- By winning eight of their last 10 games, the Rockies erased some of the damage of a difficult June. What's next?

Submit a question to Rockies inbox

Fans have questions. So, let's get to the Edward Jones Beat Reporter's Inbox.

Tweet from @elgoldbaum: What are the odds of the Rockies being buyers at the trade deadline if after this week the standings are pretty close to where there are now (Rockies 3-4 games back)?

The Rockies have nine games until the All-Star break -- six of them (including a three-game set at Coors Field starting Tuesday) against the National League West-leading D-backs. With the Rockies 3 1/2 games back and the Dodgers ahead at just a game back, it's a tight race.

A little over a week ago, general manager Jeff Bridich said he wanted to assess the situation over the coming weeks, and nothing has changed. Preliminary canvasing with Major League sources confirmed that the Rockies are in waiting mode, and can afford to be, because the roster has begun playing as expected, and as it performed for much of April and May. Remember, the Rockies led the division through June 6.

When those decisions come, the Rockies have to be careful in a couple of areas.

Adding an experienced starter is a consideration, but the Rockies will have to seriously consider whether the price is worth the quality of the starters currently on the market. Also, the Rockies seem inclined to back their investments in the bullpen, which means righty Bryan Shaw and lefty Mike Dunn will have to bounce back from performance and injury issues.

Video: SF@COL: Dunn induces DP to escape a jam in the 7th

If the Rockies stay in the race, I expect them to be a careful buyer.

Tweet from @JaltoJohn: Player payroll is open knowledge. Do u know how much $ the Rockies spend on scouting, player development and analytics? Does anyone rate the organization���s commitment to winning in this manner?

Excellent question. The short answer is, I don't know what they spend in comparison to other teams, but I can offer some observations.

The MLB Draft and Latin American scouting are important to the Rockies, and I see the resources in those areas. It's a little easier to rate the Draft, since the system is easier for fans to follow than the international signing period. But the Rockies were ahead of much of the sport when they opened a state-of-the-art complex in the Dominican Republic several years back.

A good move was increasing the investment in advanced scouting, by committing to in-person scouting with Chris Warren and Joe Little. In the past, much of the scouting of upcoming opponents was done by video.

The statistical analysis staff has been growing in recent years. It's an area where the Rockies have had to play catch-up. They have worked on the integration of the analysts with the scouting and field staffs, and manager Bud Black arrived with experience with analytics from his time in the Angels' front office.

Tweet from @BKinRocNY: @harding_at_mlb There has been noise linking the Rox to the Mets for pitching help. Why not the Rays re: Blake Snell? Under team control longer, similar stats to other ace pitchers. Seems like Snell is a great option.

Not sure how much noise there actually is. Anything can happen, but not much has. The feeling in the industry is it would take a lot for the Mets to depart with Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard. And the Rockies have little motivation to part with their No. 1, 2 and 3 MLB Pipeline prospects in the organization -- infielder Brendan Rodgers, third baseman Colton Welker and righty pitcher Peter Lambert. It's possible Rodgers, Lambert and infielder-outfielder Garrett Hampson (No. 6) could help the big club this season.

Video: COL@LAD: Rodgers lifts a solo home run to center

Snell, as you mention, is under club control through 2022. But it would take a major package of prospects to obtain him, also.

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 will Halos approach Trade Deadline?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado answers questions from fans
MLB.com

With the Trade Deadline approaching, what are the Angels looking to do? Are they more toward buyers or sellers?
-- Josh A., Riverside, Calif.

It'd be tough to peg the Angels as buyers right now since they're 11 games behind the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot. While their outlook appears quite bleak -- they have a 2.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs -- they are scheduled to face the Mariners six times in Anaheim this month, which will give them an opportunity to chip away at the deficit. But even if the Angels win both series, the first of which begins Tuesday, they'll also have to contend with the A's, who are 4 1/2 games ahead of them in the standings.

With the Trade Deadline approaching, what are the Angels looking to do? Are they more toward buyers or sellers?
-- Josh A., Riverside, Calif.

It'd be tough to peg the Angels as buyers right now since they're 11 games behind the Mariners for the second American League Wild Card spot. While their outlook appears quite bleak -- they have a 2.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FanGraphs -- they are scheduled to face the Mariners six times in Anaheim this month, which will give them an opportunity to chip away at the deficit. But even if the Angels win both series, the first of which begins Tuesday, they'll also have to contend with the A's, who are 4 1/2 games ahead of them in the standings.

General manager Billy Eppler is unlikely to settle on a definitive direction until he sees how these next three weeks unfold. The Angels could sell if they fall too far behind in the Wild Card race, but they don't have a ton of assets to peddle to other teams. Their pending free agents are Garrett Richards, Martin Maldonado, Luis Valbuena (mutual option for 2019), Ian Kinsler, Jim Johnson and Chris Young.

:: Submit a question to the Angels Inbox ::

The most intriguing trade chip would be Richards, who returned from the disabled list last week and could bolster his value if he continues to pitch well this month. The trade market for starting pitchers is relatively thin this year, so Richards could net a significant return if the Angels decide to move him. Maldonado could also attract interest from teams in search of catching help.

Tweet from @sporty_utah: Is Ohtani���s elbow injury affecting him at the plate?

I don't think the Angels would have activated Shohei Ohtani off the disabled list if they thought his elbow injury would interfere with his ability to hit. Ohtani is only 3-for-17 (.176) since coming off the DL, but I think that's more because he's still trying to find his timing at the plate after being sidelined for a month. His game-winning pinch-hit home run against the Dodgers on Sunday was an encouraging sign, though.

Tweet from @Lucid_mate: Will we let go of Scioscia this year?

Mike Scioscia is the final year of his contract, so there could be change coming in the managerial seat for the Angels. I don't expect that situation to resolve itself until the end of the season, however.

Tweet from @IzThisYours: What���s the status and timetable for pitchers on the dL? And any unsigned free agents being looked at?

The Angels have 10 pitchers on the disabled list, so bear with me. Tyler Skaggs (right adductor strain) threw a bullpen session on Sunday and will likely return to pitch against the Mariners on Thursday. Nick Tropeano (right shoulder inflammation) made a rehab start on Saturday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Tuesday, so he could also rejoin the rotation this week. Johnson (lumbar strain) started a rehab assignment Sunday and is also inching closer to a return.

Matt Shoemaker (right forearm strain) is slated to begin a throwing progression on Tuesday and will require several weeks to build up his arm, but he could return to pitch in August if all goes well. The other six pitchers -- JC Ramirez, Keynan Middleton, Blake Wood, Jake Jewell, John Lamb and Alex Meyer -- are out with season-ending injuries.

Tweet from @cuscus85: What top prospects do you see being called up by the end of the season? Ward, Thaiss, Rengifo, Adell, Suarez and Canning all seem like call-up candidates.

Taylor Ward, Matt Thaiss and Jose Suarez seem like solid bets for a September callup since they're playing at Triple-A Salt Lake right now. Griffin Canning, who is also on the Triple-A roster, is another candidate, though the Angels might prefer to shut him down at the end of the year since it's his first professional season. Luis Rengifo and Jo Adell are having impressive years, but they're at Double-A Mobile and Class A Advanced Inland Empire, respectively, so they'll need more seasoning before they're considered for a Major League callup.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels

Inbox: What are Mariners' Deadline plans?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Do you think the Mariners feel there are positions they can upgrade at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline? And if so, where do you feel is our biggest area of need?
-- Ben D., Fort Worth, Texas

The fact that general manager Jerry Dipoto already traded for Alex Colome and Denard Span two months before the Deadline speaks volumes about the team's win-now approach and I do expect the Mariners will make another deal or two. Pitching is the clear priority, either a starter to supplement the five-man group or a reliever to add further depth to a bullpen that has worked around several injuries already. Or both.

Do you think the Mariners feel there are positions they can upgrade at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline? And if so, where do you feel is our biggest area of need?
-- Ben D., Fort Worth, Texas

The fact that general manager Jerry Dipoto already traded for Alex Colome and Denard Span two months before the Deadline speaks volumes about the team's win-now approach and I do expect the Mariners will make another deal or two. Pitching is the clear priority, either a starter to supplement the five-man group or a reliever to add further depth to a bullpen that has worked around several injuries already. Or both.

Position-wise, the impending return of Robinson Cano already figures to create something of a logjam. Perhaps a veteran backup catcher could be appealing. But barring injury, the position group seems pretty well set.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

We have heard rumblings about an innings limit for Marco Gonzales and the possibility of going to a six-man rotation. Do you see that happening even if the Mariners trade for a pitcher by the Deadline?
-- Austin P., Irvine, Calif.

I definitely see that happening in August, regardless of whether the Mariners acquire another pitcher or not. The innings load for all their starters is a primary reason they'll pursue another established starter -- whether a top-line guy like Chris Archer or a veteran innings-eater like Clayton Richard or Tyson Ross.

Gonzales has thrown 106 1/3 innings already, and he's on pace for 189 1/3 after totaling 40 in the Majors last year and 126 1/3 overall. But he's far from the only one pushing the envelope. Felix Hernandez has thrown 105 1/3 innings, and he's on pace for 187 1/3 after totaling 86 2/3 last year with Seattle and 13 in Minor League rehabs.

James Paxton is at 118 2/3 and on pace for 210 2/3 after totaling 136 in 2017. And even with his late addition to the rotation, Wade LeBlanc has thrown 85 innings and is on pace for 151 after throwing 68 innings last year as a reliever for the Pirates.

That leaves Mike Leake as the only starter in his normal work range, which is why going with a sixth starter in August and September has become a distinct possibility. Even without a trade, the impending return of Erasmo Ramirez and the presence of other rotation candidates like Roenis Elias, Christian Bergman and Rob Whalen presents options in that regard.

With LeBlanc getting his contract extension, who will be the next Mariners player to be given an extension? It seems like Paxton, Mitch Haniger and others are deserving.
-- Zack G., Gresham, Ore.

Because he's a pending free agent, Nelson Cruz is obviously a candidate, though it's worth remembering that many players and their agents prefer to wait until the player hits the open market so they can test other options and increase their negotiating power. And the Mariners also face the interesting question of where Cano fits in the final five years of his contract and whether that impacts re-signing Cruz to fill the designated-hitter role.

As for younger players, Paxton and Haniger are indeed just the kind of player the Mariners would like to lock up to long-term deals in order to buy out their remaining years of arbitration and perhaps a year or two of free agency. The Mariners did that with Kyle Seager and Jean Segura. It often makes more sense locking up your own players in their prime rather than throwing big money at older free agents from other teams. But again, players often want to wait until they reach free agency to maximize their value, so it takes two to tango.

Given Cano will not return as a full-time second baseman, do you think the Mariners will float him between first, second and DH? I know we're still five weeks away, but if Ryon Healy and Cruz stay healthy, could he float around the diamond?
-- Max B., New York

My expectation is Cano will primarily play second base, but also split some time at first with Healy and also give Cruz an occasional breather at DH. But they want Dee Gordon to stay sharp at second since Cano won't be eligible to play there in the postseason, and Gordon has been outstanding there defensively. Gordon is a team-first guy and I'm sure he'll be willing to resume some time in center, if needed, but it'll be fascinating to see how exactly the Mariners divvy up that playing time if everyone stays healthy.

I am not among those who think Cano has no place on the team anymore, however, since the Mariners have done well without him. The team definitely needs his bat in the lineup against quality opponents, as we saw again over the weekend when it struggled offensively against some solid Rockies pitching. Getting Cano back in mid-August will be like a major trade addition down the stretch and a nice boost to the Mariners' push to secure a playoff berth, even if he's not eligible to play when they get there.

Might Hisashi Iwakuma wind up on a Major League roster in 2018 -- after the expanded rosters are allowed -- whether with the Mariners or another contender?
-- Craig O., Seattle

It seems increasingly unlikely for Iwakuma to pull off a return this season, given he's just not been able to progress as well as hoped in his throwing program as he attempts to come back from his September shoulder surgery. Though there was some optimism with how he was throwing in spring, it's been one step forward and one back ever since, and time is starting to run out. Iwakuma was back at Safeco Field last weekend and hasn't given up, but it seems a long shot for him to advance through the necessary bullpen buildup and Minor League rehab outings in time to help this season.

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

Seattle Mariners

Inbox: How would trade affect Toronto at ASG?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers questions from fans
MLB.com

If J.A. Happ is traded before the All-Star Game, will another Blue Jay take his place or would they be left without an All Star?
-- Serge T., Laval, Quebec

There's no hard-and-fast rule for how Major League Baseball handles this type of situation. Instead it is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and there are a lot of factors that come into play. The league would work with various parties to find an acceptable solution, and while Happ's predicament is a bit unique, there are precedents.

If J.A. Happ is traded before the All-Star Game, will another Blue Jay take his place or would they be left without an All Star?
-- Serge T., Laval, Quebec

There's no hard-and-fast rule for how Major League Baseball handles this type of situation. Instead it is evaluated on a case-by-case basis and there are a lot of factors that come into play. The league would work with various parties to find an acceptable solution, and while Happ's predicament is a bit unique, there are precedents.

In 2014, right-hander Jeff Samardzija was traded from the Cubs to the A's. Samardzija was deemed ineligible to participate in the game but he was still recognized as a National League All-Star. It's worth noting, the All-Star Game that year decided which league would have home-field advantage in the World Series, and because that's no longer the case, it's possible this situation would be handled differently.

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

Another example includes the 2004 trade that saw Carlos Beltran go from the Royals to the Astros when Houston was in the NL. Beltran played for the NL even though he spent most of the year in the AL while Ken Harvey was selected to represent the Royals. In 1998, Jeff Shaw was traded from the Reds to the Dodgers, but in that case the Reds had another representative on the NL team.

The way MLB has handled injury replacements also could play a role here. Last year, Mike Trout missed the All-Star Game because of a thumb issue, and the Angels did not get a replacement. In 2015, the Marlins were left without a representative after both Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon went down with injuries. So it's possible that the Blue Jays would be left without a representative, but that would depend on the timing of a trade, injury replacements from other teams and a lot of other factors.

Have our trade assets lost all potential value coming into the Deadline? Would a team really gamble on Happ to improve its rotation after his last two starts?
-- Mike H., Lake Centre, Nova Scotia

Manager John Gibbons was asked about this the other day and stated that he didn't believe Happ's recent struggles would have much of an impact on his trade value. The thinking is that teams already know what kind of pitcher Happ is and a couple of isolated starts aren't going to move the needle much one way or the other.

Gibbons has to say that because the Blue Jays don't want to sabotage their own trade discussions, but in this case I agree with him. Happ posted a 3.18 ERA in 2016, a 3.53 ERA in 2017, and until June 20 of this year he was sporting a 3.56. The velocity is fine, he's healthy and based on a lengthy track record of success there's no reason to expect anything else than a return to form after this minor blip. Happ's value didn't increase, but it should at least hold strong as a reliable No. 3 option for a contending team.

What are the chances that Josh Donaldson stays a Jay? I have not heard or read much of anything saying that he's a definite goner.
-- @JeepDiCioccio

It's impossible to completely rule out Donaldson's return, but even so, it appears to be extremely unlikely. If Donaldson doesn't get healthy before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and he remains with the club all season, there's a strong possibility that the Blue Jays will make him a qualifying offer at the end of the year to ensure they receive Draft-pick compensation when he signs with another team.

There' s an off-chance that after an injury-plagued season, Donaldson would be forced to accept the qualifying offer in an attempt to boost his value before re-entering free agency at the end of 2019. But even that scenario seems a little bit far-fetched. Last year's qualifying offer was worth $17.4 million and it will be awfully tempting for a contending team to go after him for one year at a much higher rate, even if it means sacrificing a bit of the future.

Are we likely to see Bo Bichette or Cavan Biggio with the big club this year (assuming Vladimir Guerrero Jr. appearance is given)?
-- @BlueJay35

I would be stunned to see Guerrero -- the club's top prospect -- called up before the end of the season, and it would be just as surprising to see Bichette. Biggio is a bit more of a question mark, but the timeline for each prospect is more realistically 2019. Guerrero should be the first one called up, and the timing for the other two will depend on performance.

Expect to see the trio promoted to Triple-A Buffalo in the not-so-distant future. Guerrero needs to get healthy first, but all three should eventually end up with the Bisons for a decent stretch, and then the expectation would be Buffalo again in early 2019 before a permanent promotion is on the table. Danny Jansen, Anthony Alford and possibly right-hander Sean Reid-Foley should be here before then.

Assuming Happ gets traded, who else should the Blue Jays be looking to move before the Deadline?
-- Colby K., Regina, Saskatchewan

The player I'd aggressively be looking to move is Yangervis Solarte. The 31-year-old has two club options remaining on his contract with an overall value of 13.5 million. His $4.125 salary this season and $5.5 million option for next year should be particularly enticing for a contending team that is looking to add a little bit of power and more versatility to its infield.

Solarte has performed about as expected this season with a .753 OPS compared to his career mark of .747. The biggest asset he brings is pop with 16 home runs in 86 games, but that number is also just two shy of his career high. Solarte's value likely isn't going to get any higher than it is right now, and if the Blue Jays can ship him off for promising prospect it also would create additional playing time for Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who projects to be the future utility infielder.

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: Will Braves make a Deadline deal?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Is there any substance to the Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas talks?
-- @wormman1041


Dating back to this past offseason, I've seen countless rumors linking the Braves to Moustakas, but never once have I gained an ounce of reason to believe they have any interest in him. As for Machado, yeah, it does make sense for the Braves to keep tabs on this elite superstar, just to see if reduced leverage leads the Orioles to drop their asking price into a comfort zone.

Especially now that Austin Riley, who is the team's No. 6-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has lost a month with a right knee injury, there's no doubt it makes perfect sense to put Machado at the top of this offseason's free-agent wish list. The 26-year-old veteran could also make a significant offensive impact over the final couple months of this season. But to acquire him, the Braves would need to use some of the pieces necessary to address the glaring and primary need to improve the pitching staff. We'll get into the starter or reliever pursuit in the next question.

Is there any substance to the Manny Machado or Mike Moustakas talks?
-- @wormman1041


Dating back to this past offseason, I've seen countless rumors linking the Braves to Moustakas, but never once have I gained an ounce of reason to believe they have any interest in him. As for Machado, yeah, it does make sense for the Braves to keep tabs on this elite superstar, just to see if reduced leverage leads the Orioles to drop their asking price into a comfort zone.

Especially now that Austin Riley, who is the team's No. 6-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has lost a month with a right knee injury, there's no doubt it makes perfect sense to put Machado at the top of this offseason's free-agent wish list. The 26-year-old veteran could also make a significant offensive impact over the final couple months of this season. But to acquire him, the Braves would need to use some of the pieces necessary to address the glaring and primary need to improve the pitching staff. We'll get into the starter or reliever pursuit in the next question.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

As for those of you who want to improve the offense and bullpen by acquiring both Machado and Zach Britton from the Orioles, take a step back, think about how much you would have to give up in terms of prospects and then remember both of these players will be a free agent at the end of this season.

Talking to scouts from opposing teams, I have maintained my belief the Braves have limited financial flexibility. At the same time, I'm willing to believe Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos would have the ability to convince ownership to loosen the purse strings for the right deal.

But though this season's first 89 games have provided indication the Braves might be a year ahead of scheduled, Anthopoulos and his staff must remember where this club is in the rebuild process. Making an aggressive move too early could counteract what has been done over the past few years and create detrimental long-term effects.

Yeah, you want to do everything you can to win when you have a chance. But at this point, the Braves are nearing the final months with Mike Foltynewicz as the closest thing they have to a legit front-line starter. Maybe Sean Newcomb will prove himself against top lineups over the final months. But there's reason to wonder if Mike Soroka will make another start before September, and Kolby Allard has not proven he is ready for the Majors.

At this point next year, the Braves will have a better feel for what they have with Foltynewicz, Newcomb, Soroka, Allard, Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint. But if they were to give up top prospects in return for players not controlled beyond this current season, they'd be taking a significant and irresponsible gamble on a rotation currently surrounded by uncertainties.

Are the Braves more likely to go after a starting pitcher or a bullpen piece?
-- @JRahm5

Over the past couple months and as recently as late last week, I was touting Luiz Gohara as a potential difference maker as a multi-inning relief option. Now I'm starting to think he might provide more value to the rotation, and there might be a need within the next month to put Toussaint in Atlanta's bullpen.

There's no doubt the Braves need to acquire at least one reliever before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Their choice of reliable relievers currently consists of Jesse Biddle, A.J. Minter and Arodys Vizcaino. Maybe the All-Star break will prove beneficial to Dan Winkler and Shane Carle. But when you also account for how careful they'll need to be with Minter and Vizcaino, there's even more reason to pursue a proven late-inning option.

If the Braves were to acquire a controllable starting pitcher, maybe Gohara and Toussaint could both eventually serve as a valuable relievers. But I'd say it's much more likely that at least one reliever is added before July 31.

What's the mood in the clubhouse among the players about acquiring help at the Deadline?
-- @gondee

I've heard executives say something like, "If you base all your decisions on what you hear from the fans, you'll soon find yourself sitting with them in the stands." Players aren't much different from fans in that most don't want to hear the possibility of making an immediate improvement was nixed, because it would have damaged long-term benefits.

Baseball executives are charged with the responsibility of knowing when the time is right to strike a deal. But at the same time, I think it is important to have a strong feel for the clubhouse and the willingness to at least make an attempt to fortify a contending roster in some way.

Freddie Freeman wants to win now, but he also knows he'll be around over the next few years when the Braves will be more legitimate contenders who could truly benefit from a big acquisition. Veterans like Nick Markakis, Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki don't know if they'll ever be in this position again to be part of a team that will go through a season's final months with legit playoff aspirations.

There's no doubt the morale in the clubhouse would be adversely affected if July 31 passes without the Braves making an acquisition. This doesn't mean there's a need to repeat the Mark Teixeira trade that created negative effects long after the 2007 Trade Deadline. But at the same time, they may have to do more than was done in 2013, when Scott Downs was acquired before the Deadline but was then left off the postseason roster.

Do you think Braves manager Brian Snitker may try Markakis in the leadoff spot?
-- @kitcopeland51

As you might remember, when Ronald Acuna Jr. was nearing his return from the disabled list, Markakis said, "I don't think there's anybody in baseball that Freddie and myself would rather have hit in front of us than [Ozzie Albies and Acuna]." Snitker said he didn't like it when he briefly put Albies and Acuna in the top two spots of his lineup and batted Ender Inciarte ninth. But I think makeup makes this arrangement the most optimal lineup construction.

Now that Acuna has returned from the DL, I anticipate we'll soon see him once again paired with Albies at the top of the lineup. Whether or not Inciarte bats ninth remains to be seen. But if the Rays' pitching staff can have an "opener," why can't the Braves' lineup have an "Ender"? I'll show myself to the door. Thanks for reading.

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

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: What are White Sox plans for Deadline?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from fans
MLB.com

I hear rumblings that Avisail Garcia may be on the trading block. I feel this would be a huge mistake. Avi may finally be paying dividends for years to come.
-- Sol, New York

Garcia becomes one of those interesting decisions for Rick Hahn and Ken Williams in that he's 27 and is loaded with talent, but the team only has one more year of contractual control over him after 2018. I agree with you, Sol, and would work out a contract extension with Garcia.

I hear rumblings that Avisail Garcia may be on the trading block. I feel this would be a huge mistake. Avi may finally be paying dividends for years to come.
-- Sol, New York

Garcia becomes one of those interesting decisions for Rick Hahn and Ken Williams in that he's 27 and is loaded with talent, but the team only has one more year of contractual control over him after 2018. I agree with you, Sol, and would work out a contract extension with Garcia.

Garcia had a breakout All-Star campaign in 2017, and since returning from the DL, he has a 1.130 OPS, eight home runs and 13 extra-base hits in 17 games. It has clicked for him, not just physically but also mentally, and he can be a strong contributor on a winning team.

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

What do you envision the White Sox starting lineup being in a few years, based solely on the current roster and players in the Sox system?
-- Scott, Ypsilanti, Mich.

This question would make for a good story, let alone an Inbox answer. But let's say 2021, just sticking with the position players, and go with Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada from first to third, Zack Collins at catcher, and Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Garcia left to right, with Micker Adolfo at DH. I could be very wrong, but in this context, that's a good thing. Numerous other candidates figure to arise with the White Sox developing such impressive depth during this rebuild.

Do you think the White Sox would make a package deal and send veteran players for a bundle of Minor League prospects? You mention Abreu and Avi could both bring in at least five prospects for the White Sox.
-- Rob

The White Sox certainly have been known to get creative in past dealings -- see the moves acquiring Todd Frazier from the Reds and then sending him to the Yankees as examples. But I really believe trades won't be as significant or quite as prevalent in 2018 as they were in '17 for the White Sox.

Sox aren't gonna trade Abreu, are they?
-- Julie, Flossmoor, Ill., @juliedawngordon

Chris Sale, one of the game's best pitchers under one of the game's best contracts, was traded by the White Sox. So there are no veteran untouchables during this rebuild, including Abreu. I'm still holding to my belief that the high value in which the White Sox hold Abreu won't be met by other teams potentially pursuing him.

Daniel Palka did great filling in for Avi when he was on the DL. Do you see him as an everyday player and somehow making room for him in the outfield?
-- Eddie F., Lake Hughes, Calif.

One thing is certain about Palka -- when he truly connects, the only question seems to be how far over 400 feet the ball is going to travel. As manager Rick Renteria mentioned, Palka was known as a power hitter when he joined the organization. To Palka's credit, he has worked tirelessly to develop his outfield play. He looks more comfortable in left field.

In a best-case scenario where Anderson, Moncada and Madrigal all result in above-average productive players, where does the odd man out play? Is Madrigal in the outfield an actual possibility? Moncada at 3rd?
-- Rick, @SportsByRick

Having roster versatility is not only a good thing for eventual contending teams but a necessity. As an example, Kris Bryant played at least one game at seven positions when the Cubs won in 2016. If Anderson, Moncada and Madrigal develop as the White Sox hope, there will be plenty of playing time for all three around the diamond. Anderson unequivocally wants to stay at shortstop but already has mentioned to me he could handle an outfield shift.

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: What's Cardinals' next step for offense?

Beat reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions from fans
MLB.com

The Cardinals must find a player to take Dexter Fowler's spot. Do they have any plans of trading for a big bat?
-- Kevin B. (@jungmh323)

Ah, that impact bat. It's the topic that never seems to go away around here. The Cardinals had hoped that they had found that big bat two years ago in signing Fowler. Then they were sure they'd found the answer last offseason with Marcell Ozuna. Yet here we are, just past the season's halfway point, and the Cards still don't have a middle-of-the-order anchor.

The Cardinals must find a player to take Dexter Fowler's spot. Do they have any plans of trading for a big bat?
-- Kevin B. (@jungmh323)

Ah, that impact bat. It's the topic that never seems to go away around here. The Cardinals had hoped that they had found that big bat two years ago in signing Fowler. Then they were sure they'd found the answer last offseason with Marcell Ozuna. Yet here we are, just past the season's halfway point, and the Cards still don't have a middle-of-the-order anchor.

:: Submit a question to the Cardinals Inbox ::

Will they add another impact bat at the non-waiver Trade Deadline? I doubt it. I don't buy the outside hype about Manny Machado being a fit, and landing someone like Nolan Arenado appears to be a dream at this point. Without question, the Cardinals need more production out of right field. But if Fowler can't offer it, look for the Cards to prioritize playing time for Harrison Bader and Jose Martinez.

I'd like to see the Cardinals give Fowler a solid two weeks straight of playing time, perhaps right after the All-Star break, only to make sure that this isn't a fluke first half. Do they have a choice?
-- Jeff D. (@OpenDoerrPolicy)

Well, they do have a choice -- especially with Bader and Martinez as options to play in right field. But your point is well taken. The Cardinals find themselves in the uncomfortable spot of wanting to get Fowler going again while also putting the club's best players on the field each night. With the latter as the threshold, Fowler hasn't been deserving of opportunities.

But it's hard to imagine that Fowler has stepped into a career decline so steep that he can't contribute again. The Cards need to evaluate how he'll fit for the remaining 3 1/2 years of his contract, and to do so, they're going to have to find opportunities for him to play. Ultimately, manager Mike Matheny will make this call.

Assuming an 80- to 83-win season and another playoff miss, what organizational changes do you see being made, especially with the Phillies, Braves and other rebuilds being much shorter than expected?
-- @PhoenixRizin23

Changes are coming. How radical they'll be will come down not only to how the Cardinals finish, but also the way they look coming down the stretch. Patience is wearing thin surrounding a team that doesn't play enough crisp or clean baseball. The Cards are at risk of missing the playoffs in three consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1990s, and there's a good chance that would cost Matheny his job.

If the Cardinals choose to make more incremental changes, hitting coach John Mabry is likely in jeopardy. But St. Louis' deficiencies spanning the past three years aren't entirely on the coaching staff. There's also a personnel issue. The roster lacks enough complete players and an overall identity. While fans may be transfixed on a potential shuffle within the staff, the Cards must determine who will make up their next group of core players and where they'll find the missing pieces.

What's the outlook for Adam Wainwright? Will he retire this season, and will Cardinal Nation be able to honor his stellar career with a day set aside (probably in September) to thank him for all the great memories?
-- James F.

Before we set a date on the calendar to enshrine Waino into the Cardinals' Hall of Fame, he would like to pitch -- and pitch well -- again. He was to begin a throwing program last week in an effort to start rebuilding arm strength, which means that, best-case scenario, it'd likely be late July or early August before the Cards consider him a ready option. The club has also refrained from projecting what role Wainwright would fill if he does return.

Wainwright has said that he doesn't want to address the topic of retirement in-season. But with his contract about to end and the difficulty he's had staying healthy in recent years, this may be it. Certainly, the Cardinals would love the opportunity to give Wainwright a proper sendoff, but it could also be that we won't know Wainwright's plans until after the year is over.

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: D-backs in running for Machado?

Beat reporter Steve Gilbert answers questions from fans
MLB.com

What are the chances of us getting Manny Machado?
-- Karl, Phoenix

It's really hard this time of year to separate facts from fiction, but here's what it's safe to say about the D-backs/Machado rumors. First, Arizona is interested. The club has been interested in Machado since the Orioles let it be known in the offseason that they might be open to moving him. Since then, the D-backs have never stopped being interested in Machado.

What are the chances of us getting Manny Machado?
-- Karl, Phoenix

It's really hard this time of year to separate facts from fiction, but here's what it's safe to say about the D-backs/Machado rumors. First, Arizona is interested. The club has been interested in Machado since the Orioles let it be known in the offseason that they might be open to moving him. Since then, the D-backs have never stopped being interested in Machado.

As far as Arizona's chances of landing Machado, it's a little less clear. I don't get the sense that the organization feels overly confident about its chances -- I say sense because team officials have been mum about all trade discussions, both on and off the record. Most of the reports out there have reinforced that. The O's asking price for Machado appears to be very high right now, so if it comes down a bit, maybe that would give the D-backs a better chance.

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

Which, if any, of the prospects are untouchable?
-- Alex, Tempe, Ariz.

The D-backs' farm system is still pretty thin after a few years of promotions and trades to help the big league team. I think it's less about which prospects are "untouchable" and more about what kind of return they would get for them. General manager Mike Hazen would probably be more hesitant to trade top prospects for a three-month rental unless he was all but convinced that he was getting a player back that was going to be the difference maker in the postseason chase.

However, if Arizona was getting a controllable asset, it would likely be willing to part with some of its top-end guys. If you look at Hazen's short history with the D-backs, you can see this. He didn't give up a ton for J.D. Martinez (a rental), but he was willing to part with significant assets to acquire right-hander Taijuan Walker and outfielder Steven Souza Jr., because both had several years of club control remaining.

Should we be getting a hitter or a pitcher -- or both -- before the Deadline?
-- Nancy H., Chicago

With Souza and A.J. Pollock back and healthy, I still think the biggest need is pitching. Yes, Arizona's staff has done a very nice job this year, but you can never have enough pitching. I don't think it's fair to put a ton of pressure on Shelby Miller right now given that he's coming off Tommy John surgery, and as we've seen with pitchers in the past, it takes time for them to get back to where they were pre-surgery. Even when it comes to the D-backs' bullpen -- which has been outstanding -- I think it could use another arm because, again, over the course of a long season, depth in both the rotation and bullpen pays off.

When will we see Jake Lamb of 2017?
-- Joel, Burnaby, British Columbia

Lamb had a tough final two games against the Padres, going 0-for-11, but even including those two games, he's been swinging the bat better of late. He's hit .281/.354/.386 over his past 14 games.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks

Inbox: Padres may be very active at Deadline

MLB.com

SAN DIEGO -- It's officially trade season.

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline looming on July 31, the Padres have a number of available pieces -- and they figure to be one of the Majors' most active teams. With that in mind, this week's Padres Inbox focuses on the precise probabilities that those players are dealt in the coming weeks.

SAN DIEGO -- It's officially trade season.

With the non-waiver Trade Deadline looming on July 31, the Padres have a number of available pieces -- and they figure to be one of the Majors' most active teams. With that in mind, this week's Padres Inbox focuses on the precise probabilities that those players are dealt in the coming weeks.

Who are the likeliest trade candidates at the Deadline, and what are the chances of a trade?
-- Eric, San Diego

:: Submit a question to the Padres Inbox ::

The five players who have been discussed most frequently are Brad Hand, Kirby Yates, Craig Stammen, Tyson Ross and Travis Jankowski. I'd agree they're probably the five likeliest to be dealt. Here's how I'd rank the chances that each player gets moved, putting a percentage on all of them.

Stammen: 70 percent
Stammen, 34, is a reliable veteran presence in the bullpen. He can pitch multiple innings, and he's a master at stranding baserunners. Stammen isn't a rental, but he does not have a burdensome contract, either. He's only due $2.25 million next season. How many playoff-bound teams could use legitimate bullpen help from a guy with postseason experience? All of them.

Ross: 50 percent
A year ago, the Padres had an effective right-handed starter with a killer slider who was in the final year of his deal. They opted not to trade Jhoulys Chacin, and he left for Milwaukee during the offseason. The Padres came away empty-handed. This time, Ross -- who signed a one-year Minor League contract for just $1.75 million last winter -- has expressed a desire to return to San Diego next season. But it's not a guarantee. In a thin starting-pitching market, Ross could fetch a nice sum if packaged with one of the team's controllable relievers.

Video: SD@SF: Ross K's 3 over 7 innings of 1-run ball

Hand: 45 percent
Same old story. Hand is the top available lefty reliever on the trade market. The Padres will field calls from nearly every contending club. But they're not going to budge from their lofty asking price. The contract extension Hand signed during the offseason makes him even more appealing; he is signed through 2020 with a club option for '21. It also makes the Padres less inclined to move him. It's a virtual tossup, but Hand remaining in San Diego is probably slightly more likely.

Jankowski: 30 percent
Jankowski checks all the boxes for a useful fourth outfield piece on a contender. He's an excellent defender, an excellent basestealer, and he's very good at reaching base against right-handed pitching. The thing is, Jankowski's only 27. He's not a free agent until after the 2021 season. The Padres might believe Jankowski could be their useful fourth outfield piece when they're contending.

Yates: 25 percent
How valuable, exactly, is Yates? He's been one of the best relievers in baseball during the first half of the season -- with a 0.79 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 34 innings. But he's never produced like this before, and general manager A.J. Preller's trade partners might be a fair bit skeptical. Yates is under contract for 2 1/2 more seasons. The Padres are willing to move him. But if they believe in his rapid ascension more than their opponents do, they'll happily hold onto him.

Now for some quick responses to a few other questions ...

Is Matt Strahm seen as part of the starting rotation in 2019? Will he be able to throw 90-110 pitches per game?
-- Sergio Q., Tijuana, Mexico

The front office doesn't know those answers yet, but it is willing to find out. Since he was acquired at the 2017 Trade Deadline, the Padres have loved Strahm's upside. They just aren't sure whether it plays best in the rotation or the bullpen.

Strahm is a year removed from major knee surgery, so he's not going to be stretched out this season. But I'd expect the 26-year-old left-hander to enter Spring Training in the rotation mix. If he thrives, the Padres have a starter. If he doesn't, they're content to have a left-handed weapon in the 'pen.

Video: SD@SF: Strahm gets McCutchen looking to end the 1st

Austin Allen vs. Austin Hedges? Does the organization seem higher on Hedges' defense or Allen's bat long term?
-- Aaron K., Costa Mesa, Calif.

The short answer: Hedges' defense. It's elite, and there's no better spot for elite defense than behind the plate.

The longer answer: They'd really like Hedges to hit -- at least at a higher clip than his current .520 OPS. If he doesn't make significant strides, that could leave the door open for Allen, the team's No. 27 prospect. He's a big-time, left-handed bat with questions defensively. Hedges is still the Padres' catcher of the future, but Allen could force his way into something of a platoon with the defensive-minded right-handed hitter (or, at the very least, he could turn himself into trade bait).

Which Padres on their Top 30 Prospects list will have to be added to the 40-man roster before this year's Rule 5 Draft?
-- Devin O.

There's going to be a roster crunch come November, when players need to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being selected by another club. Recently, San Diego has been on the other side of that dilemma, adding Luis Perdomo, Allen Cordoba, Luis Torrens and Miguel Diaz via the Rule 5 Draft.

This time around, nine Top 30 prospects must be added: second baseman Luis Urias (No. 3), right-hander Anderson Espinoza (No. 7), right-hander Chris Paddack (No. 8), right-hander Jacob Nix (No. 12) outfielder Edward Olivares (No. 18), right-hander Trey Wingenter (No. 19), right-hander Pedro Avila (No. 23), Allen and outfielder Michael Gettys (No. 28).

It's not going to get any easier in the coming years, either, given the Padres' loaded farm system and the influx of talent that arrived internationally and via the Draft in 2016.

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

San Diego Padres, Brad Hand, Travis Jankowski, Tyson Ross, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates

Inbox: Who might Royals move at Deadline?

Beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan fields Kansas City fans' questions
MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Roughly five weeks remain until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and it's a sure bet the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore will be active as they continue their stated offseason goal of restocking the farm system and focusing on the rebuild.

• Submit a question to the Royals Inbox

KANSAS CITY -- Roughly five weeks remain until the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and it's a sure bet the Royals and general manager Dayton Moore will be active as they continue their stated offseason goal of restocking the farm system and focusing on the rebuild.

• Submit a question to the Royals Inbox

With that in mind, let's get to this week's Inbox:

Tweet from @ReelMrPerfect: Who do you expect to be dealt before the trade deadline?

The Royals are 30 games under .500, and certainly Moore and his staff do not want this team to be historically bad. But that shouldn't get in the way of the Royals dealing anyone they can to upgrade their farm system and push along that rebuild. The only player not likely to be dealt is catcher Salvador Perez, whom Moore has said simply wouldn't get big enough of a return to merit a deal.

But the Royals will listen to all other offers, and that includes Whit Merrifield and Danny Duffy. Logically, players on one-year deals are the most likely to be dealt. And that starts with Mike Moustakas and Alcides Escobar -- if there is a market for a defender who is showing he can play multiple positions.

Certainly the Royals will try to move Lucas Duda Jason Hammel and possibly Drew Butera if a team needs a defensive-minded backup catcher. So much depends on other teams' injury situations. The Angels, for example, just lost Zack Cozart for the season. One would think they've already engaged in conversations with Moore about Moustakas, especially as the Angels continue to fall in the American League West.

And interestingly, if Wily Peralta shows he can handle the closer's role -- something I advocated starting back in Spring Training -- he might be an asset as well.

Tweet from @RoyalsCollector: What is the likelihood hood that we see Frank Schwindel playing for the Royals after the trade deadline? If so does he DH or 1B or both? He���s been on fire again. Any chance of seeing Ryan O���Hearn at 1B for the Royals?

I'm guessing you'll see Frank Schwindel at some point, and possibly Ryan O'Hearn, as well. Schwindel caught manager Ned Yost's eye in Spring Training, and he has been raking the ball lately. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, but after the Trade Deadline, several spots should open up. But it might not be until September that either player gets here. With Jorge Bonifacio coming back from the suspended list, Jorge Soler coming off the disabled list in August, Rosell Herrera showing promise in the outfield and the need to develop Hunter Dozier at first base, you only have so many position openings, even with the DH.

Tweet from @Sean_R_Madden: Will Ned be back?

Yost has said repeatedly that he wants to return in 2019. I think he likes the idea of seeing the next phase of the rebuild through before handing over the duties to the next manager. He may even stay through 2020.

Tweet from @TJ_Henning: Will Rosell Herrera get any look at CF soon?

Absolutely. And very soon.

Tweet from @Wuropp: Where do you see MJ Melendez in this organization? Moore sees a fast track for him but it doesn't feel like Salvy is going anywhere.

That's really an interesting question. MJ Melendez, the team's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is only 19 and playing in Low-A Lexington. But the Royals believe Melendez's defense is superb, and he is showing power at the plate with 11 home runs and a .526 slugging percentage. Perez is 28. And if Melendez is ready for the big leagues in three or four years, Perez might be ready to do much more DHing.

Tweet from @royalcub89: When will DM dip back into free agency or make a big move again to say we are competing again? Winter of 2020, 22?

Another good question. The offseason plan was to restock the farm system and bank some payroll to make some free-agent additions when the Royals are close to contending again. Obviously, the next two years will be challenging again in terms of wins and losses. But if all goes according to plan, and players like Bonifacio, Soler, Adalberto Mondesi, Dozier, Cheslor Cuthbert, Brad Keller, Tim Hill, Jakob Junis, Josh Staumont, Richard Lovelady, Trevor Oaks, Nicky Lopez and others all become a promising next core at the Major League level by 2020, and some of the college pitchers from this year's Draft rise very rapidly, perhaps by that winter Moore and ownership will dip in the free-agent market. That, of course, would be the absolute best-case scenario and is likely overly optimistic. But hey, you never know.

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

Kansas City Royals, Salvador Perez

Inbox: What's Tribe's strategy for Deadline?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from fans
MLB.com

With the the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, Indians fans are wondering what kind of moves the club might make to get stronger down the stretch.

Let's take a look at some of those questions in the latest Inbox.

With the the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, Indians fans are wondering what kind of moves the club might make to get stronger down the stretch.

Let's take a look at some of those questions in the latest Inbox.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Do you think the Indians have any untouchable prospects when looking at possible trades this year? Or do you think they are willing to part with Mejia, McKenzie or Bieber for the right player in return? #IndiansInbox

No prospect is untouchable. If the right deal came along, I believe the Indians would consider any of their young players as part of the package. Cleveland is a realistic World Series contender, and an impact addition or two could greatly increases the team's October odds.

There was a point in time when Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield were thought to be "untouchable," and the Indians sent them to the Yankees in a four-player deal to get Andrew Miller two years ago. Back in 2011, Cleveland stunned people when it dealt Drew Pomeranz and Alex White -- believed to be future pitching cornerstones at the time -- in a trade for Ubaldo Jimenez.

:: Submit a question to the Indians Inbox ::

By now, no one should count out anything, given the transaction history of Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff.

At the same time, it would take a lot to convince the Indians to part with the likes of Francisco Mejia, Triston McKenzie or Shane Bieber, who are Nos. 1-3, respectively, on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list as ranked by MLB Pipeline, given the team's inability to outspend big-market clubs in free agency.

Of those three, I would list Bieber as least likely to be dealt. Cleveland has a strong Major League rotation, but the depth behind the group is thin, and Bieber has already climbed a few pegs to reach the big league starting staff. To me, Bieber is more critical to the Tribe's 2018 success than Mejia (currently with Triple-A Columbus), and certainly more so than McKenzie (pitching for Double-A Akron).

Mejia is blocked by Major League catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, and McKenzie is young, coming off a preseason injury and likely has a couple years of development to go. They both could be important core pieces of the future, but I wouldn't call either "untouchable" if Cleveland is going to explore a blockbuster addition before the Trade Deadline.

Tweet from @42acrefilms: Hey @MLBastian. We know the Tribe is looking for relief help and flirting with adding a 3B, but does Adam Jones make sense as stability in CF? #IndiansInbox

Adam Jones does not look like a fit to me. He is 32 years old, under contract for $17 million this year, would be a rental acquisition and is in decline, especially defensively. Through 629 1/3 innings in center this season, Jones has minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-4.2 UZR/150. Cleveland could use outfield help, especially on the offensive side, and center or right would make the most sense. Jones has been slightly above league average (107 weighted Runs Created Plus) as a hitter, but I don't see that out-weighing the other factors.

Tweet from @CAD_Alaska: #IndiansInbox Would Indians and Reds match up in a trade that brings over Adam Duvall to bolster OF and slot in power in lineup?

Ignoring the composition of Cleveland's roster for a moment, Adam Duvall is the kind of player the Indians might target. What I mean by that is he comes with multiple years of control (three more after 2018) and has a cost-effective contract. Duvall, specifically, does not look like a fit, however. He has played left field and first base in his career, and the Indians have no room at those spots. Michael Brantley is locked in for left and Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso split time between first and designated hitter.

Now, if the Indians decided Duvall could handle right field -- a position he played during six games in 2016 -- then he could be an intriguing partner for a platoon scenario with Lonnie Chisenhall. Right now, Brandon Guyer fills that role, and he's endured his share of troubles this year. Then again, so has Duvall, who has an .870 OPS off lefties, but has an 82 wRC+ through 78 games for the Reds.

I am a fan of Jason Kipnis and I know he is a real clubhouse presence, but is it just me who sees Erik Gonzalez as a player with a high ceiling that's maybe next in line for second base? In looking for help at the Deadline, does Kipnis have a market?
Matt L., via e-mail

The Indians explored trading Kipnis last offseason and came close to a deal with the Mets, but ultimately they did not find a match. It is hard to imagine there being much of a market for the second baseman right now, given his subpar play in the first half (.214/.294/.343 slash line in 73 games). Kipnis, 31, is earning $13.7 million this year and has a $14.7 million salary in 2019 with a $16.5 team option (or $2.5 million buyout) for '20. If the Indians do find a trade partner, they would likely need to pay for the bulk of that deal.

I don't think you're necessarily wrong in thinking that Gonzalez could handle second on an everyday basis, but manager Terry Francona is giving Kipnis every chance to pull out of his slump. There have been positive strides in recent weeks, too. Gonzalez, on the other hand, could possibly be trade bait.

Tweet from @BrianLavrich: How aggressive will the Tribe be in the trade market? Do they have the budget to go big? Or should fans not get too excited? #IndiansInbox

In the offseason, when the Indians were quiet in terms of major transactions, there was already a sense that in-season additions were more realistic. Much like in 2016 and '17, I'd expect Cleveland to be aggressive in pursuing help via trade for both the bullpen and potentially the outfield. Now, being "aggressive" doesn't always equal taking on large contracts. I wouldn't anticipate the Indians to target big-contract players, especially when the team has been open about its current payroll limitations. Standing pat throughout the July and August trade periods does not seem like an option, though.

Tweet from @tmtribefan: Who do you think the Indians reps will be for the all star game? Tyler Centerburg #IndiansInbox

Third baseman Jose Ramirez is a virtual lock for his second straight All-Star appearance and the latest fan balloting results have him in the starting lineup. Ace Corey Kluber looks like a safe bet, but Trevor Bauer is deserving, too. Shortstop Francisco Lindor should be included and Gomes has a strong case, especially with Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez sidelined due to injury. It would be surprising to me if Cleveland had fewer than three All-Stars this year.

Tweet from @ajenkinsCLE: Andrew/N.Olmsted When should we expect to see a logo or some promo images for next years all star game in CLE revealed?

While I don't know specific dates, that would be something to look for at some point during the second half this 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

Inbox: How will Nats address offense woes?

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals began Wednesday in third place in the National League East, four games back of Atlanta. And with a crucial four-game weekend series in Philadelphia approaching, it is time for an Inbox.

Questions from fans addressed the offense, baserunning miscues, acquiring another starting pitcher and more. Let's dive in.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals began Wednesday in third place in the National League East, four games back of Atlanta. And with a crucial four-game weekend series in Philadelphia approaching, it is time for an Inbox.

Questions from fans addressed the offense, baserunning miscues, acquiring another starting pitcher and more. Let's dive in.

Tweet from @pmacewan: At what point does the team say their approach at the plate isn't working. They have been shut out 7-8 times this month alone. Really good hitters (not injured) are up and down and/or struggling.

Using the metric weighted runs created plus (wRc+), which is like a cumulative offensive statistic, the Nationals have been the worst offensive team in the National League in June, with a 72 wRc+ at the start of the day Wednesday. They are just ahead of the Pirates for last in the NL in weighted on-base percentage. The Nats have hit just 12 home runs this month, which is last in the league. In 2018, an offense needs to hit home runs to be successful.

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There are a few reasons for these struggles. The most obvious and most cited has been health. Yes, the return of Matt Adams, Ryan Zimmerman and Matt Wieters would greatly improve this lineup. And Daniel Murphy is back in the lineup, but he is still working on his timing after missing eight months following a knee surgery.

But there are players who are in the lineup who are simply underperforming. Most notably, Bryce Harper has been mired in perhaps the worst slump of his career. He has shown signs that a breakout is near during the past week, but a .623 OPS and one home run has left a huge hole in middle of the Nats' lineup. Harper is not alone, with Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Pedro Severino and Wilmer Difo struggling at times.

So I'm not 100 percent sure the only thing wrong is a change in approach, but I am still optimistic that this can be one of the best offenses in the NL. There are several good hitters (Harper, Rendon, Turner) due for a huge bounce back to their usual production, and combined with improved health from others, the Nats should get clicking once again.

Tweet from @TinaBMD: Why are there so many base running errors this year? Does it seem more than any other year? #tootblan

Manager Dave Martinez has talked about baserunning a lot this season, urging the Nationals to be aggressive -- or "aggressively smart," as he has called it -- while also lamenting some of the mistakes that have come with that.

According to Baseball-Reference, the Nationals had run into 32 outs on the bases, which entered Wednesday as tied with the Rockies for the most in the NL. A year ago, the Nats finished with 48 outs on the bases, two below the league average of 50. These baserunning mistakes do not always come from being overly aggressive, as Baseball-Reference also reveals that the Nats take the extra base just 39 percent of the time, when the league average is 42 percent. So if anything, Washington is being too conservative -- and deciding to go at the wrong time.

Baseball Prospectus is much less kind. They keep a statistic called Baserunning Runs, which measures the number of runs contributed by a player's advancement on the bases, above or below what would be expected by an average baserunner. As a team, the Nationals are last in all of baseball with -9.2 BRR.

Fangraphs is more kind to Washington, but it does show a dip from last season. By the Ultimate Base Running statistic, which measures non-stolen-base-related plays on the basepaths, the Nats are 11th in MLB (1.4 UBR) after finishing seventh (4.1 UBR) last season.

Tweet from @RobDogg22304: Any chance at a trade for another SP?

Starting pitching was the unquestioned strength of the Nationals through the first two months of the season, so it's a surprising reality that they could probably use another starting pitcher. But this problem is heightened with two-fifths of their rotation on the DL (Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson, who is due back Saturday) and two-fifths of their rotation struggling this month (Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez), leaving NL Cy Young Award candidate Max Scherzer without much help. At this point, I'd be surprised to see the Nationals make a major play for one of the starting pitchers available because of the cost in prospects. This team still believes its rotation is one of its biggest strengths.

Tweet from @e_prada: What's up with Gio Gonzalez?

Gonzalez has an 8.44 ERA in five starts this month, which has seen his ERA rise to 3.68. Honestly, I don't think there are any major problems here if he's being truthful when he said after his last start that he is physically healthy. He seems to be just regressing back to his career ERA of 3.64.

Looking at his breakdown by start, he has only had two duds: against the Giants on June 9 (four runs in 3 1/3 innings) and Monday against the Rays (six runs in one inning). Otherwise, he pitched well on June 2 against the Braves (seven innings of three-run ball). On June 15, Gonzalez got charged for two runs in seventh inning against the Blue Jays after he arguably should have been out of the game having already thrown 100 pitches and then Adam Eaton lost a fly ball in the lights. And on June 20, Gonzalez had been pitching well, if not for a hanging curveball to Mark Trumbo for a two-run homer; then rain shortened his outing to four innings.

Tweet from @bud_zay: Is the plan to eventually move Eaton to CF once he���s healthier? Or does Bryce take over down the stretch?

It seems as if Harper is going to be the primary center fielder on days Michael A. Taylor is out the lineup. Harper feels comfortable there, and Martinez prefers him there instead of Eaton, who feels more comfortable on the corners anyway. So I expect Harper will continue to get a lot of playing time in center field.

Tweet from @TimSimmons_: What's the latest on Victor Robles?

The Nationals have not provided much information on the recovery of Victor Robles and his hyperextended elbow. He had been in an arm brace after the injury, but recently he has been posting videos of himself hitting in a cage to his Instagram account. So for now, Robles is working out and rehabbing at the team's complex in West Palm Beach, Fla. The club still expects him to return this season, perhaps to be ready in time as a potential September callup.

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

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