Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Cleveland Indians
news

Beat Reporter's Inbox

Inbox: Can White Sox land Machado, Harper?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers questions from fans
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Take a guess as to the central theme of this week's White Sox Inbox. No need to guess: just read for yourself. Happy Holidays to all.

Do any offseason moves, realistic or highly unlikely, get the Sox in playoff contention this season ('19)? And will the bullpen be adequate in 2019? #GoBlue
-- Jeff, Indianapolis, @IndyJeffrey

CHICAGO -- Take a guess as to the central theme of this week's White Sox Inbox. No need to guess: just read for yourself. Happy Holidays to all.

Do any offseason moves, realistic or highly unlikely, get the Sox in playoff contention this season ('19)? And will the bullpen be adequate in 2019? #GoBlue
-- Jeff, Indianapolis, @IndyJeffrey

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and others in the organization will rightfully caution this team lost 100 games in 2018, so making a jump to .500 in '19 represents significant growth. The American League Central is not exactly a powerhouse, especially behind Cleveland and the Twins, so the White Sox could make major strides if they are able to get Bryce Harper or Manny Machado via free agency, along with another reliever and possibly a veteran infielder.

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

As for the bullpen, adding Alex Colome was a big move for stabilizing high-leverage moments. Hahn is not done yet with that crew, but remember, some of the best future Chicago relievers might be players who are currently working as starters in the system.

Video: MLB Now on Colome to White Sox, Narvaez to Mariners

Expectations for the White Sox in 2020 are high. If the White Sox front office cannot sign Harper or Machado, will this hurt the Sox for their 2020 run?
-- Jay, San Antonio, Texas

Absolutely not. This team isn't losing any of its top prospects if its strong pursuit of Harper and/or Machado doesn't translate into a deal. The White Sox also can add players via trade at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, and next offseason with trades and free agency.

Does signing a player like Harper or Machado speed up the rebuild or is Hahn still dead set on giving his Minor Leaguers the proper time to develop?
-- Dominick, Tacoma, Wash., @DominickTrezza

Harper and Machado are franchise-changing players. But even if the White Sox were to work out a deal with one of them, it wouldn't signal the final piece of the rebuild. Hahn has acknowledged there's more work to do overall, starting with the current offseason, and the prospects will get their proper time to develop as has been the plan for the past couple of seasons.

Video: What can the White Sox do to ensure a better 2019?

If the White Sox sign Bryce Harper, why shouldn't the marketing promo be this -- 2019 White Sox: We are allowed to have nice things?
-- Jon, North Liberty, Iowa, @jonny33baseball

Jon was good enough to include an image of Harper photoshopped in a White Sox uniform with this suggestion, and of course, it's playing off a comment Hahn made to the media during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. The White Sox probably need to add a picture of someone holding the 2005 World Series trophy with Harper, but otherwise, Chicago senior vice president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer should take notice.

Is it too late to open up the stadium so 50,000 of us can be in there chanting, "Manny, Manny, Manny!!!!!!," tonight before he leaves? I can be there in about 3 hours.
-- Jamie, Fishers, Ind., @thejamiehopper

Good idea, Jamie. If Chicago agrees to terms with Machado, it should open the press conference to the fans. It would be that big of a moment.

Can the White Sox sign both Machado and Harper?
-- Robert, @rjdmichjr

They can. They are in pursuit of both, although never mentioning either one by name. They certainly have the payroll flexibility to do so, by design, with this offseason as a target. But I would say it's unlikely. I believe it's unlikely any team gets Harper and Machado.

Video: Merkin on White Sox interest in Harper, Machado

If we miss out on the big fish this year, should we still go for someone this year, or save the money for next year? Thanks.
-- Ben, Lindenhurst, Ill., @Ben_Shanahan

I don't know if it's necessarily about saving money. The White Sox are set up ridiculously well payroll-wise through 2023. Other potential free-agent additions have gone off the board during the Harper/Machado pursuit, but as has been mentioned many times before, Hahn will not be making moves just to make moves. If it makes sense in the fit for the team, then a move will be made.

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, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado

Inbox: Who profiles as Blue Jays' answer at SS?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Who do you see as the short- and long-term solution at shortstop? I'm sure they would love for Bo Bichette or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to work out there, but do you feel they can play well enough defensively to not be a liability?
-- Scott, Coquitlam, British Columbia

If I had to pick one guy, it would be Bichette, but the truth is even the Blue Jays won't know the answer for at least a couple of years. Gurriel will get the first crack at the job, and if he exceeds expectations then it's possible he never gives the job up. If the results are bad, Bichette, Toronto's No. 2 prospect, steps in the following year, Kevin Smith the year after that and the list goes on and on. This is one area where the organization has a lot of options.

Who do you see as the short- and long-term solution at shortstop? I'm sure they would love for Bo Bichette or Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to work out there, but do you feel they can play well enough defensively to not be a liability?
-- Scott, Coquitlam, British Columbia

If I had to pick one guy, it would be Bichette, but the truth is even the Blue Jays won't know the answer for at least a couple of years. Gurriel will get the first crack at the job, and if he exceeds expectations then it's possible he never gives the job up. If the results are bad, Bichette, Toronto's No. 2 prospect, steps in the following year, Kevin Smith the year after that and the list goes on and on. This is one area where the organization has a lot of options.

If you would have asked me eight months ago whether Gurriel had the ability to stick at short, I would have said no chance. Since then, his footwork has improved, he started to make the routine plays with more regularity and he's at least given himself a chance to succeed. The big question with Bichette is the accuracy of his arm, but I think he's better at the position than most people give him credit for. He's still my long-term pick.

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

Understandably, there has been a lot of attention on roster personnel and trades, but do you have any early thoughts on how style of play might change with the new manager and coaches?
-- @sutton1110 via Twitter

The style of play from on-field personnel is not going to change much. The current projected 25-man roster is younger and more athletic than it used to be, but this is still a group that lacks a traditional leadoff man, speed on the basepaths and above-average defenders. Charlie Montoyo and his staff won't be able to make widescale changes until new players arrive, but the in-game management and strategy is an entirely different story.

Montoyo has floated the idea of using an opener, which is when a "reliever" starts the game for an inning or so and then turns things over to the "starter," who attempts to pitch deep into the game. Other changes to expect: Outfielders consulting with charts on their wristbands to determine proper field positioning, catchers taking a similar approach and a team that becomes very aggressive with its defensive shifts, including the use of a three-man infield and a four-man outfield depending on the situation. The early changes will be more tactical than anything else.

With the team in an obvious rebuild, why hold on to veterans who are not part of the future (Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, etc.) if there are viable replacements in the system (Rowdy Tellez, Anthony Alford or one of the other outfield prospects)?
-- @aaronluvsleafs1 via Twitter

A rebuilding team should almost always look to deal its veteran players who do not figure to be a part of the long-term future. If the price is right, then it's a no-brainer to sacrifice a bit of the present for the future. That being said, there has to be proper value coming in return, and unless the veterans are blocking key prospects, there's no sense of making a deal just to make a deal. Promotions need to be earned, and despite all of the attention, neither Tellez or Alford have done that quite yet.

Alford battled with injuries and confidence in 2018 and posted a disappointing .240/.312/.344 slash line across 105 games with Triple-A Buffalo. He remains one of the best athletes in the system, but the 24-year-old needs to string some success together before he can be considered a viable option. The same could be said about Tellez, who posted a .943 OPS across 23 September games, yet was limited to a .765 OPS over a full year at Buffalo. If Tellez and Alford start strong, the Blue Jays will find room, but there's no sense to rush anything unless the club is getting something it wants in return.

Video: BOS@TOR: Alford singles, picks up first career RBI

What mid- to low-end starters do you expect the Blue Jays to sign? I believe they need at least one veteran signing, and more if they move Marcus Stroman and/or Aaron Sanchez?
-- Zach L., Ottawa

Your belief is similar to how the organization feels, and general manager Ross Atkins agreed earlier this month that adding two starters is the club's ideal scenario. One starter is an absolute necessity, and while two might be a luxury, that's what Atkins and the rest of his front office will be trying to accomplish over the next several weeks.

So who will they target? Toronto has done a lot of background on Japan's Yusei Kikuchi as an option for both the short and long term. That's about as high ceiling as it will get because Dallas Keuchel isn't realistic. The other candidates can be found in one of the lower tiers: Mike Fiers, Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson or Shelby Miller. Cahill was my pick at the start of the offseason and he's still my pick now.

Who are some of the under-the-radar type relievers the Blue Jays might be looking at?
-- Bruce P.

Early indications I've received suggest the bullpen is less of a priority right now. The Blue Jays are focused on adding to the rotation, and it seems unlikely the club will make a move on a guaranteed contract for a reliever until the starting market gains more clarity. Last year, Atkins waited until Spring Training to sign the veteran trio of John Axford, Seunghwan Oh and Tyler Clippard, and you can expect a similar approach again in 2019.

As for specific candidates, it's safe to say the top group can be ruled out. Montoyo has familiarity with Sergio Romo, and Yency Almonte and Amir Garrett offer underrated value, and there's no shortage of bounce-back candidates. Just don't expect much to happen any time soon.

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, Anthony Alford, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez

Inbox: Do Mariners have realistic shot at Kikuchi?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from Seattle fans
MLB.com

With all the recent chatter about the Mariners being interested in Yusei Kikuchi, do the Mariners have a realistic chance at landing the lefty or is this hopeful thinking, considering other teams closer to contention are sure to be interested as well? -- Paul E., Mount Vernon, Wash.

It's impossible to know at this point what Kikuchi is thinking, but the Mariners have made it clear they're intrigued by the 27-year-old Japanese southpaw, and they met with his agent, Scott Boras, at the Winter Meetings. If they get into the bidding, they'll obviously sell their lengthy tradition of Japanese players and the strong Japanese community in Seattle as well as their hope that he could be part of the rebuilding plan.

With all the recent chatter about the Mariners being interested in Yusei Kikuchi, do the Mariners have a realistic chance at landing the lefty or is this hopeful thinking, considering other teams closer to contention are sure to be interested as well? -- Paul E., Mount Vernon, Wash.

It's impossible to know at this point what Kikuchi is thinking, but the Mariners have made it clear they're intrigued by the 27-year-old Japanese southpaw, and they met with his agent, Scott Boras, at the Winter Meetings. If they get into the bidding, they'll obviously sell their lengthy tradition of Japanese players and the strong Japanese community in Seattle as well as their hope that he could be part of the rebuilding plan.

While the Mariners are staying away from veteran free agents in the 30-plus age range, Kikuchi is young enough that he would align with Marco Gonzales and Mitch Haniger as part of the core group if he signed a five- to six-year-type contract as expected.

Unlike other free agents, Kikuchi has a Jan. 2 deadline to either sign with a Major League team or return to Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. He just arrived in Los Angeles, where he and Boras will narrow down his options and meet with interested clubs, so things will move quickly now.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

Just as with Shohei Ohtani last year, no one will know what exactly Kikuchi is thinking until he picks a team. I certainly wouldn't list Seattle as the early favorite, given Boras will undoubtedly push the price tag as high as possible and the Mariners will have to weigh what makes sense in their long-range plans. But I also never rule Seattle out as a potential destination for Japanese players, given its West Coast location and strong history in that regard.

It looks like the Mariners are shedding contracts that go beyond 2020. Do you think this is with an eye to what looks like a pretty stout free-agent market after that season?
-- Butch W., Olympia, Wash.

I don't think that decision is based on what specific free agents might be available in the future. It's more about making sure there is financial flexibility to add key players in their prime when the time comes that the club is ready to make its best push, rather than being tied to expensive contracts of older veterans who are still earning big money but are in the downward side of their careers at that point.

Do the Mariners have any chance to make the playoffs this year? I like all the young guys they're getting. -- Troy B., Fontana, Calif.

I wouldn't put a bunch of money on the Mariners cracking the postseason in 2019, given their own stated philosophy is to take a step back next year by getting younger and more flexible financially in order to make a more-realistic run in 2020 and beyond.

But that said, it's funny how baseball works sometimes. The A's have had several young teams that were supposed to be in a rebuilding phase but wound up making the postseason over the past seven years. The Twins were sellers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 2017, but they wound up getting hot and winning an American League Wild Card berth. Of course, many other rebuilding teams have struggled as expected. But you really never know if or when a young group might come together and surprise.

Video: Servais optimistic about Mariners' offseason

How much of Edwin Encarnacion's contract do you think the Mariners will be willing to swallow to get a better return? -- Drew P., Snohomish, Wash.

It's all about the prospects the Mariners might be able to get back. I don't think they'd be opposed to eating a fairly large portion of Encarnacion's $20 million salary for 2019 if it allows them to get a quality youngster back in the deal. By trading Carlos Santana for Encarnacion, they acquired the 77th overall Draft pick as well as shortened the remaining contract owed to '19 instead of '19-20. That was important as their big goal is to have more payroll flexibility in '20 and beyond. The better the prospect offered, the more money they'll be willing to eat on his salary for this season.

Video: Justice breaks down Mariners trading for Encarnacion

Seattle might want to give young shortstop J.P. Crawford some time to develop, so why not sign Troy Tulowitzki? They would only need to pay league minimum, and if he does well, he could be traded to make room for Crawford and bring back more prospects. -- Bob B., Tacoma, Wash.

I'd agree that all sounds good, in theory, and is worth investigating. But Tulowitzki's health obviously is a question after being released by Toronto with $38 million still on his contract, so there's no guarantee he'll be ready to play full-time out of the chute. I'd also assume, from Tulowitzki's point of view, that he'll want to go wherever he has the best chance of winning in 2019, since money won't be a factor.

How likely are we to see Evan White in a Mariners jersey during the summer of 2019?
-- Jimmy J., Vancouver, Wash.

White projects more as a 2020 arrival on a full-time basis, though there's a chance of seeing a lot of the top Mariners prospects at some point this coming season as September callups, if not before. White hasn't spent significant time above the Class Advanced A level yet, so that's a big jump for the 22-year-old. But White is already the best defensive first baseman the Mariners have got, and if he shows he can continue hitting as he progresses up the ladder, he could move quickly.

White is expected to open the year at Double-A Arkansas along with outfielders Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley and Dom Thompson-Williams as well as pitchers Justin Dunn and Ricardo Sanchez in what suddenly appears to be a much-deeper group of prospects at that level.

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

Seattle Mariners, Edwin Encarnacion

Inbox: Could Sox turn to farm for bullpen help?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Boston fans' questions
MLB.com

With the bullpen now looking like it's going to be a chess game for the Red Sox this year, which prospect do you think has the potential to impact our bullpen the most in 2019? Durbin Feltman, Travis Lakins or -- depending on how they feel about him as a starter -- Darwinzon Hernandez?
-- Rob B., Saint John, N.B.

In terms of which pitcher we could see earliest in Boston, I'd say Lakins, because he advanced to Triple-A last season and produced strong results out of the bullpen. His fastball can reach the upper 90s and has late sink.

With the bullpen now looking like it's going to be a chess game for the Red Sox this year, which prospect do you think has the potential to impact our bullpen the most in 2019? Durbin Feltman, Travis Lakins or -- depending on how they feel about him as a starter -- Darwinzon Hernandez?
-- Rob B., Saint John, N.B.

In terms of which pitcher we could see earliest in Boston, I'd say Lakins, because he advanced to Triple-A last season and produced strong results out of the bullpen. His fastball can reach the upper 90s and has late sink.

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

Of these three pitchers, I think the lefty Hernandez has the most upside due to his combination of heat and ability to induce ground balls. Hernandez has looked comfortable as a starter and reliever; if the Red Sox decide to put him in the bullpen, I think he could make an impact in the Majors at some point in 2019. Hernandez is ranked seventh among Red Sox prospects by MLB Pipeline.

• Red Sox eyeing relievers after Winter Meetings

Feltman was a dominant closer in college and throws in the upper 90s, but we'll have to see how he performs at Double-A before getting a true read on how close he is to Fenway.

What should the Red Sox do in order to successfully replenish their depleted farm system? They are hurting in this area, and this present lack of future prospects could harm them in the long term.
-- John M., Framingham, Mass.

In order to build the team that just won the World Series, Dave Dombrowski traded several highly rated prospects. In hindsight, it was clearly worth it, as Boston won the division the past three years, culminating with the 108-win, World Series-winning season in 2018. To replenish the farm system, the Sox will have to draft well and be smart when it comes to the international market. I also think that the Sox are in better shape than you think at the lower and middle levels of the Minors.

What are we doing with Rusney Castillo? Is there any chance he gets traded? Is there any chance he gets called up if, say, Jackie Bradley Jr. were to be traded? Basically, is there any possibility that he doesn't spend all of 2019 in Pawtucket?
-- Julian B., Lynchburg, Va.

To be honest, Rusney is basically stuck. The Red Sox owe him $11 million in 2019 and then $13.5 million in '20, which is the last year of his deal. Because Castillo is not on the 40-man roster, his salary isn't factored into the team's luxury tax. For that reason, it's unlikely he will come back on the 40-man roster. And if the Sox traded him to another team and that team moved him to the 40-man, the money would be counted in Boston's luxury tax. At this point, the Sox look at Castillo's upside as a fourth outfielder, so the financial ramifications are too great to have him on the 40-man.

Will Nathan Eovaldi be used strictly as a starter, or are we likely to see him used whenever manager Alex Cora sees fit, like we did in the playoffs?
-- Benjamin S., Queensland, Au.

Look for Eovaldi to be used exclusively as a starter during the regular season, though the team will be careful with his innings total due to his history of injuries. If the Sox get back to the postseason, Cora can put Eovaldi back in that rover role he was so effective in this past October.

I love the Eovaldi deal and I'm really glad to have him back, but do you think the Sox should try to improve the rotation even more? I sometimes worry about the strength of the back end of the rotation. The Mets had said that Noah Syndergaard might be available, and they need a third baseman. Maybe a Syndergaard for Rafael Devers type deal? Then the Sox could sign a stop gap (Mike Moustakas maybe) until Michael Chavis gets ready.
-- Jon D., Germantown, Md.

Most teams would love to have the rotation the Red Sox have from top to bottom. They also have Steven Wright, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez as depth options if someone else gets hurt. There is only so much money to go around. The Sox already have a ton invested in the rotation, so I think they will go to camp with what they have.

Where is Carson Smith? Also how is Tyler Thornburg's health and what are the expectations for him going forward?
-- Jack C., Myerstown, Pa.

After Smith's season-ending injury, which he suffered throwing his glove down in frustration, he made a comment that his shoulder might have separated in part due to his recent workload. The Red Sox took offense to that comment. Smith was barely seen for the rest of the season on his injury rehab, and the team took him off the 40-man roster and released him shortly after the season. He is now a free agent. It's a safe bet that he won't be back with Boston.

The Red Sox are hopeful Thornburg can return to form, but they know they can't bank on it. Pitchers have mixed luck coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. It would be a big boost for the bullpen if Thornburg can regain his past form.

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

Boston Red Sox

Inbox: Are the Tigers seeking help at 2B?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Let's open the Tigers Inbox in the wake of the Matt Moore, Tyson Ross and Jordy Mercer signings:

Let's open the Tigers Inbox in the wake of the Matt Moore, Tyson Ross and Jordy Mercer signings:

Tweet from @22Vodak: What is your thought of the signing of Jordy Mercer?

Mercer fulfills what general manager Al Avila wanted in his search for a shortstop: A veteran presence and plus defender who would help out the pitchers in front of him and the young infielders around him. Not sure there's a ton of trade upside with the signing, but I think the Tigers were willing to live with that rather than seeking what might have been marginal trade value with other free agents looking for multi-year deals.

Tweet from @LeylandsLung: Are the Tigers still looking for a 2B, or will we see Niko/Lugo combination?

Submit an Inbox question

The Tigers are open to signing a second baseman who could hold down the job next season, allowing Dawel Lugo to open 2019 at Triple-A Toledo and Niko Goodrum to resume his super utility role. But Avila indicated during the Winter Meetings that the second-base search could linger awhile to let the market sort out. Then again, that was the initial expectation with shortstop, too.

Tweet from @mschaf13: Is the search for a veteran 2nd baseman, cause for concern to Lugo's development? Would LeMahieu be a possibility or to expensive?

The Tigers had a lot to like with Lugo's late-season audition, but there's still concern about his plate discipline, considering he drew just nine walks over 523 plate appearances at Toledo (he walked seven times in 101 plate appearances for the Tigers). Another stint with the Mud Hens would allow him to work with hitting coach Mike Hessman.

As for DJ LeMahieu, the sense is that there's enough interest from contending teams that he's likely out of Detroit's range.

Tweet from @Blastellanos_: Thoughts on where Nick Castellanos might get traded to?

I wrote last week that the market for Nicholas Castellanos should become clearer once some of the top free-agent hitters sign, not just Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but some of the veterans beyond that. Though the Braves, Mets and Phillies have been mentioned, an AL team might be a better fit with the DH slot available. Scouts like Castellanos' offensive progression, and he rates well in some key offensive metrics, but many have a hard time answering where to put him in the field.

Tweet from @SifferMichael: Nick for Puig and prospects. Thoughts. Automatic upgrade in defense

Creative idea, but I'd be surprised if it happens. The Tigers have been tied to Yasiel Puig in rumors in the past, and his skill set would make him fun to watch in Comerica Park. However, Puig doesn't get the club any younger, and the frequent drama provides a potential headache the Tigers are trying to avoid around a young clubhouse. The key in any deal would have to be the prospects, of course, and the Dodgers have a lot of them.

Tweet from @SifferMichael: In honor of Christmas, do you think it is possible to contend by going all in on a band of misfit toys ... players. With CLE offense a question mark opportunity is there for other central teams.

Oakland has outperformed expectations in recent years by acquiring castoffs from other clubs, but the A's have also had a foundation of young talent -- some drafted, some acquired from other clubs -- around which to build. I don't think the Tigers have enough of the latter to pull off the former yet.

Tweet from @90feetfromhome: Do you think the Tigers might still sign a veteran catcher to platoon with Greiner?

Expect the Tigers to look for one more veteran catcher on a low-risk deal, likely a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite. A left-handed batter or a switch-hitter would have been ideal considering both Grayson Greiner and John Hicks bat right-handed, but those free agents are pretty much signed. At this point, a multi-position guy might be their best fit, allowing manager Ron Gardenhire some versatility with Hicks potentially getting at-bats at first base and DH.

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: Would Cubs pair Grandal, Contreras?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian fields offseason questions from fans
MLB.com

Do the Cubs have interest in Yasmani Grandal? If they brought in Grandal, wouldn't it allow Willson Contreras opportunities to play the outfield again and get more rest days? Plus, he could learn from someone that is a better pitch framer.
-- James O., Havana, Cuba

The only way I'd envision the Cubs getting into the free-agent bidding for Grandal is if they moved Contreras in a trade, and that's not something I'd expect Chicago to do. Now, the front office has said they'd need to get "creative" to add a contract of any significance this offseason. Trading Contreras would definitely fit that description, especially if the Cubs could package him with a larger contract to free up payroll.

Do the Cubs have interest in Yasmani Grandal? If they brought in Grandal, wouldn't it allow Willson Contreras opportunities to play the outfield again and get more rest days? Plus, he could learn from someone that is a better pitch framer.
-- James O., Havana, Cuba

The only way I'd envision the Cubs getting into the free-agent bidding for Grandal is if they moved Contreras in a trade, and that's not something I'd expect Chicago to do. Now, the front office has said they'd need to get "creative" to add a contract of any significance this offseason. Trading Contreras would definitely fit that description, especially if the Cubs could package him with a larger contract to free up payroll.

The more likely scenario is that the Cubs bank on Contreras -- entering his final pre-arbitration season at 26 years old -- bouncing back from a rough finish to the 2018 campaign. Contreras made the National League All-Star team last summer and had an .830 OPS through Aug. 1, but then faded to the tune of a .495 OPS over his final 45 games. During the Winter Meetings, manager Joe Maddon said Contreras might have been consumed by his struggles.

"He became really difficult on himself, and I think he dragged himself down a bit," Maddon said. "I just think he got in a bad rut and couldn't get out of it. We've got to talk to him soon early on and get things straightened out with him mentally and how you approach this whole thing. I like that he plays with his hair on fire, but you can't get too emotional. These are things we'll talk about him."

And those things would be better worked out (especially defensively) with Contreras as the starting catcher -- not as a player bouncing between catching and playing the outfield. Plus, when Grandal gets his contract, he will be doing so as a starting catcher as well. I'm just speculating, but neither Contreras nor Grandal would probably want to be in a situation where the innings are shared down the middle. They're both used to being the top option.

Video: STL@CHC: Contreras cracks a 2-run homer to left

Defensively, though, you're right, James. Contreras has a lot of room for growth, especially when considering that the Cubs' pitching staff has trended downward in both strikeout rate (24.3 percent in 2016 to 21.3 percent in '18) and walk rate (8.3 percent in '16 to 9.9 percent in '18) over the past three seasons. That's a 4.5 percent decrease in strikeout-minus-walk percentage during that span.

Last season, Contreras had a minus-17.8 Framing Runs (MLB low) per Baseball Prospectus, while Grandal ranked first at 15.7. Overall, Contreras was deemed to be minus-15.4 in Fielding Runs, while Grandal ranked second at 17.7. Contreras did rate well in Blocking Runs (fifth at 1.9) and Throwing Runs (eighth at 0.4), so it was really the representation side of things that cost him and the Cubs.

"We need to get him to continue to work on his defense to the point he understands the catcher's responsibility regarding guiding his pitching staff," Maddon said. "Sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for function. ... The guy is an incredible talent. Strong, the way he throws, blocks the ball. There's so much good right there. So we've got to, again, extract it out of him. Start over a little bit this year."

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

First off, welcome to the Cubs beat! Looking forward to following along from the heart of Cardinals country here in Jefferson City, Mo. (Boo!) My question is: I don't recall seeing any updates on Yu Darvish this offseason. How is his winter progression coming, and should we expect him to be in the starting rotation come the start of the season?
-- Tyler M.

Shortly before the Winter Meetings, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said that head athletic trainer PJ Mainville visited with Darvish in recent weeks and returned with "an A-plus glowing report" on the right-hander's rehab and offseason training progress. Until we hear otherwise, the expectation seems to be that Darvish will be ready for the start of the season.

That said, picking up Cole Hamels' option for 2019 helps guard against any setbacks anywhere else in the rotation. If Darvish or any other starter hits a snag and faces an Opening Day DL stint, the Cubs are fortunate to have strong depth in that part of the roster.

The Cubs are supposedly targeting Troy Tulowitzki or Daniel Descalso. Why not get Daniel Murphy? He is a professional hitter that was on the 2018 roster at the end of year. He is great in the clubhouse and the young Cubs looked up to him. I'd take him before Tulo or Descalso.
-- Mike B.

Once the Cubs opted to tender shortstop Addison Russell a contract for 2019, that made it less likely for the team to then target someone like Murphy or another free agent such as DJ LeMahieu. There will be a hole at second at the start of the season, while Russell finishes out a 40-game suspension and Javier Baez handles short. But the Cubs have some internal options (Ben Zobrist, David Bote or Ian Happ).

If Tulowitzki is healthy and wants a regular role at short, well, that wouldn't make sense for the Cubs. He'd be viewed as a veteran bench player. Descalso would add veteran depth to Chicago's bench as a utility man. That is more what the team is seeking, rather than a full-timer up the middle like Murphy.

How about Tyler Chatwood for Russell Martin? The Cubs have a rotation of Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Hamels and Darvish, with Mike Montgomery wanting to start. It is hard to see how Chatwood breaks into the rotation. Martin's trade value is low because of the other available free-agent catchers. It would give the Cubs the backup catcher they were looking for and some payroll relief for 2020. The Blue Jays get another starter who might be better with a change of scenery.
-- Mark C., Chicago

This is the kind of deal the Cubs would probably have to do in order to move Chatwood -- a swap of large contracts. I could get on board with this, but part of it would depend upon Toronto's willingness to take on the 2020 salary. In terms of the luxury-tax aspect, Martin's average annual salary is $16.4 million, while Chatwood's is $12.6 million. So it'd be roughly a $3.8 million hit to the Cubs' bottom line for '19.

Martin would not only fit the bill as a backup, but could also offer the veteran leadership Chicago is seeking. In a perfect world, the Cubs could deal Chatwood without taking on as much salary as in this concept, but on the surface I wouldn't oppose this kind of trade if it didn't hinder the Cubs from addressing some other needs (such as the bullpen, for instance).

The Cubs need a closer. Is there any chance of signing Craig Kimbrel?
-- Patrick L., Greenville, Mich.

I wouldn't get your hopes up, Patrick. The Cubs are definitely looking for relief reinforcements, but it doesn't seem like they will be players at the top of that market. Barring some trades to free up funds, the expectation is that Chicago will be looking for some more value-type signings later this offseason. Closing experience would be beneficial, but it's not a prerequisite for the arms the Cubs are targeting.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs

Inbox: Will Braves renew pursuit of Realmuto?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from Atlanta fans
MLB.com

With the Mets signing Wilson Ramos, how does it affect the Braves in relation to J.T. Realmuto?
-- @just_shaun_07

When informed Saturday night that the Braves had not discussed Realmuto over the previous few days and were planning to move on, my responsibility was to provide the update. But when writing such a story, you must remain cognizant of the fact the landscape can change -- as it did less than 24 hours later, when news broke that the Mets were signing Ramos.

With the Mets signing Wilson Ramos, how does it affect the Braves in relation to J.T. Realmuto?
-- @just_shaun_07

When informed Saturday night that the Braves had not discussed Realmuto over the previous few days and were planning to move on, my responsibility was to provide the update. But when writing such a story, you must remain cognizant of the fact the landscape can change -- as it did less than 24 hours later, when news broke that the Mets were signing Ramos.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

Exactly what this means for the Braves remains to be seen. But with the Mets no longer seeking a catcher, there is one fewer suitor for the Marlins, who have chosen to be selective with the one remaining piece that could garner them some of the long-term value they seemingly did not get with last year's trades of Giancarlo Stanton (a financially motivated move), Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon.

We touched on this about a month ago, but it bears repeating that despite not having a single prospect on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, Miami has indicated it is hesitant to trade Realmuto to a National League East rival. In other words, a team that is more than two years away from contending is being selective about the landing spot of a player whose contract has only two more years of team control remaining.

Maybe the Dodgers will eventually give the Marlins the value they seek. Or maybe the Marlins eventually circle back to the Braves, who have 10 prospects (seven pitchers) on MLB Pipeline's list.

Whatever occurs, it seems highly unlikely the Marlins will receive what they could have gotten last offseason, when they demanded Ronald Acuna Jr. be part of any deal with Atlanta. With two additional months and a playoff run, Miami had more bargaining power this past summer when the Braves continued to show interest in Realmuto. Now, it's harder for teams to acquiesce to the Marlins' insistence on acquiring a high-value, controllable MLB asset in exchange for two years of Realmuto.

The Braves have the prospects necessary to make a significant deal and given that they spoke to the Marlins at the start of the Winter Meetings, there's at least some willingness to alter the current plan of entering the season with Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers as their primary catchers.

But for now, the Braves have moved on, in search of other fish in the sea.

If the Braves aren't getting Realmuto or one of the Cleveland starting pitchers, what impact player will they get? And by that I mean, we aren't seriously entertaining NOT trading significant prospects again this offseason, are we?
-- @efdrag

The Braves would not have inquired about Realmuto, Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer if they weren't seriously entertaining the thought of trading some of their top prospects. With that being said, they have remained committed to staying in their comfort zone, a stance informed by their relatively limited number of high-value position player prospects.

Of course, when you have a young core that already includes Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo and Dansby Swanson, there should still be a willingness to part with, at the right price, an Austin Riley, Drew Waters or Cristian Pache. Because he's the only legit catching prospect in the system, William Contreras stands as the closest thing I'd consider to be an untouchable among Atlanta's prospects.

As for adding an impact player, let's not forget a healthy Josh Donaldson will team with Freddie Freeman to give the Braves two potential NL MVP Award candidates. The lineup could use one more power threat, and the rotation certainly could use the addition of a front-line starter. But now that there's further reason to believe Kluber will stay in Cleveland, it may be time to stop thinking about a potential ace and weighing the potential value of providing someone like Sonny Gray a change of scenery.

Would the Braves ever consider having Albies only bat from the right side and stop being a switch-hitter?
-- @ctrim49

I had heard this was discussed in September, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos quickly denied it when I asked him last week. Concerns about Albies' left-handed swing mechanics date back to his Minor League days, and they only grew when he hit .192 with a .569 OPS against right-handers over the final three months of last season. But it must be remembered the young switch-hitter batted .262 with a .800 OPS against right-handers through the end of June.

It quite simply comes down to adjustments and discipline. Albies needs to get a better feel for how right-handers have adjusted to him and, maybe more importantly, he must focus on making sure he controls the severity of his left-handed leg kick.

Can Max Fried be our Josh Hader?
-- @DAck_34

Fried has the potential to be a bullpen asset, but I continue to consider Luiz Gohara the better bet to fill a Hader-like role. With that being said, given what we've heard about Gohara's weight loss and the dedication he has shown this offseason, I view him as a valuable wild card for both the rotation and bullpen.

When Gohara suffered one of his two Spring Training injuries last year, Freeman responded by telling Anthopoulos he really thought the big lefty was capable of making the All-Star team. Bold statement? Sure. But that's the kind of impression Gohara made during those five starts he made after debuting late in the 2017 season.

Gohara's four-seam fastball averaged 96.4 mph in 2017 and 94 mph during the limited time he spent at the Major League level this year. It's worth noting that Fried's four-seamer averaged 95.4 mph when he was used a reliever in September. It averaged 92.7 mph in the five starts he made this year.

We won't place either in Hader's category yet, but Gohara and Fried both have the capability of providing value as multi-inning bullpen assets.

Which prospect that hasn't been promoted has the highest upside to play with Atlanta in 2019?
-- @NeilShelat6

In terms of guys we haven't heard or seen much about, I'd say Jacob Webb is the one who has the chance to have the most significant impact in 2019. Webb has gotten off to a slow start in both of the past two seasons, but he made quite an impression as he posted a 0.96 ERA and limited opponents to a .203 on-base percentage while recording 20 strikeouts over his final 18 2/3 innings for Triple-A Gwinnett this year. He might not be on the Braves' Opening Day roster, but he has the capability to make an impact in Atlanta next summer.

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

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: What do Marlins seek in Realmuto deal?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What's the likelihood that the Marlins will get MLB-ready, young, controllable players for J.T. Realmuto, and who would it possibly be?
-- @patrick_rotella

You are hearing more about having at least one "controllable" MLB-ready or experienced player, because those types of players bring some certainty. Realmuto is an All-Star and is arguably the best catcher in the sport, and you want to make sure you are getting top value in return. That said, it's a matter of getting the best overall package. The Marlins are holding firm on their high demand. They've also made it clear they are prepared to retain Realmuto, although that seems unlikely.

What's the likelihood that the Marlins will get MLB-ready, young, controllable players for J.T. Realmuto, and who would it possibly be?
-- @patrick_rotella

You are hearing more about having at least one "controllable" MLB-ready or experienced player, because those types of players bring some certainty. Realmuto is an All-Star and is arguably the best catcher in the sport, and you want to make sure you are getting top value in return. That said, it's a matter of getting the best overall package. The Marlins are holding firm on their high demand. They've also made it clear they are prepared to retain Realmuto, although that seems unlikely.

• Decision on Realmuto enters critical stage

This will be a telling week, because the Marlins are engaged in talks with six to eight teams, including the Dodgers and Rays. The Mets are no longer in the mix after reaching an agreement with catcher Wilson Ramos. The Reds, Padres, Braves, Brewers and perhaps the Yankees and Angels could also be in the picture.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

Do the Marlins have any secondary plans to bolster the shortstop position?
-- @Marleens12

Resolving the Realmuto situation is the top organizational priority. There's a chance that a shortstop could be included as part of a Realmuto package, but Miami is seeking its best overall deal.

Internally, the Marlins have Jose Devers, who turned 19 on Dec. 7. Devers reached Class A Advanced Jupiter, and he is regarded as the shortstop of the future. Devers, Miami's No. 13 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, also may wind up at second base. As for 2019, the Marlins appear committed to JT Riddle and Miguel Rojas sharing time at short.

Are the Marlins semi-set with Peter O'Brien at first base?
-- @thepackman321

O'Brien made a strong showing after being called up in September, batting .273 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in the final month. He will certainly get a shot to win the job in Spring Training, but there are no guarantees. Pedro Alvarez is a non-roster invitee who will get a look. Garrett Cooper also is a possibility. But I wouldn't be surprised if the Marlins target a left-handed-hitting option at first base in free agency. Riddle is the only lefty in the lineup.

With all the young players the Marlins will have in 2019, who can be brought in to serve as a veteran presence?
-- @rla1999

I don't necessarily think the Marlins need to add a veteran leader, because there are several players already on the roster who are just that. Third baseman Martin Prado is the consummate pro, and he is under contract next year. Rojas and second baseman Starlin Castro are veterans and quality teammates. Dan Straily assumes that role in the rotation. I could see the club getting a veteran relief pitcher to help handle high-leverage innings and be an influence on young relievers. More importantly than "leaders," the Marlins need impactful players.

Who is an under-the-radar prospect that you see making it to the big leagues sooner than anyone could predict?
-- Ben Q., Port Orange, Fla.

Right-hander Nick Neidert is Miami's No. 4 prospect, per Pipeline, and second baseman Isan Diaz is No. 9. Both could reach the big leagues at some point in the first half of the season. For those who follow the club closely, that isn't a surprise. Neidert and Diaz likely will open at Triple-A New Orleans.

A less-heralded name to watch in Spring Training is lefty reliever Jose Quijada, a 23-year-old who impressed at New Orleans in 2018. A native of Venezuela, Quijada was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and he has a legitimate shot to make the Opening Day roster as a lefty specialist.

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

Miami Marlins, Peter O'Brien, J.T. Realmuto

Inbox: What needs will Twins fill at Meetings?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans
MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Things are heating up for the Twins ahead of the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Las Vegas.

Minnesota remains in the market for starting pitching and bullpen help, but on Thursday announced the signing of utility infielder Ronald Torreyes to a one-year contract and was finalizing a one-year deal with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, according to a source. 

MINNEAPOLIS -- Things are heating up for the Twins ahead of the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Las Vegas.

Minnesota remains in the market for starting pitching and bullpen help, but on Thursday announced the signing of utility infielder Ronald Torreyes to a one-year contract and was finalizing a one-year deal with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, according to a source. 

It'll be an interesting Winter Meetings for the Twins, but I will no longer be covering the club. On Monday, I start as the Angels' beat reporter for MLB.com, as it allows me to be closer to my family in the Los Angeles area.

Tweet from @j_getty_23: Any news on any potential moves the twins are looking to make?

Other than the Torreyes and Schoop news, the Twins continue to touch base with agents and get medicals on players they're interested in signing. They're also active in talking with other teams about potential trades.

Submit an Inbox question

At the Winter Meetings, expect the Twins to make finding a closer a priority.

Tweet from @MLBKing48: Do you see the Twins adding another power bat at 1B or DH and designating Austin?

The Twins still could look for a first baseman even after adding C.J. Cron via waivers after he was designated for assignment by the Rays. Cron wasn't in their initial plans, but the opportunity was too good to pass up, as he hit 30 homers last year and will make $4.8 million after the Twins signed him to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.

Tyler Austin, 27, still has potential, especially with his power after hitting 17 homers in 69 games between the Yankees and Twins last year. But he's a similar player to Cron, as they both bat right-handed and hit lefties better.

After non-tendering Robbie Grossman, there should be some at-bats available at designated hitter unless they want to rotate Cron and Austin at first base and DH. An intriguing option could be a power hitter like Nelson Cruz as a full-time DH, but that would likely mean that Austin would be expendable.

Tweet from @BillsQuick: With Castro healthy and Garver coming off a promising Rookie season, what are the chances Astudillo makes the opening day roster? I know he���s extremely versatile, but where do you see him fitting?

Willians Astudillo might be the most interesting player in baseball because he rarely walks or strikes out. In 29 games last year, he hit .355/.371/.516 with just three strikeouts and two walks in 97 plate appearances. He has elite bat-to-ball skills and is versatile, as he saw action at catcher, third base, second base, left field and center field.

It's still too early to know how the roster will shake out, as the Twins could make more additions, but Astudillo's versatility and success in September gives him at least a solid chance of making the roster.

Tweet from @danielmjanssen: What is a favorite memory from your time with the #MNTwins?

I loved my time covering the Twins from 2011-18, and my favorite memory comes from when the Twins clinched an appearance in the American League Wild Card Game in '17. I remember the team waiting around in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field, watching on TV to see if the White Sox could eliminate the Angels from postseason contention with a win. When Nicky Delmonico hit the game-winning homer to send Minnesota to the postseason, the cheers in the clubhouse were so loud you could hear them from the pressbox. Covering the celebration was incredibly fun, and it's too bad the Twins didn't get to experience the playoffs more than once while I was on the beat.

And of course, I'll never forget Joe Mauer's final game, as it was the perfect send-off for someone who was not just an incredible player, but also a great person and role model.

Tweet from @JoeCepps: Have you received your Pressbox Gold Glove award yet? pic.twitter.com/1IgBz3f94K

I'm still waiting for my Gold Glove, as perhaps my proudest achievement on the beat was catching a foul ball in the pressbox hit by Austin on Sept. 28. I'm such a Statcast™ nerd, I even looked up the exit velocity to see that it was hit 80.2 mph off the bat. It was just another fun moment on the Twins' beat, which I will miss tremendously. Thanks for reading over the years, and make sure to follow Do-Hyoung Park's coverage going forward.

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

Minnesota Twins

Inbox: Breaking down the Indians' offseason

Anthony Castrovince answers questions from Tribe fans
MLB.com

Last week's Indians Inbox was my first in eight years. This week's is my last for the foreseeable future. After filling in for the departed (as in, new job, not dead) Jordan Bastian, I'm sliding back into a life of national baseball puns and punditry for MLB.com.

But I still love talking Tribe. I'll do it on my Twitter feed. I'll do it in my columns and features. I'll do it on the Morning Lineup Podcast I record thrice-weekly with friend and colleague Richard Justice. I'll do it on the Indians podcast I record with the team beat writer. I'll do it in my regular segments on MLB Network. I'll do it on the Cleveland radio waves as a Tribe insider for WKNR.

Last week's Indians Inbox was my first in eight years. This week's is my last for the foreseeable future. After filling in for the departed (as in, new job, not dead) Jordan Bastian, I'm sliding back into a life of national baseball puns and punditry for MLB.com.

But I still love talking Tribe. I'll do it on my Twitter feed. I'll do it in my columns and features. I'll do it on the Morning Lineup Podcast I record thrice-weekly with friend and colleague Richard Justice. I'll do it on the Indians podcast I record with the team beat writer. I'll do it in my regular segments on MLB Network. I'll do it on the Cleveland radio waves as a Tribe insider for WKNR.

(As Bob Feller routinely used to tell us in the Indians' press box, "If you don't promote yourself, who will?")

The powers that be are still nailing down Bastian's permanent replacement. In the meantime, MLB.com's Mandy Bell will have your Indians coverage at next week's Winter Meetings and beyond. She's a good reporter and a good person, and I know you'll all give her a warm welcome.

For now, in the wake of the Yan Gomes trade and Danny Salazar's new contract, an Inbox is in order.

Tweet from @lmeehan3: I like Gomes, but think we've seen his best season(s), so I am ok moving him...all about what comes next regarding roster....long way to go.

Larry, next time please provide your unorthodox rationality, patience and practicality in the form of a question.

I'm a Gomes fan. Watching his evolution from, as Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti put it, "an unheralded Triple-A corner-utility player to an All-Star-caliber Major League catcher" has been one of the more impressive maturations I've seen in my time around this team. And "Indians trade All-Star catcher for prospects" is not a fun look for a supposed contender.

But let's make a few salient points here:

• As I wrote in this space last week, moving Gomes was an obvious way to make a little room in a tight budget, and what the Indians do with that room will be an important factor in how we judge the trade. The return wasn't overwhelming, but it's not as if Cleveland turned down offers of All-Star outfielders from other clubs. The Tribe got what it could get in a market stocked with catchers, and Antonetti's trade record (including the trade to acquire Gomes) speaks for itself.

• In 2018, Gomes had his best offensive season since '14. Roberto Perez had the ninth-lowest OPS this century by a catcher with at least 200 plate appearances. But let's not forget that as recently as the second half of 2017, Perez had begun to take over the regular catching duties from Gomes because their offensive performances weren't much different and Perez graded out better defensively (in framing runs, blocking runs and fielding runs above average). In the three-season sample from 2015-17, Perez more than doubled Gomes' Baseball Reference-calculated Wins Above Replacement mark (2.7 to 1.3), despite playing in 70 fewer games.

• Gomes' age (31), injury history and offensive track record make him a regression candidate. As of this writing, Steamer projects him to play just 72 games for the Nationals, with a 1.2 WAR and 86 weighted runs created plus. Steamer projects Perez to be worth 1.6 WAR and a 79 wRC+ in 113 games for the Indians, who also have Eric Haase coming off a solid year at Triple-A Columbus.

• No one asked, but even after the Gomes trade, I'm more concerned about Cleveland's outfield than the catching spot. And I'm more concerned about the bullpen than the outfield.

• The bottom line is that values can fluctuate quickly in baseball, especially at a position as physically and mentally demanding as catcher. Anybody here remember Jonathan Lucroy?

Tweet from @StephenTipton: Is it fair to say at this point that the @Indians see everyone besides Jose and Lindor as tradeable?This year's off season rumor mill has been whiplash inducing, particularly because there wasn't much warning that the whole team was on the block.

On winter breaks during college, I worked in the layaway department at the Eastlake, Ohio, Walmart (a lovely place). My job was to retrieve boxes of items from the storage trailers when people paid off their bills. Occasionally (read: frequently) the boxes had been lost, and I'd have to go through the store and shop for all the missing items. This, friends, is how I gained unexpected experience buying underwear for strangers.

In our jobs, we do what must be done, is what I'm saying.

After two years of franchise-record payrolls netted the Indians nothing more than four playoff home games and a declining attendance total, Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff have been forced to take a hard look at a maturing roster loaded with in-house raises. Given the budget constraints, it would be malpractice not to explore the trade values of the more expensive veterans. And the two areas where the Tribe had a combination of workable depth and a player (or players) with actual trade value were catching and starting pitching.

Gomes might represent the extent of the "sell-off," or the Indians could still move a starter. Rest assured that if Cleveland does actually move a starter, it's not going to be solely for salary relief and mid-grade prospects like the Gomes trade. It would be for tangible help at the Major League level right now. But that value is very hard to align in the trade market.

Tweet from @jasonleonard305: Do you think if the indians trade Kluber (Lindor? Ramirez?) they could net 3 or 4 more fourth outfielder types? I���m concerned they don���t have enough depth in that area, and trading more of their all stars is definitely the way to fix it.

I, too, enjoy employing the comedic device of conveying scorn by saying the opposite of what you clearly mean. I just wish we had a word for it.

Tweet from @216burner: Feel like I'm the only one of my friends/family that is defending the tribe. How do I tell everyone I know that they're all idiots?Thanks,A Fan

Announcing it loudly at Thanksgiving dinner would have been ideal. But because it's too late for that, I would wait until New Year's Eve and after everybody has had a few alcoholic beverages.

Tweet from @DreamingBasebll: Love the trade. What do you think the odds are we see either Johnson or Rodriguez contribute to the Major League Club in 2019? #indiansinbox

Both Daniel Johnson and Jefry Rodriguez are a possibility for 2019. Rodriguez is a stronger possibility, given that he's already pitched in the bigs and will be immediately vying for a bullpen role (and bullpen jobs open up all the time). But I don't have to tell you there is opportunity in the Indians' outfield. Johnson needs to tighten up his strike-zone awareness before he's a serious candidate for the call.

Tweet from @dpdiamond13: What���s the front office���s logic/reasoning for dumping a $7M contract (Gomes) but picking up $4.5M contract for Salazar who has continued injuries? This isn���t a Brantley situation. Gomes was a formidable day-to-day leader. Is it as simple as getting as much value as possible now?

Salazar sometimes grabs his elbow and shoulder just from looking at a baseball. But in the vast majority of Major League markets, a $4.5 million investment on a pitcher with Salazar's raw stuff is a layup. For the Indians this winter, it was more laborious. In the end, they did the right thing. There is too strong a possibility of Salazar providing at least $4.5 million of value to them (or maybe to another team in a trade) in 2019.

Tweet from @Fatherbeatrice: I���ve heard of trades with the Dodgers involving Puig, which makes absolutely no sense since he has one year left. Do you think it should be Bellinger or no deal with the Dodgers? Only way I���d like a trade with Kluber or Bauer is if Bellinger is included.

Right, Cody Bellinger makes more way sense than Yasiel Puig, who will make eight figures in his final arbitration round. And MLB Pipeline's No. 32 overall prospect, Alex Verdugo, whose advanced bat is due for his shot in the bigs, makes way more sense than either of them.

Tweet from @proud2BfromCLE: Would the Gomes trade have made more sense, or been easier for fans to swallow, had we not traded our top prospect (Mejia -Catcher) 5 months ago?

Well, sure. But then you guys wouldn't have Brad Hand and would be freaking out about the possibility of Neil Ramirez being the 2019 closer.

For high-end relief help with multiple years of control in the midseason market, Francisco Mejia was the cost of doing business. (And for the record, evaluator opinions about the likelihood of him remaining behind the plate in his big league career are mixed.)

Tweet from @bwpeery: Any hope of dumping Kipnis' $14.5 million? Where does he fit in 2019? Seems like Tito is finally ready to give Yandy a shot a 3rd and move Ramirez to 2nd. Kip seems to be the odd man out again.

Gomes did a fantastic job reasserting the value of his contract in 2018. Kipnis did not. I think the only way you move Kipnis is by taking on a good amount of his contract (thereby defeating the purpose of moving him), trading him for a similarly bad contract or attaching him to a more valuable trade asset (i.e. Kluber or Bauer).

If the season began today, Kipnis would be in left field. And the field would be wet.

Tweet from @KingSalmon38: Oh hi, Anthony! All these trade rumors are tearing me apart! But this Carrasco extension rumor is intriguing. I think Cookie getting an extension along with Kluber���s extra year means Bauer has been the odd man out all along. What do you think?

I think I missed these references to "The Room" in the Inbox.

With Carlos Carrasco indeed receiving an extension, through 2022, that leaves Kluber and Bauer as the key trade candidates. Kluber has the better resume, but he'll be 33 with a rising price tag and declining velocity, so it's not sacrilege to suggest that Bauer might provide more surplus value than Kluber in '19 (as Bauer himself can tell you). Of course, analytically minded clubs know this, and that affects offers. But at this moment in time, I think there are better arguments for moving Kluber than Bauer because of the age and surplus value equation mentioned above.

That said, the extra year of club control of Kluber is an undeniably important element in all of this.

Tweet from @world_dictator: Doesn���t seem like you���re happy to be (temporarily) back on the Indians beat. Are we not good enough for you?

Contrary to the assumption of this amateur psychologist, it has been a blast to briefly be back on the beat and interacting with you all these last few weeks. We made beautiful Inboxes together, and nobody can take that away from us.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Cleveland Indians, Carlos Carrasco, Yan Gomes

Inbox: Will familiar faces fill out Red Sox's 'pen?

Beat reporter Ian Browne answers Boston fans' questions
MLB.com

Which of these free-agent relievers are most likely to be the Red Sox's closer in 2019: Cody Allen, Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson or Joakim Soria?
-- @MikeLloydOBrien

Keep an eye on Ottavino. The Red Sox looked at him prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year. Pitching for the Rockies, Ottavinoput up filthy numbers in 2018. The one small concern is that he's never been a full-time closer.

Which of these free-agent relievers are most likely to be the Red Sox's closer in 2019: Cody Allen, Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino, David Robertson or Joakim Soria?
-- @MikeLloydOBrien

Keep an eye on Ottavino. The Red Sox looked at him prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline last year. Pitching for the Rockies, Ottavinoput up filthy numbers in 2018. The one small concern is that he's never been a full-time closer.

I like Miller because he is already Boston-tested. But it's unclear how healthy he is. Robertson would also be an excellent fit and has a home in Rhode Island that he'd like to live fairly close to during the season. Of course, the Red Sox would love to have Kimbrel back, but it sounds like the cost could be prohibitive.

Submit a question to the Inbox

What do you think about trading one of the catchers and Rafael Devers for J.T. Realmuto? That would get us a quality hitting catcher and open up a spot for Michael Chavis to get a chance. And give them a chance to move up Bobby Dalbec to Triple-A.
-- Art N., Naugatuck, Conn.

I am intrigued to see if the Sox will make a play for Realmuto. Though they won a championship last season with precious little production from the catching position, I'm not sure if that is sustainable. I'm not sure I'd part with Devers, however. The team still has five years of club control with Devers, and it would only have two with Realmuto. The 27-year-old Realmuto had a .825 OPS in 2018. I'm guessing he could improve on that if he played half of his games at Fenway Park.

Keep Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel. We need them. They are great.
-- Ann M., Hollywood, Fla.

I don't see a question in there, but your point is taken. I just don't think the Red Sox have the budget for both Eovaldi and Kimbrel. They are likely going to have to pick one or the other. Don't forget that there are some star players on the team who are going to need to be paid within the next year or two if Boston wants to keep them, including Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and possibly J.D. Martinez. By signing both Kimbrel and Eovaldi, you wouldn't be leaving yourself much financial flexibility going forward.

Video: MLB Tonight on Kimbrel seeking a 6-year deal

Do the World Series champs focus on trade talks or just focus on free agents at the Winter Meetings?
-- @bigcitybarry

It is definitely a multifaceted effort. When it comes to shoring up the bullpen, the free-agent market seems like it is definitely the way to go. There are many relievers on the market this offseason. But president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will also talk trades with many different teams to see who might be out there.

Video: MLB Now: Red Sox senior VP Scott on offseason plans

Why has Joe Kelly not been re-signed to the Sox?
-- Bruce S., Worcester, Mass.

Kelly is seeing how the bullpen market plays out, as are the Red Sox. They have interest in bringing Kelly back to the fold, and Kelly is on record as saying he'd love to come back. I'm curious to see how much Kelly can build off the huge success he had in the 2018 postseason. There's a chance that could springboard him to a place where he can be more consistent over the course of a 162-game season than he's been in the past.

Video: Fireballing reliever Joe Kelly hits the open market

Do you think the Red Sox will try to sign Joe Kelly as their next closer?
-- Michael S., Skowhegan, Maine

It can't be ruled out. But if the Sox don't go out and sign another established closer, I see Matt Barnes as the more likely candidate to close next season. His numbers were the best in the team's bullpen last year. Kelly would be invaluable as a setup man if Boston loses Barnes in that capacity.

Do you see the Red Sox making multiple moves this offseason to control future roster turnover? Making trades for young controllable pitching and shipping out deals that will expire in the next couple of years? Like adding young controllable pitching (Noah Syndergaard) at the cost of established vets (Jackie Bradley Jr.) or standing pat?
-- @mbaile38

I think the Red Sox are committed to sticking with this core and seeing if they can repeat rather than tinkering with it. One thing Dombrowski has been consistent with since he took over is keeping this group together and trying to maximize the window of winning while they are all under the control of the club. So far, that has resulted in three American League East titles and a World Series championship. This could be the last go-around with this particular group, with the possible exception of Kimbrel, who is now free to sign elsewhere.

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

Boston Red Sox, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel

Inbox: Which free-agent arms will Yankees eye?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What happened behind the scenes with Patrick Corbin? And where do the Yankees turn now?
-- Joan C., Phillipsburg, N.J.

The Yankees liked Corbin, and vice versa, but not enough to push past guaranteeing five years. A select group of pitchers have received commitments of more than five years from the Bombers -- Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka -- and general manager Brian Cashman did not feel comfortable adding Corbin to that group.

What happened behind the scenes with Patrick Corbin? And where do the Yankees turn now?
-- Joan C., Phillipsburg, N.J.

The Yankees liked Corbin, and vice versa, but not enough to push past guaranteeing five years. A select group of pitchers have received commitments of more than five years from the Bombers -- Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka -- and general manager Brian Cashman did not feel comfortable adding Corbin to that group.

When Corbin's agent, John Courtright, reported that the lefty would get a sixth year from either the Phillies or Nationals, the Yankees did not improve a reported five-year, $100 million offer. Corbin's high strikeout rate, ground-ball ratio and general competitiveness could have made him an excellent fit in the Yanks' 2019 rotation, but given an up-and-down history, who knows what '22 or '23 will look like?

Cashman has said that he must add at least one more high-end starter, acknowledging that he has spoken with J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn and Nathan Eovaldi, but Eovaldi has reportedly agreed to re-sign with the Red Sox. You can be sure there have been others. It would not be a shock to see the Yankees dig in with Dallas Keuchel, and they will re-engage the trade market during the Winter Meetings. In November, the Yanks spoke to the Indians about Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber.

Submit a question to the Inbox

Rather than signing Manny Machado long-term, what about Gleyber Torres subbing for Didi Gregorius post-surgery recovery and maybe signing Neil Walker, Jed Lowrie or Ian Kinsler at second base?
-- Michael D., Thomaston, Conn.

Cashman has said that if the season started today, Torres would be the Yankees' shortstop, and they would select a second baseman from a group of internal candidates including Tyler Wade or Hanser Alberto, who was claimed on waivers from the Rangers on Nov. 2. There's room there to upgrade. Walker and Adeiny Hechavarria wore pinstripes in 2018 and could return; let's add Marwin Gonzalez and Daniel Murphy to the list of fits who could add stability. Or, hey, they could just sign Machado.

Video: Torres finishes 3rd in 2018 AL Rookie of the Year

Do you think the Yankees would trade Giancarlo Stanton for pitching?
-- Anthony G., New Jersey

Hypothetically? Yes, I think Cashman would entertain almost anything. A better question would be, do the Astros, Cubs or Dodgers -- the three other teams that Stanton told the Marlins that he would waive his no-trade clause for -- want to trade for Stanton? They all had their chance last offseason and begged off, so Stanton landed with the Yankees. Considering the massive financial considerations, it seems extremely unlikely that Stanton would be on the move again so soon.

Is it feasible to play Miguel Andujar at first base?
-- John I., Las Vegas

The Yankees toyed with that last year, when it looked like Brandon Drury was going to be locked in at third base. At the time, the thinking was that Andujar would play 80 percent of his games at third base and 20 percent at first base, but that was when he was at Triple-A. Now that he's in the big leagues, and first base appears to be set with Luke Voit and Greg Bird, the focus will be on smoothing the rough edges of Andujar's defense at third base. Manager Aaron Boone recently said that Andujar "handled himself capably and … showed a lot of people that he is going to be able to play the position on a long-term basis."

Video: Boone makes claims for both Andujar, Torres for ROY

What are the chances the Yankees bite the bait on Bryce Harper at first base?
-- Mauricio M., Lancaster, Pa.

Though agent Scott Boras attempted to fatten Harper's market by floating that idea, and Harper at first base was discussed internally by the Yankees, they don't know if he could handle the position. Harper would seem to be a more likely fit in the Yanks' universe as a left fielder; even though they re-signed Brett Gardner, that alone wouldn't be an impediment to adding Harper. Voit is the front-runner at first base, and Bird will have a chance to prove that his 2018 struggles were a fluke.

What is the latest on Jordan Montgomery?
-- Steve A., New York

Montgomery had Tommy John surgery on June 7, and recovery time is generally 12 to 18 months. Adding a healthy Montgomery to the rotation in the summer could be a nice bonus, especially if Sabathia needs a disabled list sabbatical. Montgomery should make a full recovery, but until he gets back on a mound and faces hitters in game action, the Yankees don't want to bank on his return.

Video: Jordan Montgomery to have Tommy John surgery

Would the team deal Aaron Hicks, with Jacoby Ellsbury coming back and the possibility of signing Harper?
-- Ruben H., Bronx, N.Y.

To the contrary, it seems more likely that the Yankees would sign Hicks to a long-term extension, though that hasn't stopped teams from asking. Perhaps the only scenario where they might deal Hicks would be for an elite starting pitcher. Ellsbury may play a role in the outfield, but he missed all of 2018 and will need to prove his worthiness for at-bats -- the same situation that Ellsbury was in this past spring before the injury issues popped up. Clint Frazier is also said to be progressing in his recovery from post-concussion issues and could play a part, but playing time is not guaranteed.

Is there any reason why we wouldn't just open the bank account and pick up everyone we want this offseason? It makes sense to me to grab Machado, Harper, Dallas Keuchel. Even if we end up with issues on the back end of those contracts, wouldn't winning a few World Series be worth it?
-- Chad H., Orlando, Fla.

We hear this a lot -- and, hey, it's not your money! But as team president Randy Levine said on Tuesday, "We're pretty financially prudent these days."

The Yankees have deep pockets, but owner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said that it should not require a $200 million payroll to win a World Series, which offers a window into the team's thinking. Cashman said that they are "capable of being big game hunters," but my sense is that would consist of landing one or two premier free agents, not all of them.

While they may exceed the $206 million luxury tax threshold, I wouldn't expect payroll to approach $300 million. As for a title justifying the means, there are no guarantees. Sure, spending big worked in 2009, but there were no repeat titles and the Yanks had to ride out the back ends of ugly deals later on. There's also the risk of repeating '13-14, when they spent big on Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. No trophies resulted from that spending spree, and Ellsbury is still due $47.2 million.

"We're always trying to be aggressive and we're trying to be wise at the same time," Cashman said recently. "We're trying to make smart plays, smart investments, whether it's prospect value or free-agent value. Anything we do, we're going to try to do with the effort of improving ourselves and making good, sound business decisions. … I think the goal is always to win a championship, and to do it in a cost-effective manner."

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

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres

Inbox: What direction are D-backs going?

Beat reporter Steve Gilbert answers questions from fans
MLB.com