With Spring Training about a month away, it's a good time to ask some important questions about each MLB team. Following is a look at the National League clubs, highlighting one key question from fans for each of the 15 MLB.com beat writers covering the NL, andincluding a link to
With Spring Training about a month away, it's a good time to ask some important questions about each MLB team. Following is a look at the National League clubs, highlighting one key question from fans for each of the 15 MLB.com beat writers covering the NL, andincluding a link to more from that reporter's most recent Inbox.
Braves: Is a reunion in the works?
Is Craig Kimbrel still a possibility for the Braves?
-- @Liam Filipowski
Mark Bowman, Braves reporter: As we get closer to Spring Training, there's now at least more reason to think his market might drop to the point where it's more feasible to think about a reunion. The Braves would likely not offer more than three years, but the financial component (likely above $16 million per season) could still prove to be a deterrent.
The Braves have the financial resources necessary to afford Kimbrel next season. But if they were to commit $16 million to $18 million to him, they would limit their flexibility to address their greater needs -- to add an outfielder or enhance the rotation.
If we reach the point where the Braves would be adding an outfielder or a starting pitcher just to plug a hole, then it would certainly make more sense to use the available funds to gain the value of adding one of the game's top closers. But for now, it seems like the focus remains on the outfield and rotation. More >
Brewers: Will starter stay?
Wade Miley still on the Brewers radar?
-- @SillyA on Twitter
Adam McCalvy, Brewers reporter: Yes. Miley really liked Milwaukee, his agent Tom O'Connell said at the Winter Meetings, and Milwaukee loved Miley's work when he was healthy. The question, however, is cost. The Brewers picked up Miley on a Minor League deal that only paid if he performed. Now, after posting a 2.36 ERA in 95 1/3 innings including the postseason, he's looking for a multi-year deal, which would guarantee every dollar. The Brewers already have a deep pool of starting-pitcher candidates (you'll find the names on the Brewers depth chart, including pitchers like Junior Guerra and Adrian Houser, who are listed in the bullpen for now, but could also start) so it's logical that David Stearns would only invest in additional arms if he perceives good value.
We'll see. For a while, Miley was waiting for some of the left-handers ahead of him to sign. Some did, including Patrick Corbin (Nationals), Yusei Kikuchi (Mariners) and J.A. Happ (Yankees). But the big name still out there is Dallas Keuchel. Once Keuchel signs, the market should crystalize for Miley. More >
Cardinals: How will the bullpen line up?
What's the plan for Jordan Hicks this year?
-- David J. (@thedjcoolfire)
Jenifer Langosch, Cardinals reporter: Hicks is projected to be utilized as a late-inning arm -- perhaps even an occasional closer -- for the Cards this year. The addition of Andrew Miller gives the Cards flexibility in how they line up relievers at the end of games. I'd expect Miller to get a bulk of the save opportunities, but manager Mike Shildt also won't hesitate to deploy Miller earlier in games if he sees a critical spot for the lefty. That could leave the ninth to Hicks. Most likely, though, Hicks will fill the same eighth-inning hole he did a year ago. More >
Cubs: Is the bullpen up to the task?
Will the Cubs have enough bullpen arms to compete for a championship?
-- @KrisScheider via Twitter
Jordan Bastian, Cubs reporter: First, they need to get Brandon Morrow healthy and back as soon as possible in the first half. Then, the Cubs need to avoid over-using Steve Cishek (who logged 80 appearances in 2018) and Pedro Strop, especially early on. I do think Chicago needs to add some more experienced depth to the relief corps, but it helps (in theory) that the rotation is built to log a lot of innings.
The bullpen, even with an assortment of issues last season, finished with the National League's best ERA (3.35), opponents' average (.223) and home run rate (0.78 per nine innings). Concern about sustainability creeps in when looking at the strikeout rate (22.6 percent), walk rate (11.0 percent) and work load (588 1/3 innings). The good news is the Cubs are built to contend for a championship, due to a lot more than their bullpen situation. More >
D-backs: How does new infielder fit in?
Is Wilmer Flores going to fill more of a Daniel Descalso role in 2019, bouncing around the infield, or is he going to play every day at second base, moving [Ketel] Marte to center field every day?
-- Nick V., Philadelphia
Steve Gilbert, D-backs reporter: It appears that the D-backs' plan is to play Flores primarily at second base, which would allow them to move Marte to center where he would replace free agent A.J. Pollock -- assuming, of course, that Pollock signs with another team. I think one thing to keep in mind is that the D-backs are still working on constructing their roster, so nothing is certain yet, but that does seem to be the plan. Flores has also played all around the infield so he could, in theory, fill multiple roles depending on if the D-backs add another player before the start of the season. Also, like many teams these days, the D-backs are big proponents of giving their players rest during the season so with guys like Eduardo Escobar and Tim Locastro, who can both play multiple positions, along with Flores, you could see manager Torey Lovullo doing a lot of mixing and matching depending on who needs a day off. More >
Dodgers: Is a superstar addition possible?
Is Harper still an option?
-- Ashley Ann Wilson #BryceHarperADodger? @AllTTV2015
Ken Gurnick, Dodgers reporter: Not any more or less than he's been. The Dodgers seem to have no appetite for 10-year-contract bidding wars. Harper seems to have no appetite for a short-term deal. If those positions don't change, there's no fit. Maybe the market convinces Harper to soften his position. I don't see the Dodgers softening theirs. More >
Giants: Are more arms on the way?
Do you expect the Giants to add more pitching help this offseason now that they've re-signed Derek Holland?
-- Vincent Y., San Mateo, Calif.
Maria Guardado, Giants reporter: Even with Holland back in the fold, San Francisco remains interested in improving its rotation depth, so I think there will be some more additions over the next few weeks. One of Farhan Zaidi's aims is to ease some of the pressure from younger pitchers like Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez this season, which makes the need for more rotation options key. The Giants won't necessarily need to seek out splashy acquisitions to accomplish this goal. After all, Holland and Rodriguez became two of the Giants' most valuable pitchers after joining the club on Minor League deals last year. More >
Marlins: Are intriguing players being pursued?
The Marlins being in on DJ LeMahieu was interesting, and even some rumblings about being the mystery team on Manny Machado. That aligns with what you've said about this rebuild not being a long one. Have you heard any other interesting names being linked to Miami?
Joe Frisaro, Marlins reporter: I saw Ken Rosenthal's report that the Marlins explored signing LeMahieu before the Gold Glove-winning second baseman agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal with the Yankees. In general, I'm not surprised when any team checks in on any free agent. The contract LeMahieu signed with New York is affordable, so if you're the Marlins, why not see if there is a fit?
Keep this in mind with players like LeMahieu and other free agents who have been to the playoffs and have offers from multiple teams -- their first priority -- aside from money -- is to be a part of a winner, not a team that is building.
I have noted that this build is more a three- to five-year plan, and not five and above. If Realmuto is dealt before Spring Training starts, which I expect will happen, that sets the build back another year, in my opinion.
As for Machado, the timing this year hasn't been right to place such a long-term investment into a superstar player. Miami has two years remaining on its current local TV deal, which is the lowest of all 30 big league teams. A year from now, I believe the team will be better positioned to sign high-profile free agents. More >
Mets: Is the ace going to be locked up?
When is a Jacob deGrom extension most likely to happen: before, during, or after the season?
-- @KonSeanneryy via Twitter
Anthony DiComo, Mets reporter: Neither the Mets nor deGrom has publicly set any parameters regarding an extension, but I imagine both parties would want to get something done before the regular season. If they can't agree to a deal in the coming months, it's hard to imagine they'll be able to do so a year from now, with deGrom just one season shy of free agency at that point. More >
Nationals: What happens with Kieboom?
How does the signing of Dozier affect Kieboom's trip through the minors and eventually to the majors? Especially since they have Difo and Kendrick off the bench?
-- @HMaytin via Twitter
Jamal Collier, Nationals reporter: The signing of James Dozier buys the Nationals time to be patient with Carter Kieboom, the club's No. 2 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline. Kieboom has admitted he had not played much second base since grade school, before playing there primarily during the Arizona Fall League. I think the Nats expect him to make the transition well, but after coming through the organization as a shortstop, Kieboom just has not had many reps at second base. They want him to be fully comfortable at the position -- the footwork, turning double plays and adjusting to shifts -- before they call him up to play there every day in Washington. They now have the time to let Kieboom develop, both in the field and at the plate. Dozier is likely to get most of the starts, but they also have capable options in Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo, if he struggles. They were unlikely to anyway, but now they really don't have to rush Kieboom. And, best-case scenario, Kieboom lights it up in the Minors and forces the Nats to change their plans and call him up sooner than they anticipated, maybe sometime this summer. More >
Padres: What is the most pressing need?
What are the Padres more likely to address before Spring Training -- starting pitching or third base? Is it possible they go into spring without making any more additions?
-- Christopher W.
AJ Cassavell, Padres reporter: It's still possible the Padres stand pat. It's just very unlikely. There's a good chance they add to both areas before camp begins, but they probably aren't going to make a major splash with either of those moves. (Think rotation depth and a replacement-level utility infielder.)
If there's one area that's more pressing, though, it's third base. The front office seems content to start the season with the current pitching staff, if need be. The rotation has major holes. But there are, at least, potential answers in-house -- like Logan Allen (a prospect on the cusp of the big leagues), Dinelson Lamet (who should return from Tommy John surgery midseason), or Matt Strahm (who will attempt to make the transition from 'pen to starter).
At third base, the hole is more glaring. Even if Ty France or Jesus Quiroz wins the job with a big-time Spring Training, the Padres would like to have an experienced option as a backup plan or platoon partner. More >
Phillies: Are young stars trade bait?
Are the Phillies shopping Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera? Does the possibility of them being traded increase if we sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper?
-- Don B., Bradley Beach, N.J.
Todd Zolecki, Phillies reporter: If the Phillies sign Machado, the Phillies will try to trade Franco because there simply is nowhere for him to play. Franco can play first base, but Rhys Hoskins will play there almost every day. Franco is not a shortstop, second baseman or outfielder. It just makes sense to move him. If the Phillies sign Harper, I think Nick Williams or Herrera could be traded. Williams might be the first choice because he is a corner outfielder, and in this scenario, Harper and Andrew McCutchen will have the majority of playing time at the corners. Herrera provides the Phillies depth in center field, so there are reasons to keep him. Plus, the Phillies seem to believe Herrera will bounce back after struggling much of last season. More >
Pirates: Is a shortstop change coming?
We've been waiting all offseason for them to do something at shortstop. Will they?
-- Ron G., Pittsburgh
Adam Berry, Pirates reporter: I think they're waiting out the market. Their belief in Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman is real, and they seem to be comfortable with that duo if nothing else works out. But we've also seen them do their due diligence in pursuit of an upgrade. They asked about Nick Ahmed, who remains in Arizona, and they were interested in Troy Tulowitzki before he chose the Yankees.
Jose Iglesias, Freddy Galvis and Adeiny Hechavarria remain unsigned, and there aren't many teams in need of a shortstop. The New York Post reported that the Pirates have interest in the durable Galvis, and we know they liked Hechavarria enough to claim him last August.
I think they could use more certainty there, but I also wouldn't panic if they report to Pirate City without making a move. They signed Matt Joyce to a Minor League deal early in Spring Training in 2016, and obviously they landed Corey Dickerson (after acquiring a handful of other outfielders) during Spring Training last year. More >
Reds: Will outfielders be on the move?
With the addition of Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, will the Reds trade any of their outfield chips away for say, starting pitching?
-- Noah F., Lansing, Mich.
Mark Sheldon, Reds reporter: They certainly would be working from an area of depth. It also depends on whether another team wants or need the outfielders the Reds have. I don't see them dealing Puig already because his addition has certainly brought a level of excitement around the club. I imagine they will market him a lot as a way to draw fans. I'd be a little surprised if Jesse Winker got moved. He was on pace for Rookie of the Year consideration last summer before he needed season-ending right shoulder surgery.
Kemp is an interesting situation. Yes, he's making $21.5 million in the final year of his contract, but the Reds are not on the hook for all of it. The Dodgers included $7 million in the trade that sent him to Cincinnati. Another of his previous clubs, the Padres, are also still paying some money. There's also Scott Schebler, but at the moment he could be a center-field option. The Reds are also weighing whether they should deal prospects and players to get a starter or spend the money for a free agent. They don't appear to be leaning in one direction, yet. More >
Rockies: Is a deal for Nolan likely?
1. Do you see the Rockies making a move at catcher or do you think they stand pat? 2. Do the lack of moves signals a long-term contract in the works for Nolan?
-- @Parsons_T13 via Twitter
Thomas Harding, Rockies reporter: The answers are connected. As for catching, I've laid out the Realmuto situation, and the Rockies never put themselves in play for Yasmani Grandal, who cost the Brewers one year at $18.25 million and their third-highest pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
The Rockies will be spending at least $24 million for arbitration-eligible Arenado this year, and the hope of a multi-year deal meant even if they fancied Grandal, they were not going to tie up funds in multiple years to outbid the Brewers. More >
- Do you see the Rockies making a move at catcher or do you think they stand pat? 2. Do the lack of moves signal a long term contract in the works for Nolan?
— Travis Parsons (@Parsons_T13) January 16, 2019