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One question for each National League club

MLB.com

With Spring Training about a month away, it's a good time to ask some important questions about each MLB team. We'll look at the National League clubs here, with one key question from fans for each of the 15 MLB.com beat writers covering the NL highlighted, as well as a link to more from that reporter's most recent Inbox.

Braves: Will Atlanta swoop in on a star catcher?

With Spring Training about a month away, it's a good time to ask some important questions about each MLB team. We'll look at the National League clubs here, with one key question from fans for each of the 15 MLB.com beat writers covering the NL highlighted, as well as a link to more from that reporter's most recent Inbox.

Braves: Will Atlanta swoop in on a star catcher?

Is [your New Year's resolution to mention J.T. Realmuto in every Inbox this year] a hint that Alex Anthopoulos is about to drop a Realmuto trade on us? Might want to hurry, Dodgers will be in hot pursuit after Grandal signed with Brewers. 
-- @jase1129 via Twitter

Mark Bowman, Braves reporter: I get what you're saying, but the only reason this landscape change would not equally benefit the Braves would be if the Marlins stick to their reluctance to trade a two-year asset within a division that they won't have a chance to win within the next two seasons.

We've discussed this multiple times over the past couple months, and as the holiday season approached, I mentioned the altering landscape might eventually favor the Braves, who have the prospect assets available to trump most any offer Miami might receive.

The Braves haven't placed a significant focus on Realmuto since meeting with the Marlins during the early portion of the Winter Meetings. This isn't to say they haven't occasionally checked to see if the price has dropped, much like some of you might do while viewing StubHub for Super Bowl tickets over the next few weeks. But this due diligence has not seemingly created any recent traction. More >

Brewers: How can the Crew add Bumgarner?

What would the Brewers have to give up for a Madison Bumgarner trade and do you think Joe Panik could be involved?
-- Andy F.

Adam McCalvy, Brewers reporter: It's so hard to guess from the outside. All I can say is that our Jon Paul Morosi reported the initial talks had San Francisco asking for one of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes or Freddy Peralta to be involved. Color me skeptical that the Brewers would trade five or six years of control of one of those three MLB-caliber pitchers for one year of Bumgarner. Perhaps I'll be proven wrong.

As for Panik, he could certainly fit at second base for the Brewers. Two years of control, bouncebakck candidate and, yes, a left-handed hitter. One potential snag: High on the Giants' wish list is an outfielder, and the Brewers have already traded away Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. More >

Video: What it would cost Brewers to land Bumgarner

Cardinals: Any need for a super-utility player?

Has there been any talk of taking a look at Marwin Gonzalez? Seems like a super-utility guy that would fit that bench player they'd be looking for?
-- Steve O. (@citylightssteve on Twitter)

Jenifer Langosch, Cardinals reporter: Lots of questions coming my way about Gonzalez this week, so let's examine his case now. The fit clearly makes a lot of sense. Not only can Gonzalez play just about anywhere on the field (including shortstop), but he'd offer a switch-hitting presence off the bench. That would instantly help balance the Cardinals' offense.

The issue, though, isn't so much the Cardinals' interest in Gonzalez, but rather what his interest would be in them. He's accrued 500-plus plate appearances over the last three seasons and averaged 125 starts per year during that span. He's looking to land somewhere where he can match that playing time, and the Cards don't have it to offer. That's why I'd expect Gonzalez to end up elsewhere. More >

Cubs: How quietly will offseason go by?

The Cubs have had a very inactive offseason. I understand that they are restricted as to how much they can do with their current payroll situation, but I read recently that [president of baseball operations] Theo Epstein said he would not let the payroll dictate the offseason. Do you think the Cubs will make a move, or will they keep the same team on the field for this upcoming season?
-- Owen L., Deerfield, Ill.

Jordan Bastian, Cubs reporter: In a recent interview on 670 The Score, Epstein emphasized that the Competitive Balance Tax (often referred to as the luxury tax) threshold was not dictating the team's approach to the offseason. The Cubs' luxury tax payroll already projects to be $20 million or so over the first penalty line of $206 million, so no, getting under that threshold is not the priority. Epstein did stress, however, that they are working with a budget.

"I've said that all offseason, from the first press conference on: This is not an offseason where anyone should be fixated about the tax," Epstein told 670 The Score. "It's like any business. There are budgets. You can't ignore them. You can't spend what you don't have. You should spend everything you do have. There will be offseasons where you'll be very, very mindful of the CBT and not going just a touch over it, for example, and then hurting yourself with respect to future tax rates or draft positions and those things. That matters. This is not one of those offseasons. So I wouldn't waste a lot of time thinking about the tax as you try to assess what's going on."

Unless the Cubs make some trades to move a contract or two, it does not sound like a major financial addition is realistic. That said, there are still moves to be made, especially for the bullpen, and I don't think the roster is done being tweaked ahead of Spring Training. More >

Video: MLB Tonight on possible concerns for Cubs' payroll

D-backs: Which positions are the club trying to fill?

Will the D-backs try to sign a first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, center fielder or get a utility man?
-- Dustin V., Tucson

Steve Gilbert, D-backs reporter: I think the D-backs' one remaining big move of the offseason -- outside of adding a bullpen piece or two -- will be to acquire a second baseman or a center fielder. It seems they are content to give Jake Lamb a lot of reps over at first base with Eduardo Escobar playing a bunch of third. That leaves them with two options. They can either acquire a center fielder to take the place of A.J. Pollock, or they could shift Ketel Marte from second base to center and acquire a second baseman. If they go the free-agent route, there are more options at second base right now than there are in center. My guess is that if they look for a center fielder, it will have to be through a trade. More >

Dodgers: Why didn't LA match Grandal's offer from Brewers?

Grandal's contract with the Brewers seems like something the Dodgers could have beaten and solidified their catcher spot. Any idea if it was the team or if it was Yaz that wasn't interested?
-- @DodgerDoggo on Twitter

Ken Gurnick, Dodgers reporter: It's my understanding that Grandal did not want to return to the Dodgers -- period. He could have accepted the $17.9 million qualifying offer. But he had been benched each of the last two seasons, and he knew with their four catching prospects he had no chance at a multi-year deal from the Dodgers. If he really did turn down a four-year deal from the Mets, he's obviously overplayed his hand. More >

Video: IT on Brewers reportedly adding Yasmani Grandal

Giants: When will Zaidi make first impact transaction?

So far this offseason, Zaidi has done a nice job in adding depth pieces, but the most noteworthy addition he's made thus far is Pat Venditte. I know we still have time before the season starts and the market has been slow-going in recent weeks, but I'm waiting for the Giants to make a move to address our greatest needs. I'm trying to be patient and have faith in Zaidi since he has a winning track record of success, but how long will it be before he makes a move that conveys a clear message to fans about what the vision is for 2019? The way I see things now, we're thinking about 2020 and beyond, but do the Giants have any serious intentions on making a run at it in 2019?
-- Matthew I., Millbrae, Calif.

Maria Guardado, Giants reporter: I don't think the Giants are done making moves this offseason, so it's going to be tough to forecast how competitive they'll be until we get a better sense of the type of talent they'll have on their Opening Day roster. As it stands, FanGraphs' projections have the Giants winning 76 games and tying the Padres for last place in the NL West in 2019. Zaidi still has plenty of holes to fill, so those projections could easily change in the coming weeks, but unless he makes big acquisitions, I think it'll be difficult to expect the Giants to contend this year. More >

Marlins: Who's on the trading block?

Besides Realmuto, are there any possible trade candidates on this roster before the start of the season?
-- @ProfessorXXX88 on Twitter

Joe Frisaro, Marlins reporter: Realmuto has taken up so much of Miami's offseason, and whether he stays or goes impacts other positions. For instance, Miami may be more inclined to trade for a first baseman rather than sign a free agent on what would most likely be a one-year deal.

A pitcher who could be dealt before Spring Training is right-hander Dan Straily, the projected No. 2 starter. Clubs have touched base this offseason for Straily, who enters his second year of arbitration. If something makes sense, Straily could be moved.

A number of teams have checked in on right-hander Jose Urena, in arbitration for the first time. But Urena may be the closest player Miami currently has to being untouchable. Urena is a workhorse who can give the club 30 starts and about 180 innings. I could see July as a more likely window for Urena to be moved. More >

Mets: How is Alderson doing?

Any news on how ex-general manager Sandy Alderson is feeling?
-- @MetsFanInPhilly

Anthony DiComo, Mets reporter: I ran into Alderson last month at the Winter Meetings, where he performed his usual duties on MLB's rules committee. He appeared in good health and good spirits, curious if there is a new challenge out there for him. The Mets are certainly rooting for him. More >

Nationals: What happens in the outfield if Harper comes back?

If Harper signed with the Nats, how would they work the outfield? Would Victor Robles start the season in Minors? Or would they trade Adam Eaton? Thanks.
-- Jonesy (@FantasyFBnerd on Twitter)

Jamal Collier, Nationals reporter: The Nationals will find themselves in a bit of a quandary if they are able to bring back Harper, as they'll have too many capable outfielders on the roster. It's not the worst issue to have, but it is one they would have to remedy. Juan Soto isn't going anywhere. The organization has been reluctant to include Robles in a trade the past two offseasons, and while re-signing Harper could warm up some to the idea of parting with him, I still think it's unlikely that the Nats could find a trade they would go through with. Robles is going to get an opportunity to become the starting center fielder in 2019.

This means that the Nationals would likely have to explore trades for Eaton and Michael A. Taylor, although I'm not sure what kind of return they could get on either right now. Eaton has not been healthy for a full season since 2016, and while Taylor is still loaded with tools and potential, he also regressed so badly at the plate last season that he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long to remake his swing and played winter ball to get more reps. The team would be selling both players at the low point of their value. Still, if the Nats bring back Harper, I'd be shocked if one of those two is not moved. More >

Video: Nats, Phils heating up on Harper and Machado

Padres: What's Kinsler's trade potential?

Does Ian Kinsler's attractive contract make him a potential summer trade candidate when Fernando Tatis Jr. arrives?
-- Jesse O., Phoenix, Ariz.

AJ Cassavell, Padres reporter: That depends on what Kinsler does before Tatis arrives. The 36-year-old veteran will get a chance to play nearly every day during the season's first couple months. But his .681 OPS in 2018 was down more than 100 points from his career mark. He needs to turn things around at the plate -- most notably with his power output.

If he can do that, Kinsler's two-year, $8 million deal (with a team option for a third season) is, indeed, attractive. By midseason, he'll have added third base to his resume, and he boasts valuable playoff experience for any contenders shopping for an infielder.

Right now, the Padres have no plans to trade Kinsler. But it was always a possibility when they signed him to a potentially team-friendly contract. Then again, it's only team-friendly if Kinsler can reverse his downward trend at the plate. More >

Phillies: Do the Phils need a lefty starter?

Are the Phillies serious about getting a left-handed starter for 2019? If not, why not? Do they think they can contend without one?
-- William B., Dublin, Pa.

Todd Zolecki, Phillies reporter: The Phillies hoped to sign left-hander Patrick Corbin or J.A. Happ, but fell short each time. Corbin wanted too many years. Happ wanted more money than the Phils wanted to spend. The Phillies could use a solid left-hander to provide more balance and consistency to the rotation. They know this. Dallas Keuchel remains available. He would help, but he reportedly has been seeking a five-year contract. I do not see the Phils traveling down that road, unless he lingers on the market like Jake Arrieta last spring or if the Phillies fall short in their pursuit of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

I have said this before, but the Phillies believe in their rotation. It pitched pretty well the first four months of last season before stumbling badly the final two. But the Phillies believe the predictive powers of FIP, combined with another year of experience and an improved defense. They believe pitchers like Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez will be better in 2019.

Still, the Phillies know they have left themselves open for criticism if those pitchers do not pitch as expected. It is a risk they seem willing to take. More >

Video: Phillies, Reds maintain interest in Keuchel

Pirates: Can Kang have a comeback season?

What should we expect from Jung Ho Kang this year? I thought he looked like a 30-homer hitter a couple years ago. I think he's our best shortstop, too.
-- Shannon T., Morgantown, W.Va.


Adam Berry, Pirates reporter: I would not expect a 30-homer shortstop, if only because it sounds like he won't be playing shortstop. The Pirates are going to let him focus on playing third base, where he is apparently most comfortable.

Since October 2016, I've seen Kang take six at-bats and a couple of rounds of batting practice. He was two months removed from left wrist surgery and two years removed from Major League competition. I'm not going to make any judgments based on that.

But I will offer you this quote from general manager Neal Huntington at the Winter Meetings.

"He still shows power. He still showed the hands [on defense]. He still showed the arm and the arm strength and the arm accuracy," Huntington said. "At times, we still saw the hitter. The numbers in Triple-A didn't necessarily reflect that, but we still saw similar skills and abilities as when we liked him as a professional coming out of Korea and as a guy that earned his way into our lineup on a regular basis.

"Now, it's just a matter of how quickly can he catch up to the speed of the Major League game and will he catch up to the speed of the Major League game."

Kang will definitely be worth watching in Spring Training. If he does return to his 2015-16 form -- and that's still a huge "if" -- he'll be the kind of legitimate power threat the Bucs have been missing. More >

Reds: Are veteran outfielders on the club's radar?

With the Reds needing a center fielder, can you see them going after either Denard Span or Adam Jones?
-- Dan D., Cincinnati

Mark Sheldon, Reds reporter: Either guy might work as a shorter-term solution until the Reds are ready to try prospects like Taylor Trammell or Jose Siri. Span is 35 and played mostly left field last season for Seattle and Tampa Bay. But he can get on base pretty regularly and his declining speed wouldn't be big liability on defense at Great American Ball Park.

Jones, 33, has seen his power production decline the last couple of seasons -- especially in 2018. His defensive metrics in center field are also lacking. But he could certainly benefit from hitting in GABP, and his sterling reputation as a fan favorite in Baltimore and good clubhouse guy would also be welcomed. More >

Rockies: Can Colorado lock up Arenado?

How realistic is a deal with Nolan Arenado? Will he want to test free agency?
-- @malone_dts on Twitter

Thomas Harding, Rockies reporter: Players and teams exchanged figures Friday as part of the arbitration process, and it's expected that Arenado could end up with around $25 million for 2019. But that's a starting point to what the Rockies hope is a multi-year contract.

All along, I've said the contracts of Harper and, especially, Machado will help color Arenado's market value.

What I won't say is Arenado's signing is contingent on his love for Denver or whether the Rockies show him they want to contend. Building a pitching staff answered the latter question. It comes down to whether they can agree on a deal for one of the top players of this generation. More >

Video: Harding on possibility of Arenado, Rockies extension