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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

Have the D-backs truly decided on a direction? Are the Kelby Tomlinson and Merrill Kelly signings bridge players or depth pieces? It sounds like they don't want to bottom out, but why? Why the inclination to want only a half-hearted rebuild instead of going full Astros?
-- James, Phoenix

They do not plan on doing a full teardown. By trading Paul Goldschmidt and losing Patrick Corbin and (likely) A.J. Pollock to free agency they know they face challenges in the upcoming season. They are hoping to remain competitive next year while also accumulating talent for the future. I know it's easy to point to the Astros and Cubs as success stories, but there are also teams that have tried to do it and haven't been able to pull it off.

Have the D-backs truly decided on a direction? Are the Kelby Tomlinson and Merrill Kelly signings bridge players or depth pieces? It sounds like they don't want to bottom out, but why? Why the inclination to want only a half-hearted rebuild instead of going full Astros?
-- James, Phoenix

They do not plan on doing a full teardown. By trading Paul Goldschmidt and losing Patrick Corbin and (likely) A.J. Pollock to free agency they know they face challenges in the upcoming season. They are hoping to remain competitive next year while also accumulating talent for the future. I know it's easy to point to the Astros and Cubs as success stories, but there are also teams that have tried to do it and haven't been able to pull it off.

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

Are the D-backs planning on adding any other starting pitching after the Kelly signing? Perhaps Sonny Gray?
-- James, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Starting pitching was at the top of their to-do list when the offseason started. Now that they added Kelly and Luke Weaver, GM Mike Hazen said he is turning his attention to finding a center fielder and adding to the bullpen. Besides Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley, Weaver and Kelly, the D-backs expect Taijuan Walker to return in May after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. They also have some young pitchers in the system that could be knocking on the door during the season as well.

Do you think the D-backs trade David Peralta this offseason?
-- Jared, Phoenix

It doesn't sound like that is something they are planning on at this point. That could certainly change, but as of now I don't see them continuing to sell off pieces.

Why did the D-backs sign Eduardo Escobar to an extension when it's pretty obvious that the next year or so they won't be competing for a playoff spot?
-- Zack, Rockford, Ill.

First, they got a great deal with the Escobar signing. Also, by signing him they opened up all kinds of possibilities with the roster. They could move Jake Lamb to first to replace Goldschmidt and have Escobar play third. Or if they move Ketel Marte to center to replace Pollock they could put Escobar at second. He gives them lots of different options as they retool.

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

Arizona Diamondbacks

Inbox: Are Giants at a crossroads?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
MLB.com

During his time as the Dodgers' general manager, current Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was able to help build prospect depth by taking on large contracts, essentially "buying" prospects. Considering how weak the Giants' farm system is, and considering how much money they could realistically spend, do you see the current situation as an option for San Francisco to leverage its ability to spend to build organizational depth?
-- Nate W., Melcher Dallas, Iowa

Eventually, perhaps. Right now, probably not. Zaidi inherited some cumbersome contracts that he won't be able to shed in order to create payroll flexibility. That is, unless those players suddenly thrive -- in which case they're suddenly worth the money. The list includes third baseman Evan Longoria ($14.6 million in 2019, $15.2 million in 2020, $18.6 million in 2021 and $19.6 million in 2022); first baseman Brandon Belt ($17.2 million in each of the next three seasons); right-hander Jeff Samardzija ($19.8 million in each of the next two seasons) and right-hander Johnny Cueto ($21 million in each of the next three seasons).

During his time as the Dodgers' general manager, current Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was able to help build prospect depth by taking on large contracts, essentially "buying" prospects. Considering how weak the Giants' farm system is, and considering how much money they could realistically spend, do you see the current situation as an option for San Francisco to leverage its ability to spend to build organizational depth?
-- Nate W., Melcher Dallas, Iowa

Eventually, perhaps. Right now, probably not. Zaidi inherited some cumbersome contracts that he won't be able to shed in order to create payroll flexibility. That is, unless those players suddenly thrive -- in which case they're suddenly worth the money. The list includes third baseman Evan Longoria ($14.6 million in 2019, $15.2 million in 2020, $18.6 million in 2021 and $19.6 million in 2022); first baseman Brandon Belt ($17.2 million in each of the next three seasons); right-hander Jeff Samardzija ($19.8 million in each of the next two seasons) and right-hander Johnny Cueto ($21 million in each of the next three seasons).

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Is Derek Holland returning?
-- Michael W., New York

The short answer is, "I don't know." And the uncertainty isn't good for the Giants as they approach next week's Winter Meetings.

This issue has gone overlooked while most folks obsess over Madison Bumgarner's status. Of course, the preoccupation with Bumgarner makes sense. He's a key figure, whether he sticks around to serve as the pitching staff's ace or if he's traded for a package of prospects. However, keep in mind that Holland rebounded nicely from a subpar 2017 season to lead San Francisco in starts, innings and strikeouts. The Giants needed his unexpected contributions just to maintain a semblance of respectability.

A significant void would be created if the Giants lost both Bumgarner and Holland. Zaidi indicated that plenty of changes are in store when he declined to tender 2019 contracts to outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and right-hander Hunter Strickland last Friday. One gets the feeling that both players would have been retained under previous regimes. Certainly the Giants could use an extreme makeover. But a handful of players are worth keeping, and one of them is Holland, who provided stability on the mound and a pleasant sense of ease in the clubhouse. Removing Holland from the free-agent pool by signing him in the near future would be a positive move for the Giants.

What are your thoughts on Joey Bart? When will he arrive?
-- Dick L., Detroit

We could see Bart as a September callup next year, depending on how the season unfolds. As fabulous as everybody says he is, he'll likely begin the season with Class A Advanced San Jose, if only because virtually every homegrown Giant who made an impact in the Majors passed through Silicon Valley first. Two of the best, Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey, were promoted for good from Triple-A in early May of 2007 and late May of 2010, respectively. It was Lincecum's second professional season and Posey's third. I have no idea whether Bart is as skilled as either Lincecum or Posey. For now, I'll take a conservative view and predict a 2020 arrival in the Majors for him. If Bart proves that he's ready for the bigs sooner than that, the timetable surely will be recalibrated.

Top 30 Giants prospects

As a longtime Giants fan from the East Coast who was devastated by the passing of Willie McCovey, can you share a story about this great man and cite some of his incredible statistics? "Stretch" was feared and hit some of he hardest balls I've seen. This is for some of the younger Giants fans who know of him but weren't lucky enough to see him play.
-- Lisa D., Brooklyn, N.Y.

My favorite McCovey factoids always will include these figures: From 1965 through 1970, an era mostly dominated by superb starting pitching, McCovey batted .291 while averaging 38 home runs and 106 RBIs per season. He and Hank Aaron led the Majors with 226 homers apiece in this span. McCovey stood alone at the top with 636 RBIs.

I shared most of my McCovey anecdotes in the stories I wrote immediately following his death, but here's one more: I saw him receive a special cap to wear for one of the Giants' World Series ring ceremonies that bore a gold "SF" instead of the usual orange logo. Once the cap was in his big hands, he didn't hesitate for even an instant. He turned it over and bent the bill into a crescent shape. Only then did he don the cap. Old-school. Big league. Fabulous stuff.

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

San Francisco Giants

Inbox: Is shortstop really a need for Pirates?

Beat reporter Adam Berry fields offseason questions from fans
MLB.com

Is it really that important for the Buccos to get a shortstop this offseason? I like what I've heard about Cole Tucker, and I bet Kevin Newman gets better with more experience. I would rather have another pitcher.
-- Frank K., Pittsburgh

Good place to start with the Winter Meetings almost upon us, because shortstop seems to be their only unsettled position. Right field was a question mark, but Lonnie Chisenhall should be the answer while Gregory Polanco is recovering.

Is it really that important for the Buccos to get a shortstop this offseason? I like what I've heard about Cole Tucker, and I bet Kevin Newman gets better with more experience. I would rather have another pitcher.
-- Frank K., Pittsburgh

Good place to start with the Winter Meetings almost upon us, because shortstop seems to be their only unsettled position. Right field was a question mark, but Lonnie Chisenhall should be the answer while Gregory Polanco is recovering.

At this point, Newman and Erik Gonzalez are their top options at shortstop. I think it's worth noting that general manager Neal Huntington referred to those two as "an interesting pair of options" and "a solid starting point." At no point did he say they're done searching for an upgrade. He said just the opposite, actually: "It does not mean that we'll stop looking."

I still think it would make sense for them to acquire a veteran shortstop to shore up their infield defense and at least split time with Newman as the rookie continues to adjust to the speed of the game. Gonzalez would still have a place on the roster as a super-utility guy, which they'll need with Adam Frazier taking over at second base.

Beyond next season, they should be able to fill the job from within. I agree that Newman should improve with more experience, and evaluators believe Tucker has a higher ceiling. Tucker will spend next season in Triple-A, putting him in line for a promotion late next year or more likely in 2020.

Video: Cole Tucker talks about his Fall League experience

As for adding a pitcher: I don't see them bringing in a starter unless they first move Ivan Nova, who has one more year on his contract. They likely won't get involved in the late-inning relief market because they're set with Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela, Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez (with Edgar Santana returning in 2020). They have room for another lefty, but pursuing a middle reliever and a shortstop shouldn't be an "either/or" situation.

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I'm a little nervous about Chris Archer and Joe Musgrove needing surgery, even if they're not major procedures. Justin Verlander had core muscle surgery a few years ago and wasn't the same all year. Do the Pirates have enough starters to handle losing them?
-- Josh R., Erie

I've heard a lot of stories over the past few years that stress the importance of having a "normal" offseason as opposed to an offseason spent rehabbing, so your concern is valid. But Musgrove and Archer underwent surgery early enough that they should have plenty of time to rest, rehab and get ready for Spring Training.

The Pirates have rotation depth in Nick Kingham, Clay Holmes, Steven Brault (if they stretch him out as a starter again), J.T. Brubaker and non-roster invitee Alex McRae. They're not sure things, but they could fill a spot right away. Mitch Keller -- the Pirates' top prospect per MLB Pipeline -- won't be ready on Opening Day but could join the fray later next summer, giving them one higher-upside option.

If the season started today, what would the team look like?
-- Matthew D., Wheeling, W.V.

Love this question, Matthew. We're a long way from having to worry about the Opening Day roster, but let's make a projection using players currently on the roster who are expected to be healthy on March 28 ...

Rotation: Jameson Taillon, Archer, Trevor Williams, Musgrove, Nova
Bullpen: Vazquez, Kela, Crick, Rodriguez, Brault, Kingham, Nick Burdi
Lineup: 2B Frazier, CF Starling Marte, LF Corey Dickerson, 1B Josh Bell, C Francisco Cervelli, RF Chisenhall, 3B Colin Moran, SS Newman
Bench: C Elias Diaz, 3B Jung Ho Kang, INF Gonzalez, INF/OF Pablo Reyes, C Jacob Stallings

I don't feel great about my bench picks, but Stallings is out of options and Reyes is in there as someone who can play around the outfield. It's tough to find a fit for Kevin Kramer or Jose Osuna if the Pirates carry three catchers, and a veteran shortstop could bump Reyes. Keep in mind this will change when Polanco returns, likely pushing the lefty-hitting Chisenhall to an otherwise righty-laden bench.

The last few bullpen spots are always tough, but I feel pretty good at the moment about Brault (their only other lefty) and Kingham (out of options). Burdi still has his Rule 5 Draft restrictions; if not Burdi, that spot could go to someone like Michael Feliz or Dovydas Neverauskas.

I don't understand trading Jordan Luplow. Seems like we gave up on a young outfielder who might be a pretty good hitter, switched utility players and got a couple of kids. Are the prospects anything special?
-- Dan E., Waynesburg

The Pirates definitely like Gonzalez, who will play some sort of role next season because he's out of options. But the player with the most upside in the deal might be 19-year-old right-hander Tahnaj Thomas, who was Cleveland's No. 30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. The Pirates scouted him heavily in the Bahamas as an infielder, and they're really intrigued by how his athleticism has already transferred to the mound.

Video: Rosenbaum on Pirates' return of Gonzalez and Thomas

He's 19 in the low Minors, so obviously a lot could change before he reaches the big leagues -- and it could take a while for him to get there. But he's projectable at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, and he's already throwing two good pitches with signs that he'll develop a better changeup. He'll be an interesting prospect to watch.

The Pirates also like 19-year-old right-hander Dante Mendoza, a 12th-round Draft pick in 2017 and the cousin of lefty reliever Zach Britton, but Thomas has the higher ceiling.

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

Pittsburgh Pirates

Inbox: Do Brewers need to add to rotation?

MLB.com

How realistic do you think it is for the Crew to make a push for one of these big-name starters this offseason?
-- @CoreyDCaldwell on Twitter

If they didn't push last winter -- remember, subsequent reporting on Yu Darvish revealed the Brewers were nowhere near as engaged as was suggested -- then I don't see them pushing this winter. For starters (no pun intended), the Brewers learned a lot last season about home-grown pitchers like Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, who pitched their way into prominent postseason roles in the bullpen and are expected to transition back to initial out-getters in 2019. Ditto Freddy Peralta and, to some degree, Adrian Houser. With those developing players alongside Jhoulys Chacin in the second year of his contract, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies motivated to rebound from disappointing finishes to their seasons, Jimmy Nelson a wild card coming back from shoulder surgery and 2018 Minor League pitcher of the year Zack Brown (No. 8 Brewers prospect) positioned to follow in the footsteps of Woodruff and Burnes as a potential late-season callup, the Brewers are positioned to once again do it with depth in the starting rotation rather than investing in a more traditional ace. It worked last year.

How realistic do you think it is for the Crew to make a push for one of these big-name starters this offseason?
-- @CoreyDCaldwell on Twitter

If they didn't push last winter -- remember, subsequent reporting on Yu Darvish revealed the Brewers were nowhere near as engaged as was suggested -- then I don't see them pushing this winter. For starters (no pun intended), the Brewers learned a lot last season about home-grown pitchers like Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, who pitched their way into prominent postseason roles in the bullpen and are expected to transition back to initial out-getters in 2019. Ditto Freddy Peralta and, to some degree, Adrian Houser. With those developing players alongside Jhoulys Chacin in the second year of his contract, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies motivated to rebound from disappointing finishes to their seasons, Jimmy Nelson a wild card coming back from shoulder surgery and 2018 Minor League pitcher of the year Zack Brown (No. 8 Brewers prospect) positioned to follow in the footsteps of Woodruff and Burnes as a potential late-season callup, the Brewers are positioned to once again do it with depth in the starting rotation rather than investing in a more traditional ace. It worked last year.

It's also a matter of economics. The payroll picture is different this year than last, now that Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich are in the fold. The Brewers committed more than $150 million to Cain, Yelich and Chacin last winter, which represented unprecedented spending for this franchise. That includes more than $30 million in 2019 salaries, even if one accounts for the $1 million of Cain's that is deferred annually. Those costs are part of the approximately $73 million already committed to the 11 players with contracts for next season, a figure set to grow significantly when the Brewers reach terms with their seven remaining arbitration-eligible players. They could add $20 million or so, and the total will grow by a few million more when the minimum-salary players ink their deals in Spring Training.

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Add that all up, and the Brewers as they exist on paper today have $90-100 million in payroll commitments -- and they still need a second baseman and some bullpen reinforcements, at minimum. To add the salary of one of those big-name starters, some salary would probably need to be shed. That's not impossible; Anderson, Eric Thames and Domingo Santana all stand out as potential trade chips.

Still, consider me skeptical when the Brewers are linked to one of the big, expensive names out there.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Burnes retires Kemp to force a Game 7

Tweet from @andy_fagan7: With all the depth in the starting rotation, will Corbin Burnes stay out in the bullpen next year?

Craig Counsell said with uncharacteristic certainty -- I think it was in July -- that Burnes will go back to a starting role in 2019. He's got the repertoire to do it, and has shown stamina in the Minor Leagues.

Tweet from @VanBracken: Is Chase Anderson on the trading block?

As I alluded above, it would make sense for Anderson to be on the trade block. The Brewers abandoned him in late September in part because Anderson was so prone to the home run ball (he surrendered a National League-high 30 in 158 innings, more than doubling the 14 homers allowed the year before). While all parties said all the right things, you have to think it sours the relationship between a player and team when the player is removed from competition when the games matter most. I would imagine there is a market for a 31-year-old coming off a 2.74 ERA in 2017 and a 3.93 ERA in '18, even if he surrendered some home runs.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Chacin K's a pair to escape huge jam in 2nd

Tweet from @wisconsin888: With one year left on his deal, has there been any talk of dangling Chacin in trade talks? Or possibly giving him a contract extension?

On one hand it's not a crazy idea given their pitching depth, but on the other hand Chacin is just what the Brewers need. A "you know what you're going to get" kind of guy. I would bet on him being the Opening Day starter before I would bet on him being traded.

Tweet from @uncbonz: 8 RH starters for 4 spots. Who's in/traded? No more options on Broxton or Santana. Who's out?

Eleven pitchers started games for the Brewers last season -- the same total employed by the Red Sox and Dodgers on the way to a date in the World Series. In 2017, the Brewers used 13 starting pitchers.

And in the outfield, yes, Broxton and Santana are out of Minor League options. That could come into play if both are still in the organization at the end of Spring Training, but didn't last year teach us that worrying about "too many outfielders" is wasted energy?

In general, we make a mistake when we talk about "X players for X spots." The real task is acquiring as much depth as possible and then finding ways to keep as much of it as possible. When players are out of options, that obviously becomes challenging. I would expect the Brewers to explore the markets for Broxton and Santana this winter, and if they don't like what they see, it's not a bad thing to go to Spring Training with excessive depth.

Tweet from @DC16_clouse: Will Nelson have an innings limit this year coming off injury? Could he start off in the bullpen if so?

The innings question is a good one. Unfortunately, the first questions are Nelson's health and then his effectiveness. I doubt we will know much about the plan for his usage until those other questions are answered.

By the way, Nelson was on MLB Network last week discussing his progress and said it's all good so far. He is on track to be a full participant in Spring Training. You can see the interview here.

Video: Brewers' options to replace Schoop at second base

Tweet from @MichaelMageles: Most likely free agent acquisition to play 2B?

Second base is one of the deepest positions in free agency -- we look at look at some of the options earlier this week -- so it's impossible to know who will end up there on Opening Day at Miller Park. But it's clearly a buyer's market, especially for a team like the Brewers that would be content with a one-year player at the position. It wouldn't surprise me to see David Stearns wait to fill this position at a relative bargain, since there are more capable players available than there are jobs.

Tweet from @Strack021: What would it take to bring Andrew Miller in and pair him with Josh Hader

Andrew Miller is a free agent, and while injuries have been an issue the past two seasons, the lefty reliever still appears primed to land a multiyear deal. That's risky, as evidenced by year No. 1 of the Brewers' two-year pact with Matt Albers last winter.

Tweet from @WordOfThe_Weiss: Citing the Jayson Stark post, if baseball was to decide to do away with the extreme shift, how could that impact the Brewers going forward? How dramatically does their run prevention change?

You'll find the story Mike is referencing over at The Athletic, and this is certainly worth watching next week at the Winter Meetings. It has the potential to impact the Brewers in that they need a solution at second base, and second base is arguably the position most impacted by shifts. When Stearns made the surprise trade for Mike Moustakas in July and moved Travis Shaw to second, Stearns referenced shifts as a significant factor in their comfort level putting Shaw at a position he had never played at any level.

"We're focused on the upside offensively here, adding an impact bat to the lineup," Stearns said at the time. "The truth is, with the way we move our infielders around, conventional positions don't apply to us all that much. We ask a lot of all of our infielders to play all over the dirt."

If MLB opts to take that movement away in some fashion via rule change, it could change whether the Brewers view Shaw as an option at second base. File this one for now into "wait and see."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers

Inbox: Will Trout get extension from Angels?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Are the Angels likely to pursue Bryce Harper?
-- @Pjrojas1975

I wouldn't expect the Angels to make a serious run at Harper. I think if they are going to spend upwards of $300 million on an outfielder, it'll be on a contract extension for Mike Trout, who has been the consistently greater player over the past seven seasons. Plus, the club is already quite deep in outfield talent. Beyond Trout, Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun in the Majors, there are promising prospects such as Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams lurking in the farm system. Harper will undoubtedly have a fair share of suitors, but I don't see the Angels being among them.

Are the Angels likely to pursue Bryce Harper?
-- @Pjrojas1975

I wouldn't expect the Angels to make a serious run at Harper. I think if they are going to spend upwards of $300 million on an outfielder, it'll be on a contract extension for Mike Trout, who has been the consistently greater player over the past seven seasons. Plus, the club is already quite deep in outfield talent. Beyond Trout, Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun in the Majors, there are promising prospects such as Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh and Jordyn Adams lurking in the farm system. Harper will undoubtedly have a fair share of suitors, but I don't see the Angels being among them.

When will extension talks start with Trout, or have they been ongoing?
-- @OsirisTorres

When Brad Ausmus was introduced as manager in November, Angels owner Arte Moreno said formal talks had not yet begun with Trout about a contract extension. I think Trout and his camp will likely wait for Harper and Manny Machado to sign and set a floor before beginning serious negotiations with the Angels. Many contract extensions are consummated during Spring Training, so don't be surprised if talks don't start to gain traction until February or March.

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With Cozart returning, do the Angels plan on playing him at 3rd or 2nd? And if it's at 3rd, who plays second? Fletcher?
-- @bryceosborne14

General manager Billy Eppler has said he's told Zack Cozart to be prepared to play either second or third base in 2019. Cozart's primary position will depend on which young player is able to win an infield job during Spring Training. David Fletcher will probably enter camp as the frontrunner, so if he sticks with the club, the Angels will likely play him at second and Cozart at third. Same goes with Luis Rengifo. If Taylor Ward snags the job, he'll start at third base and Cozart will play second. The Angels also now have Tommy La Stella, who can play second or third base, so that creates even more potential permutations.

Did shortening the right field wall help? How many HRs did the Angels hit vs. give up?
-- @Ten27oh2

The Angels lowered the height of the home run boundary on the right-field wall by 10 feet before the start of the season. As a result, there were approximately 19 home runs at Angel Stadium this year that would have likely been off the wall and in play in 2017, according to Statcast™. That number is an estimate for two reasons: First, it's possible Statcast™ did not track certain balls; and second, there were a couple of balls that hit off the top of the wall, so it's a little difficult to judge whether they would have counted as home runs in '17.

Of those 19 home runs, the Angels hit seven and allowed 12. Upton hit four, so he benefited the most from the change. It's worth noting the club's objective was simply to boost the total amount of homers in the ballpark, which it did. There were 21 more home runs at Angel Stadium in 2018 (223) than the previous year (202), tied with Rogers Centre for the third-largest ballpark increase after Fenway Park and Progressive Field.

What's your most memorable moment covering the Angels?
-- @mychingu

This is my last week on the beat, as I'll soon be moving back home to the Bay Area to cover the Giants, so it feels like an opportune time to answer this question. Broadly speaking, it's been a privilege to watch Trout play every day and see Andrelton Simmons regularly make outstanding plays at shortstop. But I don't think anything will quite compare to covering Shohei Ohtani's first season in the Majors. He's an incredible talent, and it was so cool to watch him succeed as a two-way player with the Angels, even if it was a little short-lived because of elbow trouble.

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

Los Angeles Angels

Inbox: Who will pitch for Mariners in 2019?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Now that the Mariners got rid of their best starter and most of their best relievers, who's going to pitch for them next season?
-- Garry S., Spring Lake, Mich.

That is a good question that figures to be answered better in the coming weeks. After six trades already to start the "step back" plan by general manager Jerry Dipoto with a focus on 2020 and beyond, the Mariners still could field a relatively competitive offensive club next year, though their pitching has some large holes.

Now that the Mariners got rid of their best starter and most of their best relievers, who's going to pitch for them next season?
-- Garry S., Spring Lake, Mich.

That is a good question that figures to be answered better in the coming weeks. After six trades already to start the "step back" plan by general manager Jerry Dipoto with a focus on 2020 and beyond, the Mariners still could field a relatively competitive offensive club next year, though their pitching has some large holes.

Admittedly, there are some big "ifs" involved on the offense, but if newly acquired veterans Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce remain, and holdovers Dee Gordon and Kyle Seager (as well as Bruce) bounce back from injury-challenged 2018 seasons, there is some power and speed to go along with Mitch Haniger and Ryon Healy as well as young newcomers Mallex Smith, J.P. Crawford and Omar Narvaez. Four of those players have been All-Stars, while five have had 25-plus homer seasons, so the cupboard isn't bare.

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The rotation now looks like Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, Wade LeBlanc and Felix Hernandez, with top prospects Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson -- the two starters acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton trade -- waiting in the wings. I expect Dipoto will add another starting candidate in the coming weeks to bolster that group.

The bullpen is an even bigger question, given the trades of Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, and the release of Nick Vincent, eliminated five pitchers who combined for 268 innings, 59 saves and a 3.06 ERA in 2018. Of the nine Seattle relievers who made more than 20 appearances last season, the only returners are Chasen Bradford and Dan Altavilla.

So, yes, Dipoto will undoubtedly focus now on some help for the pitching staff beginning on Monday at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

What do you think they will honestly end up doing with Felix?
-- Dan W., Seattle

As noted, Hernandez pencils into the rotation out of necessity. There is no trade market for his $27 million contract after coming off a rough 2018 season, so the Mariners will give their longtime ace the opportunity to show where he's at this spring.

If things don't go well, Sheffield and Swanson could get the call quicker than expected. I don't envision Hernandez being the Opening Day starter, but I do suspect he'll at least begin the 2019 season in the rotation if he's healthy.

With the additions of Santana and Bruce, where does that leave room for Healy? I'm noticing another log jam of players if we don't do another trade?
-- Mason L., Portland, Ore.

Either of those veterans could be flipped in another deal by Spring Training. Santana, in particular, is a player who could be moved soon to a team looking for a capable run producer. Bruce, a three-time All-Star who is only a year removed from a 36-homer, 101-RBI season, seems more likely to open the year in left field with a chance to see if he can bounce back from an injury-plagued season to improve his trade market.

If both stay, Bruce would play left field, leaving Santana and Healy to split the duties at first base and designated hitter, with Daniel Vogelbach also in that mix. And, yes, there's still plenty of time for further moves.

What happened with Art Warren? Why not protect him when they had 40-man roster room?
-- Sean F., Seattle

The big right-hander indeed will be available to other teams in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, Dec. 13, but there are reasons the club's No. 19 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, wasn't promoted to the 40-man roster. After a breakout 2017 in Class A Advanced ball, Warren pitched just 14 games last year at Double-A Arkansas due to shoulder issues, and he was completely shut down in early July. Any team taking him in the Rule 5 Draft would need to guarantee a 25-man roster spot for the entire season to a guy with just 15 2/3 innings of experience above Class A who has been dealing with a troublesome shoulder.

Now that the Mariners traded Cano, do you think that opens the door for Nelson Cruz to be brought back as designated hitter?
-- C.J., Grand Prairie, Texas

No, that ship has sailed. As much as the Mariners love Cruz as a person and an offensive producer, the plan being put into place now clearly is focused on getting younger and more financially flexible with their roster while regrouping for a more realistic playoff push in 2020 and beyond.

Re-signing a 38-year-old designated hitter to a sizeable one- or two-year free-agent contract doesn't fit into that approach for either side, as Cruz likely will seek a team in win-now mode in what well could be his final MLB contract.

Any word on when tickets for the Japan series go on sale?
-- Henry F., Melbourne, Australia

The club just announced on Wednesday that a limited number of fan travel packages that include five nights of hotel, airfare, tickets and other benefits are available for $2,999 per person.

Single-game tickets for the two regular-season games in Tokyo against the A's as well as two exhibition games against Japanese teams will be available to Mariners season-ticket holders starting on Jan. 25, and to the general public on Feb. 1. More information is available at www.mariners.com/Japan.

The Mariners have a history of high prospect busts. Will Dipoto's scouting and development team be better?
-- Tim A., Vancouver, Wash.

Not hitting on a string of high Draft picks and prominent prospects in the past indeed has haunted the Mariners. But there have been a few recent success stories. Dipoto and his crew deserve full credit for seeing the potential in Haniger and Gonzales, and also identifying Diaz's strengths and developing him quickly into an All-Star closer.

Without question, Dipoto also traded away some quality prospects in the past three years in an effort to bolster the veteran core he inherited. His focus now has shifted. For this rebuild to succeed, drafting and development will be even more critical. And only time will tell.

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

Seattle Mariners

Inbox: Do East moves put pressure on Braves?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from fans
MLB.com

Does the increased player movement in the National League East make the Braves more active or passive in their search for replacements?
-- @RandalEtheredge

Like a pitcher who is not being completely honest when he says he's not affected by who he's matching up against in a particular start, baseball executives have long provided canned answers when asked about their reaction to what the competition is doing on the free-agent and trade markets.

Does the increased player movement in the National League East make the Braves more active or passive in their search for replacements?
-- @RandalEtheredge

Like a pitcher who is not being completely honest when he says he's not affected by who he's matching up against in a particular start, baseball executives have long provided canned answers when asked about their reaction to what the competition is doing on the free-agent and trade markets.

The Mets produced the NL East's best record over the final three months of this past season and they now have been strengthened by the additions of Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. There's a chance Bryce Harper could return to the Nationals, who highlighted the offseason flurry by signing Patrick Corbin, or he might end up with the Phillies, who at least started to address their defensive woes by acquiring Jean Segura.

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The Braves are well aware of all that is transpiring in their division and the competitive drive may increase the motivation general manager Alex Anthopoulos has to get a deal done. But for now, he must simply remain focused on filling his needs -- starting pitcher, potential closer and outfielder -- while responsibly protecting the organization's future.

When will you announce Corey Kluber?
-- @Mooneypie13

It currently seems the most likely Indians starting pitcher to be moved would be Trevor Bauer, who has said it might be best to wait at least a year to deal him. It might also be a year too early for the Braves to comfortably satisfy what Cleveland would want for Kluber.

The Indians would like to gain a Major League-ready outfielder, but with Cristian Pache still a year away from fitting that description, the Braves aren't in position to comfortably deal Ender Inciarte, nor do they project Pache to fill a lineup spot at any point during the 2019 season.

Top 30 Braves prospects 

If not Kluber or Madison Bumgarner, then who would be the next 2-3 guys the Braves probably target for a top-of-the-rotation starter?
-- @Pacman453323

Contrary to recent reports, the Braves have not expressed interest in Dallas Keuchel. Nor have they checked in on Charlie Morton. J.A. Happ is seeking a three-year deal which currently includes a cost that would extend well above what Atlanta would be willing to give a 36-year-old starting pitcher.

So, it seems most likely the Braves will satisfy this need via the trade market, where it takes two to tango. So far, the Blue Jays have not necessarily seemed willing to allow Marcus Stroman to dance with Atlanta. There are obvious concerns about Sonny Gray, but it might be worth taking a shot on him with a buy-low deal. Any reports linking Zack Greinke to the Braves should be considered fake news.

If the Mets are indeed willing to move Noah Syndergaard, he has to be considered a candidate. But the Braves may once again find another NL East rival unwilling to trade within the division. Atlanta has previously shown interest in Michael Fulmer, but it does not appear they have talked to the Tigers about him this winter.

At some point, Stroman might become available, or Gray might become more attractive. But while the Braves will most likely fill this need via the trade market, it's not clear exactly which way they will turn.

Did the Braves ever consider Diaz? He's arguably one of the best young closers and he's still cheap and under team control. It's disappointing that they let him go to the Mets.
-- @djelrod

The Braves had strong interest in Diaz, and they made a concerted effort to acquire him before the Mariners dealt him to the Mets. But Seattle was looking for at least three of Atlanta's top pitching prospects in return. Even if you project Diaz to be the game's best closer over the next few years, that would be quite a gamble on a closer.

Who is the most likely outfield target for the Braves?
-- @jtimm684

As a plus defender with power potential, Mitch Haniger would be the perfect fit. But it appears he's one of the few assets the Mariners are not currently willing to move.

So, the best guess is the Braves will look to fill their outfield need via trade or wait to see how the market materializes for Nick Markakis, Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Gonzalez. There's a chance at least one of these veterans might be willing to accept an affordable short-term deal at some point within the next two months.

Marwin Gonzalez stands as another attractive free agent, and is someone who could help fill the outfield void while adding to the Braves' defensive versatility. But like reliever Adam Ottavino, the buzz surrounding Gonzalez has likely extended his cost well above his projected value.

Who do you consider the untouchable prospects?
-- @lukep419

Throughout the offseason, I've answered this question by saying Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. should be considered the only untouchables in the organization. William Contreras might not necessarily fit the untouchable category. But because he is the only legitimate catching prospect in the organization, the Braves aren't going to part with him unless the value of a return includes another highly-touted young backstop.

If you had to predict one move that the Braves will make during the upcoming Winter Meetings, what would it be?
-- @ericbrewer1240

Anthopoulos has attempted to stay away from making deals during the Winter Meetings because he does not like the negotiating environment that exists within the event. Instead of appeasing an eager agent who comes to Las Vegas looking to strike it big for a client, Anthopoulos would rather take the same methodical approach at any other point during the offseason.

Plenty of interesting storylines and angles will develop next week. But it seems more likely the information gained during the event will lead to a deal that is completed once everyone has left Las Vegas. Two of the most significant trades the Braves have made this century -- acquiring Tim Hudson from the A's in 2004 and trading Justin Upton to the Padres in '14 -- were heavily discussed during the Winter Meetings and completed during the week that followed.

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

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: What's next on busy Nats' to-do list?

Beat reporter Jamal Collier answers fans' questions
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been among the most active teams in the Majors this offseason, addressing if not crossing off several items on their checklist before the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Las Vegas.

So far, they have added two catchers and two relievers, and they are on the verge of inking the best free-agent starter on the market after agreeing to a six-year deal with left-hander Patrick Corbin on Tuesday, a deal which is still pending a physical, according to a source. And yet, there still could be more additions on the horizon for Washington and notably a resolution for Bryce Harper, who still looms in free agency.

WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have been among the most active teams in the Majors this offseason, addressing if not crossing off several items on their checklist before the Winter Meetings begin Monday in Las Vegas.

So far, they have added two catchers and two relievers, and they are on the verge of inking the best free-agent starter on the market after agreeing to a six-year deal with left-hander Patrick Corbin on Tuesday, a deal which is still pending a physical, according to a source. And yet, there still could be more additions on the horizon for Washington and notably a resolution for Bryce Harper, who still looms in free agency.

Today's Nationals Inbox will take a look at what lies ahead for the rest of the Hot Stove season as general manager Mike Rizzo continues to try and build this team back into a postseason contender.

What's next? Another arm, perhaps a starter like Charlie Morton, J.A. Happ or Derek Holland? A left-handed-hitting infielder? More relief?
-- @givens57 via Twitter

Taking a step back, it's impressive to consider what the Nationals have already accomplished. They could not afford to let this offseason pass without addressing their needs at catcher and in the rotation and bullpen, and they have done something in all three areas. That being said, they are almost certainly not done.

:: Submit a question to the Nationals Inbox ::

The rest of Washington's additions are likely to be minor but important moves. The Nats need to find a backup first baseman, preferably left-handed hitting, to complement Ryan Zimmerman and help round out their bench. They will probably attempt to add more pitching help, both in the bullpen and rotation, but they will likely focus on improving their depth instead of looking at the top-tier free agents available at those positions. And I expect they will explore the second-base market. It's unclear which of these moves the Nationals will focus on first, but I think they will attempt to address all of them.

But first, I expect Washington to get an updated sense of the market for Harper. Club brass is likely to meet with Harper's agent Scott Boras at some point during next week's Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, and perhaps the Nats will take the opportunity to meet with Harper, as well.

Tweet from @RayRay3322: Does today's signing in your opinion make it more or less likely that the Nats take a serious run at retaining Bryce Harper? Sign Bryce and maybe look at moving Eaton for 2B help?

I wrote about this after the Corbin signing, and I really don't think it's going to change much in either direction. Put it this way, the Nationals h