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Inbox: What are fans asking around the NL?

MLB.com beat reporters for NL clubs answer questions
February 1, 2019

BRAVESIf you were running the Braves and were evaluating trade options for J.T. Realmuto (or any other high-profile player), which Braves prospect would you absolutely not want to part with in a trade? Ian Anderson? Kyle Wright? Cristian Pache? Austin Riley? Touki Toussaint? -- @JohnWick38104I'm going to stick with Freddie

BRAVES
If you were running the Braves and were evaluating trade options for J.T. Realmuto (or any other high-profile player), which Braves prospect would you absolutely not want to part with in a trade? Ian Anderson? Kyle Wright? Cristian Pache? Austin Riley? Touki Toussaint?
-- @JohnWick38104

I'm going to stick with Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. being the only true untouchables within the organization. But if forced to add two more from this list, I'll go with Anderson and Wright.
Pache's limited sample size of power is a concern, but because he's just 20 years old and is already considered an elite defender, I'll say he's the next closest to being deemed untouchable. Riley's strikeout rate and Toussaint's walk rate create concerns about their long-term values.
-- Mark Bowman
BREWERS

I wouldn't be comfortable calling the Brewers front-runners for Corey Kluber, but our man Jon Paul Morosi reported again Thursday that they are at least in the mix. According to Morosi, the Brewers and Dodgers are still engaged on Kluber, but the chances of a deal are diminishing.
It's safe to say that when teams talk to the Brewers about a trade for a top player, the ask starts with Keston Hiura and Corbin Burnes. But the Indians have a particular need for outfield depth, so Corey Ray would probably be in play. It would take multiple premium prospects to land Kluber, who is signed for $17 million in 2019 with two reasonable club options ($17.5 million in '20, $18 million in '21) after that.
-- Adam McCalvy
CARDINALS
Do you see the Cardinals making any more bullpen additions between now and Opening Day?
-- Mike (@Ironmike0509)

I do. I think we're going to soon see a flurry of Minor League deals handed out, and I expect the Cardinals to jump on those opportunities. These sorts of signings eliminate the need to open immediate roster space, and there's minimal risk involved. Bud Norris, Carlos Villanueva and Pat Neshek are among those who turned a Minor League contract into bullpen jobs with the Cards in recent years. The saturation of the relief market will lead to some bargain finds again.
-- Jenifer Langosch

CUBS
With Brandon Morrow looking like he won't be ready for Opening Day, who will fill the closer role? A committee? I would love to see Pedro Strop close even after Morrow is fully ready.
-- Noah M., Las Vegas

I would expect Strop to get the bulk of the save opportunities while Morrow is sidelined. Until his own injury issues in September, Strop filled in well as the primary closer after Morrow was shelved on July 19 and out for the remainder of last season. Strop had 11 saves in 13 chances with a 1.17 ERA and .139 opponents' average (.475 OPS) in 20 games between July 19-Sept. 13. And, when Morrow does rejoin the bullpen, we will surely revisit this topic.
-- Jordan Bastian
D-BACKS
A shot at the postseason seems even less likely than the past two seasons. What do you see happening with Nick Ahmed, Robbie Ray, Zack Greinke and/or David Peralta come the Trade Deadline this summer?
-- PJ, Goshen, Ind.

General manager Mike Hazen has been pretty open about the fact that they will re-evaluate as the season goes on to see where things stand. He has not specifically mentioned which names might get traded should the team fall out of the race and they decide to embark on more of a rebuild than a retool, but those names you listed are guys who either have a big contract (Greinke) or are getting more expensive via salary arbitration but still could command a good return.
-- Steve Gilbert
DODGERS
Do you see the Dodgers re-signing/extending Justin Turner within the next two offseasons? Or signing someone like Anthony Rendon or Nolan Arenado?
-- Eric Rodriguez, @BannedRodriguez

Turner will be 36 at the end of his contract with a $20 million salary. Depending on his health and performance, maybe a short-term extension will make sense for both sides, but there would be no reason to do it until the current contract expires. Maybe by then Corey Seager will need to move off shortstop. Maybe the Dodgers will shell out a massive contract for Arenado or Rendon, although that's not their style. Or maybe they'll find a third-base version of A.J. Pollock and split the difference.
-- Ken Gurnick

GIANTS
Could the Giants trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees for Aaron Judge? The Yankees don't need more HRs, but they do need a SP who will win postseason games for them.
-- Steve F., Sunnyvale, Calif.

I'm not sure the Yankees are entertaining offers for Judge, but it would take more than Bumgarner to entice them to trade their star right fielder. Judge, who finished runner-up in American League MVP voting in 2017, is under team control for four more seasons and won't be eligible for arbitration until 2020. Bumgarner, meanwhile, is entering his final season before free agency and is slated to earn $12 million in '19.
-- Maria Guardado
MARLINS
What is Starlin Castro's future with the Marlins now that Neil Walker has been signed?
-- @Athletics89

Nothing really changes for Castro, at least for the first half of 2019. The four-time All-Star is expected to be the everyday second baseman. But Walker is there to fill in if Castro needs a day off. I anticipate Walker will play a lot of first base, and spot some time at second base and third when necessary. Walker also can fill in at either outfield corner.
Keep this in mind: Castro, who is making $11 million this year, is a potential trade candidate around midseason. Because of his salary, he didn't have much trade value this offseason. But if he has a good year, closer to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, he could draw trade interest. At that point, more clubs may be willing to acquire Castro, because they then could be on the hook for roughly half his salary, plus a $1 million buyout, if they don't exercise his $16 million club option for 2020.
Walker is making $2 million, and he is a nice pickup because of his versatility.
-- Joe Frisaro
METS
Are the Mets considering adding another starter, someone such as Gio Gonzalez?
-- @rtpiers via Twitter

I have learned quickly not to count general manager Brodie Van Wagenen out on anything, so I won't say definitively that the Mets are done adding starting pitching. We also don't know what the team's true budget ceiling is for 2019, though I suspect it's probably around $160 million -- and they're pretty close to that number right now. That doesn't leave much wiggle room for a player like Gonzalez or Dallas Keuchel or whatever other big name you want to throw out there, considering how many teams are still interested in adding pitching. But perhaps they get creative in shedding one of the other salaries on their roster.
Short of that, can I see the Mets adding a starter between now and Opening Day? Yes, on a smaller scale, much as they've already done with Kyle Dowdy, Héctor Santiago and Walker Lockett. I just don't see them stretching to add a Gonzalez type, as much as it seems like a good roster fit. I agree with the masses who feel the Mets are a bit lacking in starting pitching depth. In my eyes, they're one major injury away from being in real trouble with their rotation; it's the only roster weakness they didn't really address this winter with proven talent.
-- Anthony DiComo

NATIONALS
I would rather have another pitcher like Dallas Keuchel or even Wade Miley, and let Harper go. What do you think?
-- Erick M., Derwood, Md.

First off, I think it's important to note that the Nationals don't have to choose either/or, because both would make this team a lot better. That being said, I just went on about how I think the rotation depth is what leaves the most to be desired on this club right now, so adding a pitcher like Keuchel would solve that issue. Now, you'd be asking the Nats to sign the two best free-agent pitchers on the market, which seems unlikely, and Miley finalized a deal with the Astros on Friday. Miley was one of the pitchers the Nationals pursued before they signed Aníbal Sánchez. Theoretically, if I had to pick either or, I don't think it's a bad argument to make that they should sign a pitcher like Keuchel -- or even perhaps another shutdown reliever like Craig Kimbrel -- because it fills a need where Harper would be a luxury for an outfield that should still be pretty good.
That being said, the Nationals are just about $11 million under the Competitive Balance Tax, according to estimates from Cot's Contracts, and they have given every indication that they would like to remain under that threshold next season. So I do not think they will make any more major additions to this pitching staff.
-- Jamal Collier
PADRES
Why sign Harper when we already have an outfield logjam? Isn't it better to sign Manny Machado, because we don't have a third baseman?
-- Kevin, San Diego

This isn't New York. The Padres don't have Judge and Giancarlo Stanton taking up playing time in the outfield corners. They have Wil Myers, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero. Those are good young players with potential. But certainly not enough to preclude the signing of a franchise-altering talent.
Yes, technically Machado is a better fit. Third base is the biggest long-term hole in the Padres' offense, and if Machado fills it, that's a huge statement. But the Padres also aren't merely one piece away from contention. They're still waiting on the arrival of some top prospects and the development of some young hitters.
If the Padres end up signing Machado, their long-term plans are probably a bit more straightforward than if they signed Harper. But if they were to sign Harper, they'd have a glut of young outfield pieces to trade from, along with an incredibly deep farm system. General manager A.J. Preller has other ways to acquire a third baseman.
If the San Diego decision-makers can get Harper or Machado within their price range, they'd happily take either and figure things out from there.
-- AJ Cassavell
PHILLIES
Do you think the Phillies will sign both Machado and Harper? Opening Day would be rocking if they did.
-- Gloria R., Turnersville, N.J.

The Phillies continue to say they will sign only one of the two because they want to maintain some semblance of financial flexibility for the future. But the longer this continues, the more I wonder. What if the Phillies sign Harper to a long-term, record-breaking contract and Machado still does not have an offer he likes? (Or vice versa.) Perhaps the Phillies make an aggressive short-term offer to get both in uniform at the same time.
It is unlikely, but it's not so crazy, is it?
-- Todd Zolecki

PIRATES
Are the Pirates going to trade Starling Marte?
-- Riley S., Phoenix

I'm sure teams looking for an outfielder reached out regarding Marte, because he's a good player on a reasonable contract. And I'm sure there will be a point in a year or two when the Pirates consider offers for him -- just like they've openly said they'll consider offers for every player nearing the end of his contract. Not yet, though.
Marte has three years of control remaining, with affordable club options in 2020 and '21. He's not at a point where his salary has outpaced his projected production. He remains a valuable player at a key position, $10 million is still a bargain for what he can do on the field, and the Pirates have no replacement for him in center field.
As I said in a previous Inbox, the Pirates essentially created a window through 2021 when they acquired Chris Archer last July. Marte's contract fits perfectly within that window. He's one of the players they should build around. It wouldn't make sense to trade him now, and there's no reason to believe they are even considering the idea.
-- Adam Berry
REDS
Not too sure I understand the [argument] for acquiring a pure center fielder. Why even entertain the thought, given the [remaining options], while players are all around already on the Reds? Scott Schebler comes immediately to mind; Phillip Ervin, and the Nick Senzel experience looms. Even Yasiel Puig could do the job. Why all the hubbub about reaching out for a pure center fielder? Not too sure I get it. Help me understand.
-- Neb, Pasadena, Calif.

I get your question, completely. Having a corner outfielder playing center field for the Reds, or an infielder like Senzel try it, isn't a terrible solution. Especially at Great American Ball Park where the dimensions are tight, a superstar defender isn't necessarily required. The Reds had Shin-Soo Choo play center field in 2013 and he was competent enough while providing superb offense.
But then I think, "What about the other 81 games?" There is vast outfield terrain at many other ballparks -- with Colorado, San Francisco and Arizona immediately coming to mind. Having a true center fielder, even for a year, could be a good safety net.
-- Mark Sheldon
ROCKIES

Whether the Rockies reach a multiyear deal with Arenado will be an issue between him and the club, not a side issue with who else is on the club. By the way, arbitration hearings can be scheduled starting today through Feb. 20, so expect the sides to work hard to come to at least a 2019 agreement as part of staying open to a multiyear deal.
With the Rockies not interested in giving up major young talent, I don't see them swinging a winter deal for Realmuto. It looks like in-house candidates unless something unexpected breaks.
-- Thomas Harding