We’re beginning the final countdown to Spring Training, and while most teams have finished their heavy lifting, storylines remain here, there and everywhere.
Still, there are good players still out there and work to be done. Let’s tackle 6 unanswered questions:
1. Were the Red Sox ever serious about trading one of their stars?
Not if it took them out of contention in 2020, according to Red Sox owner John Henry. He told the Boston Globe over the weekend that when it came to contending versus remaining under the luxury tax threshold, he wanted to contend. The Red Sox checked out the market for Mookie Betts, David Price and Jackie Bradley Jr., but they haven’t gotten an offer that would compel them to make a move. Also -- and this is important -- with the Yankees adding Gerrit Cole to a team that finished 19 games ahead of the Red Sox in '19, Boston’s best chance of winning in '20 might be to keep the core group together.
2. Can the Cardinals contend in 2020 without adding offense?
How does Nolan Arenado sound? That’s the name that makes the most sense for a team that needs to add an impact bat at third base (or the outfield). The Cardinals have the prospects to do it, especially after acquiring young lefty Matthew Liberatore from the Rays last week. That’s the kind of talent the Rockies are seeking in any deal for Arenado. Stay tuned. The Cardinals aren’t done, and while they could re-sign Marcell Ozuna, they’re thinking bigger than that at the moment.
3. Were the Indians ever going to trade Lindor?
It seems to be a matter of when, not if. Most likely, that’ll happen before Opening Day 2021 when Francisco Lindor begins the final countdown to free agency. So now the Indians will weigh the standings and the offers. If they’re in first place in July, it’s unlikely the Cleveland front office would pull the trigger on a deal. But if a team offers, say, three elite prospects, the Indians would have to do what’s in the long-term interests of the club.
4. Haven’t the Brewers had another sneaky good offseason?
Absolutely. As usual. No general manager operates more fearlessly (or smartly) than Milwaukee’s David Stearns. Of the 25 players on the Brewers 25-man National League Wild Card Game roster, 14 of them are gone. But Stearns added Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson to his rotation, Avisaíl García to the outfield, Justin Smoak to the infield and Omar Narváez to the catching crew. With one of the Majors' best outfields and an assortment of young pitching options, Milwaukee should not be underestimated.
5. Have the Rangers done enough to contend in the American League West?
Can we answer that after they sign Nicholas Castellanos? If that happens, the answer is yes. Here’s to you, Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. He did not land his top target, Anthony Rendon, but he improved the Rangers around the diamond with three new starting pitchers (Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles), a third baseman (Todd Frazier) and a catcher (Robinson Chirinos). Add those to a core of Joey Gallo, Danny Santana, Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, and the Rangers have made up lots of ground on the Astros and A’s.
6. Can the Nationals win the World Series after not signing Rendon?
Yep. In fact, the 2020 Nationals may be better than the '19 team that won the World Series. General manager Mike Rizzo has had an excellent offseason despite losing his star third baseman, Rendon. Washington’s rotation is excellent after Rizzo re-signed Strasburg. He added Harris to the bullpen and re-signed Daniel Hudson. Rizzo then used the rest of his budget to add infield depth (Eric Thames, Starlin Castro, Asdrúbal Cabrera). Top prospect Carter Kieboom could open the season at either second or third.