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Inbox: Will Braves deal top pitching prospects?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers fans' questions
MLB.com

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

There are so many rumors about trading some of the top Minor League pitchers. Why not be patient and see if they turn into the next Steve Avery, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz? We don't want another Adam Wainwright or Alex Wood type of trade.
-- Oscar V., Waterford, Calif.

It must be remembered that the Braves are in a much different position than they were during the Wainwright and Wood trades, and courtesy of their deep pitching crop, they have insurance that didn't exist when those deals were made.

When Atlanta traded Wainwright in the J.D. Drew deal before the 2004 season, it was left with Bubba Nelson, Dan Meyer, Kyle Davies and Anthony Lerew as its top starting pitching prospects. Given how their careers developed, it's pretty easy to say that group doesn't compare to the Braves' current one. But for now, let's remember Nelson and Meyer were both considered Top 100 prospects when the deal was done.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

Atlanta has six pitchers -- Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, Luiz Gohara and Joey Wentz -- listed among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects. Anderson and Wentz are the only members of this group who likely won't be considered candidates for the Braves' rotation this year.

Who will fill Braves' final rotation spots?

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves

To gain a quality return, a team must part ways with value, and pitching prospects certainly hold significant value. This is the first time Atlanta has had this much quality starting-pitching depth in its system since the late 1980s, when Derek Lilliquist was consistently considered a better pitching prospect than Smoltz.

Lilliquist made his Major League debut in 1989, and he was traded to the Padres midway through the following season for reliever Mark Grant. Had then-general manager Bobby Cox known exactly how things were going to pan out for Avery, Smoltz, Glavine, Kent Mercker and Pete Smith, he might have pulled the trigger a year or two earlier and gained a more significant return for Lilliquist.

As GM Alex Anthopoulos attempts to upgrade different areas of his team over the next year, he'll look to deal from his team's area of strength, which is obviously starting-pitching prospects. It's never easy to deal young starting pitchers, but it's a lot easier to do so when depth in that department provides the insurance the Braves possess.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

Why did Mauricio Cabrera stay at the Minor League level throughout the 2017 season?
-- Mark C., Manilla, Philippines

Those who were aware of the control problems Cabrera has had throughout much of his pro career had reason to be skeptical about his attempt to extend the success he had in 2016, when he posted a 2.82 ERA and issued 19 walks over 38 1/3 innings for Atlanta. But I don't think anybody expected him to spend the entire '17 season in the Minors, let alone experience a midseason demotion to Double-A Mississippi.

Cabrera struggled to find consistency with his mechanics during Spring Training, and he just never found a groove. There is still some hope that he and his 100-mph heater might return to the Majors. But for now, I don't think anybody is assuming he'll find a spot on the Opening Day roster.

When will the Braves get another catcher like Brian McCann, who hit for power, was a clutch hitter and controlled the pitching staff?
-- James P., Hampton, Ga.

As the Braves prepare to induct Tim Hudson and Joe Simpson into the team's Hall of Fame this weekend, let's look at why McCann will be getting this same honor once he retires. While playing nine seasons (2005-13) for Atlanta, McCann posted a .277/.350/.473 slash line and hit 176 home runs. His .823 OPS in that span ranked second among all Major League catchers, trailing only former Yankee Jorge Posada (.841). (While serving as a catcher, McCann tallied more than 1,800 more plate appearances than Posada during that time period.)

Video: SD@ATL: McCann belts his 20th home run of the year

Simply put, guys like McCann don't grow on trees, and developing a top-notch homegrown catcher might be one of the most difficult challenges teams face on an annual basis. So as questions continue to linger about Alex Jackson's capability of developing into a big league catcher, there is certainly reason for the Braves to continue evaluating the possibility of acquiring J.T. Realmuto and other legit backstops who could provide stability at the position over the next few years.

Do Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair still have a future with Altanta?
-- David F., Rock Hill, S.C.

While it might be best for Wisler to have a chance elsewhere, I'm sticking with my belief that the Braves should remain patient with Blair and give him a chance to prove himself as a reliever.

It's a very small sample size, but it's worth noting that in Blair's two most recent Major League appearances, he has shown great potential with his breaking ball.

Per Statcast™, the Tigers missed 39.39 percent of the curveballs Blair threw as he notched a career-best 10 strikeouts on Oct. 1, 2016. Blair didn't have much success during his only appearance last year (July 26 in Arizona), but the D-backs did swing and miss on 42.31 percent of the curveballs he threw.

Video: DET@ATL: Watch all 10 of Blair's K's in 10 seconds

Blair's long-term future as a successful starting pitcher might be in doubt, but it seems wise to at least see how he might fare when given the chance to feature that curveball one inning at a time.

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

 

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: Will Wilmer get chance to start at 2B?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers fans' questions
MLB.com

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

With the official start of Spring Training now three weeks away, the Mets -- like most teams in this offseason's slow market -- aren't quite done shopping. They're still on the lookout for a second baseman, likely the last piece of their offseason maneuvering. But what about the second baseman they already have? This week's Mets Inbox starts there:

Why isn't Wilmer Flores being given a chance to start at second base?
-- @JayZammie via Twitter

The Mets, quite simply, feel Flores is more effective as a part-time player. Although he bristles at the notion that he is best served as a platoon bat, his career splits (an .838 OPS against left-handed pitching, .683 against righties) speak for themselves. Yes, Flores had a fine season against right-handed pitching in 2017, but even that performance was roughly league average before taking into account his below-average defense. And one-year splits are notoriously unreliable.

:: Submit a question to the Mets Inbox ::

Add in Flores' injury history -- hamstring, wrist, knee and other issues in just the past two seasons -- and the Mets simply don't think it's worthwhile to count on him as an everyday starter. Flores will still receive plenty of reps at first and second base. He's a strong bet to appear in at least 100 games for the fourth consecutive year, and he rates as a bona fide bench bat on a playoff-caliber team.

Flores just won't be the everyday starter. Who will? It's looking more and more like a free agent is the answer, with Neil Walker, Eduardo Nunez and Jose Reyes the three most prominent options at the position. The Mets could still sign a third baseman such as Todd Frazier, shifting Asdrubal Cabrera over to second, but that isn't their preference. They could also swing a trade for someone such as Josh Harrison, but they aren't thrilled with what it would cost them in terms of talent.

Hot Stove Tracker

Video: Castrovince, Justice discuss Mets' 2B options

Do any of the arms acquired during last year's trades have a chance to really contribute in 2018?
-- @jbmsgice via Twitter

A few. Jacob Rhame and Jamie Callahan, acquired in the Curtis Granderson and Addison Reed deals, respectively, have already cracked the Majors and will compete for jobs in the Opening Day bullpen. They're both likely to log significant innings in 2018.

Outside of those two, the Mets invited Drew Smith, of the Lucas Duda trade, to big league Spring Training. He's next up as far as big league readiness, and he could also parlay a strong spring into a roster spot.

Video: NYM@HOU: Callahan records his first career out

Are we going with seven or eight relievers?
-- @Bennymycat via Twitter

The days of seven-man bullpens are close to an end -- not just for the Mets, but for most teams around baseball. With relief pitchers eating up more and more of the daily innings pie, seven-man bullpens are simply too thin to survive the rigors of a 162-game season. The Mets used an eight-man bullpen for much of last season and I suspect they'll do so for most, if not all, of this one.

Do you see any world where the Mets' reported projected payroll numbers are partially posturing, and general manager Sandy Alderson will surprise us by upgrading the roster in several areas last-minute on team-friendly deals as players scramble to find homes?
-- @jonhurwitz via Twitter

Payroll is never a static number. Alderson can always go to ownership and ask for more money in special circumstances. But it has to make sense within the team's overall budget and plan. The Mets aren't going to go out and randomly spend eight figures on, say, Jonathan Lucroy, when they've already decided that catcher isn't a priority. If Lucroy's price drops far enough to make him a bargain, other teams would almost certainly be more motivated to sign him than the Mets.

Now, if the Mets can find a good last-minute deal on a starting pitcher, would they take it? That's a much more realistic possibility. But doing so might handicap their ability to absorb salary at the Trade Deadline. Every financial move has consequences on others, both short- and long-term.

What's the timetable for T.J. Rivera?
-- @SusanKinsella1 via Twitter

At last check, Rivera was hoping to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in mid-April, which would be a full seven months after his Tommy John surgery. Position players don't generally need as much time to recover from Tommy John as their pitcher cousins, who typically require 12 to 18 months.

Video: NYM@SD: Rivera makes a tough catch in foul ground

But that's a best-case scenario for Rivera, whose rehab could easily leak into May or June. The Mets are conservatively projecting a midsummer return. Ultimately, it could happen at any point in the first half.

What do you see with Tim Tebow in the future?
-- @robbie5687 via Twitter

More of the same, quite frankly. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume he'll continue improving, as he did throughout last season. Tebow will probably start out at Class A Advanced St. Lucie, where he hit just .231 with a .664 OPS last season.

Video: Mets invite Tim Tebow to Major League Spring Training

Those numbers will need to improve markedly if Tebow is to advance to Double-A, where the competition is significantly stiffer. The usual disclaimer is that, at age 30, it's unlikely Tebow will ever improve enough to become a big leaguer. But stranger things have happened, and the Mets have demonstrated a willingness to push Tebow forward even when the numbers suggest they probably shouldn't. In that sense, your guess is as good as mine regarding Tebow's long-term future.

When do the Mets move their Triple-A team from Las Vegas to Syracuse?
-- @Nostraskel via Twitter

That move won't happen until 2019. The Mets are entering the final year of their affiliation with Las Vegas.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

 

New York Mets, Wilmer Flores, T.J. Rivera

Inbox: Tigers in market for top-tier free agent?

Beat reporter Jason Beck fields questions from fans
MLB.com

DETROIT -- Second inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training three weeks from Tuesday.

The Tigers have money, do you think they could try and sign a big free agent or two and try to be competitive, and if things don't work out, they can trade them at the Deadline for more prospects?
--@keith_szymanski

DETROIT -- Second inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training three weeks from Tuesday.

The Tigers have money, do you think they could try and sign a big free agent or two and try to be competitive, and if things don't work out, they can trade them at the Deadline for more prospects?
--@keith_szymanski

I think the Tigers could sign a low-risk deal with a free agent or two over the next few weeks once the market finally begins to move and pitchers try to get into camps. But as far as a big contract with one of the top free agents, like what they did years ago with Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez, I'd be shocked. They're certainly not in the business of multiyear contracts at this point after laboring to free up payroll over the past several months. Anything they do the rest of this offseason I would expect to be one-year contracts or non-roster invites.

:: Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox ::

As for next winter, we'll see. The Tigers are in a much better situation on payroll at that point, with just Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann under guaranteed contracts, but they'll also have prospects nearing the point of competing for jobs on the big league roster.

Early prediction on starting five?
--@Mattyshack

If everybody gets through Spring Training healthy, I would expect a pretty familiar group, with Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Norris joining Mike Fiers. But like you said, it's early, with the Tigers still possibly bringing in another starter to give Boyd and Norris a push and provide injury protection in case Fulmer or Zimmermann need more time for whatever reason. Ryan Carpenter will also be giving a push, having signed a Major League contract early in the offseason.

Video: Fulmer on his rehab, playing for Tigers in 2018

Who is the underrated player that should make the 2018 team?
--@TommyArse

Not sure if there really is one candidate, but there's a decent opportunity for Ronny Rodriguez, a non-roster invite the Tigers signed from the Indians' organization last month. He played every position but left field and catcher last year at Triple-A Columbus, and he posted a .778 OPS and 17 home runs. The Tigers, meanwhile, have a need for a utility player with Andrew Romine gone and Dixon Machado sliding to second base to take over for Ian Kinsler. Pete Kozma will be in camp, too, but he's a few years older and hasn't done as much at the plate the past few seasons.

Second base is Machado's, right? Who would even be the next in line for it? With Romine gone, who will be our bench players?
--@Nick_Fritsch

The Tigers want Machado getting at-bats after spending most of last year on the bench. Unless Jose Iglesias is injured or traded, Machado will be getting those at-bats at second. Rodriguez and Kozma would likely get a chance if second base suddenly opened up, though they could also bring in another candidate under that scenario. Dawel Lugo has a chance to be the Tigers' second baseman of the future, but he has yet to play above Double-A.

Video: Beck discusses Machado's utility role for the Tigers

Do you think the Tigers would move Miggy if he has a bounce-back year like JV did?
--@SamuelLNielsen

It certainly would make Cabrera more appealing on the trade market, but I think Cabrera's contract makes any trade much more complicated than what the Tigers put together for Justin Verlander. Detroit is paying part of Verlander's salary this year and next. Cabrera is under contract through 2023, so anything involving splitting up his salary between clubs would impact Detroit's payroll for much longer. I'm not saying it can't be done, or that the Tigers wouldn't pursue a deal, but it's a bigger challenge.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

 

Detroit Tigers

Inbox: Impact of potential Machado trade?

Beat reporter Steve Gilbert fields questions from fans
MLB.com

Explain to me please the logic of acquiring Manny Machado, who will be a free agent after the season and is going to cost $16 million this year. Are the D-backs thinking they can sign him long term, and if so, why not just re-sign J.D. Martinez?
-- Carl, Phoenix

Machado is an outstanding player, and with the D-backs in position to contend again this year, if they could add him to the lineup, they'd happily do it. The $16 million deal he recently agreed to for 2018 would certainly blow a hole in their budget for this year, but keep in mind that this ownership group has not been afraid to spend money when it felt like the player or players added could really make a difference.

Explain to me please the logic of acquiring Manny Machado, who will be a free agent after the season and is going to cost $16 million this year. Are the D-backs thinking they can sign him long term, and if so, why not just re-sign J.D. Martinez?
-- Carl, Phoenix

Machado is an outstanding player, and with the D-backs in position to contend again this year, if they could add him to the lineup, they'd happily do it. The $16 million deal he recently agreed to for 2018 would certainly blow a hole in their budget for this year, but keep in mind that this ownership group has not been afraid to spend money when it felt like the player or players added could really make a difference.

The key thing here is the D-backs are not going to go "all in" as they have following their past two postseason appearances, having seen that strategy not work out in either 2008 or '12. So, while they would love to add Machado, they are not willing to give up players who they see as key to the future. I would imagine that, more so than money, this is what has kept the deal from happening.

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

What does Yasmany Tomas' recent arrest for speeding mean for his future in Arizona?
-- Zack, Glendale, Ariz.

It was unfortunate to see that Tomas was allegedly driving 105 mph on the Loop 101 last week, but it does not affect his contract status with the D-backs.

Any chance the D-backs make a move or two before Spring Training? (Say J.D., please say J.D.)
-- Ken, Phoenix

Yes. And no. I do think the D-backs will do something before Spring Training. Looking at the roster, they could really use some depth to the outfield, because -- to answer your second question -- I don't see them bringing Martinez back. The only way I could see them getting Martinez would be on a one-year deal, and I don't see him going that route. With more than $30 million committed to Zack Greinke in each of the next four seasons, I don't know how they could pay Martinez $25 million-plus over that same period. I could be wrong -- I was surprised when they signed Greinke to the $206.5 million deal two years ago -- but I would not get my hopes up if I were you.

Video: D-backs relying on bounce back from Tomas, other OFs

Is there any deferred money in Greinke's contract that could be used for current players?
-- Peter, Denver

Greinke's deal, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, contains $62.5 million in deferred money. There is $10 million deferred from 2016-18, $10.5 million in 2019 and $11 million in 2020-21. Without getting into all the complexities, that is not just money that can be spent elsewhere because it has to be accounted for in the budget and funded.

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

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Inbox: Where do Yelich, Marlins stand?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Is Christian Yelich on the trade block? What will it take for the Marlins to trade him?
-- @IzzTenorio via Twitter

The Yelich situation has gotten more uncomfortable, especially after the ESPN story was published last week, stating the relationship between the player and the club is beyond repair. The Marlins are listening on potential offers, and I still wouldn't be surprised if the 26-year-old is traded before Spring Training starts. Recently, Peter Gammons reported on MLB Network that the Marlins and Braves have talked, and Atlanta is reluctant to part with top prospect Ronald Acuna. I've previously reported Miami had interest in Acuna in a potential trade. In fairness to Yelich, the frustration of being part of five straight losing seasons, plus the fact the team is building for the future, makes it understandable that he'd want a fresh start. If the club holds tight and keeps Yelich, I'd anticipate someone in the organization would have to reach out to the player and his representatives to try to smooth the situation as best they can. It would be counterproductive to have a disgruntled player in camp.

Is Christian Yelich on the trade block? What will it take for the Marlins to trade him?
-- @IzzTenorio via Twitter

The Yelich situation has gotten more uncomfortable, especially after the ESPN story was published last week, stating the relationship between the player and the club is beyond repair. The Marlins are listening on potential offers, and I still wouldn't be surprised if the 26-year-old is traded before Spring Training starts. Recently, Peter Gammons reported on MLB Network that the Marlins and Braves have talked, and Atlanta is reluctant to part with top prospect Ronald Acuna. I've previously reported Miami had interest in Acuna in a potential trade. In fairness to Yelich, the frustration of being part of five straight losing seasons, plus the fact the team is building for the future, makes it understandable that he'd want a fresh start. If the club holds tight and keeps Yelich, I'd anticipate someone in the organization would have to reach out to the player and his representatives to try to smooth the situation as best they can. It would be counterproductive to have a disgruntled player in camp.

If J.T. Realmuto is traded, does Tomas Telis get a chance to be a regular?
-- @Ehsan_Kassim via Twitter

First, I'm not convinced Realmuto will be traded before Spring Training begins on Feb. 14. The asking price is high, and the closer we get to the reporting date, my sense is the less likely a major trade will be consummated. Clubs are in the process of preparing to go to Spring Training with pretty much the rosters they already have in place.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

As for Telis, he remains a fascinating player because he shows so much promise at the plate. He's a switch-hitter with some power, and he has a good approach. What the Marlins need to determine is what position Telis plays. He spent much of last year at Triple-A New Orleans, and when he was with the Marlins, he played more innings at first base (167 1/3) than behind the plate (18). Even at New Orleans, Telis saw a lot of action at first base (123 innings), although he caught 380 1/3 innings. Defensively, there are questions about whether he can handle catching at the big league level. If Realmuto is dealt, I'd expect Chad Wallach would get more playing time. In that scenario, Miami likely would go outside the organization to find a regular, or at least someone who could play a majority of the games.

Video: SF@MIA: Telis knocks in two runners with a double

What are the chances of seeing Jorge Guzman in the Majors in 2018?
-- @RobertLarosa07 via Twitter

A centerpiece in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees, Guzman will be one of the most followed players in the Marlins' system. But the 21-year-old, who has had his fastball clocked as high as 103 mph, has not pitched beyond the lower Class A levels. Chances are he will open on Miami's Class A Batavia squad in the Short-Season New York-Penn League. Guzman, Miami's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, threw just 66 2/3 innings last year, and he's not on the 40-man roster, either. A more realistic MLB debut date is 2019. There is no need to rush his development in any way.

Video: Callis on Marlins acquiring Guzman's electric arm

What's your best estimate for how Brian Anderson, Martin Prado, Garrett Cooper and Justin Bour will get their at-bats? I would hope Cooper can handle a corner outfield spot to keep him in the lineup. Prado in the outfield is risky due to health, but I really want to see Anderson get his at-bats.
-- @all_right_Miami via Twitter

Prado is the key here. Remember, the 34-year-old third baseman appeared in just 37 games last year. He missed substantial time due to hamstring and knee issues. If healthy, I anticipate Prado being the regular third baseman. Some feel he could move to left field, making way for Anderson. I don't see it. Marlins Park is too spacious to ask the veteran to cover that much ground. Prado is solid defensively at third base, and that is where he's comfortable. If he establishes health, playing regularly at third also increases his chances to be traded, perhaps in July.

Anderson showed promise as a September callup, but the Marlins' No. 6 prospect will have to show in Spring Training that he is ready to stick in the big leagues. The organization may want him to work on some things, and if so, he could open at Triple-A New Orleans. Bour will play every day, if he's healthy. Cooper, acquired from the Yankees, is a right-handed-hitting first-base option. He hasn't played an inning in the big leagues in the outfield, but in his Minor League career, he had more than 100 innings at both left and right field.

Video: Top Prospects: Brian Anderson, 3B, Marlins

What are the chances of adding a veteran outfielder like Jose Bautista on a one-year deal? He could provide some pop and leadership for a young team.
-- @DustinLindbom via Twitter

Hot Stove Tracker

Not a bad idea. I could see this making sense, especially if Yelich is dealt. I don't see it happening if Yelich stays. Defensively, Bautista isn't ideal in right in Marlins Park's expansive outfield. But he is familiar with the position. At age 37, Bautista is still a threat. He could also see playing time in Miami as an option, because if he has a solid first half, he could be a trade candidate in July.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

 

Miami Marlins, Garrett Cooper, Martin Prado, Tomas Telis, Christian Yelich

Inbox: Where does Guerra fit on 2018 Crew?

Beat reporter Adam McCalvy answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Where does Junior Guerra fit into 2018?
-- Terry H., Janesville, Wis.

I think this might be one of the most under-asked questions of this Brewers offseason. Guerra was equal parts injured and ineffective in 2017, and he played no meaningful role in the surprising season while other starters like Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson took notable steps forward. So I get why he might fall through the cracks in discussions about 2018.

Where does Junior Guerra fit into 2018?
-- Terry H., Janesville, Wis.

I think this might be one of the most under-asked questions of this Brewers offseason. Guerra was equal parts injured and ineffective in 2017, and he played no meaningful role in the surprising season while other starters like Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson took notable steps forward. So I get why he might fall through the cracks in discussions about 2018.

:: Submit a question to the Brewers Inbox ::

But let's not forget, Milwaukee's decision-makers were convinced enough by what they saw with their eyes and what the advanced metrics had to say about Guerra's sensational 2016 that they made him the Opening Day starter. Guerra strained his calf on a bunt attempt in the third inning of that game and went on to go 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 70 1/3 Major League innings, fighting through diminished velocity and a demotion to Triple-A. He basically worked mopup duty when he returned for September.

But 2018 is a new year, and thanks to Guerra superfan Kyle Lesniewski, who writes for Brew Crew Ball and Baseball Prospectus' Brewers site and has been keeping an eye on Guerra coverage in the Venezuelan Winter League, we know that Guerra seems squarely in play for a spot in the starting rotation. Guerra told reporters in Venezuela that he's been made no promises, but will get to compete for a starting spot in a rotation that will be missing Nelson at the start of the season.

Video: MIA@MIL: Guerra gets out of a jam with a double play

In my "if the season started today" projection last week, I had Anderson, Zach Davies and Jhoulys Chacin as locks for the rotation. Because I had to pick two more, I went with lefty Brent Suter and righty Yovani Gallardo, but it would be pretty easy to see Guerra sneaking in one of those two spots. That equation could change, of course, if the Brewers add any more established starting pitching in this slow-moving offseason.

So, let's not forget Guerra. He would not be the first player to bounce back from a bad year.

If Manny Pina and Jesus Aguilar have bad seasons, like Guerra and Jonathan Villar did last year, do you think general manager David Stearns (and us as a fanbase) should stop relying on players picked up via waivers for success for our roster?
-- JL, Madison, Wis.

Villar came to the Brewers via trade, but your point is taken. We've seen a number of players come through Milwaukee via the waiver wire over the years and have some success, then quickly fade.

But the wire remains a good place for rebuilding teams with early waiver positions to find talent, and I don't see Stearns or other GMs of developing teams giving that up. With mixed success, Stearns has made liberal use of waivers to acquire a player, then in many cases try to sneak that player back through waivers so he can be stashed in the Minor Leagues. When it works, it's a cost-effective way to add talent to one's system.

I would add this: I wouldn't say the Brewers relied on any of the players you mentioned when they were first acquired. Pina, Aguilar and Guerra all earned backup-type roles before they were eventually relied upon as starting players.

My question is about the status of the outfield. Early on, it appeared they were willing to part ways with one or two players for the right price. Assuming that doesn't happen, what do you see as the Opening Day outfield, and would the others be on the 25-man or start at Triple-A? I'm thinking of Brett Phillips and Lewis Brinson.
-- Jon T., Baraboo, Wis.

I think we need to change our thinking about the outfield under manager Craig Counsell, who has been pushing the idea of a "position player group" over our traditional notion of starters and backups.I see a scenario in which Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Phillips and Hernan Perez all get significant at-bats as outfielders. Santana is looking like a player who has to be out there nearly every day, but as Braun's plate appearances come down year to year and players like Broxton, Brinson and Phillips develop, Counsell might have enough playing time to go around.

Video: MIL@WSH: Santana hits a 476-foot homer to left-center

It's certainly possible that one of those players is traded before the season begins, but to me this is an area in which we have to adjust our old notion of three "starting" outfielders.

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 Montgomery get chance to start?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Mike Montgomery, Albert Almora Jr., the outfield and pitching prospects are among the topics in the latest Cubs Inbox.

Montgomery has proven to be a reliable starter. Sure, he's good when it comes to the bullpen, but with the Cubs' ever expanding bullpen and farm system, the need for Montgomery to be exclusively in the bullpen is starting to diminish. Do you see Montgomery ever taking a starting role in the upcoming years?
-- Aaron B., Fairport, N.Y.

CHICAGO -- Mike Montgomery, Albert Almora Jr., the outfield and pitching prospects are among the topics in the latest Cubs Inbox.

Montgomery has proven to be a reliable starter. Sure, he's good when it comes to the bullpen, but with the Cubs' ever expanding bullpen and farm system, the need for Montgomery to be exclusively in the bullpen is starting to diminish. Do you see Montgomery ever taking a starting role in the upcoming years?
-- Aaron B., Fairport, N.Y.

Absolutely. And if the Cubs don't add another pitcher this offseason, Montgomery may be starting in April. The lefty was 5-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts last season and posted a 2.49 ERA in 30 relief appearances. With Brian Duensing returning to the bullpen to join Justin Wilson, the Cubs may feel that's all the left-handed relievers they need. Other lefty options for the 'pen include Dario Alvarez, Randy Rosario and Rob Zastryzny. The Cubs have said Montgomery would get stretched out and start in Spring Training and then go to the bullpen, but the front office may alter those plans if they can't find a fifth starter.

:: Submit a question to the Cubs Inbox ::

Last spring, manager Joe Maddon said he believed Montgomery could be a 10-game winner on an annual basis.

"I've told him that -- 10 to 15 [wins] is within his abilities," Maddon said last February. "That comes with fastball command and knowing what to do with his breaking pitches. He's got really high-quality stuff. If he understands how to utilize the other things he's doing, the sky's the limit."

Video: CIN@CHC: Montgomery fans four in scoreless gem

I don't sense a great deal of excitement about the young arms in the Cubs' system. I know they're trying to develop pitching internally, and I'm hoping they begin to have success there. Please give me three names of current Cubs prospects you believe could be in the big league rotation three years from now.
-- Kyle R., San Antonio, Texas

Three years from now, I believe Duane Underwood Jr., Oscar De La Cruz, and Adbert Alzolay could be in the rotation. Underwood, 23, was 13-7 in 25 games (24 starts) with a 4.43 ERA at Double-A Tennessee. Here's Cubs player development director Jaron Madison on Underwood: "He has Major League weapons and has matured a lot this past year."

Video: Top Prospects: Duane Underwood, RHP, Cubs

De La Cruz, 22, ranked No. 1 by MLB Pipeline among the Cubs' Top 30 Prospects, was 4-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts last season at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. No. 3 prospect Alzolay, 22, was 7-1 with a 2.98 ERA at Myrtle Beach and made seven starts at Double-A. By the way, 21 of Chicago's Top 30 Prospects are pitchers.

"I think those waves are coming," Madison said of the Cubs' pitching prospects. "It's just a matter of staying healthy and doing everything we can to develop these guys."

Why isn't Almora seriously considered for the leadoff spot? He has speed and hits for a high average. I've heard he's platooned because he doesn't hit right-handers well, but his stats are better against right-handers than his replacements.
-- Harold H., Greeneville, Tenn.

At this point, everybody is being considered a leadoff candidate. Yes, Almora does have the speed and is a good baserunner. Last season, he batted .342 against lefties compared to .271 against right-handers. I'm not sure which "replacements" you're talking about (Jon Jay batted .289 vs. right-handers, Ian Happ .243), but I know Almora could get more playing time against right-handers this year depending on the final roster makeup and matchups that the stats geeks feel would favor him. He did bat leadoff in 10 games last season, and posted a slash line of .294/.294/.412 with zero walks.

Video: TOR@CHC: Almora Jr. hits a bases-clearing double

Any idea as to what the Cubs' outfield may look like in 2018?
-- Dan W., Germantown, Tenn.

As of today, you've got Almora, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Happ in the outfield. What combination will Maddon use? That will depend on several variables, including that day's pitcher, where the Cubs are playing and who's hot. All are versatile, which gives Maddon lots of options.

What is the status of the Cubs' baseball cable TV network?
-- Bud K., Manteno, Ill.

At the Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney said they could begin their own television network after the 2019 season when their contracts with NBC Sports Chicago, ABC-7 and WGN-9 end.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

 

Chicago Cubs, Albert Almora Jr., Mike Montgomery

Inbox: Who replaces Rodon in the rotation?

Beat reporter Scott Merkin answers fans' questions
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Let's take a look at this week's Inbox questions, with SoxFest 2018 a little over one week away.

Do we have an option besides Carson Fulmer while we wait for Carlos Rodon? If not, are we expected to sign someone, or stick with Fulmer? I feel like we need one more veteran to eat innings.
-- Michael, @mike__prousa

CHICAGO -- Let's take a look at this week's Inbox questions, with SoxFest 2018 a little over one week away.

Do we have an option besides Carson Fulmer while we wait for Carlos Rodon? If not, are we expected to sign someone, or stick with Fulmer? I feel like we need one more veteran to eat innings.
-- Michael, @mike__prousa

Having another veteran who could move between the rotation and the bullpen is something I've mentioned a few times over the past month or so. I'm guessing that option would be someone not currently on the roster, or maybe a player already in the system with starting experience.

:: Submit a question to the White Sox Inbox ::

Don't sleep on Fulmer, though, as I look for the right-hander to take full advantage of his starting opportunity. He worked his way through a tough 2017 season by finding great rhythm and confidence on the mound at the end, posting a 1.56 ERA over his last four starts.

The White Sox have a bunch of good right-handed pitching prospects. How long before we have a good idea which are going to be starters, which go to the bullpen and which should be traded?
-- Bob, Reading, UK, @bobito64

Year 2 of the rebuild centers on development, an unofficial theme general manager Rick Hahn has pointed out on a number of occasions. But that development also will give the White Sox a chance to see a little more of what they have in each of these prospects to make those decisions you've mentioned, Bob.

• Kopech could join rotation by midseason

Hahn's past comments have focused on giving a pitcher they view as a starter the chance to stay a starter as long as possible, but as things line up now, there seems to be a few too many quality-looking pitchers to fit into one rotation. It's a good problem to have if it plays out.

How about Mike Moustakas on a one-year deal to play third? If it works, then discuss long-term contract. Thanks, Scott.
-- Mike, Chicago Midway, @mikewalsh4609

The White Sox lack pure left-handed power, but I haven't heard any rumblings of the team's interest in the 30-year-old Moustakas. I like the combination of Yolmer Sanchez and Matt Davidson at third for this season.

Yes, they can be opportunistic at this stage of the rebuild. Then again, taking a one-year chance on a player who might leave even after a positive experience this season only becomes worth it if the White Sox ultimately envision him as part of their long-term plan. The White Sox certainly could surprise in '18, but this season is one year early for prime contention.

If Avisail Garcia plays like he did last season, what kind of return could we get at the [Trade Deadline]?
-- Stephen, Chicago, @slynch34

It's interesting that Garcia, who turns 27 during the 2018 season, is being looked at by many as trade potential as opposed to a part of the rebuild. That outlook is influenced by the White Sox having just two years of control over Garcia and a plethora of elite outfield prospects coming through the system. Another strong year from Garcia increases his value in a trade, but also within the organization.

Video: Renteria credits consistency to Avi's strong 2017

What is a realistic debut date for Eloy Jimenez?
-- Joe, Midlothian, @jdwyer02

There's a chance Jimenez plays the whole 2018 campaign at the Minor League level, with 73 plate appearances for Double-A Birmingham in '17 marking his high point of competition. But Jimenez is the sort of elite player who should force the issue, so I'll say somewhere later in the season -- maybe August.

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast.

 

Chicago White Sox

Inbox: Will Mariners consider 6-man rotation?

Beat reporter Greg Johns answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Will the Mariners go to a six-man rotation?
Rick F., Spokane, Wash.

They definitely are looking into the possibility, but only in parts of the season when they'd be playing long stretches of games without any days off. The new schedule has more off-days, so that will happen less now. But when there are stretches without a break -- there are five spans of 10-plus consecutive games this coming season -- they'll consider bringing up a starter from Triple-A Tacoma or going with a long man from the bullpen in the right scenario.

Will the Mariners go to a six-man rotation?
Rick F., Spokane, Wash.

They definitely are looking into the possibility, but only in parts of the season when they'd be playing long stretches of games without any days off. The new schedule has more off-days, so that will happen less now. But when there are stretches without a break -- there are five spans of 10-plus consecutive games this coming season -- they'll consider bringing up a starter from Triple-A Tacoma or going with a long man from the bullpen in the right scenario.

The idea will be keeping starters like Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Mike Leake and Erasmo Ramirez fresher and healthier, taking some of the innings and pressure off younger guys such as Marco Gonzales and Andrew Moore and allowing a guy like Ariel Miranda to pitch more effectively whether he makes the rotation or rotates between Seattle and Tacoma.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

What bench battles do you see playing out this spring? And what about first-base scenarios?
Dennis L., Mukilteo, Wash.

If the Mariners go with an eight-man bullpen, as they'd like to do, that really leaves the bench competition pretty clear-cut. They'll need to identify a backup catcher from between Mike Marjama and David Freitas and a utility infielder between Taylor Motter, Andrew Romine and perhaps Gordon Beckham. The other question would seem to be whether Guillermo Heredia's shoulder is recovered in time to be the fourth outfielder. If not, that position would be up for grabs initially.

If they instead go with a seven-man bullpen, that opens up the possibility of a backup first baseman making the club behind Ryon Healy, with Rule 5 Draft pick Mike Ford and Daniel Vogelbach in the mix as left-handed complements to the righty-hitting Healy.

Video: Vogelbach on his 2017 Major League experience

The Mariners' lineup seems strong, especially one through five. If the bottom of the order produces and the bullpen can pitch as well as it's capable of, is the starting rotation good enough for the Mariners to contend for the top Wild Card spot?
Blake L., Corvallis, Ore.

That's clearly the million-dollar question. It's worth remembering that the Mariners won 86 games in 2016, and everyone thought they'd be better last year until injuries decimated the rotation. And the Twins got the final Wild Card berth with 85 wins. In my estimation, Seattle now has a better lineup and bullpen. And while I'd like to see another starter added as well, I'm not as down on the rotation as most fans appear to be.

Mariners' rotation loaded with upside, depth

Clearly the Astros have the best rotation in the division (and arguably the American League). If you look at Baseball-Reference's WAR projections for 2018, the Angels have the second-best rotation now that they've added Shohei Ohtani, with the Mariners a close third, the Rangers fourth and A's fifth. But the Angels' projected five starters were a combined 9-13 with a 4.50 ERA last year in 41 starts and have even more health questions than the Mariners.

Ohtani certainly should help, but he also has injury questions. And while Paxton has had a hard time staying healthy for a full season, the Angels' No. 1 starter, Garrett Richards, has pitched in just 12 games over the past two years, and their No. 3 starter, Andrew Heaney, has totaled six starts in two seasons. The Rangers have even more questions than the Mariners and Angels in their rotation and need work in the bullpen as well. So while I have questions about the Mariners' rotation, I don't think their pitching situation is quite as outmanned as the general perception.

With the Astros, Indians, Yankees, Red Sox and Angels all getting better this year, is it time to rebuild?
Michael W., Scottsdale, Ariz.

I guess it depends on your definition of "rebuild." General manager Jerry Dipoto has made 62 trades in 28 months since becoming general manager, and only eight players remain from the 40-man roster he inherited at the end of 2015. The Mariners had the oldest roster in MLB in '16 -- they had 12 players age 32 or older -- but now are actually one of the younger teams in the AL, with just four players 32 or older.

A lot of rebuilding has already been done, and it's time to see how that younger core of 20-somethings -- guys like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino, Edwin Diaz, Paxton, Dee Gordon and Healy -- can step up around the veteran holdovers of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Hernandez.

Do you think Miranda has a chance at a starting job after last season's struggles?
Mike M., Spanaway, Wash.

If things go to plan, I suspect Miranda will open the season with Tacoma. Of course, that was the plan last year as well before injuries hit so hard that Miranda not only made the Opening Day roster, he wound up pitching the most innings of any Seattle starter, going 8-7 with a 5.12 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 160 innings over 31 outings (29 starts).

Video: HOU@SEA: Miranda doesn't allow a hit over six strong

While his ERA wasn't pretty, I think Miranda is quite capable of helping out -- and likely will again at some point. Last year was his first as a full-time starter in the Majors, and he was 7-4 with a 3.82 ERA in 17 starts over the first three months before clearly wearing down and posting a 7.23 ERA in his last 14 appearances. Miranda is a quiet guy, but he's a pretty fierce competitor, and I wouldn't bet against him coming back and making some sort of impact this year.

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

 

Seattle Mariners, Ariel Miranda

Inbox: Any news on the Machado front?

Brittany Ghiroli answers Orioles fans' questions
MLB.com

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers fans' questions in the latest edition of Orioles Inbox.

Are the Orioles going to trade Manny Machado?
-- Scott L., Eldridge, Md.

Beat reporter Brittany Ghiroli answers fans' questions in the latest edition of Orioles Inbox.

Are the Orioles going to trade Manny Machado?
-- Scott L., Eldridge, Md.

Probably not. I get asked this several times a day, but I really don't have any kind of Machado update. (If I did, I'd write it.) There are some teams still interested. Nothing is imminent.

I've always thought if they didn't trade him by early January, they probably wouldn't unless a team with a deep system suffers an injury that makes paying the steep price for Machado doable. But that's purely my opinion. I wish I had more for you, I really do. But there's nothing to update. He's not on or off the proverbial trading block. The O's are still listening and not lowering their demands. They want controllable young pitching.

:: Submit a question to the Orioles Inbox ::

Why didn't the O's trade Machado last year at the Trade Deadline? They waited too long.
-- Tim L., Washington

Because they thought they were in it. Right or wrong, they were in Wild Card contention around that time. (Though certainly the case can be made that with their rotation, they weren't built for a deep playoff run.) They ended up adding a pair of players, much to most people's surprise.

Could they have gotten two Major League-ready arms for Machado if they dealt him in July? Ehhhh, maybe. The real time to trade him with serious value would have been last winter -- when he still had two years under control remaining -- but, again, the Orioles were intent on trying to compete. Hindsight is always 20-20.

Video: BAL@CLE: Schoop ties the game with an RBI single

Wouldn't it be wise to trade Jonathan Schoop now? If the Orioles don't, they'll be in the same situation with Schoop next year as they are with Machado this year.
-- Ron B.

That's definitely an interesting scenario, when you consider Schoop is coming off a career season and is headed into the second of three arbitration-eligible years.

There's been little talk of an extension for Schoop -- though there's plenty of it in the media -- because, quite frankly, now is the time. I agree with you in that if they wait another season, they run the risk of Schoop having no interest in staying because he's so close to free agency. If the Orioles want to lock him up long term, which they haven't done with a core piece, really, since Adam Jones in 2012, they have to get it done in the next few months.

If the O's fall out of contention early this year and become sellers at the Trade Deadline, what then? They have to decide whether he's a cornerstone of the organization for years to come. If the answer is yes, they need to negotiate now before his value goes up.

Will the O's ever add pitching?
-- Kim R., Norfolk, Va.

Yes. They have to. I know fans are impatient, but, to be fair, it's been a pretty slow offseason for everyone.

What kind of year should O's fans expect from Chris Davis?
-- Henry D., New York

A bounce-back one, if Davis has anything to say about it. The slugger is coming off a down year and has been brutally honest in assessing the fact that he needs to strike out less and make contact more. Of course, that's easier said than done, but Davis has been hitting since Christmas and made it a point this offseason to work on some things that will enable him to be more aggressive and more of a dual threat.

He's not going to all of a sudden become a high-on-base guy who lacks power, though. At the Major League level, it's hard to totally overhaul things. If Davis can make just small improvements with his strikeouts and batting average, it could go a long way toward balancing out the lineup.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

 

Baltimore Orioles

Inbox: Should Atlanta turn Folty into a closer?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman fields Braves fans' questions
MLB.com

How do you feel about making Mike Foltynewicz a closer? In my opinion, it's the best fit for him and solves an issue for our team.
-- Russell I., Woodstock, Ga.

A year from now the answer might be different, but for now, I think it's best for the Braves to give Foltynewicz, 26, a chance to spend one more full season as a starter. Yeah, he's spent portions of each of the past three seasons within the rotation and yeah, he's tallied 65 career starts (one more than Wade Davis made before he made the profitable transition to the bullpen).

How do you feel about making Mike Foltynewicz a closer? In my opinion, it's the best fit for him and solves an issue for our team.
-- Russell I., Woodstock, Ga.

A year from now the answer might be different, but for now, I think it's best for the Braves to give Foltynewicz, 26, a chance to spend one more full season as a starter. Yeah, he's spent portions of each of the past three seasons within the rotation and yeah, he's tallied 65 career starts (one more than Wade Davis made before he made the profitable transition to the bullpen).

But at the same time, he's spent just one full year at the big league level and quite frankly, the Braves have the luxury to extend the trial period as they likely stand at least a year away from constructing a playoff-caliber rotation.

Foltynewicz completed at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 28 starts last year and allowed three earned runs or less while recording at least 18 outs in 15 of those 28 starts. He also managed to allow at least five earned runs in exactly 25 percent (7 of 28) of starts. These numbers tell you exactly what your eyes saw last summer: Nearly every start could be described as either pretty good or pretty forgettable.

It should be noted most of those pretty forgettable starts occurred as he allowed five earned runs or more four times within a five-start span from July 31-Aug. 21. His only impressive outing within this span occurred on Aug. 5, when he recorded a career-high 11 strikeouts and limited the Marlins' potent offense to one run over 6 1/3 innings.

Per Statcast™, Foltynewicz's 95.2 mph average fastball velocity ranked seventh among all Major Leaguers who threw at least 1,500 heaters last year. He limited opponents to a .196 batting average with his slider and induced a decent 15.43 percent swing-and-miss rate with the pitch. The .202 xBA (expected batting average) he produced with the curveball provides a glimpse of the soft contact he frequently induced with that pitch.

Foltynewicz has the arsenal needed to become an elite starter. Time will tell whether he can harness the command of both his fastball and emotions enough to live up to his physical potential. But for now, it seems prudent to stay away from the easy solution, which would be to move him to the bullpen.

:: Submit a question to the Braves Inbox ::

Video: Anthopoulos on adjusting to new role with Braves

Is the new general manager honest enough to admit the pains an organization has to go through to be a legitimate contender?
-- Matt H., Belton, S.C.

Looking back, I don't think there were many of you who bought into what John Hart was trying to sell when he approached the 2015 and '16 seasons often saying the team was trying to walk parallel lines. It's impossible to remain competitive while undergoing a rebuilding effort as massive as the one the Braves began after the '14 season, and it's unrealistic to think it can be completed in just a few years.

With that being said, I think some of the frustration that led to your question stems more toward last year, when the Braves added more than $30 million to their payroll and claimed the team was going to be much better. Much of that money was spent on Bartolo Colon, and the club's altered mindset was shown in late July when Jaime Garcia was sent to the Twins for essentially nothing more than cost savings.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos has inherited this team in the fourth year of its rebuild. It's still too early for him to confidently predict a postseason run. But at the same time, part of his job is to surround his club with optimism. If he says, the "team will be better this year," his words will at least seem more genuine than those spoken during the early portion of this rebuild.

Why is it that we refuse to move any of the pitching prospects we have? It seems to me if we wait to do so then some of them will inherently lose value.
-- Ryan L., Douglasville, Ga.

Actually, I think Anthopoulos would be wise to stick with the plan for him and his scouts to make their own evaluations of these young pitchers before making a significant trade. Yeah, there are existing reports and even some holdover scouts who are quite familiar with what the likes of Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and the others can bring both on and off the field. But it would be much more comfortable to make one of these potentially franchise-altering decisions after having gained the chance to make evaluations with your own eyes and ears.

Video: Top Prospects: Kolby Allard, LHP, Braves

Assuming the Braves sign a third baseman this offseason, do you think it would be a player with a short-term or long-term deal?
-- Bryan O., Kennesaw, Ga.

The Braves could go a few different directions as they attempt to bolster different aspects of their club. But in relation to the possibility of adding a third baseman, there is no doubt they are only looking at short-term options. They do not want to make an acquisition that could block rising prospect Austin Riley or erase the possibility of making a serious bid to buy Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson off next year's free-agent market.

 

Atlanta Braves

Inbox: Will Tigers add another starting pitcher?

Beat reporter Jason Beck fields questions from Tigers fans
MLB.com

First inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training four weeks from Tuesday.

First inbox of the new year. Pitchers and catchers officially report to Spring Training four weeks from Tuesday.

The Tigers appear less likely to add another starter than they did before the holidays, though maybe that changes if the free-agent market continues to move slowly and they can snag an experienced starter on their terms to provide some competition for youngsters like Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd. The problem is finding a veteran who would accept something other than a guaranteed spot. As for relievers, the market has not been moving in their favor this offseason. Even the bigger-name bounce-back candidates have a decent chance to find opportunities on teams closer to contention, evidenced by Boone Logan's deal with the Brewers earlier this month. One advantage the Tigers have is new pitching coach Chris Bosio and his reputation for working with such hurlers.

Submit a question to the Tigers Inbox

Farmer might be forced into a relief role by his contractual situation. He's out of Minor League options, so if he's going to start, he's likely going to have to win a rotation spot out of Spring Training. What the Tigers could do is let him compete for a rotation spot in camp, then shift to a bullpen role if he doesn't win one.

Video: LAA@DET: Farmer K's five over 6 2/3 innings

Labourt's fate is directly tied to his command of the strike zone. He vaulted up the farm system last year because he cut down his walk rate, boosted his strikeout rate and reduced his wild pitches. But he walked 23 batters over 22 innings at Triple-A Toledo, then yielded seven walks and five wild pitches over six innings during his September stint in Detroit. Then he walked four batters over three appearances in the Dominican Winter League, recording just two outs.

Video: KC@DET: Labourt induces a double play to escape a jam

Labourt turns 24 in March, so there's still time for him to find more consistency with his command. And if he does, he has the chance to be an intriguing power-lefty reliever, which is why he was selected for the Futures Game last year. But he needs to prove it before he earns the trust to work meaningful situations out of a big league bullpen, even on a rebuilding club.