The Pirates face a significant amount of questions now that their offseason has arrived, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Decisions surrounding Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez top the list, as the team must decide if it can afford to pay Walker his arbitration raise (projected at $10.7MM by MLBTR’s Matt Swartz) and if Alvarez is worth tendering a contract (projected salary: $8.1MM). As Brink notes, Josh Harrison could slide over to second base, with Jung Ho Kang handling third base full-time if healthy enough for Opening Day. Beyond that, the rotation presents a puzzle of sorts as well. Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano are a strong 1-2 combination, but Charlie Morton has dealt with injuries, and the Bucs have received little consistency from Jeff Locke and Vance Worley. Brink feels the team is likely to pursue a starting pitcher, though I’ll opine that adding two — one for stability and one as an increasingly typical Pittsburgh reclamation project — is a sensible route to take. (Doug Fister and Mat Latos stand out as talented arms in need of reestablishing their stock.)
Here are a few more notes from the game’s Central divisions as we all gear up for today’s glut of postseason baseball…
- Right-hander Blaine Boyer has expressed interest in re-signing with the Twins, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger in his look at the Twins’ upcoming offseason. Signed to a minor league pact last winter, Boyer made the club after a solid Spring Training and held a setup role all season despite possessing one of the lowest strikeout rates (4.6 K/9) of any reliever that pitched a full season. Boyer survived in part due to strong control (2.6 BB/9) and an above-average ground-ball rate (47.6 percent), but ERA estimators like FIP (4.00), xFIP (4.36) and SIERA (4.41) all feel that the stellar 2.49 mark he posted in 65 innings this season is due for a good bit of regression. Whether or not Boyer returns, Bollinger adds that the Twins are expected to look for bullpen upgrades via both trades and free agency.
- Tigers GM Al Avila was emphatic yesterday in telling the media that he did not speak to a single outside managerial candidate before deciding to retain Brad Ausmus, writes MLive.com’s James Schmehl. Reports had indicated that former division rival Ron Gardenhire was a candidate to step in for Ausmus following the season, but Avila, whom Schmehl says was given sole authority to make the decision on Ausmus steadfastly denied that there was any truth to said rumors.
- The likelihood of trading Aroldis Chapman this offseason only further muddies a Reds bullpen that desperately needs fixing, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay, however, cautions the pursuit of free agents — with the exception of a relatively inexpensive arm to replace Chapman, similar to the Braves’ signing of Jason Grilli last winter — instead opining that the team is best suited to use its young arms to fill in the gaps. J.J. Hoover will return, he notes, and Pedro Villarreal and Jumbo Diaz are likely to be in the mix as well. Fay feels it’d be best to move on from Burke Badenhop, suggesting that Michael Lorenzen, Brandon Finnegan and Keyvius Sampson all work in relief initially next year, despite the fact that some feel Lorenzen and Finnegan still have starter upside.