In last week’s MLBTR Mailbag, some of the topics included a theoretical Bryce Harper extension (which spawned a subsequent poll and Instagram debate) as well the impact of Jerry Dipoto’s departure on the Angels, the Twins’ offseason, Jedd Gyorko as a shortstop option, Chris Davis’ chances of re-signing in Baltimore and Kyle Kendrick’s future.
Here are this week’s questions, with a reminder that you can submit questions for the mailbag at any time throughout the week via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) …
“Ray Searage and rest of the Pirates’ staff have consistently turned around struggling starting talent (Liriano, Volquez, Burnett, Happ). Who are possible 2016 projects that could be brought into the rotation?” — Robb W.
Mat Latos is the first guy I think of when I think “Pirates reclamation project.” He’s obviously a highly talented arm and showed even this season that he could still dominate, with an excellent June/July showing that led the Dodgers to trade for him in the first place. Latos has injury problems, to be sure, but he’s still young and had a season catastrophic enough that a one-year deal seems perfectly plausible. And, if you’re a pitcher looking for a one-year deal, why wouldn’t you want to go work with Searage and Jim Benedict in Pittsburgh? I like that fit quite a bit.
One thing going against Latos is that the Pirates have often targeted ground-ball pitchers in the past, and that’s not him. Mike Pelfrey would be a low-cost option who does fit that description. I’d also expect an effort to re-sign Happ, who has been brilliant since the trade but is a bit old for a first-time free agent and doesn’t have a lengthy track record. Those factors can keep him in Pittsburgh’s price range.
“Is Carlos Beltran a Hall of Famer with his current credentials? If so, what team’s cap makes the most sense for him on his plaque? I am curious since Beltran didn’t seem to be associated with one specific team during his career.” — Dan C.
I think Beltran will (or should) end up in the Hall of Fame, yes. There might be some who consider him a fringe candidate now, but he’ll play at least another season, if not one or two more, in an effort to boost his counting stats, for voters who are particularly concerned with round numbers and milestones. Some might think he’s done accumulating meaningful production, but since May 1, Beltran’s hitting .295/.355/.504 with 18 homers. There’s still life in his bat, and Beltran is going to eventually retire with 400-plus homers, 300-plus steals, 1500-plus runs and RBIs, 70ish wins above replacement and an excellent postseason track record.
I think the Mets make the most sense for him in terms of caps, as he played more games for them than any other franchise and had a few of his best seasons in Queens.
“Which managers do you think will be in the hot seat next week when the season ends?” — Justin B.
Lots of questions like this one this week, so a quick rundown. Matt Williams, I’d imagine, will be out the door for the Nationals. We know Dan Jennings isn’t going to return as the Marlins’ manager as well. The Reds’ underperformance and Bryan Price’s ill-conceived tirade against the Cincinnati media is enough for me to think the Reds will move on as well. I could see both Pat Murphy (Padres) and Walt Weiss (Rockies) being let go in the NL West.
Turning to the AL, I don’t think any of the East skippers are in peril, though Torey Lovullo won’t manage the team, most likely. It’ll be John Farrell or a replacement, which is an awkward situation for the Red Sox, given Farrell’s health. The only candidate that could go in the AL Central would be Robin Ventura, but White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a big fan. Still, he has to be listed as a consideration, as the team has never really won under him and didn’t live up to the hype this year. In the West, I can see Lloyd McClendon going. Jerry Dipoto may want to bring in his own guy, and the team fell way short of expectations this season.
After his 2015 struggles and the embarrassing manner in which he was sent home, I can’t see any way Rondon is closing games in Detroit from day one next season. Feliz has been awful and will almost certainly be non-tendered. I’ll be stunned if Detroit’s closer in 2016 isn’t an offseason acquisition. Al Avila has seen the bullpen’s struggles first-hand over the past few years and will want to make a good impression on ownership and the fans by working to correct it.
“In the last few years, the Astros have unloaded pretty much every expendable MLB player and have relied heavily on the draft to reboot their farm system. Those efforts have come to fruition perhaps a bit earlier than expected, as the team is competing for a playoff spot. Because the Astros have very few long-term commitments (potential extensions for guys like Correa and Springer notwithstanding), do you think it’s possible Houston is a big player in the free agent market this offseason? Maybe go after an ace, such as David Price?” — Nathan B.
I do think they’ll be linked to top-of-the-market names, yes. Houston made a run at Cole Hamels this summer, and while they might not be able to afford Price or convince him to come to Houston (Hamels, after all, vetoed the notion of going there), the dearth of long-term financial commitments on the Astros’ ledger works in their favor, as you said.
The Astros have only $34MM in payroll committed to 2016, and many of the departing free agents have internal replacement candidates. Chris Carter, one of their most expensive arb candidates, seems like a non-tender. In 2017, the commitments drop to about $20MM total.
Houston has a wealth of talent coming up through the system on both sides of the ball that will help keep payroll down and should allow them to push for a starter. It’s also worth noting that next year is the last they’ll control Carlos Gomez; they made that trade with 2015 and 2016 in mind, so it’d be a surprise if they didn’t do everything in their power to make notable improvements to the 2016 roster.
“Who are some of the top second-tier bats who will be available this offseason?” — Robert F.
I’ll answer this one quickly and use it as a means to remind everyone that our full list of 2015-16 free agents is always available on the right-hand side of the page (desktop version, that is).
“This morning’s ’Three Needs’ piece got me thinking about the many similarities in reality for the Padres and White Sox, and the vastly different tone of coverage for the two clubs since mid-July. Care to weigh in on how two teams who decided to go status quo at the deadline despite being so closely matched in their remote chances for the playoffs, which have been equally bad since, which have roughly the same amount of money committed next season (with a sadly similar percentage of it committed to guys who won’t be worth it), and which are equally bereft of short-term answers in the upper minors, get such totally different play in the national baseball media?” — David J.
The Padres do seem to take more flak for their current situation. I think there are a few reasons for that, the first of which is that so much of their activity came in a relatively short period of time. That frenzied span grabbed more headlines and created more of a buzz, and extra hype leads to extra coverage when the plan doesn’t pan out. Conversely, the Sox spread their moves out more over the course of the winter.
More importantly, though, is that the Sox added in a such a way that took on less long-term risk. David Robertson’s four-year, $46MM contract is sizable, but it falls shy of San Diego’s commitment to Matt Kemp or James Shields, and the Melvin Upton contract was seen in a far more negative light than any of Chicago’s acquisitions. Beyond that, the Padres parted with significant prospect collateral, whereas the Sox made mid-range free agent investments for much of their overhaul. (The Jeff Samardzija trade is one notable exception.) As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes noted when I mentioned this to him, the Padres’ strategy felt inherently more flawed. The Padres overloaded on right-handed bats with questionable gloves. I still bought them as a Wild Card contender, personally, but there were a fair amount of naysayers from the beginning.
Lastly, I think the Sox get a pass because they’re in better shape than the Padres. While the team has clear needs, the presence of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon (plus the re-emergence of Erik Johnson) gives them a more compelling rotation than San Diego. And, looking around the lineup, Jose Abreu gives them a star, while Adam Eaton has that upside as well. They need help all around the diamond (though Melky Cabrera has rebounded since early summer), but it’s easier for me to see the White Sox rebounding in 2016.
Both have significant needs, but Sale, Quintana, Rodon, Abreu, Eaton and Robertson is a better starting point than Ross, Shields, Cashner, Myers and Kimbrel, especially considering how quickly Cashner and Shields can depart from that scene.