It’s time for another round of the MLBTR Mailbag. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with questions, and apologies to those we couldn’t respond to.
With an early post season exit and the Cardinals offense on the decline for the last 2 years, do you see John Mabry being on the hot seat and having someone else take over as hitting coach? Also what are the chances of the Cardinals signing Yoenis Cespedes if Jason Heyward is too expensive? — Tim S.
Mabry’s already been invited back to coach in 2016, so the team clearly doesn’t feel an immediate need to make a change. Cespedes won’t be markedly cheaper than Heyward — I have him somewhere in the $150MM range — so if they’re going to spend at that level, it’d probably be for the younger guy with whom they’re already familiar.
Will the Padres pick up Joaquin Benoit’s option? He has been good the last couple of years but should the Padres pay 8 million for a 38 year old reliever? — Abraham S.
It’s not really an $8MM decision on Benoit, since he’s guaranteed at least a $1.5MM buyout on that salary. They’re basically deciding if he’s worth $6.5MM on a one-year deal, and his performance has been worth that. He’s probably not going to keep his BABIP as low as this year’s .182, and you can question whether or not he can post a fifth straight strand rate north of 80 percent. But, even with some regression to his career marks, Benoit will probably still be an above-average reliever. He drew interest at the trade deadline, and I can imagine that he’d generate interest as a trade candidate this winter even if their preferred route is to exercise the option and trade him.
We all know that Kevin Pillar exceeded expectation this season. There is no question that he and Revere will patrol the outfield next year. With Pillar and Revere being relatively young and under team control for the next few seasons, do you think that Dalton Pompey is still the Blue Jays center fielder of the future? If not, do you see him as a trade bait for the Jays this offseason? — Christophe L.
I do think you’ll see Pompey’s name mentioned in trade rumors this winter. Toronto has alternative options, as you note, and they also have significant needs on the pitching staff. The Blue Jays stand to lose David Price, Marco Estrada and Mark Buehrle this offseason and could lose Drew Hutchison. On top of that, they traded MLB-ready arms in Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd to acquire Price and can’t necessarily pencil Drew Hutchison in for 180+ innings next season after his down year. Even if Aaron Sanchez is put back in the rotation, they’ll still have two, if not three rotation spots to fill. They can’t — or at least shouldn’t — expect to fill in the entire rotation via free agency, so if Pompey can help fetch a pitcher that will step into the rotation, he strikes me as a very logical trade candidate.
With the White Sox making it sound as if third base is a priority, who are some of the realistic trade options they could look to, seeing as the FA market seems thin? — Anthony P.
Beyond free-agent options, which consist primarily of David Freese and Daniel Murphy, I can envision Trevor Plouffe, Luis Valbuena, Yunel Escobar, Martin Prado and Cody Asche all being available in trade. The Reds could end up listening on Todd Frazier, also, but the asking price on him would figure to be through the roof. Another option for Chicago will be Korean slugger Jae-gyun Hwang, if he is posted by his team — KBO’s Lotte Giants. Hwang hit .290/.350/.521 with 26 homers in 2015 and is said to be a solid defender at the hot corner. He’s an under-the-radar option for anyone needing third base help, but it’s not certain yet whether or not he’ll be posted. (More on that situation here.)
Assuming that Crawford’s contract will be almost impossible to unload this winter, what is the likelihood that Ethier could be moved? — Jeff D.
Crawford’s contract isn’t immovable, the Dodgers will just need to eat half or more of the remaining two years and ~$43MM on the deal. Matt Kemp’s contract was far more sizable, and we saw the Braves unload Melvin Upton last offseason as well. Eating half the salary would bring the commitment to about $21.5MM over two years, and while that’s too much, it’s a pretty manageable sum for a lot of teams.
That said, the Dodgers will probably listen to offers on Ethier as well, but at $38MM over the next two seasons and coming off a strong performance, his contract doesn’t look as unappealing as it did last winter. A platoon of Ethier and Enrique Hernandez or Ethier and Scott Van Slyke should be more than productive enough to get through a season.
Who could David Stearns use to fill the hole at third base long term for the Brewers? Is there any chance they could get Freese? — Chris W.
It doesn’t make much sense for the Brewers to sign Freese to a two- or three-year free agent deal when they’re not going to contend in 2016-17 anyhow. A longer-term deal for Hwang, mentioned above, would make some sense because he could be around by the time Milwaukee is contending once again, and there’s opportunity for a sizable amount of surplus value. If Milwaukee feels it can turn Asche around and get passable defense out of him at third base, he’s a reasonable long-term option as well. Asche brings the bonus of being a left-handed bat; much of Milwaukee’s long-term pieces are right-handed batters.