Time for another edition of the MLBTR Mailbag. As always, apologies if we couldn’t get to your questions and thanks for sending them in!
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 (email@example.com) …
With Cleveland unloading contracts of Swisher and Bourn, will they have the resources to go after the high-profile middle of the order bat that they desperately need? — Eric C.
They’ll have some increased flexibility, but they paid $15MM in that trade and also took on Chris Johnson’s salary, so they’re not likely to add a significant amount of money. We took a look at their upcoming offseason last week and suggested that trades were the likelier route. Names like Marcell Ozuna and, more improbably, Todd Frazier, make plenty of sense in theory. Going the free-agent route, they’re not going to afford the Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes caliber players, but some under-the-radar adds like John Jaso, Mike Napoli or Justin Morneau could pay dividends.
On their current trajectory, the Phillies are looking at 2018 or 2019 (at the earliest) before they are back in contention. Given the tremendous drop in attendance over the last 3 years, do you think that ownership may attempt to hurry things along by plugging some of their larger holes (RF, LF, SP, bullpen) with high to midrange priced free agents starting this off-season? They certainly have the money to spend, and can’t be very happy with all the empty seats (and lost merchandise sales) at Citizens Bank Park. — Rod S.
It’s probably wise not to expect the Phils to be in the playoff hunt before 2018, but that may not end up being the case. Sure, the organization’s current “trajectory” is one of shedding obligations and adding young, unproven talent. But it won’t be long before a new GM will be looking to plug in MLB pieces that have current and future use, whether to speculate on upside or in the way that the Astros signed Scott Feldman and the Cubs inked Edwin Jackson in recent years.
In this case, an earlier turn back toward contention could make sense. Win-now moves obviously aren’t to be expected, but there’s no reason not to begin looking at quality big league additions with more than fill-in capacity in mind — so long as the club isn’t sacrificing its future flexibility or giving up young talent to do so. That wouldn’t necessarily be an attempt to “hurry things along” so much as to best leverage this particular team’s resources (i.e., its ample payroll space). Possible targets include players who have age and upside, whose market has failed to match their ability, or who offer high-risk/high-reward profiles.
Clearly the Giants must get at least one top of the rotation starter to pair with Madison Bumgarner. But who makes the most sense? And what other #2 or #3 starter might be available to also join the rotation given the Giants’ payroll? The assumption is that Jake Peavy and either Matt Cain or Chris Heston would fill out the #4 and #5 spots. — Peter L.
Adding two starters of that ability level — without breaking the bank, at least — is never easy. We’ve heard plenty about their interest in a reunion with Mike Leake, and he would presumably fit as the second type of arm that you mention. Presumably, the club could look at him as a solid mid-rotation piece who would eventually slot toward the back of the rotation as other pitchers age and depart the organization. That might not happen, of course, but we know the Giants like him.
So, would they need to add an even better pitcher, as well, to contend with the Dodgers? That’s not entirely clear, but GM Bobby Evans did say recently that he wants his club’s staff to surpass that of their rivals to the south. Leake won’t be cheap, though, so it might be too much to ask to add him and a guy like David Price or Zack Greinke. If you want two high-end arms, maybe they could look to get better value from Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann, given that both failed to maximize their market positions heading into the winter. Or, San Francisco could roll the dice on someone like Scott Kazmir (long-term health) or Jeff Samardzija (recent performance).
Do you think the Padres have a realistic chance of signing Ian Desmond and acquiring a big, left-handed power bat in order to make waves in the west? — Ryan D.
Sure, that could make sense. The team needs to add a shortstop of some kind and A.J. Preller (along with ownership) aren’t afraid to make bold moves. Desmond offers quite a bit of upside even after a rough season. He still won’t be cheap, of course, but he’s probably the only long-term shortstop available via free agency and ought to be affordable for San Diego. (That might not have been the case if he had returned to his 2012 levels of output.)
But wait, you want a lefty slugger, too? This market really has just one of those — Chris Davis — and it’s questionable whether the Friars can squeeze in both him and Desmond into their payroll. They were at about $108MM to start 2015, and have around $75MM promised already for each of the next two seasons — before accounting for arbitration raises and options. Your plan might have to involve a trade for a left-handed bat to be financially viable, but that then raises the concern of giving up yet more young talent.
What route do you think Al Avila will go. Will he go for the really expensive, name-oriented closer, a la Nathan, or maybe someone under the radar like Darren O’Day? — William S.
Avila said recently that he doesn’t see any ace closers on the market, and he’s right. O’Day is probably the best reliever available, with Tyler Clippard and Joakim Soria among the others in that mix. So, no, a free agent signing of even a Joe Nathan-type does not seem terribly likely, and the club could look to add one or more quality set-up men instead. There could also be some buy-low arms with closing experience; a guy like Addison Reed might hold some appeal if he’s non-tendered.
Of course, two of the very best arms in all of baseball — Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel — could well be had. Detroit would have to at least start a conversation if either of those names hits the trade market.
It’s not too soon for Atlanta to pursue a guy like Zimmermann, in large part because next year’s free agent pitching market is nowhere near as deep as this one. To an extent, you need to get your shopping done early.
But I’m not sure that the Braves will see a need for that, this year or next. It’s more likely that the Braves look for value than chase a top-end player. Now, if Zimmermann or another excellent pitcher languishes due to excess supply, Atlanta could jump. After all, they’ve shown a predilection to act opportunistically. That being said, if the Braves decide to go after a guy and pay a market rate, it might be more likely to occur on the position player side.
Atlanta has compiled quite a few interesting arms, and may be content allowing them to develop while filling in with veterans of Fister’s ilk. But as the acquisition of Hector Olivera and the earlier signing of Nick Markakis show, the club realizes that it has more work to do in assembling a group of capable position players.
Predictions would be foolish, but there are actually a fair number of buy-low type candidates among position players on this year’s free agent market. Likewise, some teams are going to cash in on starting pitching, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Atlanta look to deepen its staff on the cheap while also opening more flexibility to pursue the creative trades that have become the organization’s calling card in recent years.