Thanks to everyone who wrote in with questions. We aren’t able to get to them all, but remember that you can also join one of our three weekly chats — Jason Martinez kicked off his first session this evening, while Steve runs Tuesdays and I have Thursdays (all at 2pm CST) — to try again.
On to this week’s questions:
The Mariners are making a big push, but I feel they could still use outfield help, a shortstop, and another starting pitcher. What might they do in the next two weeks? — Nick G.
That’s quite a wish list! Most every contending team could still stand to improve, but it takes greater creativity in the month of August. While Seattle made a good effort to upgrade at short by adding Zack Cozart, that’s a tough player to get (reasonable salary, future control) this time of year. The situation is somewhat different now, as the M’s are in good position with their recent play, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to address all three areas you cite.
GM Jerry Dipoto should be willing to consider opportunities anywhere in those three spots, and I’d also suggest that first base is at least as worthwhile an area to target. That may sound like a cop-out, but the fact is there isn’t a totally clear problem with a ready solution. Jamex Paxton shouldn’t be out for long and Taijuan Walker remains a high-upside option in the staff, and it’s probably not realistic to think a higher-octane arm can be found. Short is still ripe for short-term improvement (at least by supplementing Ketel Marte), but where will it come from? Cozart will be hard logistically, Erick Aybar was already dealt, Jed Lowrie is out for the year, and Yunel Escobar hasn’t played there in years. The outfield mix isn’t perfect, but it’s functional and flexible. Then, there’s the Adam Lind/Dae-ho Lee platoon, which has been a below-replacement-level unit but perhaps is better than the results.
Given that there probably isn’t a need or an opportunity to go get a single player who takes over full-time at a single position, perhaps the M’s can instead seek a more flexible piece. Someone like Danny Valencia of the division-rival A’s might be a sensible target, as he’d add another weapon with the bat while offering the ability to play the corner infield or outfield (albeit not very well).
[Related: Mariners Depth Chart]
In a way, San Diego’s activity has been about clearing the deck for players like those you mentioned, though the greater motivation was to move salary and pick up some new talent. To the extent that the Pads were opening opportunity, though, it didn’t need to go to those specific pieces right off of the bat.
In a way, perhaps, San Diego has less cause to see what it has in those guys than it does the slightly older ones who are playing in the majors right now. GM A.J. Preller added many of them himself in recent years, and seems interested in giving them a full look at the game’s highest level before deciding how the roster will change this winter. Christian Bethancourt, Alex Dickerson, Ryan Schimpf, Jabari Blash, and Travis Jankowski won’t ultimately block the development of Hedges, Renfroe, and Margot, but San Diego won’t know if they’re worth keeping if they don’t see extended action.
Some or all of your trio ought to make it up in the coming weeks, but there’s no real rush. None have yet completed a full season at Triple-A, and all have elements of their game still to be ironed out. Holding them down now also limits their accumulation of service time, which increases the team’s opportunities to add an extra year of control down the line.
[Related: Padres Depth Chart]
While it took longer than expected, Braves did the unthinkable and traded off Erick Aybar. Given the injuries to outfielders across baseball right now, do you see an opportunity for another August trade? — Mike G.
Both Jeff Francoeur and Nick Markakis are among the more likely trade candidates in the game this month — both landed on MLBTR’s recent top twenty list. Both players are eminently tradeable, both because of their waiver situation (Francoeur cleared, while Markakis surely has or will) and Atlanta’s general situation. With Matt Kemp joining Ender Inciarte and Mallex Smith as future options, and with a coming free agent market offering a variety of new possibilities, there’s no reason to think that the Braves need to keep either of those veterans.
That being said, there’s no guarantee that either or both will move. Francoeur is carrying a .251/.293/.389 slash with typically heavy platoon splits, so he’d represent something like a fifth outfield option for a contender that could use a right-handed bat. Markakis is in the same general situation but hits from the left side and is a better hitter — though he’s really a league-average bat as an everyday player. In his case, though, working out the salary (another $21MM over the next two years) makes things tricky.
Demand will play a role, as you rightly suggest, but that all depends upon how contending teams’ front offices feel about these particular players, neither of whom looks to be more than a bench piece for a team with designs on the post-season.
[Related: Braves Depth Chart]
What should the White Sox be doing this offseason? I feel a lot of changes coming with the coaching staff and as much as it pains me to say, I think it’s time to hop on the rebuild train. — Ryan
Chicago didn’t elect to pull the trigger on any significant deadline deals, but you’re right that the team could still do so this winter. The team certainly has something to offer in quite a few areas.
Chris Sale and Jose Quintanta, especially, would surely draw immense interest given a coming market that’s largely devoid of high-end starting pitching. Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera represent quality (albeit expensive) one-year rental position players, while David Robertson could make sense as a two-year piece for the right club. Then there’s Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu, each of whom could be pursued — especially the former.
That’s quite a few pieces to move — and quite a few quality assets for a big-market team that probably doesn’t wish to embark upon a full rebuild. It’s a tough spot, though, because there isn’t a ton of payroll flexibility. The South Siders already have $74MM and change committed for 2017 and will approach $100MM with arbitration raises. And going for it next year would probably mean adding at least one outfielder, another bat, and a catcher while also bolstering the pitching staff. With a payroll that typically resides in the $115MM to $120MM range, that could mean taking some chances on non-premium veterans — which is precisely the strategy that has failed to pan out in recent years.
All things considered, it’s hard to say what the Sox “should” do. Certainly, it makes sense to explore whether a targeted trade or two might add multiple talented players who are at or near MLB readiness without crippling the ability to contend in the near-term. But that would require at least a partial break-up of the current core and may be a half-measure. Otherwise, both of the more committing options in the buy/rebuild poles carry serious downside. One suspects that this is precisely the internal debate currently being had in the Chicago front office.
[Related: White Sox Depth Chart]