Thanks as always for all of the questions in this week’s mailbag. As you know, we can only pick a short few, but you can ask the MLBTR staff considerably more questions during our three weekly chats — Tuesdays at 2pm CT with myself, Wednesdays at 6:30pm CT with Jason Martinez and Thursdays at 2pm CT with Jeff Todd. Onto this week’s questions…
Do you see the M’s making a push for a big-name free agent like Edwin Encarnacion to play first base and eventually take over at DH for Cruz in two years? I think he’d be a great clubhouse fit with Cano/Cruz/Felix/Martin. — Tara W.
There’s a definite fit for Encarnacion in Seattle, but GM Jerry Dipoto said at the time he signed on as the Mariners’ GM that he views free agency more as a means of augmenting his roster than of building up the foundation. The Mariners traded Mike Montgomery for Dan Vogelbach back in July with the belief that Vogelbach could be the team’s first baseman in the near future (and possibly shift to DH when Cruz departs), and adding in the fact that signing Encarnacion would mean parting with the No. 18 pick in next year’s draft only makes it seem more unlikely that they’ll beat the market for his services. I do think the Mariners will spend some money this winter, be it via free agency or taking on some contracts in trades, with the bullpen, one corner outfield spot and shortstop all likely areas of focus.
2008 is the last year the Rays had a catcher that could hit the ball. Do you see the Rays going after Kyle Schwarber of Cubs or J.T. Realmuto of Marlins? What kind of package would get either one? — Jim M.
Any fan hoping his or her favorite team will pry Schwarber away from the Cubs would be wise to simply move on from that line of thinking. Schwarber was one of the most untouchable players at this year’s trade deadline, with the Cubs steadfastly refusing to budge from their unwillingness to include him in a trade even for Andrew Miller. Realmuto won’t be easy to obtain either, though I can at least see the possibility of something working out with the Rays. The Marlins are in the market for rotation upgrades and have very little in the way of premium minor league talent, so using a big league piece like Realmuto to acquire that pitching could make some sense. The Rays have a number of young arms with which they could part, including Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly, Erasmo Ramirez, Matt Andriese and Blake Snell. The Marlins probably aren’t giving up four years of Realmuto in a one-for-one swap for any of those pitchers, but given the Rays’ rotation depth, the framework for a deal could certainly be worked out. One thing to consider with regard to Realmuto, though, is that the Rays have placed a high emphasis on pitch-framing in recent years (Rene Rivera, Hank Conger), and Realmuto receives poor ratings in that respect.
I’m excited about our offense in ’17 with the sole exception of 1b. Although a CarGo move to first sounds intriguing, a big right handed bat like Trumbo might make more sense. How much would that cost and can the Rockies afford it? — Jarrett M.
The Rockies would have to punt the top unprotected pick in the 2017 draft, No. 11 overall, in order to sign Trumbo this offseason, as he’s a lock to receive a qualifying offer and reject it in search of a significant multi-year deal. The Rockies would not only have to sacrifice that pick but also be willing to push their payroll up into record territory in order to add Trumbo into the fold, as they’re currently headed for a payroll around $109.5MM right now even before making any offseason additions, based on MLBTR’s arbitration projections. That figure could change, of course, in the event that someone like Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra or Carlos Gonzalez is traded, but as it stands, it’s tough to see the Rockies adding a bat that’ll figure to cost them at least $15MM per season on a multi-year deal this winter — especially when there are glaring needs in the bullpen and a deep reservoir of free-agent relievers from which to draw.
Are there any projected big name KBO or other foreign league players expected to be posted this offseason? Especially with the weak free agent pitching market this offseason, it seems like a a prime time to be posted. — Hunter M.
The simple answer is that there aren’t any superstar-caliber players that are lined up to become available this offseason. That would change in the event that Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters elected to post 22-year-old ace/slugger Shohei Otani, who posted a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts on the mound and also a 1.004 OPS in 382 plate appearances as an outfielder this past season, but to this point there’s been no indication that’ll happen.
There are still some names from the Korea Baseball Organization that will be available for unrestricted free agency this winter, though, meaning that like Hyun Soo Kim last offseason, they won’t have to go through the posting process. Left-handers Kwang-hyun Kim, Hyeon-jong Yang and Woo-chan Cha will all be eligible to sign with big league teams this offseason if there’s interest. It’s worth noting that the Padres won the rights to negotiate with Kim two winters ago when he was posted but never reached a deal, while the Rangers reportedly placed the top bid on Yang that same offseason, but his team, the Kia Tigers, rejected the $1.5MM figure. The Twins were also connected to Yang that winter.
Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, who was posted last season but did not receive a bid, is an unrestricted free agent this winter as well and could seek a deal with a Major League team as well. Hwang was able to replicate last year’s power surge at the plate while cutting his strikeout rate quite a bit, so it’s possible that he caught the attention of a few big league teams with his 2016 play. We’ve been told at MLBTR that Hwang will be coming over to the U.S. early next week and spend several weeks working out stateside, which should give big league clubs ample opportunity to take a look at him.