Burning questions before pitchers and catchers report to spring training
One month from today (Jan. 22), pitchers and catchers from every major-league team officially will have reported to spring training camps. But before that happens --and before we get glossy-eyed from reading report after report about players being in the best shape of their lives -- there still are some unresolved offseason issues. Here are the most pressing concerns that must be addressed before the first hamstring can be strained in Florida and Arizona.
Is World Series MVP Salvador Perez still covered with bruises?
Think back to the 2015 postseason. It seemed every third pitch from a Royals pitcher either resulted in a foul tip catching Perez on some sensitive body part or the bat smacking him in the back of his head. In the past three regular seasons, Perez has caught 422 games -- 49 more than anyone else in the majors. And he has caught 31 postseason games the past two years. After back-to-back World Series runs, the Royals have a target on their back and hopefully used the offseason to catch their breath and heal.
Sean M. Haffey
Are the Cardinals set in the outfield?
After losing Jason Heyward to the division-rival Cubs, the Cardinals have Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk (right) and Stephen Piscotty penciled into their outfield, with Tommy Pham and Brandon Moss as depth. When pressed about the need to add another bat to that group, team officials have indicated they are content with the players already on the roster. But with attractive options still available in free agency and trades, that could change. The Indians and Angels are in the same boat when it comes to an outfield need.
Are David Ortiz and David Price working to become BFFs?
The two Davids have feuded for several seasons, and Price, the Red Sox’s new $217 million ace, has come high and tight on Ortiz in the past (as this photo proves). Things then escalated into a war or words with Ortiz claiming to no longer respect Price, and Price firing back. Both players are saying the right things now that they are teammates, but it’s still an awkward situation as Ortiz enters the final season of his career. If nothing else, perhaps this drama will take some pressure off Hanley Ramirez as he attempts to transition to first base from left field/third base/shortstop.
Will the Rockies trade an outfielder?
Carlos Gonzalez has played through trade speculation for several seasons, and Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon got pulled into it at the start of the offseason. The talk intensified after the Rockies signed free agent Gerardo Parra, who is the team’s fourth left-handed-hitting outfielder. It seems likely that someone will have to go, though GM Jeff Bridich reportedly told Gonzalez it won’t be him.
Will the Diamondbacks sign another former Dodger?
Arizona provided the biggest stunner of the offseason when it signed free-agent ace Zack Greinke to a $206.5 million mega-deal. But the Diamondbacks have been relatively quiet since acquiring right-hander Shelby Miller from the Braves. After reportedly attempting (and failing) to acquire second baseman Brandon Phillips from the Reds, the D-backs have been linked to free-agent second baseman Howie Kendrick (pictured), who spent last season in Los Angeles would be an upgrade in Arizona.
Is there still a blockbuster trade in the works?
In addition to the Rockies’ collection of outfielder, other potential trade targets remain, including Padres right-hander James Shields and Reds right fielder Jay Bruce. And then there are the Brewers, who have dealt away countless players as they go into a full rebuild. Veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy (No. 20) would welcome a trade, but Milwaukee’s asking price is understandably high. But what about a package of Lucroy and former NL MVP Ryan Braun (No. 8)? A long shot, for sure, but you never know.
Is the clubhouse culture still a major problem in D.C.?
After being jilted by Yoenis Cespedes, the Nationals have replaced the Cardinals as the biggest bridesmaids of the offseason. Cespedes joins Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Darren O’Day as free agents who reportedly chose another team over the Nationals this offseason. We’ll never know how much of that can be traced to the team’s emotionally charged closer trying to choke out the NL MVP, but the impact of that bizarre fracas can’t be dismissed. New manager Dusty Baker certainly has his hands full.
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY SportsTommy Gilligan
Where (and when) will the remaining free agents sign?
There are enough unsigned players to construct a pretty impressive 25-man roster. Among those still seeking a deal: Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo, Howie Kendrick, Ian Desmond, David Freese, Austin Jackson, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rios. There are going to be some tremendous final-month bargains, more than any other offseason in recent memory.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
Has Joe Maddon contacted the nearest zoo in Arizona?
The pressure already is on the Cubs, who are the early favorites to win the World Series . . . and you might have heard they haven’t done that since 1908. Maddon is the king of keeping it loose, having brought everything from flamingos to magicians into his clubhouses over the years. What better way to ease the tension and break in the newcomers than giraffe rides in the outfield, while Kyle Schwarber shags flyballs?
Have the Giants started clearing room in their trophy case?
You know the drill: It’s an even-numbered year, so San Francisco is destined to win its fourth World Series since 2010. The front office certainly provided the parts, signing free-agent right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and free-agent outfielder Denard Span. The join a talented core that includes Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, but even winning the improved NL West will be a tough task.