2013 MLB Offseason: Biggest Question Mark on Every MLB Team

Doug Mead@@Sports_A_HolicCorrespondent IDecember 3, 2012

2013 MLB Offseason: Biggest Question Mark on Every MLB Team

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    Each MLB team enters the offseason with question marks. No matter what the question is, the answer needs to be found in some way, shape or form.

    Some of those questions could be answered with the upcoming MLB winter meetings, which are set to start in Nashville on Monday.

    Each team will have a team of representatives on hand to attempt to tackle some of its biggest questions. Certainly not all of those questions will be answered, but the groundwork could be laid for future discussions that could lead to eventual answers.

    Here are the biggest questions that each MLB team needs to find an answer to in order to continue developing its roster for the 2013 season and beyond.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Who Will Be the Starting Shortstop?

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    Early this offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks entered into a three-team trade with the Oakland Athletics and Miami Marlins.

    In the deal, they traded center fielder Chris Young to the A's and received reliever Heath Bell from the Marlins and infielder Cliff Pennington from the A's.

    The Diamondbacks now have three shortstops on their roster: Pennington, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald.

    Yet they're still looking for a starter.

    That's the question that general manager Kevin Towers needs to answer as he arrives in Nashville on Monday.

    Two weeks ago, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweeted that the Diamondbacks had interest in Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

    Another report had the Diamondbacks entering into negotiations with Japanese free-agent shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima. Nakajima has hit .302 with 149 home runs during his 12-year career in Japan.

    Answer: Sign Nakajima. Considering the relative lack of depth at the position on the free-agent market, Nakajima just might be the best of the bunch and at a reasonably affordable price.

Atlanta Braves: Who Will Play Left Field?

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    The Atlanta Braves signed free-agent center fielder B.J. Upton last week to replace Michael Bourn. Now, they're looking for a suitable replacement in left field as well.

    Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com reported in mid-November that the Braves were pursuing free-agent outfielder Cody Ross. With Chipper Jones' retirement, incumbent left fielder Martin Prado is expected to move to third base.

    On Sunday, Mark Bowman of MLB.com broached the subject of the Braves' interest in trading for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton. Bowman pointed to the wealth of young pitching for the Braves that could be used to entice Arizona to make the deal.

    Answer: Sign Ross. He'll be much cheaper than obtaining Upton, whose salary jumps to over $14 million for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In addition, Ross has a lifetime .300 average and .893 OPS at Turner Field.

Baltimore Orioles: Can They Re-Sign Mark Reynolds to a More Affordable Contract?

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    At the end of October, the Baltimore Orioles declined the $11 million option on first baseman Mark Reynolds' contract for the 2013 season.

    However, Reynolds was not yet eligible for free agency and remained under team control, paving the way for possible arbitration

    That window closed over the weekend, as the Orioles failed to tender a contract to Reynolds.

    Is there still a chance the two sides can come to agreement on a deal?

    According to the Baltimore Sun, it's quite possible:

    Reynolds said he received a call from executive vice president Dan Duquette on Friday night, telling him the team was non-tendering him, but that "the light is still on." Reynolds said he was open to resigning with the Orioles as a free agent.

    "I kind of saw it coming after the days leading up to tonight and there was no dialogue," Reynolds said. "I love Baltimore. I love the team and my teammates and the coaches. But I have to see what else is out there and be smart about things and see what other opportunities are out there."

    Orioles vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette is hopeful as well.

    "We like Mark and he gave a good effort for the team, so we certainly appreciated that," Duquette said. "But with some of the other commitments we have, it was hard to fit him into the team the way his contract is structured. We tried to find a way to do it, but we couldn't find a way to make it fit."

    Answer: Reynolds found his niche at first base when he was moved there full-time in mid-May, and it's clear that Duquette likes him there as well.

    Somehow, these two sides will reach an agreement that keeps Reynolds in Baltimore.

Boston Red Sox: What Is Their Biggest Need?

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    The Boston Red Sox have more than their share of questions that need answers entering this week's MLB winter meetings in Nashville.

    The mega-trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August gave general manager Ben Cherington ample payroll flexibility to help answer some of those questions.

    Cherington needs to fill holes in the starting rotation, outfield, first base and to try and figure out a long-term answer at shortstop.

    First base may be the biggest priority at this point.

    To that end, the Red Sox have done their due diligence, reaching out to free-agent catcher Mike Napoli and to former Washington Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche.

    Answer: Napoli has a career .306 average and 1.107 OPS at Fenway Park. He also gives Sox options with his ability to catch, play first and DH.

Chicago Cubs: What Will They Do at Third Base Next Season?

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    The Chicago Cubs used five different players to man third base in 2012, and they produced a paltry .201 average and .611 OPS.

    Ian Stewart, acquired from the Colorado Rockies last offseason, was non-tendered by the Cubs after hitting just .201 with five home runs in 55 games.

    Josh Vitters could be the long-term answer at some point, but the 23-year-old prospect hit just .121 with a 30.3 percent strikeout rate in his major league debut.

    Answer: Sign Jeff Keppinger. While he fractured his fibula in an accident at home, Keppinger is expected to be 100 percent by spring training. For Tampa Bay last season, Keppinger hit .325 with nine home runs and 40 RBI.

    The Cubs have already shown interest in Keppinger, and they could likely sign him for a reasonable cost for two years. That gives Vitters the chance to continue his development without pressure and gives the Cubs time to evaluate whether or not he is their long-term option.

Chicago White Sox: Same as Crosstown Rivals—Who Will Play Third Base?

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    Much like their neighbors on the North Side, the Chicago White Sox have their own question regarding who will be their everyday third baseman in 2013 and beyond.

    They traded for Kevin Youkilis last season after Brent Morel was sidelined by a lower back injury.

    Youkilis' 2013 option for $13 million was declined by the White Sox, but new general manager Rick Hahn expressed his desire to see Youkilis in a White Sox uniform in 2013:

    "This is the first time Kevin has had a chance to be out on the open market, and he's got a young family out on the West Coast, and he wants to explore what's out there," Hahn said.

    "But he knows there is no confusion in his mind about our desire to bring him back. So we're going to stay on that, stay in communication. It's not a great time to be a club in the free-agent market looking for a third baseman, the player pool is not real deep, so I expect Kevin will be popular, but we're going to be in on that until the end, I think."

    Morel is pain-free after extensive work with Sparta Performance/Science in California—a group that has specialized in working with injured athletes and pinpointing the exact nature of there injuries.

    Answer: Morel is only 25 years of age. If he is indeed fully healthy, there's no reason to think he can't be productive, especially when working with manager Robin Ventura.

Cincinnati Reds: Will Drew Stubbs Be the Starting Center Fielder on Opening Day?

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    One of the biggest questions concerning the Cincinnati Reds is their need for a quality leadoff hitter.

    The Reds hit just .208 with a .254 OBP from the top spot in the batting order last season. In addition, center fielder Drew Stubbs hit just .213 with 166 strikeouts and continues to be an enigma after three-plus seasons.

    Stubbs offers a combination of power, speed and great defense, but thus far has been unable to put it all together. The Reds' patience may be wearing thin.

    Top prospect Billy Hamilton is moving from shortstop to center field next year in the minors, and he is likely their long-term option at the position.

    That's certainly an indication that Stubbs may not be a part of the future for the Reds.

    The Reds are looking for help in the outfield, especially with Ryan Ludwick hitting free agency as well. According to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds and Ludwick are talking, but the length of the contract appears to be the sticking point.

    The Reds have also shown interest in free-agent center fielder Michael Bourn as well. Bourn's asking price could put him out of range for the Reds, however.

    Answer: Trade for Dexter Fowler. Buster Olney brought up the suggestion in his Insider-only blog post on Sunday, and it's a deal worth making for the Reds.

    Fowler is under team control for the next three seasons, and he brings a solid blend of power, speed and defense. He's coming off a career season (.300 BA, .863 OPS) with an on-base percentage that was 135 points higher than Reds' leadoff hitters in 2012.

Cleveland Indians: Can They Compete in 2013 If They Trade Cabrera and Shoo?

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    Last month, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com said that the Cleveland Indians players most likely to be moved during the offseason were shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and closer Chris Perez.

    Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer echoed that on Saturday as well:

    They have made it known that their best players -- Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Masterson, Choo and Chris Perez -- are available for the right price.

    That's certainly not to say that any of them will be dealt, just that the Tribe is at least willing to listen to offers.

    However, considering the fact that the Indians need a first baseman, designated hitter, left fielder and possibly a third baseman, how exactly does subtracting a shortstop and right fielder help their cause?

    Answer: Cabrera and Choo both stay, and general manager Chris Antonetti works to add other pieces without that subtraction.

    With new manager Terry Francona on board, Antonetti has a terrific marketing tool, as Francona is well-respected throughout the game and offers a terrific playing environment for potential free agents.

    The Indians may not have the resources to attract the best of the best, but it makes no sense to take offense away when that's one of the biggest issues they face.

Colorado Rockies: Can They Attract Free-Agent Pitchers?

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    The Colorado Rockies are coming off a season in which their team ERA was by far the worst in baseball.

    Their failed Project 5,183 didn't exactly win over the hearts and minds of people within their own organization.

    They are now going back to a conventional five-man rotation, and they're looking for upgrades.

    The new plan is to add a veteran starter to a mix of youngsters that the Rockies still believe can have an impact.

    The Rockies are hoping for healthy seasons from Jorge De La Rosa and right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio. They're also hoping that at least two of their young prospects (Christian Friedrich, Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood) can start realizing their potential.

    Answer: The Rockies can attract pitching, but it most certainly won't be of the elite type. Names like Kevin Correia and Jeff Francis have been bandied about—not exactly names that turn the Rockies into contenders overnight.

Detroit Tigers: Will They Go After a Big-Name Closer?

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    The Detroit Tigers said goodbye to closer Jose Valverde after three seasons. However, they continue to say they're not interested in acquiring a replacement.

    According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Tigers insist that they'll forgo the closer market this offseason.

    Earlier reports had the Tigers saying that they'll go to spring training with the intent of auditioning prospect Bruce Rondon for the position.

    Answer: Despite what Dombrowski is saying publicly, the Tigers will be on the lookout for a closer. This is a team built to win now. With aging owner Mike Ilitich's wish to bring a title back to Detroit before his days on this earth are over, they'll be looking.

Houston Astros: Will Lance Berkman Open the Season as the Designated Hitter?

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    With their move to the AL West Division in 2013, the Houston Astros will need an additional bat in their lineup.

    They have the perfect candidate in former Astro Lance Berkman.

    If the Astros were still toiling in the NL Central next season, Berkman certainly would not be in the conversation. His knee issues last year alone limited him to just 32 games for the St. Louis Cardinals.

    But the bat still plays, and Berkman's career could be extended with a DH role.

    Owner Jim Crane and Berkman have discussed a possible return. While general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a recent interview that the Astros haven't talked to Berkman recently, he did say that interest is certainly there.

    “We have interest in signing Lance for next year. I think he’d be a good fit with our club,” Luhnow said.

    Answer: Berkman will be the starting DH for the Astros in 2013. It's a perfect fit for both sides. The Astros can garner immediate dividends by bring back a beloved veteran, and Berkman in turn gives the Astros solid production in the middle of their lineup.

Kansas City Royals: Will the Royals Deal Prospect Wil Myers?

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    Last season, Kansas City Royals top prospect Wil Myers hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI between Double-A and Triple-A ball.

    And he's not even 22 years old yet.

    Not surprisingly, Myers has drawn interest from several teams this offseason. With the Royals looking to bolster their starting rotation, Myers is looked upon as the chip to get that elite pitcher.

    Answer: No question Myers could attract a top-shelf pitcher if the Royals offered him for trade. However, with Jeff Francoeur just a year from free agency and Myers' incredible potential, could this be a trade that the Royals end up regretting for decades?

    The answer is yes. The Royals should rebuff any advances and look at other options to acquire the pitching help they want and need.

Los Angeles Angels: Will the Halos Be Outbid for Zack Greinke?

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    The Los Angeles Angels traded three top-25 organizational prospects to acquire starting pitcher Zack Greinke last July from the Milwaukee Brewers.

    Last month, they traded Ervin Santana and said goodbye to pitcher Dan Haren and right fielder Torii Hunter. The three moves combined freed up approximately $43 million in payroll.

    All of the moves were made with the intent of signing Greinke long-term.

    However, the team about 40 miles to the Northwest—the Los Angeles Dodgers—is making a play of its own for Greinke's services.

    Answer: Let's not forget that Greinke has the final say in this. While the Dodgers insist they'll outbid all other teams, Greinke's decision will also be based on personal preference.

    While many reports have the Dodgers as the front-runners for Greinke, the Angels aren't about to lay down and let it happen either.

    The answer is that yes, the Angels could well be outbid, but that doesn't necessarily mean victory for the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Is It Zack Greinke or Bust for the Dodgers?

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    Over the past few weeks, the reports about free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke and his likely destination next season has centered on the Southern California area.

    Or, more specifically, between the Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers.

    With the Dodgers rumored to be the favorites to sign Greinke because of their vast resources, would it be viewed as a failed offseason if they're unsuccessful?

    Answer: No, absolutely not. The Dodgers will sign an impact starter if they fail in their effort to sign Greinke. They've been tied to numerous pitchers, including Kyle Lohse and Anibal Sanchez. They also won the rights to negotiate with Korean southpaw pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin.

    Signing Greinke is not the end-all, be-all for the Dodgers. With their vast resources, they will come out smelling like a rose after all is said and done.

Miami Marlins: Will They Deal Ricky Nolasco Too?

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    After the mega-deal between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays that occurred in mid-November, Marlins president David Samson felt compelled to say that seven-year veteran starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco will not be traded.

    However, others aren't quite so sure.

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports wrote last week that the Marlins may have one more big trade in front of them.

    Nolasco is owed $11 million next season, and while he may not garner a huge return package, the Marlins could sweeten the return pot by adding in some additional cash.

    Answer: Hey, it's the Marlins. We've learned by now that anything is possible with them.

Milwaukee Brewers: Does It Really Make Sense to Sign Josh Hamilton?

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    The Milwaukee Brewers are still rumored to be a possible landing spot for free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton.

    Jayson Stark of ESPN.com posted the results of a survey conducted with 17 baseball executives, agents and scouts.

    On the subject of Hamilton, here's what one AL executive had to say:

    I've been thinking since the beginning of the offseason that this could go kind of like last year, where nobody seemed to know where the top guys were landing, and once some mid-market team got a whiff that they might be able to sign this guy, they'd decide to overpay and do it.

    Answer: That team isn't likely to be the Brewers.

    Yes, Hamilton's former accountability partner, Jerry Narron, is now with the Brewers. And yes, Hamilton would be a great fit in an offense that already features Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez.

    However, the Brewers would be hamstrung with Hamilton's expected salary and therefore would be limited in fulfilling other needs—bullpen help and rotation help.

Minnesota Twins: Will They Expand Payroll to Acquire the Pitching They Need?

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    The Minnesota Twins traded center fielder fielder Denard Span to the Washington Nationals on Thursday, receiving promising right-hander Alex Meyer in return.

    However, the Twins are on the hunt for major league-ready pitching, and that will be their focus at the MLB winter meetings.

    But are they willing to spend to get the pitching they want and need?

    Answer: Based on general manager Terry Ryan's recent comments, don't expect the Twins to suddenly start spending like George Steinbrenner.

    I don't think we'll be compelled to spend a lot of money without the legitimate chance of getting a good return on it. If (fans) are expecting that, they're probably going to be disappointed. I'll give innings to guys we have and try to build a good future before I just waste money (on a free agent).

    In this day and age, what constitutes a legitimate chance?

    In other words, expect the Twins to continue their conservative ways regarding free agency.

New York Mets: Do They Trade or Sign R.A. Dickey?

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    Now that the New York Mets have inked third baseman David Wright to a long-term contract, the next target on their list is Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey.

    Dickey told the Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday that progress has been made in recent contract negotiations with the Mets.

    On Saturday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports said that six or seven teams were looking to meet with the Mets to discuss Dickey when the MLB winter meetings start on Monday.

    Answer: Dickey signs with the Mets.

    After signing Wright, if the Mets fail to sign Dickey and end up trading him, it would be a PR nightmare in New York. Considering their woeful attendance last year at Citi Field, that's the last thing the Mets need right now.

New York Yankees: Who Will Be the Opening Day Catcher?

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    With Russell Martin signing a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates last week, the New York Yankees now have an additional need to fill.

    Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported on Sunday that the Yankees will be looking for a catcher and a right fielder above all else when they arrive in Nashville for the MLB winter meetings on Monday.

    The Yankees have four catchers—Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine, Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside—currently on their 40-man roster. General manager Brian Cashman indicated that one of them could actually be their Opening Day catcher.

    Answer: Both Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynksi have been mentioned as possible candidates, but David Waldstein of the New York Times tweeted that the Yankees aren't expected to make a big play for either.

    Cashman could look at the trade market for a short-term replacement.

    Prospect Gary Sanchez is the guy the Yankees are most enamored with, according to Jeff Bradley of the Newark Star-Ledger:

    Of course, the Yankees hope the next man to take over behind the plate is only there for a couple of years as they have high hopes for 19-year-old Gary Sanchez, who hit 18 home runs and drove in 85 runs combined at Class-A Charleston and Tampa last season.

    Expect a bridge guy here, not someone like Napoli or Pierzynksi.

Oakland Athletics: Will Stephen Drew Be Back at Shortstop on Opening Day?

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    The free-agent market for shortstops is weak this offseason. For Stephen Drew, that could mean a nice payday.

    Whether or not that paycheck comes from the Oakland Athletics is another question entirely.

    The A's clearly liked Drew, who seemed to fit in during his 39 games at the end of last season and through the postseason. He hit .250 and provided sound defense following his trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    The A's declined the $10 million option on Drew's contract for next season, but would love to bring him back at a more affordable cost.

    On Sunday, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweeted that the A's were one of five teams who were the likely candidates for Drew's services.

    Answer: Drew won't be returning to Oakland. Their answer could come via the trade market. The A's do have an abundance of outfielders, and they're likely just looking for a short-term answer while top prospect Addison Russell continues his development.

Philadelphia Phillies: Who Will Be Their Everyday Center Fielder?

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    The Philadelphia Phillies enter this week's MLB winter meetings in Nashville with a list of several needs, but center field is the big void needing to be filled.

    Angel Pagan, Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and Shane Victorino have all been mentioned as possibilities for the Phillies.

    Answer: General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could make a strong play for Pagan. A capable leadoff hitter with speed, Pagan could be favored more as a short-term option, as opposed to more expensive options like Hamilton or Bourn.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Will Joel Hanrahan Be Closing for the Pirates in 2013?

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates have already made a considerable splash this offseason, signing free agent Russell Martin to a two-year, $17 million contract.

    Now, the Pirates aim to find more starting pitching.

    According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Pirates have informed teams that closer Joel Hanrahan could be made available if a deal netted them an impact starter.

    Hanrahan has been outstanding over the past two seasons, racking up 76 saves with a 2.24 ERA.

    Answer: The Pirates have A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald as their front three in the rotation. Adding another quality starter could certainly help the Pirates avoid another collapse for sure.

    Hanrahan would be a valuable commodity for any contending seeking a reliable closer, so it's entirely possible he could be closing somewhere else next season.

San Diego Padres: Will They Trade or Spend for Starting Pitching?

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    The San Diego Padres will head to Nashville this week with one clear goal in mind: upgrade their starting pitching.

    No other goal is more important, but the question is, how do the Padres achieve that goal?

    General manager Josh Byrnes told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune that the trade route was preferable.

    “Clearly, trades make more sense for what we’re trying to do," Byrnes said. "The free agent market prices are higher than they should be. We’ve spent more time discussing trades than free agents.”

    The Padres' best possible trade chips—Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher—could be made available, but it would take away from one of the Padres' biggest strengths: their bullpen.

    Answer: The Padres could do a little bit of both. In a recent chat with readers, Center cited free-agent right-hander Dan Haren as a target. He also said the Padres could be interested in dealing for Cleveland Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez as well.

    Byrnes could very well be dipping into both markets to find what he's looking for.

San Francisco Giants: Can Be They Successful in Signing Both Scutaro and Pagan?

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    The San Francisco Giants will be looking to repeat as World Series champions next season. They've already taken steps to keep their team intact with the signing of reliever Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year, $18 million contract.

    Now, they're looking to do the same with Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan.

    Pagan has drawn considerable interest on the open market as a more inexpensive alternative to Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn in center field.

    In fact, according to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, Pagan received a four-year offer from both the Philadelphia Phillies and the Giants.

    Scutaro is largely expected to re-sign with the Giants, most likely on a two-year deal.

    Answer: The Giants aren't about to let either star get away. They'll sign both Scutaro and Pagan and also look for additional help in left field.

Seattle Mariners: Can They Land an Impact Right-Handed Bat?

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    Two of the biggest needs for the Seattle Mariners this offseason—an impact veteran bat and a corner outfielder—could be met with one signing.

    According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, that signing could be Nick Swisher.

    Heyman lists the Mariners as one of seven teams who are interested in bringing Swisher aboard.

    Swisher brings versatility along with him as well. Considering the fact that 25-year-old first baseman Justin Smoak continues to be an enigma, Swisher could also be an option at first.

    The Mariners have also spoken to free-agent catcher Mike Napoli as well.

    Answer: Swisher fits for the Mariners. He'll help provide pop in the middle of the lineup, especially now with the fences at Safeco Field being moved in. He'll also provide insurance at first should Smoak continue to falter and a strong clubhouse presence for a youthful lineup.

St. Louis Cardinals: Can They Find a Lefty Reliever to Help Marc Rzepczynski?

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    The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the very few teams in baseball who just need to tweak things as they enter this week's winter meetings in Nashville.

    On the short list is finding a left-handed complement to Marc Rzepczynski in the bullpen.

    The obvious choice here is Sean Burnett. With Jeremy Affeldt safely tucked away in San Francisco, Burnett stands out as the top southpaw available.

    Mike Gonzalez is an option as well. Gonzalez held lefties to just a .179 average last year for the Washington Nationals.

    Answer: Gonzalez might be a better and more affordable option.

    Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak isn't looking to replace Rzepczynski—he simply wants a partner:

    Rzep’s peripherals were still pretty good, but there is some external variables that affect him that we need to make sure as an organization we get right. I think usage is critical. I think having another lefty made him feel better. When he was a one-man band out there he didn’t pitch as well. That’s why we need to find someone.

    Gonzalez just could be that right partner.

Tampa Bay Rays: Will They Trade Away Any of Their Core Starters?

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    The Tampa Bay Rays will be looking for offense as the MLB winter meetings get underway in Nashville on Monday.

    The question is, are they willing to give something to get something?

    The giving would be in the form of staring pitching—something the Rays certainly have an abundance of.

    Vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will likely be highly sought-after this week as teams approach him with the intent of prying away one of his pitchers.

    But here's the thing: The Rays won 90 games with no offense. Friedman doesn't have to jump at the first deal offered.

    Yes, they lost B.J. Upton, and there's certainly no guarantee that slugger Evan Longoria stays healthy for 162 games. But it's not like the Rays wallowed in misery with a less-than potent offense last season. They were within two games of making the playoffs at the end of the season.

    Answer: Friedman will absolutely listen to offers. He'd be crazy not to. However, he's in the catbird's seat, and he knows it. He can afford to hold out to get exactly what he wants in return.

    Teams will ask about James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson and even inquire about Cy Young Award winner David Price.

    By the end of the week, Friedman will have what he wants, and one of those three will in fact be pitching for someone else in 2013. But the team acquiring that pitcher will have paid dearly.

Texas Rangers: Will They Re-Sign Josh Hamilton?

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    The Texas Rangers have some holes to fill. Another starting pitcher would be nice, and a catcher would certainly help as well.

    But the biggest question on the minds of every Rangers fan is whether or not Josh Hamilton returns or plays elsewhere.

    Hamilton and his agent have kept in touch with the Rangers in the past few weeks, and general manager Jon Daniels is content to let the process play itself out before jumping into the fold.

    "I think the interest has been consistent,'' Daniels said. "The process that we agreed to really back in the spring, when we tabled negotiations at that point, was that Josh was going to test the market and once he had a sense of that would circle with us, and I think he's still in that process.''

    Answer: Hamilton signs with the Rangers for four years and $100 million.

    In his MLB winter meetings preview article for ESPN.com, Jayson Stark surveyed a panel of 17 members that included executives, agents and scouts. The majority saw Hamilton re-signing with the Rangers, and one AL executive predicted the above figure:

    I'm going to say he gets four years and $100 million from Texas I know they said they'd only go three years. But the conspiracy theorist in me says they threw that out there to temper everyone else's enthusiasm so they didn't go crazy. Then they'd swoop in and get their guy.

    That wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Toronto Blue Jays: Can They Add One More Starter?

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    Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has certainly managed a few minor miracles during his time.

    Two years ago, Anthopoulos traded Vernon Wells and the $86 million remaining on his contract to the Los Angeles Angels.

    Last month, Athopoulos raided the Miami Marlins' closet, walking away with Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck.

    He then signed Melky Cabera to a two-year contract.

    While the Cabrera signing could be termed a risk, the other two transactions were nothing short of brilliant.

    Now, Anthopoulos will look for another piece to finish off his masterpiece for this season: one more starting pitcher.

    With Johnson, Buehrle and Brandon Morrow, Anthopoulos has a solid core. It remains to be seen whether or not Ricky Romero can bounce back from his disastrous 2012 season (9-14 record, 5.77 ERA, 1.674 WHIP).

    J.A. Happ returns as well, but Anthopoulos' goal is depth.

    Answer: With the Blue Jays non-tendering catcher Bobby Wilson, it's less likely they'll be looking to trade any of their remaining catchers—J.P. Arencibia, Buck and Travis D'Arnaud.

    According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Jays are more likely to add depth and not a major upgrade, preferring to use Happ as their No. 5 starter.

    Considering what the Jays have done already, nothing is out of the picture at this point.

Washington Nationals: Will They Re-Sign LaRoche and Trade Morse?

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    The Washington Nationals added the center fielder they wanted last week.

    Now, they'll look to add the first baseman they desire as well.

    It's pretty clear that Adam LaRoche wants to return to Washington, telling Adam Berry of MLB.com that he envisions his career ending in the nation's capital.

    "I've made it as clear as I can that I want to come back," LaRoche said. "On the other hand, I've got two kids and a wife to worry about, too, so I can't do something stupid. I'm not looking to set a record deal by any means. Let's get something fair and let's go. I want to finish up in D.C., and then when I'm done there, I'll be done."

    The feeling appears to be mutual, at least for manager Davey Johnson.

    "They had an opportunity to talk, not over the phone or long distance," Johnson said. "Hopefully, they'll work something out. I really liked the trade to get a center fielder, but Adam makes our infield the best in baseball. Without him, we wouldn't have accomplished what we did last year."

    With the trade for Span and the possible signing of LaRoche, it likely means that left fielder Michael Morse will be left without a job, at least in Washington.

    Morse could be used to fill other needs for the Nationals, and Morse would provide a solid outfield bat with power for teams in need.

    Answer: LaRoche signs and Morse goes. If the Nationals lose Sean Burnett and Mike Gonzalez to free agency, they'll have some holes to fill in their bullpen. They're also looking for back-end rotation help. Morse could help in plugging some of those holes.


    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.