Playing Fact or Fiction with MLB's Hottest 2016 Spring Training Buzz, Week 6
We've reached the point in spring training when teams begin to get down to the nitty-gritty, shipping prospects back to minor league camp and letting veterans in camp on minor league deals out of their contracts, preparing to get the show on the road for Opening Day.
But that shuffling won't be the only roster moves teams make over the next two weeks. Free-agent signings, and even a trade or two, are sure to transpire.
Has a perennial All-Star's opinion sealed his fate? Will a contender bench a high-priced veteran in favor of an inexpensive youngster? Will two contenders strike a deal that benefits both clubs?
We'll hit on all of that and more in this week's edition of Fact or Fiction.
Fact: Pablo Sandoval Will Be Boston's Starting Third Baseman
One of spring training's biggest unanswered questions is who's on third in Boston—Pablo Sandoval or Travis Shaw?
If the exhibition season were the only contributing factor, then the answer would be Shaw, who has outplayed his more experienced and higher-paid counterpart in every possible way. But it's not.
While Red Sox manager John Farrell tells the Boston Herald's Michael Silverman that “ultimately, the bottom line is [putting] the best team on the field as often as possible," the simple fact is that Boston isn't about to give up on Sandoval, who is due $19 million in 2016.
At least not yet.
That doesn't mean Shaw will become completely irrelevant. He'll spell Sandoval once or twice a week over the season's first month. Should Sandoval continue to struggle, both at the plate and in the field, then the Red Sox will make a switch.
But they'll give him every opportunity to prove that he's capable of contributing before then.
Fiction: Carlos Quentin Will Crack Minnesota's Opening Day Roster
Everyone loves a comeback story, and there might not be a more surprising one than the tale of Carlos Quentin, who retired last year due to chronic knee issues.
In camp with the Minnesota Twins on a minor league deal, the 33-year-old outfielder has made a strong case for inclusion on the team's Opening Day roster, hitting .310 (9-for-29) with five extra-base hits (two home runs), seven RBI and a 1.021 OPS in 13 games.
He's certainly outproduced Oswaldo Arcia (.194 BA, .544 OPS), his strongest competition for a spot on the Twins bench. Arcia might be scuffling at the plate, but he's only 24 years old, has a 20-home run season under his belt and owns a solid, albeit unspectacular .741 OPS over parts of three seasons with the Twins.
He also happens to be out of minor league options, and there's no chance he'd pass through waivers unclaimed. There's no conceivable way the Twins are ready to give up on Arcia in favor of Quentin, whose best days are behind him and hasn't played in more than 100 games since 2011.
No matter how well Quentin plays, the only way he breaks camp with the Twins is if a corner outfielder, first baseman or designated hitter suffers an unfortunate injury between now and Opening Day.
Fact: Chicago Won't Trade Chis Sale...At Least Not Yet
Nobody was more critical of the Chicago White Sox—and team president Kenny Williams in particular—in the wake of the Adam LaRoche fiasco than Chris Sale. That led to speculation that the club might look to move its ace, speculation that was unfounded.
“Nothing has changed in terms of our direction or expectations for the upcoming season,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn told CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes. “We remain committed to putting this current club in as good a position as possible to contend this year.”
A rotation led by Sale puts the team in far better position to contend than a rotation without him would.
If that wasn't enough of a rebuke, another member of the team's front office made things crystal clear for the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo. “No chance. There was no chance in the offseason and no chance now. We’re building our team around Chris Sale.”
But as Hayes notes, this isn't the first time the White Sox have seen Sale's outspokenness cause a distraction, and odds are it won't be the last. Should things go badly for the White Sox over the season's first half, it wouldn't be at all surprising if the team shopped him at the trade deadline.
Fiction: Cleveland Will Trade for Another Outfielder
Cleveland continues to search for outfield upgrades and is dangling starters Cody Anderson, Trevor Bauer, Michael Clevinger and T.J. House to facilitate a deal, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal hears.
With Indians outfielders hitting a combined .222 with five home runs and 60 strikeouts this spring, you can't blame them for looking at other options.
But All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley looks like he could be ready for Opening Day after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, and manager Terry Francona is open to having him available on a part-time basis.
"If we knew going into [the season] that maybe he wasn't quite ready to play a day game after a night game," Francona told Cleveland.com's Zack Meisel, "having Michael for three out of four games as opposed to not having him, we'll take it."
Rajai Davis, signed to a one-year, $5.25 million deal over the winter, can fill in when Brantley needs a rest. Former first-round pick Tyler Naquin, hitting .400 (14-for-35) with five extra-base hits and a 1.090 OPS, looks to have won the center field job in place of the suspended Abraham Almonte.
That leaves right field as the lone area of need. While there are sure to be some players available, are any of them worth one of the starters the team is offering? Or significantly better than Marlon Byrd, who hit .247 with 23 home runs and a .743 OPS last season?
Of course they're not. That's why Cleveland will stick with what it's got and, if need be, revisit the situation after the regular season has gotten underway, when injuries and ineffectiveness could present more intriguing options.
Fact: Houston Will Trade for Bryan Holaday
With backup catcher Max Stassi starting the season on the disabled list after undergoing wrist surgery last week and Evan Gattis still working his way back from hernia surgery, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that Houston is looking outside the organization for a replacement.
Per McTaggart, the Astros have recently scouted Detroit's Bryan Holaday, and the 28-year-old Dallas native would be a perfect choice. While we tagged Holaday as a springtime overachiever last week, he's solid defensively and capable of contributing offensively, unlike many of the backups you'll find elsewhere.
Out of minor league options, Detroit knows that he'd be claimed if they tried to sneak him through waivers. And while the Tigers like what he offers, there's no chance they can carry three catchers on their Opening Day roster. A trade is the only thing that makes sense.
While Houston's farm system isn't as well-stocked as it once was, due to promotions and other trades, the Astros have more than enough to acquire Holaday. Sure, there will be other, less expensive options available, including former Astro Carlos Corporan, but adding Holaday is the team's best option.
This way, the Astros can allow Stassi to shake off the rust down at Triple-A while keeping Gattis fresh as a mostly full-time designated hitter, with occasional appearances at first base and perhaps a corner outfield spot.
Unless otherwise noted, all spring training statistics courtesy of MLB.com and are current through Tuesday's games. All other statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).
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