Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2016-2017 MLB Offseason, Week 3

Seth Gruen@SethGruenFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2016

Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2016-2017 MLB Offseason, Week 3

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    White Sox pitcher Chris Sale
    White Sox pitcher Chris SaleRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Imagine the 2017 seasons as a bunch of puzzle pieces spread all over a table.

    We know which players will influence the outcome of the upcoming baseball season, but we don’t know how they will fit together. The winter provides us with many of those answers.

    But until free agents sign and teams conclude trade talks, a handful of questions will surround the 2017 offseason. These are the biggest among them.

How Will the San Francisco Giants Address Their Bullpen?

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    Free-agent closer Mark Melancon
    Free-agent closer Mark MelanconPatrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Throughout the second half of last season, the San Francisco Giants saw their hold on the NL West evaporate, largely thanks to the team’s shaky bullpen.

    San Francisco led the division by as many as seven games in late June, but trailed the Los Angeles Dodgers by as many as eight on September 25. The Giants blew an MLB-leading 30 saves in 2016.

    The problems among Giants relief pitchers eventually ended the team’s season when it blew a three-run lead in Game 4 of the NLDS, allowing the Chicago Cubs to score four ninth-inning runs in a series-clinching win. San Francisco used five relievers that inning.

    A win would have forced a decisive Game 5 in Chicago at Wrigley Field.

    Also of note, in Game 3 of that series, San Francisco blew a two-run lead in the ninth inning, allowing the Cubs to force extra innings. The Giants were able to win that game in 13 innings.

    That NLDS performance underscored the team’s need to address its bullpen this offseason.

    Lucky for the Giants, there is a trio of outstanding closers available, including Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon.

    It wouldn’t be surprising if the Giants made an attempt at signing two of the three, particularly because Jansen, Los Angeles’ closer last season, proved he is comfortable pitching the middle innings.

    Chapman was traded to the New York Yankees last offseason and then to the Cubs at the trade deadline. Melancon began last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to the Washington Nationals.

    Melancon has already met with the Giants.

Where Will Chris Sale Play in 2017?

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    White Sox pitcher Chris Sale
    White Sox pitcher Chris SaleJamie Squire/Getty Images

    It’s atypical for any player under contract to be the subject of such viral trade rumors at this point in the offseason, but the circumstances are so perfect for the Chicago White Sox to deal Chris Sale that it appears they have to be listening.

    No impact starting pitchers are available in free agency this winter, so any team in need of improving its starting rotation must look at orchestrating a trade. That has created a market for Sale that might not otherwise exist if teams could turn to free agency to acquire starting pitching.

    David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Atlanta Braves are interested in dealing for Sale. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Nationals have also engaged in talks with the White Sox for him.

    Really, any team in need of pitching should try to acquire Sale, who has been one of baseball’s best pitchers over the last five seasons. He has finished in the top five in AL Cy Young voting over the past four years.

    There’s a frenzy surrounding Sale, and he could land a number of places. Though the most recent reports only link him to Washington and Atlanta, the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees are all teams in need of starting pitching with the prospects to pull of such a trade.

Who Should Go in the New York Mets Outfield If Yoenis Cespedes Re-Signs?

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    Free-agent OF Yoenis Cespedes
    Free-agent OF Yoenis CespedesDerik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Though Yoenis Cespedes exercised an option in his three-year deal that let him out of his contract with the New York Mets and allowed him to enter free agency this offseason, it’s entirely possible that he could end up re-signing with the club.

    That would force the Mets to make some decisions as to how they would like to configure their outfield.

    Cespedes prefers to play left field, and if he re-signed, the team would undoubtedly plan to play him there as an everyday player. But the team still has corner outfielders Jay Bruce, Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson under contract.

    Bruce has been the subject of trade rumors. The latest came from NJ.com's Joe Giglio, who reported that the Toronto Blue Jays are interested in acquiring his left-handed bat.

    That could be an indication the Mets feel they are likely to re-sign Cespedes.

    Granderson is a career center fielder and played 36 games at the spot for the Mets last season. But given that he is 35, he slots more as a corner outfielder. He could split time there with Juan Lagares.

    Of course, the organization must wait and see what Cespedes ultimately decides.

How Will the Boston Red Sox Replace David Ortiz?

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    Free-agent DH Edwin Encarnacion
    Free-agent DH Edwin EncarnacionDavid Richard-USA TODAY Sports

    When David Ortiz retired at the end of the 2016 season, the Boston Red Sox not only lost a legend, but also an MVP-like bat from its 2016 AL East championship team.

    Ortiz, the team’s designated hitter, hit .315/.401/.620 with 38 homers, 127 RBI and 48 doubles.

    It’s unlikely that whoever the Red Sox slot as their designated hitter will be able to replicate Ortiz’s numbers from 2016. But nonetheless, Boston will need to find a prolific bat to replace him in the middle of the lineup.

    Edwin Encarnacion, 33, is a free agent after hitting 42 homers and 127 RBI for the Toronto Blue Jays last season. Not only would he bring Ortiz-like power to the lineup, but his familiarity with the AL East makes it a good match.

    His teammate last season, Jose Bautista, is another option. Injuries limited him to 116 games and 22 homers in 2016, but Bautista hit 40 homers and drove in 114 in 2015. However, at 36, Bautista is less of a long-term option than Encarnacion.

    Both players have traditionally played well at Fenway Park.

What’s Next for Los Angeles Dodgers Outfield Yasiel Puig?

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    Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig
    Dodgers OF Yasiel PuigGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    There may not be a more talked-about player than Yasiel Puig, but it’s entirely for the wrong reasons.

    When he came into the league in 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder looked like he was on the road to becoming a perennial All-Star. He hit .319/.391/.534 as a rookie. His numbers dipped in 2014, but were still a respectable .296/.382/.480.

    Then he the bottom fell out.

    Admittedly, he was hampered by hamstring injuries in 2015 that limited him to just 79 games and a .255 batting average. But reports of him causing problems in the clubhouse emerged that year.

    The Jekyll and Hyde act continued this offseason when Puig came to spring training seemingly renewed and saying all the right things. But by August, the Dodgers elected to send Puig down to Triple-A.

    He was also the subject of trade rumors around that time, though the Dodgers were unable to deal him. He returned to the club in September and hit .300 that month. He also played in 10 postseason games.

    Still, Puig’s up-and-down relationship with the club and the game itself is reason to speculate whether the Dodgers will move him this winter. The team is nearly certain to find suitor.

    His talent is still undeniable, assuming he lands in the right situation, with a manager that is able to reach him and tame his enigmatic personality.