Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2016-2017 MLB Offseason, Week 8

Seth Gruen@SethGruenFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2016

Updating the Hottest Questions of the 2016-2017 MLB Offseason, Week 8

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    Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

    In keeping with the theme of the upcoming holidays, executives around MLB still have plenty of gift giving to do for their respective managers.

    Multiple players—be it via the trade or free-agent markets—are available who could have an impact on division races in 2017. Where those players may land—and to an extent, who they are—still remains a mystery.

    So as executives attempt to figure out how they may be able to better their clubs for the 2017 season, let’s try to answer some of the questions they’ll be asking.

Who Is the Best Trade Partner for the White Sox's Jose Quintana?

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    By the time the 2017 season ends, we may look back on the offseason and come to realize that the biggest names of the winter began the season on the Chicago White Sox roster.

    The most heralded move of the offseason—on both sides—came when Chicago dealt left-handed starter Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox. Sale had to go first so as not to compete with teammate and fellow left-handed starter Jose Quintana, who will also immediately impact the top of any contending rotation.

    With Chicago in rebuild mode, Quintana should be on his way to a contending team soon. If general manager Rick Hahn has proved one thing this offseason, it’s that he’s able to identify trade partners that give the White Sox maximum return in any trade.

    As Hahn works the phones, he might be listening closest to the New York Yankees, who Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported were interested in acquiring Quintana.

    It makes sense for both clubs. New York, looking to contend in 2017, would like to bolster its rotation. Quintana has played well against the Boston Red Sox—the Yankees’ chief competition in the AL East this upcoming season—throughout his career. Quintana’s 0.98 WHIP against Boston is his best career mark against any AL club, a terrible outing in Boston this season notwithstanding.

    The White Sox, meanwhile, have four pitchers in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects (Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer). They should now turn their attention toward acquiring position player prospects. The Yankees have five in the aforementioned list (outfielder Clint Frazier, shortstop Gleyber Torres, middle infielder Jorge Mateo, outfielder Aaron Judge and outfielder Blake Rutherford).

Which Unsigned Player Could Have the Most Impact in 2017?

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    Edwin Encarnacion
    Edwin EncarnacionVaughn Ridley/Getty Images

    For a number of reasons—the collective bargaining negotiations and a weak free-agent class, to name a few—this offseason has been atypical.

    That trend appears as if it will continue after the first of the year when several of this free-agent class’ biggest names could remain unsigned. Power remains the biggest area of supply with Mike Napoli, Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion still on the market.

    The latter three have the ability to lead MLB in homers in a given year. In fact, Trumbo was the home run champ last season. But it’s Encarnacion who would impact a division race more than any of the aforementioned players.

    Though they all have power, Bautista, Napoli and Trumbo are largely one-dimensional. All they do is hit for power.

    Encarnacion, however, is a more complete player at the plate. He hit .263/.357/.529 and drove in an AL-leading 127 runs in 2016. Though he may figure as an everyday designated hitter, Encarnacion does offer something defensively. As a first baseman in 2016, he posted an ultimate zone rating of 1.7, according to FanGraphs.

    The longer he lingers on the market, the more of a bargain he may become—making him even more attractive to teams looking to add a middle-of-the-order bat.

Why Are the Milwaukee Brewers Struggling to Trade Ryan Braun?

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    On its face, .305/.365/.538 with 30 homers and 91 RBI in 2016 should be easy to move. One would think teams looking for run production would push and shove to try to acquire a bat associated with such numbers.

    But with Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun’s name attached, it seems as if they are shying away. A return to Southern California would make sense for Braun, who is from the area, and the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are looking to add an impact bat.

    Los Angeles, however, appears to have turned its attention toward a trade for Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier (more on this in a minute).

    What could be holding the Dodgers, and other teams, back is a confluence of issues. Braun is signed through the 2020 season with a mutual option for 2021 on a contract that has $76 million remaining.

    It’s a contract commensurate with his numbers, but nonetheless a huge financial commitment. Couple that with the fact that Braun is an admitted steroid user and a positive test in the future would net him a massive suspension, it adds to the risk of such an acquisition. 

    Milwaukee’s position in such a deal is a good one: The Brewers have one of baseball’s best groups of minor league prospects, so they can afford to hold Braun until the right deal comes their way, which could also contribute to stagnation in trade discussions.

Will Brian Dozier Get Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers Already?

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    The Dodgers may be a bat away from significantly closing the gap between themselves and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs. All indications are the organization believes that Minnesota Twins power-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier owns that bat.

    Dozier told reporters earlier this month that he met with Twins executives to discuss trade rumors, including those that involved the Dodgers.

    Such a trade would make sense for both sides. Minnesota is looking for young, controllable pitching, which the Dodgers can offer. Dozier, meanwhile, hit 42 homers in 2016 and would be a perfect fit in the Los Angeles lineup.

    Placed somewhere in the middle of that lineup, the Dodgers would be able to alternate between the left-handed bats of Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez and the right-handed bats of Dozier and Justin Turner.  

    As is the case in any trade negotiations, both clubs could be trying to establish their position. The Twins could try to drum up interest in Dozier among other teams so that they ultimately drive the price higher on Los Angeles.

    Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that the San Francisco Giants are interested in acquiring Dozier as well. It’s highly possible, though, the Giants are feigning interest to drive up the price on NL West rival Los Angeles.

    San Francisco second baseman Joe Panik is a Gold Glove winner, and it would seem odd for the club to spend prospects trying to acquire another player at the position.

    The two teams have a long history of competing heavily with each other in the offseason. This winter the Giants were rumored to have interest in third baseman Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen, who both ended up re-signing with Los Angeles.

    Ultimately, expect a deal to get done with the Dodgers, where Dozier would be a much better fit.

Does Chicago Cubs Skipper Joe Maddon Deserve to Be Getting Flak?

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Anytime a World Series comes down to a Game 7, it’s typical for it to be dissected months after—oftentimes until the start of the next season.

    Moves are analyzed every which way, situations are replayed and criticism is levied on those deserving. It’s highly unusual, however, for that criticism to be thrown toward the opposing team.

    But Cubs manager Joe Maddon finds himself in that circumstance, defending, among many things, his usage of closer Aroldis Chapman in that decisive seventh game.

    In a conference with reporters after signing a deal with the Yankees this offseason, Chapman criticized Maddon for overusing him in the playoffs, saying he was tired when he blew a save in the eighth inning of the game Chicago eventually won in 10 frames.

    Chapman is right. Though he repeatedly stated before the playoffs began that he is only comfortable pitching the ninth inning, Maddon used him for several multiple-inning outings throughout the playoffs. There was reason to question whether Chapman’s arm was tired heading into Game 7.

    Moreover, Maddon earned criticism just a half-inning later when he called for Javy Baez, who had homered earlier in the game, to bunt on a two-strike count. Baez's bunt went foul, causing him to strike out.

    Maddon’s defense is simple: The Cubs won.

    And that’s all that matters. Coaching decisions, managerial moves and the play on the field are all broken down in the context of how they affect the outcome of a game.

    These moves, while questionable, didn’t affect the outcome. And Chicago doesn’t get to a World Series without Maddon, who was outstanding throughout the regular season.

    So why does it matter? Could the Cubs have done a better job of winning Game 7? The obvious answer: No. All that matters is the final score.

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