MLB Teams
Tim Kurkjian, ESPN Senior Writer 17d

Ten biggest offseason questions, including what the Marlins will do with Stanton

MLB, Miami Marlins

The offseason in baseball is one of the game's biggest misnomers. There is no offseason. There are no games, but there are trades, signings, awards, changes, meetings, news and on and on. There have been bigger and busier offseasons than this one will likely be, but it will still be busy. It always is.

Here are 10 questions as the offseason gets underway.

Who will win the postseason awards?

The Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger will win the Rookie of the Year in their respective leagues, and each might be unanimous. The likely leaders for Manager of the Year are the Twins' Paul Molitor and the Diamondbacks' Torey Lovullo. The American League Cy Young Award will come down to the Indians' Corey Kluber and Boston's Chris Sale, with Kluber having the edge. In the NL, the Nationals' Max Scherzer and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw are the top contenders, with Scherzer having the edge.

The AL MVP will be a two-man race between Jose Altuve and Judge, with Altuve the likely winner.

It's the NL MVP that should be fascinating. It's possible that five players -- Giancarlo Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Joey Votto -- will get first-place votes. Stanton seems to have the best chance to win the award.

What are the plans for the Cubs?

They already have changed most of their coaching staff. Now, they will concentrate on their roster. They likely will have to replace Jake Arrieta, who is a free agent and unlikely to return. They probably will have to replace closer Wade Davis, who is also a free agent. This might be the offseason that they take offers for outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who could bring pitching in return, and shortstop Addison Russell, who also could bring a pitcher. The Cubs have another shortstop on their roster in Javier Baez. The Cubs have all the money and resources to be great again in 2018, but big changes are possible.

What are the plans for the Red Sox?

They finished last in the league in home runs, and they badly need a big-time power hitter. They might not have enough in the farm system to make a deal for Stanton or Jose Abreu, so they might have to include an established player, such as center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., in a deal. In 2017, a record number of home runs were hit. In this all-or-nothing game, it is very difficult to win without hitting homers. The Red Sox also need a first baseman with the possible departure of free agent Mitch Moreland. Eric Hosmer would be a good fit at first. As for David Price's situation, given his contract, it is unlikely that he will be traded. The Red Sox have to hope he turns around his mostly lost season of 2017 and returns as a quality starting pitcher.

What are the plans for the Dodgers?

The National League champions are planning on cutting payroll. They finished the season at $259 million. That means they probably won't re-sign Yu Darvish, given how much he will cost and how the season finished for him in the World Series. They'll have to find a way to part ways with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is scheduled to make $22 million in the final year of his deal but has no place on the team in 2018.

Who are the best free-agent hitters?

It starts with J.D. Martinez, who, in 2017, became the only player ever to hit 45 home runs in a season of fewer than 120 games. He has hired Scott Boras as his agent, which means the price will go up. But with teams such as the Cardinals and Red Sox in the market for a big hitter, Martinez is going to get paid. But he is not a good defensive player, so he will be more attractive to an AL team. Free-agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, 28, is a terrific defender and has hit 25 homers in each of the past two seasons. The Red Sox need a first baseman. Other free-agent hitters include Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Jay Bruce and Zack Cozart. The Mets likely will make a run at Moustakas.

Who are the best free-agent pitchers?

It starts with Arrieta, who is 32, and coming off a season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA. It doesn't appear he is going back to the Cubs, and with Boras as his agent, Arrieta might be looking for a deal around $100 million. Darvish, 31, has great stuff, but his performance in the World Series -- two terrible starts -- won't help his value. Lance Lynn could help a lot of teams. Davis is the best closer on the free-agent market.

Who will manage the Yankees?

This is a great job. The Yankees are a really good team, and they're going to get a lot better with the maturation of Judge and Gary Sanchez, the eventual emergence of infielder Gleyber Torres and the possible signing of pitcher/DH Shohei Otani. Beyond this offseason, the Yankees figure to be in the market for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado when they hit free agency after the 2018 season. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has just begun the search for a manager, and there isn't anyone close to being a leading candidate. The long list of candidates could include Josh Paul, a rising young manager in the minor leagues, and Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens. A number of other names will surface, but chances are, it will be an out-of-the-box choice, maybe someone (David Ross? Aaron Boone?) who has never managed, can handle the media and will embrace analytics.

What will happen with pace of play?

The time of game increased six minutes in 2017 from 3 hours to 3 hours, 6 minutes. Commissioner Rob Manfred is determined to cut out some of the dead time in the game. A pitch clock is coming, perhaps as early as next season. The number of trips to the mound by pitching coaches, infielders and especially catchers will be examined. In the AL wild-card game, during a 13-pitch at-bat by the Twins' Joe Mauer, Yankees catcher Sanchez went to the mound six times. Perhaps as early as next year, teams will be told not to the throw the ball around the horn after an out with no one on. Get the ball to the pitcher. Let's go. But the average time of game will never be cut significantly as long as there are 16.5 strikeouts per game and 30 percent of all outcomes are a walk or a strikeout.

Will the Marlins trade Giancarlo Stanton?

Probably. As new ownership, which includes Derek Jeter, takes over in Miami, it appears more and more likely that the Marlins will try to trade Stanton, whose salary takes up so much of the payroll. Dealing Stanton would be a wildly unpopular move in South Florida, but if the Marlins are going to rebuild their farm system, especially with pitching, they might have to trade him. The Cardinals certainly will be interested, and they might have a package to get a deal done. The Red Sox also need a big hitter. The Phillies have a lot of money with which to deal and young players to trade. Stanton certainly is frustrated not playing for a playoff team. He probably would welcome a deal.

Will Shohei Otani come to MLB?

He is 23 years old and is the Babe Ruth of Japan, he throws 100 mph, and he has tremendous power at the plate. Otani has always wanted to play on the game's highest level, and apparently he is considering hiring Boras as his agent. The Rangers certainly will pursue Otani, and the Yankees and Dodgers likely will be in the mix. Right now, it's still not clear that Otani will sign with an MLB team this offseason. First he has to be posted by his team in Japan, and even then, under MLB's current rules, players under 25 are subject to international pool caps, which limits the amount of money Otani could get. But if he waits until after he's 25, he would be able to sign for whatever a team is willing to pay him.

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