2/20/2014 9:36 P.M. ET
Rogers Inbox: Who is most crucial for a contender?
MLB.com columnist discusses irreplaceable players, the White Sox and more
By Phil Rogers / MLB.com
That didn't take long.
Matt Harrison's aching back revealed itself at the outset of camp, which showed why the Rangers might regret adding only Tommy Hanson to a rotation that lost Matt Garza to free agency and, for at least half a season, Derek Holland to knee surgery. The Rangers don't know yet how big of a blow this will be, but after adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason, it appears their pitching is a big concern.
Will they be forced to sign Ervin Santana? Find a way to trade for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija? I wonder.
Here are some of the questions you have:
Who is the most crucial player for a contending team -- the one guy whose team has virtually no shot if something happens to him?
-- Nate G., Holland, Mich.
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Great question. My first thought was Miguel Cabrera, but I don't think he's the guy. The Tigers have the pitching to win 2-1 games in October without him. I'll say the finalists are the Pirates without Andrew McCutchen or the Giants without Buster Posey. Both are too valuable to the lineup and the defense. For pitchers, I'd say Yu Darvish (Rangers) or CC Sabathia (Yankees). Final answer: Posey.
Do you think Cubs president Theo Epstein likes or dislikes owner Tom Ricketts saying his team can make the playoffs?
-- Charlie L., Chicago
He loves it, because he feels the same way. Spring Training baseball is all about best-case scenarios, and inside the Cubs' complex, there are people who think the parts are in place for the team to be a pleasant surprise from April to June and then become much stronger in the second half through trades and the arrival of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, and maybe even such pitchers as Kyle Hendricks, C.J. Edwards, Pierce Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino and Armando Rivero.
Do you think the White Sox will add anybody to the roster via trades or free agency? If so, who?
-- Jason H., Chicago
The first question is easy. The White Sox still have some money to spend, and they have a major need at catcher. They're going to add at least one catcher (and maybe two) through trades or waiver claims when teams try to get their out-of-option players to Triple-A. The most intriguing guy who could become available is Boston's Ryan Lavarnway. I think the Angels' Hank Conger, the Yankees' Francisco Cervelli and the Athletics' Stephen Vogt are all possible mid-spring targets once White Sox scouts have watched two or three weeks' worth of games.
Are there any recent examples of teams weighted as much toward offense as the Cubs look to become with their prospects? How did they handle pitching?
-- Mike G., Park Ridge, Ill.
Two who come to mind are the Rangers (in two different eras), with such run-producers as Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Rusty Greer, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre, and the Rockies, when they were known as the Blake Street Bombers. Colorado is still trying to figure out how to develop pitchers at Coors Field, but Texas made it to two World Series by going outside the organization to acquire pitching, with Darvish and Cliff Lee the biggest acquisitions.
Any update on Tyler Colvin, after his signing with the Orioles fell through?
-- Roland J., Palatine, Ill.
I think Colvin is holding out to see if he can land a Major League deal somewhere, but the strongest likelihood is a Minor League deal with the Orioles. He has supporters with the Yankees and Red Sox, so he could land with one of those clubs.
Is there no chance that Kris Bryant makes the Cubs out of Spring Training even if he has a good spring?
-- Eric Selin, Summit, Ill.
A good spring? No chance. A crazy-good spring? Well, he could make it a tough decision. Among the precedents to look at are Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman and Troy Tulowitzki, and those guys averaged 608 Minor League plate appearances before they were handed big league jobs. Zimmerman had only 296, but that's still twice as many as Bryant's 146. Don't be surprised if Bryant is among the early cuts in big league camp so that he can't force his way into the end-of-camp mix. It would take a lot to get the Cubs to alter their developmental plan.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.