Spring training is just around the corner, with pitchers and catchers set to report to camp sometime between Feb. 19 and 23, depending on the team, and position players arriving the following week.

But even though the start of the season draws closer every day, there are still several unanswered questions that, once answered, are sure to have a major impact on the 2015 season.


Who will sign Yoan Moncada?

The sweepstakes for Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada intensified this week after the 19-year-old was cleared to negotiate and sign with any big league club.

When he signs, Moncada is expected to receive roughly $40 million, a would-be record under the international bonus pool system. His new team will face a 100 percent tax on the pool overage, so basically an additional $40 million.

Earlier this week, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com highlighted the five teams he believes have the best chances of signing Moncada: the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Detroit Tigers. Of those teams, Sanchez views the Yankees as the favorites to land the Cuban prospect:

The Yanks have a long history in the international market and were the first team to blow past their international bonus pools by signing several top prospects on July 2. That number is now close to 30, but none would be bigger than Moncada. The Yankees were among the first teams to watch him in a private workout, and they have been considered the favorites for several months.

Meanwhile, Buster Olney of ESPN thinks it makes sense for the Dodgers to pursue Moncada, citing the team’s deep pockets as well as its current lack of a long-term second baseman. However, it might not be worth Moncada‘s final cost plus the international signing restrictions the team will face in the following two years, writes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.

Whether it’s the Yankees, Dodgers or another team that ultimately invests in Moncada’s future, it’s clear that there are plenty of teams that believe he’s worth it.


How will the Tigers replace Victor Martinez?

On Thursday, we learned Victor Martinez has a torn medial meniscus in his left knee and that he’s set to undergo surgery Tuesday.

Martinez finished second to Mike Trout for the American League MVP Award in 2014 after batting .335 with 32 home runs. The Tigers re-signed the 36-year-old designated hitter to a four-year, $68 million contract back in November.

He suffered the injury during a recent workout, and it’s his second major offseason knee injury in the last four years.

The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Tigers, as there was already concern about whether Miguel Cabrera would be fully healthy for spring training due to a stress fracture in his left foot.

ESPN.com’s Christina Kahrl notes the Tigers offense could be in serious trouble if V-Mart misses significant time:

Baseball Prospectus projects Detroit to score more than 20 fewer runs than last year’s 757, while analyst Clay Davenport pegged them even more harshly, losing more than 50 runs—five wins in the standings if you work with that simple 10 runs equals a win formula. And that was before V-Mart got hurt.

The Tigers won’t have an exact timetable for Martinez’s return until he has surgery next week. The severity of the injury is likely to determine the length of his recovery, writes Jason Beck of MLB.com:

A clean-out typically requires four to six weeks of recovery. Because Martinez has had previous surgeries, including a repair of his meniscus in 2012 after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, he could be more cautious, missing six to eight weeks. A reattachment, Dr. Khabie said, requires up to six months of recovery.

The early speculation is the Tigers will look for answers within their system, according to Beck. Minor leaguers Jordan Lennerton and Aaron Westlake appear to be the best options, and both players are now expected to receive extended playing time during spring training.


Who will sign James Shields?

Free agent James Shields has multiple offers on the table and is expected to sign before the end of the weekend, tweets Jon Morosi of Fox Sports (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). Beyond that, it’s mostly speculation concerning which teams are legitimately in play for the right-hander.

Jim Bowden of ESPN recently noted that Shields is highly unlikely to receive the five-year, $100 million contract he sought heading into the offseason, and certainly not a fifth year:

As a former general manager, I can tell you that when a player gets to the first week of February unsigned, there’s usually a good reason. If something were going to happen, it would have by then. Now Shields is looking at a four-year deal in the $70-$80 million range as the best possible result, and the price tag could be even lower than that. 

On Thursday, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported the San Diego Padres might be the front-runner to land Shields, “Who makes his home in the San Diego area and is himself said to prefer to play on the West Coast after spending the first part of his career in Tampa Bay and Kansas City.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney has also heard increased buzz about the possibility of Shields landing in San Diego:

That the Toronto Blue Jays are said to have some interest in the 33-year-old Shields is surprising to Heyman:

One of those teams is said to be the Blue Jays, who are said to be ‘kicking the tires’ on Shields in something of a surprise since their obvious financial restrictions have inhibited them from going hard after a closer, which would seem to be a need. The Blue Jays made their signing of star catcher Russell Martin for $82 million possible by backloading the contract.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs are also “kicking the tires” on Shields, according to David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com, and the team could become even more interested should his price tag continue to fall.

Stay tuned, as it might not be long until we learn where Big Game James will pitch in 2015.

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