MLB Rumors -
Central Notes: Cain, Bell, Cardinals, Schafer [10/20/2016 GMT]

Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain says that the Grade 2 wrist strain that ended his season won’t require surgery this winter, writes Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. Cain explained that he’s already had a month of recovery under his belt and expects to have a typical offseason, as he usually doesn’t begin his primary hitting program until January anyhow. Cain moved from center field to right field late in the season after returning from a hamstring injury, but Dodd writes that the Royals’ preference is to continue to deploy him in center field, where he’s graded out as one of the game’s premier defensive players over the past few seasons. However, Dodd also notes that the Royals will consider giving Cain more time in right field next season if they believe that will help to keep him healthier.

More from the the game’s Central divisions…

  • While much has been made of Josh Bell’s bat, defense will be the primary focus for the promising young Pirates slugger this offseason, writes’s Adam Berry. GM Neal Huntington spoke to Bell at season’s end about his desire for Bell to become proficient both at his natural position of right field and his more recently adopted position of first base. “That’s going to be my main focus, making sure I’m more versatile next year,” Bell told Berry. “You have a few guys in every lineup that can play all over the field. Those guys are your most valuable players. I hope to be one of those guys next year.” While Bell obviously won’t be lining up in the middle of the diamond anytime soon, there’s an obvious benefit to freely being able to move him between the corner outfield and first base without fretting much over defensive issues. As Berry points out, a crowded outfield and the presence of first baseman John Jaso on the roster as well could lead to an offseason trade but could also make for some nice depth in the 2017 season if everyone is retained.
  • A lack of bullpen depth proved to be a glaring deficiency for the Cardinals this season and must be addressed by general manager John Mozeliak over the winter, opines Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Gordon points out that with Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake, Alex Reyes, a returning Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia (whose option seems likely to be picked up) all in the rotation picture, the rotation looks to have good depth (though further depth could be added on minor league pacts or small deals this winter), but the ’pen took hits with the loss of Zach Duke and Seth Maness to Tommy John surgery. Potential replacements for Duke like Tyler Lyons and Marco Gonzales battled injuries this season, and Trevor Rosenthal’s inconsistencies and injury problems render him a question mark as well. Gordon calls for multiple arms capable of pitching high-leverage innings and makes his case that said relievers should be a focal point in the Cardinals’ mission to improve their run-prevention skills this winter.
  • Outfielder Logan Schafer, who was outrighted off the Twins’ 40-man roster earlier this week, confirmed that he’ll elect free agency to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. That was all but a foregone conclusion for a veteran of nine professional seasons that lost his roster spot. Schafer tells Berardino that the Twins “treated me well and with great respect” and says he’s open to a return, though he recognizes that they’re in for a busy offseason and he’s probably not on their list of priorities. The 30-year-old center fielder hit .238/.342/.317 in 75 PAs with the Twins after slashing .264/.340/.361 in 64 games for their Triple-A affiliate. Schafer should find the opportunity to compete for a bench spot with a big league club somewhere this winter. You can check out MLBTR’s full list of 2016-17 MLB free agents for a refresher on who’s available this offseason.
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