Before we head to the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., there's time to dip into the reader mailbag. I'll do another Inbox after the Meetings next week, so keep those questions coming!

With Nick Franklin tearing the cover off the ball in the Arizona Fall League, what do you think are his chances of being on the Mariners' Opening Day roster? And if that is the case, could Dustin Ackley see some playing time in the outfield?
-- Duane J., Couer d'Alene, Idaho

Everyone assumes Franklin, the Mariners' No 3 prospect, is now a second baseman because that's where he played in the Arizona Fall League, but that was more a matter of circumstances. Every Major League team can designate one AFL player who must be played on a regular basis at a certain position, and the Mariners designated catcher Mike Zunino. The Reds chose their shortstop, Didi Gregorius, to be their designated player on the Peoria club.

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So Franklin wound up playing second base in order to be in the lineup and he hit .338 with 22 RBIs in 20 games. He'll get an invitation to Mariners camp again, and I suspect he'll get a good look at shortstop. It's a long shot for him to break camp on the 25-man roster, but I'm sure he'll be much more ready than a year ago when he was a little over his head as a wide-eyed 20-year-old. It seems only a matter of time before he gets his chance.

Why did the Mariners pick up Scott Cousins and then just release him without giving him a chance?
-- Mark J., Pullman, Wash.

Good timing on that question as Cousins -- who played parts of the past three seasons for the Marlins -- was claimed off waivers from the Mariners on Friday by the Angels. The 27-year-old outfielder has had an adventurous offseason, having already been claimed by the Blue Jays and then released, with Seattle then claiming him on Nov. 6.

But the Mariners designated him for assignment on Nov. 20 when they added five young players to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. At that point, they just made the determination that one of their young prospects was more critical than bringing Cousins to camp.

So now he's with the Angels -- his fourth team in a span of 44 days. With their 40-man roster full at this point, the Mariners are going to need to drop somebody else if they sign any free agents or make a Rule 5 Draft pick. So his situation in Seattle was pretty tenuous anyway.

With the new fences at Safeco Field, are they taking down the old wall or simply moving it in closer?
-- Linda J., Olympia, Wash.

The old wall will be torn down, with a new fence and new padding installed.

The Marlins just conducted a huge salary dump. What is the possibility that the Mariners look into acquiring Giancarlo Stanton?
-- Jose N., Mount Vernon, Wash.

I'm sure pretty much every MLB team has checked to see if the young slugger is available. And, yeah, he'd be the perfect fit for the power-hungry Mariners. But Marlins president Larry Beinfest repeated again this week that his team has no intention of trading Stanton, which isn't surprising given he's still making the Major League minimum of $480,000 and won't be a free agent until 2017.

The Marlins were looking to unload salary, not talent. They'll try to now build around the 23-year-old who hit 37 home runs last season, not give him up while he's still under team control for four more years.

Are the Mariners going to reach out to Jason Bay for the chance of a comeback? What are the chances he could make the team?
-- Beau C., Moscow, Idaho

The Mariners are one of several teams that are known to have talked with Bay, and it seems like Seattle could be a perfect landing spot after the Mets released him with $21 million still owed. The 34-year-old Canadian played for Gonzaga University and lives in the Seattle area, and the Mariners had success with a similar reclamation project last year in Oliver Perez, who found a home after agreeing to a Minor League deal and then quietly working his way back as a reliever.

Bay was a huge disappointment in his three seasons with the Mets, but this is a guy who averaged 27 home runs and 99 RBIs the previous six years with the Pirates and Red Sox. His chances of making the team would depend entirely on how he performed in Spring Training, but he used to be exactly the kind of player the Mariners are looking for -- a corner outfielder with pop. If he's willing to sign a minimum-salary-type deal, I'm sure the Mariners would be interested in seeing what he might have left.

Are the rumors true that the Mariners are possibly going to trade one of their big-three pitching prospects? I heard the Royals were looking to get them for Billy Butler. What are your thoughts on trading one of these future stars?
-- William H., Shoreline, Wash.

Rumors, rumors. Might as well get used to them heading to the Winter Meetings. The Mariners may well use one of their prime young arms -- Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker or James Paxton -- to deal for a hitter at some point this offseason. But all the talk of getting Butler or teammate Alex Gordon from the Royals is off base, in my opinion.

The Royals are actually looking to add proven veteran pitching, not prospects, and might use one of their own young outfield prospects, Wil Myers, to swing a deal. But they're not looking to deal Butler or Gordon. They're building around those guys and trying to improve their pitching staff now, not for the future, so I don't see that particular rumor having any legs.