The calendar says there are 141 days till Opening Day 2018 (March 29), and about 97 days till pitchers and catchers report, relying upon your group of alternative. We will not have a lot in the way in which of video games to maintain us occupied till then (except winter ball is your factor), however the Hot Stove season ought to hold us heat nonetheless. What follows here’s a take a look at 10 storylines that we’ll have our eyes on over the subsequent few months.
Toss-ups in award season
By breaking their respective leagues’ rookie house run data, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge are locks to win Rookie of the Year honors, however the remainder of the BBWAA awards—whose finalists have been revealed on Monday, with the winners introduced Nov. 13-16—seem largely to be up for grabs. The Astros’ Jose Altuve most likely has the sting over Judge within the AL MVP race, and likewise for the Indians’ Corey Kluber with respect to the Red Sox’s Chris Sale within the AL Cy Young race, however the NL is one other matter.
Will this be the uncommon yr that an elite hitter from a sub-.500 group, such because the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton or the Reds’ Joey Votto, who completed first and second within the Baseball-Reference model of WAR, snatches the award away from a prime bat on a playoff-bound group just like the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt? Will three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw add a fourth on the power of his league-leading 18 wins and a pair of.31 ERA regardless of lacking six weeks as a result of a decrease again pressure, snatching a possible third award from Max Scherzer? Will the Twins’ Paul Molitor, the Rockies’ Bud Black and/or the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo, who managed upstart groups to playoff berths, conquer the pilots of their leagues’ heavyweight groups? There’s loads of intrigue available.
The subsequent Yankees supervisor
After a season wherein they fell one win wanting a World Series berth, the Yankees’ resolution to half methods with Joe Girardi got here as one thing of a shock, partially as a result of the rumor mill hadn’t recognized an apparent successor. Even every week and a half for the reason that announcement, with the Red Sox (Alex Cora), Nationals (Dave Martinez) and Phillies (Gabe Kapler) having eliminated a few of the next-generation choices—youthful leaders who can mix sturdy interpersonal abilities with a fluency in badytics that meshes with the entrance workplace’s imaginative and prescient—from consideration, it isn’t clear whether or not the Yankees are leaning towards inside choices (equivalent to bench coach Rob Thomson or Clbad A Tampa supervisor Jay Bell) or exterior ones (Giants coach Hensley Meulens, Dodgers TV badyst Jerry Hairston Jr. and particular advisor Raul Ibanez, retired slugger Jason Giambi), solely that GM Brian Cashman’s preliminary checklist of 20-25 names will take time to work by way of.
A two-way star coming our approach?
For greater than a yr, we’ve heard about Shohei Ohtani, “The Japanese Babe Ruth,” who’s eying a departure from Nippon Professional Baseball for MLB. The 23-year-old pitcher/DH was the NPB MVP in 2016, when he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers and went 10–four with a 1.86 ERA and 11.2 Okay/9. With his capability to succeed in triple digits along with his fastball, a splitter and slider that each grade out as plus pitches or higher, and a curve that’s at the very least common, scouts really feel he’s extra prone to be an elite participant as a pitcher, an influence righty for whom Justin Verlander is a typical level of comparability. While scouts like his left-handed energy and his baserunning velocity, and consider he could possibly be a professional offensive menace, groups would possibly take into account his bat as secondary—maybe deploying him as a platoon outfielder or DH—due to the bodily calls for of pitching.
Alas, a number of obstacles to his coming stateside stand in his approach, not together with his restoration from proper ankle surgical procedure after being restricted to 65 video games total and simply 5 on the mound in 2017. That Ohtani is below 25 signifies that he is topic to worldwide signing pool caps, so probably the most he may signal for could be $three.535 million (the Rangers’ cap house) as an alternative of a contract north of $200 million. What’s extra, the MLB-NPB posting settlement, by way of which a Japanese participant’s group (on this case, the Nippon Ham Fighters) would obtain $20 million as compensation from the group that indicators him, expired final week. If the 2 leagues can forge a brand new settlement and if Otani is so eager on attending to the majors that he forgoes a serious fortune, he’ll be probably the most fascinating free agent available on the market.
Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish headline a skinny crop of free agent pitchers
With the selections of the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the Giants’ Johnny Cueto to not train opt-out clauses of their contracts, this winter’s free agent market would not provide an entire lot in the way in which of frontline beginning pitching, Ohtani apart. At the pinnacle of the category is 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whose three.53 ERA was an eyelash away from doubling the mark of his hardware-winning season; a nine-start second-half run with a 1.59 ERA was interrupted by a hamstring harm that restricted him to 10 1/three wobbly innings in September and 10 2/three good ones in October.
Darvish, although he made the AL All-Star group for the primary time since 2014, rode a rollercoaster in Texas and Los Angeles; his mixed three.86 ERA was his worst mark since his 2012 rookie season. He regarded nice for a five-start run in September and October after the Dodgers tweaked his mechanics and repertoire, however an obvious pitch-tipping downside (not his first) led to his failure to finish the second inning in both of his World Series begins. If “would you want this guy starting Game 7 of the World Series?” is a litmus take a look at for handing out a nine-figure deal, he could possibly be in for a tough winter, nevertheless it’s an enormous step all the way down to the subsequent tier of starters equivalent to Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.
The marketplace for place gamers is even thinner
Not to take something away from J.D. Martinez, who mashed 45 homers for Detroit and Arizona whereas hitting a mixed .303/.376/.690 for a 166 OPS+ en path to the highest rating among the many Reiter 50, however this yr’s free agent market would not provide quite a lot of badist past pitching. Via Baseball-Reference, simply 11 free brokers have been price at the very least 6.zero WAR over the previous three seasons, which means that they averaged 2.zero WAR, roughly the contribution of a league-average participant. Of these 11, solely Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are 30 or youthful, so it’s honest to say that the category is for much longer on stopgaps than constructing blocks.
Maneuvering forward of subsequent yr’s free agent crop
With Bryce Harper and Manny Machado each seemingly sure totally free company after the 2018 season, the strikes of the Nationals and Orioles must be particularly price watching this winter because it’s unlikely that both younger celebrity will grant their groups a hometown low cost. Either group may get extra-aggressive within the free agent or commerce markets, or we may see a stunning blockbuster (or two), although it’s additionally attainable neither can be moved till subsequent summer season, if in any respect. The stakes aren’t fairly as excessive for the Blue Jays, however with star Josh Donaldson a yr away from free company, they could possibly be one other group trying on the coming yr as the tip of 1 aggressive window or the start of one other.
Derek Jeter’s remake of the Marlins
Don Mattingly will not be the Yankees’ subsequent supervisor, and it is powerful to think about that new CEO/minority proprietor Derek Jeter will hand him his strolling papers with two years remaining on his contract. But past that, the youthful Yankees legend would not seem intent on profitable any recognition contests as he settles into his new job. Jeter has his eye on decreasing payroll from $115 million in 2017 to under $90 million or even perhaps decrease.
That would imply parting methods with some variety of the group’s high-salaried veterans, together with Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Edinson Volquez, Martin Prado, Dee Gordon, Brad Ziegler and Wei-Yin Chen; a lot of these gamers provide superior alternate options to what’s on the free agent market. The largest query, after all, is whether or not Jeter and firm will commerce their highest salaried participant, Stanton—a transfer that would forged Jeter in an identical gentle as ex-owner Jeffrey Loria in relation to breaching the belief of the group’s fan base (equivalent to it’s).
A brand new house for Giancarlo Stanton?
No single transfer would pare the Marlins’ payroll or generate the return in younger expertise as buying and selling Stanton, who reportedly doesn’t wish to endure one other rebuild. The slugger, who turns 28 on November eight, is coming off a yr wherein he led the NL in homers (59), RBI (132), SLG (.631) and WAR (7.6). But whereas his on-field worth could by no means be larger, he is simply beginning to get costly, with $295 million of his record-setting $325 million contract nonetheless to return; his wage will balloon from $14.5 million in 2017 to $25 million in 2018. Complicating issues is an opt-out after 2020, however that present chunk of change could be powerful to forgo in favor of what is behind Door #2. The Cardinals and Red Sox have been most just lately linked to Stanton, however one cannot rely out the Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers, big-money groups awash with the type of younger expertise that will enchantment to the Marlins.
A brand new slugger for the Red Sox
Though they received 93 video games and the AL East for the second yr in a row, the 2017 Red Sox lacked the offensive firepower of their predecessors, and never simply due to the retirement of designated hitter David Ortiz. In a season that includes report house run ranges, the Sox in some way completed final within the AL in that clbad regardless of spending half their video games of their Fenway Park bandbox. For the primary time since 1992, no Sox participant hit at the very least 25 homers; Mookie Betts led the group with 24, with three different gamers hitting at the very least 20. It would not matter a lot besides that the Sox ranked sixth within the AL in scoring (four.85 runs per recreation) and tied for 13th in OPS+ (92). Whether it is Stanton or Martinez or any individual else, Dave Dombrowski wants to revive some offensive firepower to the membership.
Addressing the tempo of play… and the ball
After falling six minutes from 2014 to 2015 (from three:02 to 2:56), the common time of a nine-inning recreation has crept again up in every of the previous two seasons, to the purpose that it was a report three:05 this yr. Reportedly, commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLB Players Association had a optimistic dialog about pitch clocks in August, and a few type of implementation seems attainable for 2018, maybe as a part of a multi-year rollout. That’s not the one factor that will velocity the sport up, after all; guidelines to maintain pitchers on the mound and batters within the field, and to restrict mound visits, are price discussing as nicely. No phrase but on whether or not the commissioner and the gamers will talk about the state of the manufacturing and specs of baseballs after back-to-back seasons with record-setting house run totals, and each scientific and anecdotal proof suggesting adjustments to the ball regardless of MLB’s denials.
The annual Hall of Fame voting
On Monday, the 10-candidate slate for the Modern Baseball Era Committee—the most recent iteration of the Veterans Committee, for candidates whose main contributions occurred within the 1970-87 window—was unveiled. Former union head Marvin Miller, who was snubbed so usually that he requested the Hall to take him out of consideration close to the tip of his life, is most worthy of induction. BBWAA near-miss Jack Morris will most likely generate probably the most dialogue, however longtime teammate Alan Trammell is extra worthy of the dignity (as is Lou Whitaker, whose absence from the poll is none too shocking). Those voting outcomes can be introduced on December 6.
Meanwhile, the writers’ poll can be introduced on November 20. Former Braves dynasty staples Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones, slugger Jim Thome, slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen and shortstop Omar Vizquel are the highest newcomers, whereas Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guererro each return having obtained at the very least 70% of the vote final yr and 5 different returning candidates have netted at the very least 50% as soon as. The writers have elected 12 candidates prior to now 4 cycles, greater than any time since 1936-39, however that should not cease them from honoring one other giant clbad. Those outcomes can be introduced on January 24.