What to expect this MLB season

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What to expect this MLB season

Andrew Dursi, Sports Editor

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At the time of this article, pitchers and catchers have already reported, spring training games are winding down and opening day for the 2018 MLB season is just days away. It has been several months since teams have been allowed to make roster and free agency moves, and for some teams it has been extremely busy, but for others, not so much. Here is a look at some of the biggest moves made by each team this off-season and what to expect for the upcoming season.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-Backs are coming off an impressive 2017 season, finishing with a win-loss record of 93-69 and winning the wildcard game before being swept in the NLDS by the L.A. Dodgers. Most of the moves made by the team this off-season have come in from the team’s scouting department. The only major player transaction was the inability to re-sign OF J.D. Martinez who entered free agency following the season. They play in one of the toughest divisions in the league, but with RHP Zack Greinke leading their rotation, don’t be shocked if success continues for Arizona.

 

Atlanta Braves: The Braves’ 72-90 win loss record last season was nothing short of astonishing. This team has missed the playoffs for five straight years and is finally showing some improvement. It is also the first time since 2014 the Braves were able to notch 70-plus wins as they finished third in the NL East. As for this offseason, they have signed just one player, RHP Peter Moylan, who’s was with the Braves from 2006-2012 and 2015. Despite the lack of changes to the roster and team management, expect more improvement from this team, but a shot at the pennant or even the playoffs doesn’t seem likely.

 

Baltimore Orioles: In a division where the top team is just 12 games over a .500 record, it is not all that shocking that the Orioles finished just 18 games back at the end of the season. They came in last in the AL East last year, one game behind Toronto, but are still a very strong franchise. Manny Machado is only going to be 26 years old this season, and Kevin Gausman still has a canon for an arm. They have now added Andrew Susac to the depth chart, and signed three minor league prospects within the past month. Don’t be surprised if the Orioles make a run for the AL East within the next few years.

 

Boston Red Sox: Coming off of a rough 3-1 series lost to the Houston Astros in the ALDS last season, the Sox seem geared up and ready for the new season. They finished on top of the AL East last year with a win-loss record of 93-69, just two games ahead of the second place Yankees. After trading OF Bryce Brentz to Pittsburgh, the biggest news for the Sox this off-season was the signing of RF J.D. Martinez.

 

Chicago Cubs: After an awe-inspiring 2016 World Series run, the Cubs followed up with another appearance in the NLCS. Though the defending champions didn’t repeat, a first place finish in the NL Central was enough to convince the front office that changes were not necessary. The team has not signed any new players and have only made minor changes to the coaching staff for the 2018 season. Considering how weak of a division they play in, it would make sense to see the Cubs still playing come October.

 

Chicago White Sox: It was a disappointing season for the White Sox, but the off-season has been extremely helpful for the team. Agreeing to terms with over 30 players and prospects, the Sox are clearly building for the future and competing in a division which boasted two playoff teams in 2017. It makes sense the Sox are building for a better tomorrow rather than focusing on today.

 

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds had a tough 2017 season, finishing last in the NL Central with a win-loss record of 68-94. The off-season has not swung their way either, after failing to come to terms with several of their players contracts and forcing them to sign much smaller minor league deals. It is not looking good for Cincinnati; 2018 might be as much of a disaster as 2017 was.

 

Cleveland Indians: The Indians 2016 defeat in the World Series was an amazing run and gave Cleveland baseball fans hope for the future. They followed up that run with a 102-win season and it seemed like they could return to championship again. Unfortunately for them, a game five loss to the Yankees in the ALDS punched their ticket home. A pitching coach and hitting coach change later, as well as several minor league deals, and it seems like the Indians are ready for another run into the playoffs.

Colorado Rockies: 2017 brought an 87-win season and a playoff berth for the first time since 2009 for the Rockies, thanks in no small part to star pitcher Jon Gray leading the rotation. With only minor league moves and decisions made so far this off-season, the Rockies front office must have a lot of faith in their roster, despite finishing third in the NL West. Regardless, the NL is home to some of the worst teams in the league, so a wildcard berth might not be out of reach for a second straight season.

 

Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are looking to bounce back in 2018 after finishing with the worst record in the MLB a season ago. After cleaning house in their coaching staff and replacing nearly everyone but their skipper, the Tigers now leave it up to the players. All of the pieces are there, they just need to be put together. Miguel Cabrera is still hitting above .300 for his career and can show the younger players on the team what leadership and passion truly are. Don’t expect a deep playoff run from Detroit anytime soon. But look for plenty improvement with the new coaching staff.

 

Houston Astros: The defending champs have a lot to look forward to in 2018. They exercised their option on 2B Jose Altuve and have mostly kept the championship team intact. After a 101 win season, the only question surrounding this team is, “Will they repeat?” and anyone who watched the World Series could tell you they have a great chance to.

 

Kansas City Royals: This is a team who won a world series just three years ago, and has been a .500 team ever since. Notching a win-loss record of 80-82, the Royals pretty much matched their expectations for the year with a near identical season to 2016. Looking forward to 2018, the Royals have made several new minor league acquisitions as well as front office changes including a new general manager and director of baseball operations. The American League seems to get tougher each year, but if the Royals can keep up with the times they could make a decent playoff run. It is more likely to see them as a .500 team again at the end of the season.

 

Los Angeles Angels: Some of the biggest news of the MLB off-season has come out of Los Angeles and their acquisition of RHP and OF Shohei Ohtani. Following an 80-win season, Ohtani might just be the prospect the Angels need to set them over the edge again and give them a shot at making the playoffs. That said, one person can not carry an entire baseball team, but it is a start and an incredibly good start at that. Expect the Angels to be a mid-tier team again in 2018, but that could be enough for a wildcard berth in the ever-changing American League.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers: The World Series was a devastating loss for the Dodgers, but don’t count them out just yet. They boasted the most wins last season and still possess one of the most feared rotations in the MLB. This season, a healthy Clayton Kershaw will be the key to repeated success and could be the difference in winning the NL West and making the playoffs on a Wild Card spot.

 

Miami Marlins: Of all the unsuccessful 2017 teams, the Marlins just might take the cake for worst decision-making following the bad season. Miami finished with just 77 wins last season even with having the MLB home run leader on their roster. Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 long balls last season for the Marlins, but on December 11, 2017, they made the decision to trade him to the Yankees for what seems like scraps compared to his value to the team. Miami is not looking good for this coming season and expectations are low in South Beach.

 

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017, falling just one game short of a wild card spot. That said, a rotation led by Chase Anderson is destined for greatness. While the Brewers did not make any major league moves in the offseason, the NL is weaker than ever so a playoff run might not be too far fetched.

 

Minnesota Twins: The Twins had a decent run last year with an 85-77 win-loss record as well as a Wildcard spot in the playoffs, but it ended there. Sharing a division with two teams that reached the World Series in 2015 and 2016, it is not difficult to understand why the team is struggling. New pitching, bench and strength coaches as well as 12 minor league addition shows promise for baseball in the Twin City, and another playoff run might not be out of reach for them in 2018.

 

New York Mets: The Mets are coming off a pitiful season, falling to a 70-92 win-loss record after making the playoffs the previous two years. The injuries to both Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard did not aid their already poor performance. Naming an almost entirely new coaching staff, trading players for cash and even contemplating calling up Tim Tebow from the minor league may signal the beginning of a complete rebuild for the Mets. Even if the rotation is healthy, do not expect another World Series run from the Kings of Queens in 2018.

New York Yankees: The Bronx Bombers are coming off an impressive season, winning 93 regular season games and taking the ALCS to a game seven before falling to the soon-to-be champions Astros. Aaron Judge is just getting started, the rotation seems to be back at full strength, Aaron Boone is the new skipper and now they have traded for the leading home run hitter in 2017 Giancarlo Stanton. They have all of the pieces this year, if they use them correctly a 28 World Series title could be in sight for the Pinstripes.

 

Oakland Athletics: No team ever wants to finish last in its division. Unless of course the team is the Oakland A’s, who have now finished last the past three years, are not showing signs of improvement and do not seem to care anymore. It is understandable for a team in a rebuild not to perform well, but when a team just flat out gives up there is a problem. They have the right idea of signing as many minor league deals as they can and trying to develop new talent, but if your guys in the majors call the season quits before the all-star break, there has to be some sort of change. Expect another disappointment of a baseball season in Oakland this year.

 

Philadelphia Phillies: Speaking of rebuilds; let’s talk about the Phillies, who very well may be in the longest rebuild of MLB history next to the Mariners. Going six consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance, the Phillies continue to build up their farm system instead of looking for major league solutions. An entire new coaching staff, including a new manager in Chris Cashman, could finally be the start of a proper major league push for baseball in the City of Brotherly Love.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are coming off a season which can probably best be described by the word “meh”. A solid mid-tier team with a record just shy of the .500 mark, the Pirates are pretty much where they always have been the past decade. There were no major acquisitions or trades this offseason, nor were there any major coaching changes or front office changes. It concerns me to say the Pirates might be very confident in their team again this season, because it might just lead to more disappointment for the black and yellow buccaneers.

 

San Diego Padres: Improvement! Well, sort of. The Padres won three more games in 2017 than 2016, having a win-loss record of 71-91. Finishing second to last in a division that boasted three playoff teams, the Padres missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year. Though they signed several minor league contracts and were trading and selling an incredible amount, the most notable news from this offseason was the extension of Vice President and General Manager A.J. Preller to the 2022 season. This is a team finally showing some promise, but competing with Arizona and Los Angeles could delay the true success of this team.

 

San Francisco Giants: There must be something in the name “Giants” that just makes the team not win. Similar to the New York football team of the same name, San Francisco’s baseball club has slid over the past two years from hero to zero. It is unsurprising that the Giants had a complete fire sale which most notably saw the departure of All-Star pitcher Tim Linecum. Two World Series titles on three playoff appearances since 2012 is still quite the feat, hopefully 2018 can be a bounce back year for the boys in orange.

 

Seattle Mariners: Bad news, Seattle, the Mariners have once again failed to reach the playoffs, extending their drought to 17 years which is now the longest active streak in North American sports. An entirely new front office is coming in for the 2018 season, including new CEO and President of Baseball Operations. Combine this with a host of young talent (and Ichiro), things should be looking up, right?

 

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards are a great example of a team that has the star power to win a championship yet still managers to be nothing more than average. An 83-79 win-loss record for a team with Carlos Martinez leading the rotation and Yadier Molina and Dexter Fowler hitting just shy of the .300 mark should not be acceptable. Front offices changes were the only major transactions the Cardinals had this offseason, and that does not bode well for the Redbirds.

 

Tampa Bay Rays: Speaking of average, Tampa Bay finished just shy of .500 again. Is this shocking? This is a team that is almost willingly throwing away their future for scraps in return. They already play in a division with two playoff caliber teams in the Yankees and Red Sox, but on top of that they seem to want to make their lives even more miserable by trading players like Evan Longoria for minor league players. Don’t expect much from the Rays in 2018, or anytime soon for that matter.

 

Texas Rangers: It is not difficult to understand why the Rangers had a win-loss record shy of .500 when the biggest roster move they made all off-season was trading an NFL quarterback. Russell Wilson, a Super Bowl winning quarterback and drafted by the Rangers in 2013 is now on the Yankees. All other transactions came via minor league contracts and managers, but even still it was not the farm system rebuild seen in other teams with similar records. Fortunately for them, the Rangers are always an unpredictable team especially with Adrian Beltre at bat and Cole Hamels leading the rotation. The 2018 season could bring great things, or more misery and either way it will be a crazy season for the Rangers.

 

Toronto Blue Jays: Another AL East team falling in the standings thanks to their division mates, the Blue Jays finished the 2017 season with a win-loss record of 76-86 and were fourth in the division. With the acquisition of Aledmys Diaz from St. Louis, as well as a complete overload of new minor league talent, this team could be back in playoff form very soon. However, Jose Bautista still does not have a contract with Toronto and is in talks with several other teams. Losing him could turn the fate of the team in the complete opposite direction. It is too early to even attempt to predict the kind of season in store for the Bluebirds, it mostly banks on Bautista.

Washington Nationals: The 2017 season for the Nationals can only be described as another waste of a year on Bryce Harper’s contract. They won their division with relative ease, and then lost in the NLDS to the Cubs. Harper wants a championship, and if the Nats continue to play this way, he is going to leave next year when his contract expires. However, with over 30 minor league contracts signed in just about two months, it almost seems like the team is giving up in Harper and preparing for the inevitable rebuild in the 2019 season. As for the 2018 season, they are a shoe in for the playoffs again just based on their division, but how far they get in the postseason could determine the fate of one of the best active players in the league.

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