MLB Championship Contender Preview
This past week, pitchers and catchers from all MLB franchises reported to their spring training homes. MLB fans across the globe have had this past week marked off on their calendars as the much-awaited beginning of this season.
After a dramatic World Series, the Boston Red Sox earned their championship rings for the 2018 season. This off-season had been proclaimed as one of the best the game had seen as franchise altering players, shortstop/ third basemen Manny Machado and outfielder Bryce Harper were entering the market in their primes.
Both were estimated to receive contracts worth $300 million or more, but both remain unsigned at the time of publication. Both are still being courted by numerous teams, though it is rumored that the Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to land Harper.
The offseason has brought major trades and signings that did not involve these two stars. The following teams seem to be prepared for a run towards the playoffs:
The Boston Red Sox
The reigning champions return this year with most of their lineup intact. The Red Sox brought back their World Series heroes. Nathan Eovaldi, a pitcher, signed for four years with a $67.5 million contract and Steve Pearce, a first-basemen and the MVP of the World series, for $6.25 million. However, relievers Joe Kelly moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel remains unsigned—though he is probably out of their price range.
The Red Sox return the American League MVP, outfielder Mookie Betts, and fourth-place finisher, designated hitter J.D. Martinez. These two lead the highest ranked offense in the league.
The team also has a strong rotation, highlighted by Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. Sale is the definite ace of the staff, but Price and Porcello have each one an AL C.Y. Young Award. This team will look to return to the field hungry for a repeat.
The New York Yankees
While the Red Sox owned the American League East last season, the Yankees were talented enough to win 100 games and made the playoffs as a wild card. The Yankees eventually fell to the Red Sox in the AL Division Series. However, the Yankees were quite busy this offseason.
New York solidified their rotation, which had been an issue in the past. The team traded a skilled prospect, Justus Scheffield, to the Seattle Mariners to receive James Paxton, who will serve as the second starter.
Paxton will be joined by Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and C.C. Sabathia. Severino is the ace of the staff, but after a dominant first half of the season, he fizzled out in the second half.
The Yankees also return a strong nucleus from a team that broke the MLB record for home runs by a team in a season. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton led the team with 38 homeruns, but five more hitters broke the 20-homerun mark. Fans are excited for the return of Aaron Judge who only clubbed 27 homeruns. The team will challenge the Red Sox for the AL East crown.
The Los Angeles Dodgers
After a disappointing loss to the Red Sox in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers have fallen in the last two World Series. This year’s team is looking to win their first championship in thirty years as the achievement has alluded them for the past two seasons.
The Dodgers locked up their star pitcher Clayton Kershaw with a three year $93 million contract. The pitching remains a strength for this team as last year’s rotation did not feature a pitcher with an earned runs allowed over four.
Walker Buehler dominated the post with his pitching and may take over as the ace of this staff. Kenley Jensen, the teams reliever, is coming off of heart surgery, so his potential performance is being doubted.
The team has also been busy by sending star outfielders, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood as well as catcher Kyle Farmer, to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey and a few prospects. This move was mainly to shed salary, but it did open the window for the team to sign.
A.J. Pollack, formerly of the Arizona Diamondbacks, to man the outfield. The move also seems to clear space for the highly-touted prospect, Alex Verdugo, who hit .329 for the season at the Triple-A level.
The Dodgers look to use their loss in the World Series as motivation for this upcoming season.