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Amidst league uncertainty, some bold picks for the 2019 season
The 2019 MLB season begins on March 28 — the earliest opening day in league history — but it hasn’t been the smoothest ride to get there. This year’s offseason was plagued by a bone-dry free agency market, the result of many teams not wanting to fork out the cash for players despite them being worth every penny.
This year’s free agents aren’t fringe players or bench guys, but some of the league’s most promising young stars. Manny Machado didn’t sign his $300 million deal with the Padres until after the rest of the Padres position players reported for Spring Training. Bryce Harper? He just signed his 13-year contract with the Phillies last week — 10 days late for the team’s first workout. Former Cy Young winner, Dallas Keuchel, who won 12 games for the Astros in 2018, hasn’t signed with a team yet. Seven-time all-star Craig Kimbrel, who saved 42 games for the World Champion Red Sox in 2018 (third most in MLB), is also unsigned. Gio Gonzalez, Martin Maldonado and Carlos Gonzalez also make the list of household names without homes as opening day approaches.
Some players spoke out on the futility of the free agency market this offseason and expressed their frustration with the growing frugality of MLB owners. Others suggested that the league should be doing more to promote its youngest, most talented stars. All of this is to say that the relationship between the players and the MLB is becoming more fragile, and with the Collective Bargaining Agreement set to expire in 2021, Major League Baseball finds itself in a quasi-uncertain state heading into the 2019 season.
So, with uncertainty on the horizon and unknowns abound, The Aggie dives into prediction mode, taking a look at some of the MLB’s sleepier division-winner picks of 2019.
NL West – Colorado Rockies
Fresh off signing star third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielder Charlie Blackmon to lucrative contract extensions and avoiding arbitration with key players like Trevor Story and Jon Gray, the Rockies are poised to make noise in the West. A lack of offseason signings shows their commitment to their core, and it may in fact be the defending NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers fighting to knock them from first place come September.
NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers
The top of the NL Central will likely be a dogfight between the Cubs and Brewers again. But the Brewers, who won 96 games and the division in 2018, bolstered their roster by signing third baseman Mike Moustakas and catcher Yasmani Grandal to a one-year contract in February. If Grandal can hit 20+ home runs like he has for the past three years, and the Brewers manage to sign Keuchel (reports indicate there has been recent dialogue between the two), it may be enough to separate them from the Cubs — who have won 90+ games in each of the last four seasons.
NL East – Philadelphia Phillies
Capturing the AL East title won’t be easy, but after winning the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, the Phillies may not be as much of a long shot. Philadelphia also signed Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and all-star catcher J.T. Realmuto and extended starting pitcher Aaron Nola. The battle will likely be between them and the Braves, a team that signed star third baseman Josh Donaldson early into the offseason and is hoping Ronald Acuña Jr. can build off his breakout rookie season. But the Phillies are really the team to beat, and they’re set up to make the jump in 2019.
AL West – Houston Astros
There are really no bold predictions for the AL West. The Astros should have this one in the bag. Houston, who won 100+ games last year for the second consecutive season, avoided arbitration with a slew of key players and also added left-fielder Michael Brantley, who hit .309 for the Indians in 2019 — fortifying an already great roster.
Al Central – Cleveland Indians
The AL Central is shaping up to be a bit of a cake walk for the Indians this season, yet again. The Indians finalized an extension with pitcher Carlos Carrasco, which cements their starting five as one of the best, if not the best, in baseball.
AL East – New York Yankees
The year of 2018 was a growing year for Giancarlo Stanton and the Yankees. 2019 will be the year the new Bronx Bombers put New York back on the map. They signed both Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks to multi-year extensions and seek to capitalize on what may turn out to be a championship hangover for the Red Sox.
Written by: Carson Parodi – firstname.lastname@example.org