72.4 F
Davis

Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

What to know about the upcoming 2023 MLB season

As opening day approaches, many fans are eager for the start of the season 

 

By PATRICK FIGUEROA — sports@theaggie.org

 

Major League Baseball (MLB) begins its regular season on March 30. After a busy offseason, during which there were historic levels of spending from MLB owners and decisions to implement new league-wide rules, this season looks like it will be different from previous seasons. Sports fans should get familiar with some potential headlines for this upcoming season. 

  • An important season for the Los Angeles Angels and Shohei Ohtani. 

Star two-way player (pitcher and designated hitter) Shohei Ohtani is entering the final year of his contract with the Angels. Based on reports, it appears that Ohtani will not be re-signing with the Angels; instead, he will choose to become a free agent at the end of this season. 

“I’ve always been open to it,” said Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo when asked if he would be open to negotiating an extension with the Angels. “But there are several layers to this one, and Shohei [has] earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency and we’ll see where it shakes out.”

If Ohtani hits the open market, he will be one of the most sought after players. For a once-in-a-generation talent that can both hit and pitch at an elite level, many teams, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets, will be willing to offer Ohtani more than $500 million to join their dugouts. It will be hard for the Angels to be the top bidder for Ohtani’s services. 

Therefore, 2023 could be the last year that Ohtani plays for the Angels. It could also be the last year where the Angels have two of the best players in baseball, Ohtani and center fielder Mike Trout. Despite having this star talent, the last time the Angels made the playoffs was in 2014 — a time before Ohtani had even signed with the Angels. It is now or never for the Angels to break their postseason drought before Ohtani is gone.

 

  • The New York Mets and San Diego Padres spent big: Will it pay off? 

The Mets and Padres were two of the biggest spenders during this offseason. The Mets were active during free agency, signing nine players for deals worth over $400 million combined. The Padres signed eight players for $380 million in addition to two extensions with current players, third baseman Manny Machado and pitcher Yu Darvish, for $458 million combined. Both teams appear to have their eyes on the World Series this season. 

Other owners were not too happy that the Padres and Mets spent as much money as they did. Colorado Rockies owner Dick Manfort, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry and Cincinnati Reds owner Chris Ilitch all joined an economic reform committee that hopes to implement a salary cap during the next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2026.  

“What the Padres are doing, I don’t 100% agree with, though I know that our fans probably agree with it,” Manfort said. “We’ll see how it works out.” 

The Padres’ and Mets’ strategy stands out, since several other teams in the MLB are known not to financially invest in their rosters. They are both in championship windows made possible by their owners’ investments. If one of them can win the World Series — especially the Padres, who have the 27th-largest media market size in MLB — it could go a long way in encouraging other owners to invest similarly.

 

  • Who can win the World Series? 

In addition to the Mets and Padres, there are some other teams gunning for this year’s World Series title. Fangraphs projects that the Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees all have high odds of winning the championship series. 

The Houston Astros will be looking to win their second consecutive World Series this season. To do so, they will have to overcome 2022 Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander’s departure to the Mets this past offseason. However, with a starting pitching rotation that features Christian Javier and Framber Valdez, the Astros should still have strong pitching on their side. 

According to Fangraphs, the Braves have the highest odds to win the World Series this season. The team has stars in almost every position, but they do have one clear deficiency: shortstop. Franchise shortstop Dansby Swanson signed with the Cubs during the offseason, so the Braves will be relying on young infielder Vaughn Grisson to step up. 

After re-signing outfielder Aaron Judge with a record-breaking contract in the offseason, the Yankees look to return to the World Series for the first time since 2009. They also added starting pitcher Carlos Rodon to their rotation, but he is expected to miss the beginning of the season with a forearm strain. Still, the Yankees should be exciting to watch, especially if top prospect shortstop Anthony Volpe makes the opening-day lineup. 

  • Two young teams, the Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks, look to take steps in the right direction.

The 2021 season was not great for either the Orioles or the Diamondbacks. Both teams won 52 out of 162 games. However, both teams significantly improved in 2022; the Orioles won 83 games and the Diamondbacks won 74. With young talent, both teams look to continue to move in the right direction this season.

The Orioles have quite a strong lineup that features good hitters like catcher Adley Rutschman, outfielder Anthony Santander and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. Their starting pitching rotation lacks an ace, but their number one prospect, Grayson Rodriguez, will be making his MLB debut this season. Despite playing in a tough division (the AL East), the Orioles seem capable of having similar success to last season if their young players step up. 

The Diamondbacks made a splash during spring training when they signed young outfielder Corbin Carroll to an eight-year contract extension — despite the fact that Carroll has only played in 32 games in his career. The expectations are certainly high for Carroll, as well as young pitcher Zac Gallen, if the Diamondbacks want to improve from their 2022 record.

 

Baseball season is always filled with interesting storylines even before the season begins, and this year is no exception. It is a sport like no other that features action almost all day, every day for six months. Here’s to 2023 being another memorable addition to the history of baseball. 

 

Written by: Patrick Figueroa — sports@theaggie.org