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With the defeat of the Philadelphia Phillies at the hands of the Houston Astros, the 2022 MLB season is officially over. Like a J.R.R. Tolkien book though, once one book ends, the next one is immediately ready to be picked up right where the last one left off. Just because chapter ends, doesn’t mean the overall story is over.
It also doesn’t mean new stories and side bars are halted, either. In fact, with the start of baseball’s offseason, some stories really develop and overshadow what was previously out there.
It doesn’t always make sense, but that’s sports in a nutshell. Anyways, here are six storylines to watch in baseball’s offseason this year.
1. The Aaron Judge Sweepstakes
Did anybody really think we’d make it to this point? New York Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge just had a generational season and is about to hit free agency. How did general manager Brian Cashman or any of the offspring of George Steinbrenner let this happen?
Instead of knowing that Judge was going to suit up in the pinstripes again, teams like the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are getting ready to plead their case for him to sign with them. Even if there’s a good chance Judge returns, the fact he’s made it here signifies that maybe the 2000’s “wheel-and-deal for top players” strategy is no longer in place officially.
If Judge signs elsewhere, expect the Yankee Universe to call for Cashman’s job.
2. All Aboard The S.S. Payday
Last year was a crazy season that saw many top shortstops including Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Trevor Story find new homes. This year, it may be even wilder as four top shortstops that are in their prime hit the market.
Former Los Angeles Dodger Trea Turner, Correa, former Boston Red Sox Xander Bogaerts and former Atlanta Brave Dansby Swanson hit the open market and are looking for bigger contracts. Add veterans like former Colorado Rockie José Iglesias and former Chicago White Sox Elvis Andrus and things get even more frenzied. This is going to be a crazy year for the position, possibly one sets a whole new market for them.
With how valuable the shortstop position has been over the years, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see record setting numbers for the position.
3. The Dave Dombrowski Effect
The Philadelphia Phillies defied all expectations and made it to the World Series. Despite falling two games short of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy, it goes without saying that this team seems to be on the right path. A lot, if not all credit for this season’s success should go to President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski for shaping the team in a championship image.
The thing is, this isn’t Dombrowski’s first rodeo and he has gotten teams to championship levels, but at a cost. His previous three teams (Miami Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox) have all seen championship windows open, only to see the team forced to sell off top players due to big contracts that were given out.
This process has usually started around when his team has made it to the World Series for the first time under him. The team may not have hit its climax yet, but keep an eye on the moves they ultimately make. They could be heading towards a falling action sooner than expected.
4. New York State of Mind
Both the New York Yankees and New York Mets have major decisions coming up on several free agents. Aaron Judge was already discussed but add superstar pitcher Jacob deGrom to the mix and two of New York’s top players now are hitting the market.
In addition, the Yankees now have to wrestle with bringing back infielders Marwin Gonzalez, Matt Carpenter and Anthony Rizzo, as well as pitchers Jameson Taillon, Chad Green, Miguel Castro and Zack Britton and outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Meanwhile, the Mets have to decide the futures of pitchers Chris Bassett, Taijuan Walker and Seth Lugo, plus outfielders Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Tyler Naquin.
These moves are the ones that could really impact the franchise and their direction. They have bring back the right guys and dismiss the wrong ones. They only get one shot at this.
5. A New Era In St. Louis
Let’s be clear on this: designated hitter Albert Pujols had already left in 2011. That said, who really associated him with Los Angeles Angels or Dodgers? It’s almost become as if the near decade Pujols was in Los Angeles didn’t really happen, and that he just had an absence until his and catcher Yadier Molina’s farewell tour.
Now with those two having ridden off into the sunset and pitcher Adam Wainwright surely soon to follow, it may be time to evaluate what’s next. Yes, they have superstars like first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and third baseman Nolan Arenado, but it’s not the same as the two men that just retired, mainly as they were brought up in that system and made their mark there. St. Louis is a good team but now may not have that identity they were known for.
6. (Former) Aces Wild
While Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodon, Nathan Eovaldi and Noah Syndergaard will get a lot of attention, it’s the other pitchers that could be interesting. Former Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander have hit the market and may draw attention because of name value.
Baseball starts with pitching, and older names can sometimes serve a purpose. For some it’s bringing in fans because of a popular name, for others it’s mentorship. Whatever the case, get ready to see what happens next with some of these big names.