Free agency officially began Monday, but it was the managers, not the players, who stole the show in what was headlined by the Cubs’ dramatic sweep to land Craig Counsel. Honestly, I’m still in shock after yesterday’s series of managerial moves, including the Mets’ (Carlos Mendoza) and Rangers’ (Stephen Vought) hires.
Another unpredictable MLB offseason is here and even though the trades and signings haven’t started in earnest, we’ve seen some interesting transactions, including several teams exercising club options on free agents such as Alex Cobb (Giants), Jose LeClair (Rangers) and more. We have seen. Kyle Hendricks (Cubs). We’ve seen teams cut ties with the face of their franchise since the White Sox declined their pick on Tim Anderson and the Reds did the same with Joey Votto. We’ve seen players like Eduardo Rodriguez and Marcus Stroman opt out of contracts (with the Tigers and Cubs, respectively) and players like Josh Bell pick up contracts (with the Marlins). As the Tigers acquired reliever Mark Kahn from the Brewers to the minor leagues, we also saw a trade. The Marlins hired Peter Bendix as president of baseball operations and the Red Sox named Craig Breslow their chief baseball officer. Did you get all that?
Big moves are still to come that will keep us on the edge of our seats for weeks. So let’s try to imagine how all this could happen. Here are 24 predictions for the 2023-24 season, what should be another fun and wild winter. Please share your own predictions in the comments section.
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1. One-year $20.325 million signing (Shohei Ohtani, Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Josh Hader, Blake Snell, Aaron Nola and Sonny Gray) None of the seven players who received a one-year paycheck will receive it, as they will all be chasing it longer. In free agency – verbal agreements.
2. Ohtani surprises many by signing with the World Champion Texas Rangers. The contract includes incentives, leverage clauses and award bonuses that make him the highest-paid in the sport’s history. The Dodgers and Mariners finished as runners-up in the playoffs.
3. Aaron Nola signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Dodgers 24 hours after they lost to Ohtani.
4. The Phillies fell short in their attempt to bring back Nola, signing lefty Jordan Montgomery to a five-year, $127 million contract.
5. The Yankees pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Padres to land three-time All-Star Juan Soto. and then …
6.… New York signs Zoro Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a seven-year, $211 million contract, boosting the Yankees’ payroll to the highest level under owner Hal Steinbrenner.
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7. The Giants signed outfielder Jung Hoo Lee to the largest contract of any position player in the free agent class outside of Ohtani, Bellinger and Chapman.
8. The Cubs signed Bellinger to first base on a six-year, $144 million deal.
9. The Astros hired Joe Espada as their next manager after six seasons as a bench coach.
10. Managers Lou Piniella and Jim Leyland were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Era Committee during the winter meetings.
11. The Orioles shocked the baseball world and signed both Adley Rutschmann and Gunnar Henderson to long-term deals that broke franchise records. In return, O’s fans broke the single-season record for season ticket sales under Angelos family ownership.
12. Julio Urias of the Dodgers and Vander Franco of the Rays are each ineligible to play a Major League Baseball game.
13. The Twins, coming off an AL Central winning campaign, sat patiently and made no real moves in the offseason.
14. Angels hire Darin Erstad as new manager to replace Phil Nevin
15. The Washington Nationals were eventually sold and the new ownership group includes future Hall of Famer Theo Epstein, who will serve as CEO and president of the club.
16. Bruce Bochy of the Rangers and Skip Shumaker of the Marlins were named Manager of the Year in their respective leagues. Bochy’s GM, Chris Young, was named MLB Executive of the Year.
17. Joe Maddon and Buck Showalter were not hired as managers this season. Both, along with Dustin Baker, would never manage in the majors again. Baker will eventually serve as a consultant with the team while awaiting the call from Cooperstown.
18. Yadier Molina joins the Cardinals coaching staff and becomes the most famous “manager in waiting” in sports.
19. Oakland A’s much-debated trip to Las Vegas approved by MLB. The A’s will play the 2024 season at the Coliseum and the next three years at Triple-A Ballpark in Vegas, which has been upgraded to serve as their home until a new major league stadium is built.
20. MLB will begin more serious discussions about expansion, but says it won’t happen for at least five to seven years. Nashville, Charlotte and Montreal are the early favorites to land a new franchise. The league plans to have four divisions with four teams in each league.
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21. MLB Approves Challenge Format Automated Kickoff System for 2024 Season
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22. Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. were named their respective league MVPs.
23. Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell are Cy Young Award winners.
24. Gunnar Henderson and Corbin Carroll took home the Rookie of the Year award.
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(Top photo of Shohei Ohtani: John McCoy / Getty Images)