The keyboard has been a bit cold over here at theleadoffbatter.com, but since being named in the Top 100 baseball blogs by Feedspot, I’ve definitely found some additional fuel to add to the fire, keeping us warm during these long winter days without baseball. I’d like to thank Feedspot, and now it’s time to get back to work!
It’s been just over a month since the World Series ended, and we are two months away from the arrival of pitchers and catchers to Spring Training. For many fans of the game, this is when baseball becomes a muted interest in the backs of their minds, and understandably so. There are turkey dinners, winters snows, presents, family gatherings, NFL football, and a new year to ring in.
But the undercurrent of baseball activity in November and December creates a different kind of season that warrants our attention, if we consider ourselves more than a “casual” fan. We’ve free agent signings to talk about, blockbuster trades, fall leagues, winter leagues, prospect developments, and — in this case — stadium announcements.
Let’s get cookin’!
It’s pretty safe to say that the Mariners are the big movers in this offseason. They’ve completed multiple deals to shed payroll and stockpile their farm system, and some think they aren’t done yet. Let’s take a look, starting with their biggest move, which is expected to be announced Monday:
- Seattle will send Robinson Cano and elite closer Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets in exchange for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, and a trio of prospects including Jarred Kelenic, MLB.com’s 62nd ranked prospect. This move is also about shifting funds around, as the Mariners get rid of Cano’s large salary, though the Mets did receive 20 million in the deal to help offset that.
- James Paxton will don the pinstripes next year, being sent from Seattle to the Yankees for a young, talented lefty in Justus Sheffield, as well as prospects Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams.
- Flame-throwin’ reliever Alex Colome leaves the Mariners to join the White Sox in exchange for C Omar Narvaez.
- And in their first trade this winter back on November 8th, the Mariners sent C Mike Zunino, LF Guillermo Heredia and LHP Michael Plassmeyer to Tampa Bay Rays for CF Mallex Smith and CF Jake Fraley.
Here are some of the other notable deals that have been made.
- The New York Yankees traded infielder Ronald Torreyes to the Cubs for a player to be named later.
- The Cubs, in turn, traded infielder Tommy La Stella to the Angels, also for a player to be named.
- The Indians sent All-Star catcher Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals in exchange for RHP Jefry Rodriguez, RF Daniel Johnson and Player To Be Named Later.
The Atlanta Braves have the exact opposite approach of the Seattle Mariners, looking to add veteran leadership to a strong core of young superstars. On November 26, they were able to land two:
- The first is Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP. Donaldson looks to regain his form after injuries have taken a chunk out of the last two seasons.
- The Braves also brought back catcher Brian McCann, the 34-year-old catcher who returns to Atlanta after stints with the Yankees and Astros. He was a big piece of Houston’s World Series title team in 2017.
Oter notable signings:
- The Pirates added utility man Lonnie Chisenhall, the former Cleveland Indian with a good hitting pedigree but a history of injuries.
- The Nationals signed catcher Kurt Suzuki.
- The Red Sox maintained control over World Series MVP Steve Pearce.
- The Yankees kept stalwart pitcher C.C. Sabathia on for another year.
- The Diamondbacks signed a couple of utility infielders in Rob Refsnyder and Kelby Tomlinson to minor league contracts.
While the rest of us are stuffing our face with holiday delectables and putting up our trees and lights, some people are still playing baseball for a living. And while there is just too much to cover in one post between the Arizona Fall League, Dominican Winter League, Mexican Pacific League, Puerto Rican League, Venezuelan Winter League, Australian Baseball League, and the Caribbean Series in February, I’d like to touch upon some highlights of a handful of the game’s top future stars as they finished up in Arizona.
The Arizona Fall League is typically an offensive-heavy league, as teams aren’t looking to add any extra innings to coveted arms. And while there is a championship awarded, the games are generally considered to be a chance for further development for some players on the brink of Major League relevance.
- Keston Hiura, MLB.com’s 30th ranked prospect, showed off why the Brewers are excited to have him as their 2nd base prospect. Scouts give Hiura a 70-grade hit tool, and he put that on full display. In 96 at bats, Hiura batted .323/.371/.563, scoring 19 runs and posting 12 extra base hits, including five homers in just 23 games. The real whopper was his ability to produce runs, knocking in 33 en route to winning the League’s MVP.
- Not to be outdone was Rockies first base prospect Tyler Nevin, who batted .426 in 54 at bats, posting a fantastic 1.128 OPS.
- Uber-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. mashed as usual, showing why he’s the top prospect in the world right now. Guerrero posted a .351/.409/.442 line. He didn’t homer, but he did double seven times in 77 at bats, and worked eight walks to only six strikeouts.
- On the pitching mound, 8th ranked prospect Forrest Whitley showcased his ability to miss bats, striking out 36 in just 26 innings. He held hitters to a .189 average, posting a solid 2.42 ERA.
- Garrett Williams of the Giants system pitched to a 1.88 ERA over 24 innings, punching out 27 against 11 walks.
Be sure to circle back with The Leadoff Batter for updates on all the other leagues listed above in the coming weeks.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises this offseason was made by the Oakland Athletics. The A’s announced their plans for a new stadium… Finally. After several years of rumors about possible relocation and new venues, the Athletics brass finally showed us what they were planning.
The new ballpark will land at Howard Terminal and hold 34,000 fans. In an effort to give back to a community #rootedinoakland, the plan also calls to redevelop the site of the current Coliseum into a public park space with retail and housing, all centered around the original baseball diamond of the Coliseum which will remain where it currently lies.
The new stadium could feature gondolas to transport fans to their seats, potentially alleviating parking issues in the area.
To think that almost everything listed in this post happened before we flipped the calendar to December. We still have the Winter Leagues to report on when they finish up, and the always intriguing Winter Meetings will start on December 9. There will be plenty of free agent signings to talk about in the near future, including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, and Craig Kimbrel to name a few.
So stay tuned as this “off” season develops. Major League scoreboards might be quiet across the league, waiting patiently through the winter for our game to return, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of highlights. Teams will continue to commit to a strategy of buying, selling, or holding. Can’t wait to see what December brings!
Thanks for reading.