By Daniel Lewis
If you missed the World Series because you were busy watching mid-week college football or the BYU-TCU game, I feel terribly sorry for you. Game six was one of the best games of all time, and while game seven wasn’t as dramatic, it was the first game seven in nine years. I always feel sad when baseball comes to an end, especially when basketball isn’t around to replace it.
So congratulations St. Louis, on winning another World Series title. Now you just need to get a successful football and hockey team and you’ll be set. But it’s time for the offseason now, with the draft and all the free agent moves that happen from November to March. Here are some of my thoughts concerning the winter months of the baseball season.
- I think that many of the marquee free agents will change teams. Jose Reyes, David Ortiz, Prince Fielder, Jimmy Rollins, CC Sabathia, CJ Wilson, Carlos Beltran, Heath Bell and Mark Buerhle are all on the move. The biggest spenders are going to be uncharacteristic as well. Milwaukee went all-in for a title last season, and now will have to reload their team for another title run. The Boston Red Sox will look for players who can restore their positive image and build around Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez. The Miami Marlins – wait, what? – need to reinvent their team with a big name player. The Washington Nationals – I know, right? – could also be active in the free agent market.
- Lots of big name players weren’t on that list – notably Albert Pujols. I believe it would take a miracle to pry Pujols away from the Cardinals, even if it means devoting a huge chunk of your payroll to four players (Carpenter, Wainwright, Holliday and Pujols). Papelbon will likely stay with the Red Sox. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel should stick with the Twins. Jorge Posada will either stay with the Yankees or retire. Roy Oswalt will sign a new, club-friendly contract, and maintain the Hall of Fame staff the touted Phillies had last season.
- The best teams will remain relatively unchanged. The Cardinals and Reds will battle it out. The Diamondbacks will continue to call up talent and improve. The Philles, however, will drop out thanks to a resurgence in talent in their division, and the Braves will win the division. The Yankees will win the wild card, while the Rays take the division behind the best starters in baseball. The Indians will win the division behind a new star, and the Rangers will find a replacement for CJ Wilson.
- The most improved teams (NL & AL) will be the Washington Nationals and the Cleveland Indians. I predict that the Nationals land Prince Fielder and CJ Wilson in free agency, giving the team a big name to put in the lineup next to Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. The Indians will get Ubaldo Jimenez back on track, and with the new acquisitions in place for a full season, will be a real force in the American League.
- The teams I feel will fall the farthest? As popular as it may be, I think the Red Sox are going to tumble hard next season. The Rays will be a more complete team, and the Blue Jays are becoming more of a contender in the division behind a powerful offense spearheaded by Joey Bautista. My NL pick is that the Phillies begin to slide, even if Jimmy Rollins comes back to the team. Their offense was awful last year, and while their pitching staff keeps them in games, they are trending towards the San Francisco Giants. It’s not a winning strategy, especially towards the end of the season – you know, when games matter.
- My World Series picks? Yes it’s early, but I feel like the Rangers have a legitimate shot. They have a great offense, bullpen, and solid starters. If they signed Heath Bell and dropped Feliz into the rotation, they should contend in a lukewarm conference. They could end up playing the Braves, who need a resurrection from Jason Heyward, and can ride their dominant pitching staff throughout the playoff stretch. There’s my post-season off-season World Series pick: Rangers over Braves in five.
- Teams need to start trading players again! Here are some trades that need to get wrinkled out:
- Joey Votto to Tampa Bay for David Price, Chris Archer, and Alex Torres. Seriously, why aren’t more teams jumping to grab the former All-Star? If Atlanta, San Francisco, Cleveland, Colorado, or Tampa Bay grab him, they become title contenders. Pull the trigger!
- James Loney to Cleveland for Cord Phelps, draft pick. Cleveland doesn’t need a marquee name at first, just someone who can get on base and play solid defense. The Dodgers need help everywhere, and need to rebuild for the post-McCourt era.
- David Wright to Detroit for two top prospects. The Mets are in a full rebuilding mode, and if the Tigers want to continue to contend in the AL, then they need prospects no matter when they arrive.
- Hanley Ramirez to Washington for Derek Norris and Eury Perez. The Miami Marlins are rebuilding with Ozzie Guillen at manager, and although trading your best player isn’t fun for ticket sales, fielding a winning team in 2013 is much better.
- Elvis Andrus to Atlanta for Randall Delgado and another prospect. Jair Jurrjens to the Colorado Rockies for Seth Smith, prospect. The Braves have the top pitching prospects in baseball in Julio Teheran, Arodys Viscaino, and Delgado. They need to get two of them in the majors next year, so why not trade Jurrjens after a successful season and find an upgrade at short with another? They just really need a better shortstop and some help in the outfield.
The offseason will be long and cold, as usual, but I think there will be enough movement to keep things interesting. Baseball has begun to attract more fans with a higher level of play lately, and hopefully it will continue to stay entertaining next year.
By the way, Rockies-Mariners for the title in 2014. One can hope right?