5 Bold MLB Offseason Predictions This Winter
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The 2022-23 MLB offseason is going to be wild.
On the plus side, at least they don’t need to sign a new collective bargaining agreement this year. Thus, we can be confident there won’t be another lockout that leaves us wondering if there will even be baseball in the spring.
However, between Aaron Judge, Jacob deGrom, Trea Turner and other multiple-time All-Stars hitting free agency, the possibility of multiple owners selling their franchises and the ever-present “Will the Angels trade away Shohei Ohtani?” question still lingering, it should be a jam-packed few months of actions, reactions and transactions.
We’ve got a few bold predictions about it all. Take a look at what we’ve cooked up, and let us know your bold predictions, as well.
Not 1, Not 2, But 3 Franchises Are Put Up For Sale
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In the past decade, there have only been four MLB franchises sold: The Seattle Mariners in 2016, the Miami Marlins in 2017, the Kansas City Royals in 2019 and the New York Mets in 2020.
So, even two such moves in a single offseason would be a pretty huge deal, and three would be a stunning turns of events. Still, three could certainly be on the table for this winter.
The two obvious candidates here are the Washington Nationals and the Los Angeles Angels.
We didn’t even make it a full week into the Nationals’ disaster of a 2022 campaign before The Washington Post reported Mark Lerner was looking into potentially selling the franchise.
It didn’t stop them from trading away Juan Soto for a boatload of prospects, nor did that huge move do anything to deter interest from suitors. Ted Leonsis—who already owns D.C.’s Wizards, Capitals and Mystics—has emerged as the most likely candidate to take the reins should the Lerners ultimately sell.
As far as the Angels are concerned, we learned of Arte Moreno’s interest in selling the franchise in late August.
Unlike the Nationals, the Angels held tight to their brightest star, Shohei Ohtani, who now has one year remaining before hitting free agency. If Moreno does sell, here’s hoping the new owner is cut from the same cloth as the Mets’ Steve Cohen and is ready to swoop in and immediately start signing huge contracts. Otherwise, the Angels are going to lose the one player making this franchise a hot commodity right now.
And if a third team ends up on the market, it’s probably going to be the Cincinnati Reds.
Reds owner Bob Castellini ranks last among the 30 owners in net worth, per an MLB Trade Rumors article from December 2021. Fans in Cincinnati are fed up with a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since 1995. And Castellini’s son, Phil—president and chief operating officer of the franchise—all but outright threatened to either sell the franchise or move it somewhere else back in April in response to the disgruntled fanbase.
Moreover, the Reds started shedding all sorts of payroll this past offseason before a full-blown fire sale at the trade deadline. They’ve basically stripped the franchise down to the studs and can’t reasonably be expected to contend for a World Series at any point in the next few years. There’s a lot to love about the farm system, though, so it’s the ideal time to sell and let someone else figure out how to turn that potential into profit.
Aaron Judge Stays in New York…but Not in the Bronx
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The New York Mets just barely missed out on winning the NL East, in part because their $283 million roster hit the same number of home runs (171) as the $65 million Baltimore Orioles.
They would love to re-sign the likes of Jacob deGrom, Edwin Díaz, Brandon Nimmo, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, but you’ve got to assume Steve Cohen would be willing to sacrifice all of those impending free agents if it means pairing Aaron Judge with Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Starling Marte for the foreseeable future.
As far as budget is concerned, deGrom, Díaz, Nimmo, Bassitt and Walker made a combined $53.35 million in 2022. The Mets could also decline their $14 million team option on Carlos Carrasco and stand to “gain” another $20 million if relievers Trevor May, Trevor Williams, Seth Lugo and Adam Ottavino all walk in free agency.
That’s well over $80 million to play with, if we assume the same budget in 2023.
Long story short, they could absolutely make it work.
They might even be able to sign Judge and keep deGrom, if they’re willing to more or less start over from scratch in the bullpen and roll with Tylor Megill and David Peterson as the No. 3 and No. 4 starting pitchers.
Or, you know, Cohen could just dig even deeper into his checkbook and embrace a payroll north of $300 million in order to construct the World Series champion that he has been trying to buy for the past two years.
Shohei Ohtani Stays in Los Angeles…But Not with the Angels
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Just like the Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers spent a boatload of money in 2022, won triple-digit games during the regular season, got bounced before the NLCS and now have a ton of money coming off the books heading into the offseason.
Bringing back shortstop Trea Turner is at the top of L.A.’s to-do list. They’d also love to keep Clayton Kershaw for a 16th season.
But even if we ignore those two guys for now, they still have David Price ($32 million), Craig Kimbrel ($16 million), Andrew Heaney ($8.5 million), Tyler Anderson ($8.5 million), Tommy Kahnle ($3.7 million), Joey Gallo ($3.6 million), and Kevin Pillar ($2.5 million) hitting free agency. That’s over $75 million, and they could make about $20 million more worth of room in the budget by buying Justin Turner and Danny Duffy out of their 2023 club options.
Suffice it to say, 2023 funds wouldn’t be a problem here. The Dodgers could easily find the money for Ohtani’s $30 million salary next season.
The three-pronged question is: A) How much would the Dodgers be willing to give up in the form of prospects, B) How much would the Angels demand in return for their superstar and C) How confident are the Dodgers that they could sign Ohtani to a long-term deal?
The answer to part C will dictate the answer to part A. If the Dodgers think Ohtani is likely to sign elsewhere next offseason, they’re not going to sell the farm to get him for just one year. And the Angels aren’t going to give away the most marketable player in the sport for anything less than a stockpile of young talent and top prospects.
The Dodgers do have plenty of both of those commodities, though.
They have seven of MLB.com’s top 80 prospects in their farm system and could part with the likes of Gavin Lux, Dustin May, Michael Grove, James Outman or Brusdar Graterol if it means maybe getting a decade of Ohtani.
They wouldn’t give up all seven of those prospects nor all five of those young MLB players, but there might be a five-piece or six-piece platter that’s agreeable to both sides for what would be a blockbuster deal.
The Chicago Cubs Spend Big on Multiple Marquee Free Agents
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The Chicago Cubs probably aren’t getting Aaron Judge, but there are plenty of other big fish in this year’s free agency pool. And this usually free-spending franchise isn’t yet committed to all that much money in 2023.
The Cubs do still owe Jason Heyward one more year of a $24.5 million salary. Even with that figure weighing them down, though, they’re still only at $91 million on the books for next season, with arbitration and team-control salaries yet to be determined.
Basically, there’s room for a couple of big splashes, provided they’re actually trying to contend in 2023.
Chicago landing one of the marquee shortstops almost feels like a foregone conclusion. Whether it’s Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa or Dansby Swanson remains to be seen—let’s go with Correa, since this is all about making predictions—but a middle-infield upgrade should be a clear priority for the Cubs.
They also need at least one starting pitcher, and maybe they bring in left-handed strikeout artist Carlos Rodón. If neither Jacob deGrom nor Justin Verlander actually explore their options outside their current homes, Rodón is easily the top starting pitcher on this year’s market, likely to fetch a salary north of $30 million per year.
For him and Correa, you’re talking $65-$70 million per season, which is quite the chunk of change. But the Cubs went north of $200 million in 2019, and eight teams eclipsed that threshold in 2022.
They could bring in Rodón and Correa, re-sign Willson Contreras and bring in closer Edwin Díaz and possibly still get to Opening Day with a payroll just under $200 million. If they nab four of the 10-ish best free agents available, that’d be a fantastic way to turn a 74-88 mess into 90-plus wins and a trip to the postseason.
At Least 1 Unexpected Retirement from Both a Pitcher and a Hitter
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Buster Posey surprised everyone with his decision to retire from baseball last November at just 34 years old, particularly considering it came on the heels of a strong season—both for the San Francisco Giants and for him as an individual.
But let’s go out on a limb and say there will be at least two more “wow”-inducing announcements of that ilk in the next month.
To qualify, it has to actually be a surprise. Players 38 or older need not apply here—unless it’s Justin Verlander, which legitimately would be shocking after the incredible year he had. But someone like Zack Greinke, Rich Hill, Nelson Cruz or Yuli Gurriel calling it quits wouldn’t be all that unexpected.
The clear-cut No. 1 on the list is Clayton Kershaw.
He turns 35 in March, but he has dealt with so many minor injuries and has put so much mileage on his left arm/shoulder in recent years that he might unexpectedly call it a career. He’s a free agent and has sounded rather noncommittal about coming back in 2023.
Johnny Cueto is another strong candidate among starting pitchers. He just had his best/healthiest season since 2016, but he turns 37 in February and might not get a good enough contract offer to make it worth putting his body through another year.
Closers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel also have to be considered candidates to hang up their cleats for good.
Each one is 34, has saved more than 300 games in his career, started this season as the closer for a favorite to reach the World Series…and ended up getting left off the ALDS/NLDS roster altogether. Each is also a free agent, and neither one is going to want to come back to a drastic reduction in pay nor a middle-relief gig. Their decisions figure to hinge on whether anyone is willing to still pay them eight figures per season to be the closer.
On the hitters’ side of things, the smart money is on it being a Giant for a second successive year. It probably won’t be Brandon Crawford, as the soon-to-be 36-year-old shortstop still has one year and $16 million left on his contract. But if the G-Men pay $5 million to buy Evan Longoria out of his $13 million club option next year, that might be it for the 37-year-old. Thirty-four-year-old Brandon Belt is also a candidate after a banged-up and ineffective 2022 campaign, but I would guess he’ll be back.
Three other candidates: J.D. Martinez, Justin Turner and José Abreu. Turner turns 38 in less than a month, so he sort of still qualifies as a potential surprise. Martinez or Abreu walking away at 35 would be more shocking, but they’ve both declined considerably in the power department over the past two years and might use their free agency to move onto the next stage in life.
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