10 Outcomes We Hope the 2013-14 MLB Offseason Brings
With the regular season in the books, our attention has shifted toward the offseason and the excitement it brings to Major League Baseball.
The offseason is a time for World Series hopefuls to retool their rosters in an attempt to make deep postseason runs. Other franchises will look to continue their rebuilding efforts by either acquiring young talent in exchange for veteran players or through the acquisition of marquee players.
This season has a rather unique set of storylines, including the further improvement of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the rebuilding of the New York Yankees, the continuation of the Biogenesis scandal, and the expansion of instant replay.
These four stories, along with several others, will help shape the MLB offseason. So, without further ado, let's explore 10 outcomes that we hope the 2013-14 MLB offseason brings.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
A Seamless Expansion of Instant Replay
Major League Baseball recently voted in favor of funding for expanded use of instant replay for the 2014 season, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
In the same article, the Associated Press detailed some of the changes that will go into effect in 2013:
- "Each manager would get a maximum of two challenges per game"
- "Successful challenge can be re-used"
- "If a manager wants to challenge a call, he notifies an umpire before the next pitch"
- "A manager cannot call for a challenge after he argues a play"
- "All reviews conducted in New York, likely by current or former umpires"
- "Communication to umpire on field via headset"
- "If a manager is out of challenges, an umpire probably will be allowed to call for a review if he wants to"
- "Ball/strike calls, checked swings and some foul tip calls may not reviewed"
Traditionalists will worry over the amount of time this will add to a game. However, from the plan outlined above, it seems as though the time spent reviewing a given play will not be excessive.
Essentially, the plan for expanded replay in Major League Baseball mirrors what we see on a week-to-week basis in the NFL. Hopefully, the instant replay process will be implemented as well as it has been in the NFL.
The Return of the New York Yankees
Whether you love the Yankees or love to hate them, there's no denying that the MLB season is better when they're a contender. Over the past 19 campaigns—including 2013—the New York Yankees have made the postseason 17 times, with five victories in seven trips to the World Series.
Beyond the team's capacity for winning World Series titles, though, is the fact that the Yankees just win games. Over that same 19-year span, they combined for a .627 winning percentage—the best in baseball over that time period, according to Baseball-Reference.
If you're a Yankee fan, then the importance of the team being good needs no explanation. However, even if you're a passionate Yankee hater, it's significantly more fun to root against a team that has a chance to win every single night.
When the Yankees are winning, it also adds an additional level of competitiveness to their rivalry with the Red Sox. Over the last 19 seasons, the two teams have combined for 16 AL East titles and eight World Series championships.
Last year, the Yankees were no match for the Red Sox or the rest of the division for that matter. In 76 games against AL East foes, the Yankees combined for a .486 winning percentage—their worst percentage in years.
Yet, despite a third-place finish in the AL East, the team still managed to draw the most fans of any team in the American League.
If the Yankees hope to regain their previous levels of success, they'll need to make some major changes to their team while retaining key contributors like Robinson Cano.
Increased parity would be great for Major League Baseball.
The MLB season is an all-out grind. Over the course of 162 games, many casual fans begin to lose interest. However, with increased parity around the league, games early in the season would mean significantly more than they do now and would gain far more attention.
Beyond that, though, it would be great for attendance. Early in the season, teams have a difficult time drawing fans, but if the playing field became a little more even, we might see that trend start to reverse.
Take the Red Sox, for example. Though they still managed to draw the fifth-most fans in the AL over the course of the 2013 season, the team drew less than 30,000 fans on 17 occasions through its first 47 games, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Over that 47-game span, the Sox played teams like the White Sox, Twins, Blue Jays, Astros and Royals. Those five teams combined for a .420 winning percentage in 2013, and it stands to reason that even the eventual World Series champions couldn't draw a crowd of 30,000 when they came to town.
All in all, 15 of the league's 30 teams finished at or below the .500 mark, with six of those teams having lost 90-plus games. That all could change this offseason, though, as teams like the Twins, Astros, Mariners and Cubs all rank within the top 10 on Bleacher Report's top MLB farm systems.
A New World Series Favorite
This ties in slightly with the previous slide, but some variety in World Series winners would be nice. While the process of winning the World Series is obviously a task for the regular season, the process of building a team capable of taking home a title is completed largely during the offseason.
Over the past 10 years, only six different teams have won the World Series. With that, the droughts experienced by some teams have grown to near-epic proportions.
Per Luis Delgado of Sportingcharts.com, these are the 10 longest active World Series appearance droughts in baseball:
The droughts of each team in the chart above have lasted at least 23 years, while two teams—Seattle and Washington—have never even appeared in the World Series.
A few of the teams mentioned above—Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh—have a serious chance to return to the World Series, while Washington looks to have a team capable of getting the franchise there for the first time. Hopefully, an offseason to retool their respective rosters will bring us not only some fresh faces in the World Series, but a new winner as well.
The Pirates to Take Another Step Forward
The Pirates were the darlings of the 2013 MLB season, and for good reason. The Bucs spent 21 consecutive seasons watching the playoffs from home, but after a Sept. 21 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, that drought finally ended.
The Pirates took their success a step further with a thorough dismantling of the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. They carried their momentum into the NLCS but were unable to close out the series after taking a 2-1 lead over a talented Cardinals team.
This offseason could bring some significant changes to Pittsburgh.
The team has already lost Marlon Byrd. He signed with the Phillies on Nov. 12 and was a big part of the team's success down the stretch last season. Over his 36 games with the Pirates—30 regular-season and six postseason contests—Byrd slashed an impressive .326/.362/.504 with four home runs and 22 RBI.
Additionally, the team may enter the season without A.J. Burnett, as it failed to make a qualifying offer to the 36-year-old veteran. Beyond the loss of Byrd and the likely loss of Burnett, the Pirates will have to contend with the possible departures of Justin Morneau and Kyle Farnsworth as they enter free agency.
Salary constraints could prove troublesome for the Pirates. Although they have just $31.88 million in salary commitments next season, the team will have to contend with increases in pay for Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Wandy Rodriguez and the bevy of arbitration-eligible players on its roster.
Because of all that, the Pirates will need to be crafty as to how they go about improving their squad. The team will need to make smart, finance-friendly moves while also supplementing its existing club with big league-ready prospects—e.g. Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco, Andrew Lambo and Nick Kingham.
Even if the Pirates lose the players mentioned above, the team still possesses a quality roster. Couple that with high-caliber prospects and possible additions from free agency—or the trade market—and the Pirates could be poised for another playoff run.
Until their final roster is set, it's unknown as to how the Pirates will fare next season. However, a deep playoff run—or possibly a World Series berth—would be a great story for the 2014 season.
A New Owner in Miami
The Miami Marlins have grown become the laughing stock of Major League Baseball.
Prior to the 2012 season, the Marlins went on a spending spree of epic proportions, signing free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. Beyond those four players, though, the team already featured star talents like Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Johnson, Steve Cishek and Hanley Ramirez.
The Marlins also opened a new stadium to welcome their All-Star-studded team. The club's stadium seats 37,442 fans and features an aquarium.
However, despite all the glitz and glamour, the Marlins fumbled their way through the 2012 season. By the All-Star break, the team managed just a 41-44 record. Shortly after the break, owner Jeffrey Loria decided that it would be a good idea to trade away one of their franchise cornerstones in Ramirez.
From there, the season spun out of control. The Marlins went on to finish the season at 69-93, before trading away Johnson, Reyes, Buehrle and Bell.
Loria has an affinity for blowing up his teams and has done so on multiple occasions. After both World Series titles, Loria traded major pieces from the team, including players like Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Derrek Lee and Juan Encarnacion.
It's not just Loria's history with the Marlins that drives fans crazy. He had issues with the Montreal Expos back in the early 2000s, when he tried to hold the city ransom in an attempt to secure a new stadium for the team.
Baseball still won't let Mark Cuban own a franchise, but Loria continues to decimate his. It's doubtful, but we can hope right?
Every year, the number of major trade rumors seems to increase, and this year is no exception to that. Over the past few weeks, the list of names on the trading block has grown exponentially.
Here's a short list of the biggest names being tossed around this offseason:
- Brandon Phillips (per Ken Rosenthal)
- Prince Fielder (per Henry Schulman)
- Matt Wieters (per Matt Wieters)
- Max Scherzer (per Buster Olney)
- Homer Bailey (per Ken Rosenthal)
- David Price (per Jerry Crasnick)
- Jeff Samardzija (per Nick Piecoro)
- Dexter Fowler (per Jon Morosi)
That's just a sample of the big names on this year's trade market. While some are repeats from last season, and others may not be moved, others, like Brandon Phillips, are almost a virtual lock to be traded, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Speaking of blockbuster trades...
A Giancarlo Stanton Trade
It's depressing to watch an elite player waste away on a subpar team. Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happening to Giancarlo Stanton down in Miami.
Stanton is a slugger of the highest caliber, and trade rumors have been swirling around the 24-year-old since the Marlins' most recent fire sale.
Recently, general manager Dan Jennings went public with his intent to keep Stanton in Miami, stating that "He is going to be in right field at Marlins Park, and [we're] looking forward to having a big year with him. We're excited," according to ESPN.com.
Anybody else not buying that?
When analyzing Jennings' statements, consider two things: First, Jeffrey Loria is still the owner of the Marlins, while Jennings is just the GM. Loria seems to have an affinity for blowing up his team, and Stanton is easily his most valuable bargaining chip.
Additionally, the same situation occurred just prior to the 2013 season with Jose Reyes. As noted by Jayson Stark of ESPN in a Feb. 2013 interview, Reyes was told multiple times that he would not be traded. He told Stark, "I was shocked, because Jeffrey Loria, he always told me he's never going to trade me."
Instead of seeing Loria toy with another young superstar, we'd rather see him move Stanton to a contending team while he attempts to rebuild the Marlins roster.
The End of the Biogenesis Scandal
At this point, the Biogenesis debacle has nearly run its course. However, Major League Baseball is still bogged down in a legal battle with the scandal's biggest star.
The story broke back in January when the Miami New Times reported one of the biggest stories in sports history. Anthony Bosch, a drug hustler of the highest caliber, was getting PEDs to some of baseball's biggest names, including Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon.
Cruz, Peralta and Braun all accepted their 50-game suspensions—Cabrera and Colon were not suspended. Rodriguez, however, turned the story into the near-yearlong drama that we're still discussing today by choosing to fight the suspension despite damning evidence brought forth by Bosch, Major League Baseball and others, according to Newsday.com.
Now, Rodriguez finds himself in a legal battle—detailed in the Newsday.com article linked above—with Major League Baseball, in an attempt to avoid the 211-game suspension handed down by the league. Rodriguez's appeal process began during the 2013 season and allowed him to play 44 games with the Yankees.
Now, during the offseason, he and his team of lawyers will look to at least reduce the number of games he'll sit out in 2014. But at what point is enough, enough?
Rodriguez has lied repeatedly, to the Yankees front office, to Major League Baseball, to his teammates, and to fans. At one point, Rodriguez had cemented himself in the discussion of the best players in baseball history. However, this former MVP's fall from grace has him in a position where he's more likely to get jail time than he is to get into the Hall of Fame.
Hopefully, Major League Baseball and A-Rod can get this matter solved in court so we don't have to suffer through any more discussion about him and his suspension.
A Chance at Redemption
Each year, a new crop of players heads into the offseason looking to put a dismal performance behind them. This year, that list includes players fresh off suspension—e.g. Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta—and also players like Roy Halladay and Albert Pujols.
The former group, Cruz and Peralta, have a lot to prove after serving 50-game suspensions for their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Each are former All-Stars and have proven track records; however, those track records took a major hit, and questions surrounding their legitimacy have sprung up.
The two are sure to find homes in new cities, and although they've admitted their guilt as PED users, Cruz and Peralta both have the potential to be major contributors to their new ballclubs.
The latter group of Halladay and Pujols muddled through injury-plagued seasons that also happened to be the worst of their careers.
Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, suffered multiple injures in 2013, including an early-season shoulder injury that required surgery. The 36-year-old made his return in late August and failed to regain his form, allowing a 4.55 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP over 27.2 innings pitched.
Halladay is a free agent this offseason, and although he's hardly the highly sought-after commodity he once was, the veteran right-hander will certainly land in a starting rotation somewhere.
Pujols is the greatest hitter of his generation and one of the greatest of all time. The 33-year-old is a three-time MVP and owns a career slash line of .321/.410/.599.
Last season, Pujols played most of the season with a foot injury, but he was able to play through it. The injury obviously bothered Pujols, though, as he totaled 17 home runs, 64 RBI, 49 runs scored and a .258/.330/.437 slash line.
Pujols was clearly uncomfortable running the bases and at the plate. That became even more evident when he tore his plantar fascia.
The offseason will give these four players—and others not mentioned—the chance to either re-establish themselves or regain their health in an attempt to come back at full strength in 2014.