For many baseball fans, the MLB offseason is just as important as the regular season and playoffs. The anticipation of where their favorite players will be signing, which teams will be making blockbuster deals, the award winners, which prospects are making news in winter ball—the hot stove league is a big deal.
The term “hot stove” is meant to conjure up images of baseball fans hovering around a hot stove in the middle of the cold winter months, discussing the major transactions occurring that will alter the makeup of their favorite teams.
In essence, wintertime really is a separate league. However, this time it’s a game played between MLB owners and general managers, and the score is all about personnel gains and losses for each team, with players sitting idly by, wondering whether or not they are or will be involved in the process.
The offseason is also a time of GM and managerial changes, as MLB team executives meet to evaluate the performance of their front office staff.
However, the offseason also means that fans and media experts alike will make predictions on what might occur. Polls are set up for fans to consider what certain outcomes might be in terms of hirings, firings, free-agent signings and trades.
With all that mind, we will take a look at the upcoming offseason and make some predictions of our own.
Here, then, are 40 bold predictions of what could occur during the upcoming MLB offseason.
Bear in mind that some of the predictions will be coming directly from my warped mind, but I’ll try to add a few serious ones as well.
It will be left up to you to figure out the real from the ridiculous.
On Wednesday morning, the Florida Marlins shortstop woke up and groggily went to his computer. He clicked on a few screens, and up popped a story about the possibility of a new logo for the Marlins next season.
Ramirez completely woke up when he saw the prospective logo, called GM Larry Beinfest immediately and demanded a trade. “No way THIS superstar will wear a jersey looking like that,” Ramirez said.
Beinfest honors Ramirez’s request and trades Ramirez from whence he came, back to the Boston Red Sox. In return, Beinfest gets back John Lackey, Erik Bedard and a shipment of clam chowder.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield tearfully announces his retirement after 17 seasons with the Boston Red Sox and 20 years overall.
Wakefield, who notched his 200th career win in early September, really wanted to stick around to try to break the Red Sox record for career wins by a pitcher, held by Roger Clemens and Cy Young (192).
Wakefield is just six wins short of tying Clemens and Young, but he realized that, after taking eight tries just to get his 200th victory, it might take him until retirement age to reach the Red Sox record.
Chicago White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn, who will go down in history with one of the worst batting averages ever for a player who qualifies for the hitting title (Dunn is currently eight plate appearances below the qualifying number with a .167 average), reveals the reason that he found himself in a season-long slump.
Dunn says that he was invited into the “Swing and Miss Club” by former sluggers Rob Deer, Dave Kingman, Steve Balboni and Jack Cust. The five became so chummy during the offseason last year that Dunn just couldn’t help but emulate his idols.
Deer, of course, holds the honor of having the lowest official batting average while still qualifying for the batting title when he batted a putrid .179 in 1991.
Oh, just a thought here. The San Diego Padres this year are last in the NL in batting with a .238 average and second in strikeouts with 1,251. Care to guess who their roving minor league hitting instructor is? You guessed it—Rob Deer.
Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who overcame a horrible 2010 season when he was sidelined for all but 18 games with fractured ribs, came back with an outstanding year in 2011, even being included in the discussion for AL Most Valuable Player award.
For his efforts, Ellsbury is rewarded by the Red Sox with a five-year, $50 million contract extension.
During the press conference to announce the signing, Ellsbury invites former teammate Mike Cameron to join him on the podium. Cameron greets Ellsbury by giving him a chest bump. The ensuing collision on the podium cracks three of Ellsbury’s ribs, and he will start the 2012 season with a fat contract and a long DL stint.
Well, someone has to be the scapegoat.
Ned Colletti, who became the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2005, is fired after being unable to successfully dig up any dirt on owner Frank McCourt after he was hired by MLB as an “inside mole.” Of course, MLB denies any wrongdoing.
However, word is that immediately after the Colletti firing, officials in black suits are seen in the Dodgers’ executive offices performing de-bugging sweeps.
On top of that news...
Kim Ng, who has been trying unsuccessfully to become the first female general manager in the history of baseball, is immediately announced as the successor to Ned Colletti as GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ng had been working under Joe Torre as MLB senior vice president of baseball operations since March 2011. Hmm...nothing fishy about THAT hiring...
Photo courtesy US Presswire/Yahoo Sports
Based on the performance of former pitcher Adam Loewen in the month of September for the Toronto Blue Jays, manager John Farrell announces that Loewen will be his starting left fielder to start the 2012 season.
Loewen developed Rick Ankiel disease, a complete inability to throw the ball over the plate. After spending three seasons in the minors developing his hitting stroke, Loewen debuted as a hitter with the Blue Jays on Sept. 7, recording his first hit off Boston Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard.
When a reporter notes that Loewen’s only appearance in left field resulted in one error in one chance, resulting in a .000 fielding percentage, Farrell thinks for a moment and then replies in his best Casey Stengel impersonation, “Well, you have to have a left fielder or you’ll have all inside-the-park home runs.”
Detroit Tigers right fielder Magglio Ordonez, seeing the writing on the wall after the Tigers acquired Delmon Young from the Minnesota Twins, announces his retirement from the game.
Ordonez, who will be 38 in January, walks away from the game after compiling a lifetime batting average of .309 in 15 seasons, the last seven with the Tigers. In 2007, Ordonez put up one of the best seasons in Tigers history with a league-leading .363 average, 28 HR, 139 RBI and 52 doubles.
Belting over 30 HR and 100 RBI and hitting .313 in 2011 (assuming, of course, he reaches those marks by the end of the season), Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz once again assumed the role of feared hitter.
For his efforts, GM Theo Epstein, in an effort to reclaim some positive feedback after the Red Sox’s near collapse, re-signs Ortiz for two more years and $20 million, meaning that Ortiz will likely end his career in a Red Sox uniform.
For much of the early summer, there were rumors swirling about the status of Tampa Bay Rays center fielder B.J. Upton.
In fact, several members of the media said it was a sure thing that Upton would be dealt. Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe reported in late July that the Washington Nationals were considering “offering the moon” for Upton.
However, no deal came to fruition. But that doesn’t mean the Nationals lost interest. Over the winter, GM Mike Rizzo will pull the strings on an Upton deal, offering Roger Bernadina and prospects in return.
Los Angeles Angels rookie first baseman Mark Trumbo is on his way to a 30 HR, 90 RBI season and could very well be the winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. However, incumbent first baseman Kendrys Morales, out since late May 2010 with a fractured ankle, is expected back to start the 2012 season.
Thus, the Angels announce that Trumbo, who has been practicing in the outfield, will be taking over in right field to start the 2012 season.
Of course, this will only happen after...
During the offseason, Los Angeles Angels general manager Tony Reagins realizes that with Kendrys Morales coming back, he needs to find a place for Rookie of the Year candidate Mark Trumbo to play.
That’s when new Houston Astros owner Jim Crane comes calling. Crane has a brilliant idea to create a marketing campaign, and he needs the services of both Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter to pull it off.
See, Crane needs both Abreu and Hunter to fulfill his marketing campaign. Using the first initials of the players’ last names and the first initials of his team, Crane will create the marketing slogan “AH-HA, baseball is back in Houston.”
Or he could switch around Hunter and Abreu’s initials and call it, “HA-HA, baseball is back in Houston.”
Worked out just fine for Reagins; he thought the phrase was kinda catchy.
This one should be a no-brainer for any GM. Billy Beane, or whoever takes over for him after his expected departure, re-signs outfielder Josh Willingham to a three-year contract.
Willingham has hit a career-high 27 HR with 92 RBI and has clearly found a home in the Bay Area.
I know, you probably never thought you would hear any “Brangelina” talk here at Bleacher Report, but hey, it is a baseball movie.
Actor Brad Pitt, portraying Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, finally wins a coveted Oscar for Best Actor.
No word on whether or not Beane was seen at the ceremony.
When 22-year-old pitcher Matt Moore was called up in early September by the Tampa Bay Rays, he had just put the finishing touches on a season in the minors in which he compiled a 12-3 record and 1.92 ERA in 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, with an incredible 210 strikeouts in just 155 innings.
Moore will be promoted to the starting rotation for the Rays after Jeff Niemann is traded for prospects, giving the Rays two formidable southpaws in their rotation (Moore and David Price).
The Cleveland Indians were actually relevant for a large portion of the 2011 season, thanks to a sizzling start and an underrated pitching staff that performed well above expectations.
However, the Indians realize they have a hitter in 25-year-old catcher Carlos Santana, who has chipped in with 26 HR and 77 RBI through Wednesday’s games.
Management makes the decision to move Santana to first base full-time next season in an effort to prolong Santana’s career and save the wear and tear on his knees.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who is only the second manager ever to win a World Series in both the American and National League (Sparky Anderson), announces his retirement from baseball after 34 years as a manager, 16 with St. Louis.
The four-time Manager of the Year will now wait for the Hall of Fame to come calling.
It has been rumored for much of the season that Boston Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, in the final season of a five-year, $70 million contract, will retire when his current contract expires.
Drew officially announces his retirement, but not without trashing fans who have called for his ouster for what they believed was a lack of production during his tenure in Boston.
Drew cites his above-average WAR (13.2) and OPS (.826) during his time with the Red Sox.
In an about-face, Colorado Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, who on Wednesday called the play of the Rockies "an embarrassment," decides after the season to fire manager Jim Tracy.
O’Dowd, who had previously said he would honor the contract of Tracy, decides a change is needed now.
Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez, who has expressed his displeasure in his current role, decides to sign a multi-year contract with the Chicago White Sox.
K-Rod figures that Sox manager Ozzie Guillen will deflect much of the criticism, seeing that Guillen is more outrageous with his comments than Rodriguez is with his.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose last season with the Boston Red Sox ended when he opted for Tommy John surgery in June, announces that he is returning to his homeland to pitch in Japan's Pacific League in Nippon Professional Baseball once again.
Dice-K, who was 49-30 with a 4.25 ERA for the Red Sox in five seasons, will go back to pitching once a week and the adulation of his adoring fans.
Meanwhile, Sox fans will be stewing over the fact that it cost $2.1 million for each of Matsuzaka’s wins during his career in Boston.
Seattle Mariners third baseman Chone Figgins, who was shut down for the season after being unable to fully rehab from a hip flexor injury, is ordered to report to Nintendo headquarters for the rest of his contract.
Figgins, who signed a four-year, $36 million contract before the 2010 season, only played in 81 games with a .188 average in 2011 before suffering the hip injury. Mariners owners, who own Nintendo of America, figure that Figgins has more value in their video game offices than he does on their baseball team.
Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Derrek Lee has clearly found a home at PNC Park, and he intends to stay for a while.
Lee, who is hitting .342 with six HR and 16 RBI in 21 games since being traded from the Baltimore Orioles, signs a two-year deal with the Pirates, giving them stability and a great veteran presence in their infield for the 2012 season.
Considering Lee has produced almost as much as he did in one month as he did for four months in Baltimore, it’s clearly the right choice.
Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who is still feeling the effects of the severe concussion suffered in early July 2010, decides to retire rather than risk further injury.
Morneau, who managed only a .227 average with four HR and 30 RBI in 69 games in 2011, just can’t fully recover from ongoing symptoms caused by the 2010 collision, causing him to miss 81 games that season. A dive for a ball in a game in late August this year caused Morneau to again suffer from concussion-like symptoms, shutting down his season in early September.
When Lou Piniella stepped down on Aug. 22, 2010, third base coach Mike Quade was given the job on an interim basis. On Oct. 19, the “interim” label was taken off, and Quade was given a two-year deal to manage the Cubs.
The Cubs realize too late that the word “interim” should have never been lifted, and Quade is dismissed.
You have to give San Francisco Giants general Brian Sabean a lot of credit. He realized the error of his ways with the signings of both Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand and released them both, eating about $15 million in the process.
Now, Sabean decides to eat a WHOLE lot more, finally giving up on Barry Zito and granting him his unconditional release. The move will cost Sabean and the Giants another $46 million, but hey, after $15 million, what’s a few more million?
Well, the title is just a bit misleading, but it is a regression in a way. MLB decides during the winter meetings to cut the 2013 regular-season schedule back to 154 games in order to accommodate a longer playoff format.
Since a new wild-card team will be added to the new postseason format, schedules will be cut back by eight games so MLB teams won’t be celebrating New Year’s Day during the World Series.
In several meetings that last well into the night, Major League Baseball finally hashes out a new realignment agreement with the Players Association, giving each league 15 teams each with three divisions of five teams.
The final sticking point, the resistance by the Houston Astros to switch leagues, is finally resolved when Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLBPA, and Jim Crane, owner of the Astros, emerge from a closed-door meeting with an agreement in hand. Crane is seen sweating profusely and with what appear to be strap marks on his wrists and ankles.
Apparently, Weiner is VERY persuasive.
In an announcement that comes as absolutely no surprise, the Florida Marlins announce they will be playing their home games at the University of Miami’s Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field in 2012 after delays in the construction of Marlins Ballpark force their hand.
Stephen Ross, the owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, refuses to allow the Marlins to play their home games at Sun Life Stadium, stating the Marlins are “bad for business.”
With a capacity of 5,000, Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field figures to be the perfect place for the Marlins since they are 29th in attendance anyway.
Photo courtesy ballparksofbaseball.com
When MLB finally approves the Houston Astros’ transfer of ownership to Jim Crane, his first order of business is to fire Brad Mills as manager and Ed Wade as general manager and appoint himself to both positions.
Crane wants to cut payroll by as much as possible, and since he can’t find suckers...er...willing trade partners to take on the contracts of Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez, he saves money by taking over for both Mills and Wade.
And of course, he starts his brilliant marketing campaign mentioned in a previous slide.
For several years now, Andrew Friedman has worked miracles with the Tampa Bay Rays with limited resources, fielding a team that won the American League pennant in 2008 and an AL East Division winner in 2010, both times with one of the lowest payrolls and lowest attendance figures in baseball.
Friedman decides to spurn offers from several teams vying for his services, opting to stay right where he is with the Rays. Insiders believe that Friedman stated he wouldn’t know what to do with all the extra money he would be provided.
By now, everyone knows how resistant MLB has been in expanding the use of video replay to review calls by umpires called into question.
However, in a deal hammered out by the owners and players association at the winter meetings, MLB has finally decided to allow expanded use of video replay for other questionable calls.
Here’s the twist: If a manager calls for a review of a call on the field, upon further review, if umpires decide to reverse the decision, the team calling for the replay is rewarded with the correct call.
If, however, a team calls for a video replay, and after further review by umpires the play stands, the team calling for the replay must eliminate one position player for the rest of the game.
MLB figures it would limit the use of video replay and not have games approach four hours of time. In the case of the Yankees and Red Sox, who average close to four hours per game whenever they play each other, MLB rules they cannot use video replay at all.
Photo courtesy sportsfantalking.com
After months of wrangling in bankruptcy court and MLB’s attempts to jettison Frank McCourt as owner, a federal bankruptcy court rules that Magic Johnson has been selected as the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers after the team is put up for auction.
Johnson promises to bring Showtime back to Los Angeles.
The Kansas City Royals, who suffered through their 17th losing season in the last 18 years, dismiss manager Ned Yost.
Yost, who has had two winning seasons in parts of eight years as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and the Royals, will no doubt find a job somewhere else. After all, losing managers don’t die—they just get recycled.
Since the Washington Nationals moved to the D.C. area in 2005, the only season that saw any hope was that very first year.
When the Nats selected pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, he was looked upon as the man who could change things in Washington, unlike a veritable plethora of pithy politicians.
Strasburg announces that he is legally changing his first name from Stephen to Savior, stating that if he is to save the fate of the nation’s capital, his name should reflect as such.
On the heels of that news...
Washington Nationals 2010 top draft pick Bryce Harper, who is looked upon to bring salvation to the Nationals on a par with Stephen “Savior” Strasburg, announces he has legally changed his name to Heavenly Harper.
That way, in the near future, the Nats will be led by Heavenly Savior.
The Florida Marlins, who have gone through a myriad of changes in recent months, news of their delayed opening at Marlins Ballpark notwithstanding, announce that they have signed manager Jack McKeon to a seven-year contract extension.
The Marlins decided to reward the 80-year-old McKeon with the deal after he approached management and said that he wanted to break Connie Mack’s record as the oldest manager in the history of baseball.
Connie Mack retired as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics at the age of 87.
New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is a pretty smart dude. When he signed his seven-year, $152 million deal with the Yankees, he included a clause that allowed him to walk away from the deal after three years.
Sabathia indeed chooses to opt out, and once he hits the open market, the Chicago Cubs offer Sabathia a 10-year, $400 million contract, which he readily accepts.
The Cubs are used to spending huge dollars on overrated players; now they want to try their hand at spending outlandish money on good players for a change.
On the heels of this news...
Relief pitcher Rafael Soriano, who also has the option of opting out of his three-year, $30 million deal, exercise his opt-out clause as well, choosing to go back to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Soriano, who gets an additional $1.5 million by opting out, chooses to go back to the relative obscurity of Tampa Bay, where he certainly seemed a lot happier.
When Florida Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison opted to file a grievance against the Florida Marlins for what he felt was an unjust demotion to the minors on Aug. 13, he pretty much ended any semblance of a relationship he might have had with the front office.
After receiving orders from upper management, GM Larry Beinfest trades Lo-Mo to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Beinfest figures Morrison will be a great fit with the Dodgers and their REALLY dysfunctional family.
For our final bold prediction—and it really isn’t even bold—Albert Pujols, who has been the subject of rumors regarding his free agency since last season, quietly re-signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Much like Los Angeles Angels pitcher Jered Weaver when he signed his extension in August, Pujols simply states that his loyalty will be with the team that he started with and will ultimately end with.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter @Sports_A_Holic.