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The 10 Biggest Takeaways From This Year's MLB Offseason

Eric Lutz
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From Men's Health

If you weren’t paying attention to the MLB offseason this year, I have some good news for you: You didn’t miss much. The stove never quite got hot, the most controversial rule changes didn’t go forward, and the best teams of 2018 are still slated to be the best in 2019. But at the threshold of Opening Day, it’s worth taking a look at what transpired since the Red Sox won the World Series last October.

Here are the 10 biggest storylines from the 2018-2019 MLB offseason.

10. Rivera unanimously elected to Cooperstown

The famously prickly Hall of Fame voters-whose ranks mostly include pretentious baseball writers-have never unanimously elected a player to Cooperstown, despite many deserving such an honor. But that changed this off-season when every voter in the Baseball Writers Association of America named Mariano Rivera, the retired Yankees closer, to the Hall. He was the first player ever to be unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame, and did so on his first ballot-a well-earned distinction for perhaps the greatest to ever play his position. The rare move suggested to some a changing, more open Cooperstown.

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9. ...along with some randos

Of course, that possible shift also means some good-but not great-players could make it in. That certainly seemed to be the case in this year’s class, which included Harold Baines-an excellent player, but an exceedingly controversial choice, given the Hall of Fame continues to lock out Barry Bonds and other superior players who played during the Steroid Era. It’ll be interesting to see going forward if the more relaxed approach to Cooperstown finally gets Bonds and some of the other greats of that era into the Hall, though with the BBWAA’s famous disdain for the doping era, it’s a safe bet that they won’t.

8. Women continue to ascend to front office roles

The MLB has gradually been seeking to diversify its front offices by seeking to recruit and promote more women to the top of its organizations, including Haley Alvarez, who some believe is on track to become the league’s first female general manager. That momentum continued this off-season, with Jessica Mendoza-the first woman to serve as a broadcast analyst for an MLB postseason game back in 2015-joining the Mets in an advisory role. The Olympic softball star, who will continue to broadcast games, will counsel the team on player development, roster construction, and other matters.

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7. Rule changes, but no pitch clock

Of course, it wouldn’t be the MLB offseason without some rule changes. As usual, the most prominent alterations to the rule book relate to pace of play issues. The league has long worried that the, shall we say, deliberate pace of games-the average game last year took about three hours-have turned off casual fans. Most notably, the league cut down time between innings and reduced the number of mound visits allowed per game-BUT did not implement the much-discussed and controversial pitch clock the league experimented with this preseason. Other changes included some revisions to the all-star game and home run derby, as well as the elimination of one of the two trade deadlines that had previously existed.

6. Yankees, Astros and Red Sox poised to battle it out in AL

The AL has been tough in recent years, with teams from the league winning two of the last three World Series titles. The Houston Astros, who won it in 2017, and the Boston Red Sox, who dominated their way to a championship last year, remain incredibly strong. But the New York Yankees, a formidable squad last year, has seen even more improvement heading into 2019. The three teams are likely to be top contenders not just to take the AL-but possibly even in the World Series.

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5. The NL is up for grabs

While the Yanks, the Red Sox, and the Astros are favorites in the AL, the NL is a lot less clear cut. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a stranglehold on their West division, and have made the last two championships (they lost both). But the Philadelphia Phillies, with the addition of Bryce Harper, and an increasingly competitive NL Central featuring the consistent Chicago Cubs, resurgent St. Louis Cardinals, and insurgent Milwaukee Brewers could make it anyone’s race.

4. Terrible teams could make turnarounds

Eight teams last year had truly horrendous seasons, with losses of 95 games or more. But at least a couple of those teams may be poised for solid 2019s. The Chicago White Sox (62-100 in 2018) had a setback in losing the Manny Machado sweepstakes, but still look like a team on the rise, with a squad of talented young players-namely, Eloy Jimenez-and a deep farm system. And the Cincinnati Reds (67-95 last year) are expected to make gains this year, further clogging things up in the National League’s central division.

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3. The cold stove

The MLB offseason never seems to deliver the kind of bombshell trades and signings that keep baseball fans going between the World Series and spring training, but this offseason seemed particularly boring. Offseason moves were few and far between, with most of the winter dragging by uneventfully until the signings of Machado and Harper in late February and early March, respectively.

2. Machado and Harper get paid-finally

The contracts were likely worth the wait for the players involved. Machado inked himself a 10-year, $300 million deal with the Padres-the largest free agent contract in the history of sports, until Harper defected from the Nationals to the Phillies for a truly bonkers 13-year, $330 million agreement. Harper was widely expected to be headed for Philly, but Machado’s deal with San Diego was unexpected. Both guys are generational talents, and it’ll be interesting to see what they do with those deals on teams that have been largely mediocre recently.

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1. Labor unrest

But the fact that the two languished so long in free agency this offseason underscores the growing frustration among players over their current relationship with owners, who have been seen as increasingly powerful under MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Those spiking tensions between players and management could put the two on a collision course in 2021, when the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires, and possibly even lead to a player strike-the first in about 25 years.


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