As spring training nears end, Major League Baseball prepares for 2019 season
The offseason for any sporting club is time for the management staff to reevaluate their rosters, trade players and construct a fresh team for the next season. According to SportingNews.com, the Major League’s regular season this year starts on Thursday, March 28, clocking in the earliest start to the regular season in Major League history.
The two earliest games on the day will see the New York Mets face off against the Washington Nationals in the National League and the Baltimore Orioles clash with the New York Yankees in the American League. Before the season for all 30 teams kicks off, the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will be touring in Japan to play two friendly games eight days before the nationwide first pitch is scheduled to be thrown.
To some, this offseason was off to a rather slow start. Several of the game’s biggest names went into free agency and got tied up in unsure trade rumors, causing the league as a whole to be uncertain of several team’s newest rosters.
Freshman Bryan Darlington said the best part of Spring Training and preseason as a whole is that fans get a first glance at the development of new players.
“It’s interesting to see the big name players for the first time,” Darlington said. “Without Spring Training, so many lower-division players wouldn’t have any game experience before the regular season starts, so giving them the chance to showcase what they can bring to their roster is really cool.”
Recently, important trades have been made, including the 26-year-old right fielder Bryce Harper finalizing his trade into the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies organization on Feb. 28. MLB.com stated that Harper’s new contract is a 13-year, $330 million deal, ensuring his future on a roster that hasn’t finished a season above .500 since 2011.
Third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, a player who caused lots of controversy in his style of play during last year’s postseason, went into free agency after his season ended with the Dodgers’ loss in the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
On Feb. 19, he signed a 10-year, $300 million deal to the San Diego Padres. According to MLB.com, “Machado also reportedly will receive an opt-out clause after five seasons, giving the 26-year-old a chance to test the waters again after his age-30 season.”
Pairing Machado’s powerful swing and calf-clipping slide style with first baseman Eric Hosmer’s defensive skills, who’s one year into a 10-year contract, the Padres are expecting to rise above the .500 mark by the end of the season for the first time since 2010.
Looking at the Bay Area, the Oakland Athletics organization, soon to be the only professional sports team in Oakland, has made several moves this offseason even though they lost six players to free agency.
Two free-agent additions to their rotation, Marco Estrada and Joakim Soria, as well as a trade from the Texas Rangers for Jurickson Profar give the team better depth and higher hopes to clinch a spot in the postseason, where last year they lost in the American League Wildcard game against the much wealthier organization known as the New York Yankees.
As one of the most consistently poor franchises in the game, the Athletes don’t have the luxury of signing top players for long contracts with money still flowing out of their wallets. Instead, they figuratively have to play the field and take what they can get. Manager Bob Melvin, though, knows his team well and can certainly work with what he has to make a team worthy of a title.
Much closer to campus, the Seattle Mariners took this offseason to finalize several major trade deals. “They were giving up Canoe, they were giving up other players that I don’t think they could’ve really afforded to lose, but at the same time I think they’re going into a more rebuild type of mentality,” Darlington said.
One of the strategies the Mariners are using for this season is to trade away their top, mostly older players to then get higher draft picks and younger players to start the process of redeveloping the team. This redevelopment — usually lasting longer than a season — is an opportunity for the team to essentially start fresh and work forward.
With Spring Training in full swing, each of the 30 major league teams are already showcasing their newest players on and off the field. One can only hope that the season itself is as exciting as the offseason has certainly been.