Top Five Biggest MLB Storylines Heading into Spring Training

Story posted February 20, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Jack McCune and Andrew Field

This year’s MLB offseason has been filled with suspense surrounding free agency buzz, discussions involving rule changes and other baseball news. MLB Spring Training starts Thursday when the Mariners take on the Athletics. Here are the top five biggest storylines around baseball before the teams take action:

1.) Manny Machado Signs the Biggest Free-Agent Contract in American Sports History

After 113 long days of free agency pass, we finally know what uniform Manny Machado will be wearing this upcoming season and beyond. On Tuesday, the San Diego Padres and Machado agreed to a 10-year, $300 million contract with an opt-out after five seasons.

The superstar slugger has averaged 36 home runs over the past four seasons. His .905 OPS last year is a career high and his 188 hits were four shy of tying Whit Merrifield for the most hits in baseball. Machado also had good defensive numbers last year, posting 357 defensive assists and a fielding percentage of .979, both ranked in the top 15 of the league.

Although he’s one of the best players in the game in the middle of his prime, the 26-year-old probably won’t make a large immediate impact on the Padres. The rest of the roster is weak and the team is not in position to make a playoff run any time soon. However, the Padres have one of the deepest and most-talented farm systems in baseball, so after a few years of struggling to go .500, the Padres should be ready to win for a long time with the combination of Machado and the abundance of skilled prospects.

2.) Pitch Clocks to be Used in Spring Training, Possibly During the Regular Season

Commissioner Rob Manfred said that a 20-second pitch clock will be used in Spring Training this year. Manfred also said that the pitch clock could extend its use into the regular season.

This will be similar to the pitch clock that has been used in Double-A and Triple-A baseball since the 2015 season, in which an automatic ball is awarded if a pitcher does not begin his delivery within 20 seconds. Manfred did not identify the penalty that will be enforced in Spring Training.

Manfred’s reasoning for implementing the pitch clock in Spring Training is to “start getting ready for the possibility that we’re going to use the pitch clock on Opening Day.” Manfred has the power to use the pitch clock in this year’s regular season without approval of the Player’s Union because he proposed the idea two years ago. The rules of the collective bargaining agreement state that the commissioner is allowed to enforce rule changes as long as the MLBPA is given at least one year of notice.

3.) Bruce Bochy’s last season as the Giants Manager

The historic managerial career of Bruce Bochy will come to an end this year, as the three-time World Champion manager will hang up his cap after 25 years. Last year, the San Francisco Giants finished with a disappointing 73-89 record and have not had a winning season since 2016.

There is sure to be plenty of ceremonial moments for Bochy as the 63-year-old makes his tour around the league for one final time. Bochy talked about how it was a gut feeling that made him decide to step away. He has boosted many accolades in his previous 24 years as the Giants and Padres manager, and has had the chance to coach many successful players and teams and build a mini dynasty with the Giants as they won world championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Will the Giants make one last push for the playoffs for its coveted manager? It will be tough as the Giants have the Rockies, Diamondbacks and the Dodgers ahead of them, along with a loaded National League with multiple teams that will be fighting for a wildcard spot. Either way this year is certainly going to centimental for Bochy.

4.) The N.L. East race is back to being interesting

With new additions to multiple teams. The N.L. East race through the 2019 season is sure to be one of the closest and most competitive runs to watch. The Mets getting its pitching arsenal back and adding a veteran bat in Robinson Cano should make them a tough team to play. The Braves young stars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies will lead them into 2019 along with veterans Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and new addition Josh Donaldson should make them front runners for the division again this season.

The Phillies new additions, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and J.T. Realmuto, certainly bolster the already young and fresh lineup. The pitching staff, led by ace Aaron Nola and veteran Jake Arrieta, still may be in need of a left-hander to accompany the rotation, but if the hitting comes through and Gabe Kapler’s analytics pays off, look out.

The Nationals still retain some talent like Anthony Rendon and young star Juan Soto. Patrick Corbin was a good addition to improve the rotation that is headlined by ace Max Scherzer. They may not be the Nationals of recent years, but they still will be a good oponent come April.

5.) Will the Red Sox repeat?

The Red Sox return a stacked team that dominated its way to a 2018 World Series championship. With the expectations of a city that is recently used to winning so much in the past two decades. The star-studded lineup comes back for another go around in 2019, as Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts will suit up again to look to top the win total of 108 in 2019.

David Price, who finally got the monkey off of his back, returns to prove any doubters left wrong. The always dominant Chris Sale, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi round out some of the studs the Sox bring back in the rotation. Alex Cora is hungry to win another title for Boston, but you know what they say: It’s hard to get to the top, but it’s even harder staying there.

 

 

Jack McCune is a Freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at jxm1237@psu.edu.

Andrew Field is a Sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at aaf5329@psu.edu.