By: Bryan Peach, KCOU Sports
For many, the realization that baseball season has come to a close is disappointing, unless of course, your team came out on top as the World Series champs. But baseball enthusiasts outside of San Francisco have a lot to look forward to this offseason. The speculation surrounding free agency and trades among teams will be sufficient to keep fans intrigued until the MLB’s long awaited opening day.
One of the most interesting aspects of sports, and especially baseball, is the way in which teams change from year to year. The guy who a team signs to a short term deal or picks up off of waivers may have a much greater impact on the team than expected, a la Lance Berkman for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. Or perhaps a player will emerge from a club’s minor league affiliate that will have a breakout season and become a new face of the organization. Similar to the AL and NL Rookies of the Year Jose Abreu and Jacob DeGrom respectively.
New faces within an organization provide a sense of hope for fans whose teams have struggled in recent years. For instance, many Chicago fans feel that their young team is on the verge of becoming competitive in the NL Central for the first time in a few years; the Cubs’ last NL Central title came in 2008. Both Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro are young standouts for the Cubs offensively, and the club is rumored to be courting the highly sought after Jon Lester to anchor their pitching rotation.
Adding to offseason intrigue are the players that are in free agency that everyone seems to want. Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and the A’s Jon Lester are currently at the center of rumors circulating around the MLB. Sandoval hit well during the regular season, but his postseason stats further endear him to many teams in need of a solid bat. He hit .366 in the postseason with 27 hits, 7 doubles, 5 RBIs, and 12 runs. Clutch play in October is highly valued by every team, so it makes sense that the Red Sox, Padres, White Sox, Giants, and Blue Jays are all interested in signing the slugger. Jon Lester is another big name looking for a change of scenery. His solid performance of 16-11 with a 2.46 era this season has caught the eye of the Cubs, Astros, Marlins, Mariners, and perhaps even the Nationals, though they are more of a long shot than the others. Either one of these players could potentially revitalize a team or help a team which is already talented make the next step to ensure postseason success.
Several teams have been actively improving their rosters early this postseason: Billy Butler has signed with Oakland, Michael Cuddyer has signed with the Mets, and Jason Hayward has been traded to the Cardinals in exchange for Shelby Miller and a few other pieces. These deals are just the beginning, as there will certainly be more blockbuster deals to come. And as impatient as fans can be for baseball to resume, offseason moves prove to be pivotal to many teams’ postseason success. Come spring, fans will see new faces on the diamond and old faces in new places. Until then, we fans will have to wait in anticipation on the edge of our seats and hope that our favorite teams will be in a position for success come spring of 2015.