Blockbusters are no longer exclusive to Hollywood.
Or so it would seem, based on an MLB offseason which is boasting an almost fictitious amount of intrigue. And why not? If anything, the past two seasons have proven that complacency in the free agent market, is the worst kind of poison in the game.
In two of the largest markets in the game, New York and Los Angeles, an unexpected arms race brought baseball to the forefront of our minds at a time when we’re typically thinking more about R2-D2, than Ian Kinsler.
Where do we begin? Well, how about the seismic trade just pulled off by the team formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? After a tenure which seemed to last nearly sixty years as the Rays third-baseman, 32-year-old Evan Longoria is on his way to the San Francisco Giants, who gave up veteran players like outfielder Denard Span, and a slue of Class-A farm talent. The arms race doesn’t mess around, not in the Bay area, and certainly not in Los Angeles, just a meager six hour drive down the 101.
Save for their prolific slugger Mike Trout, the LA Angels are a perennial after thought when October rolls around. With the stunning acquisition of the Japanese, multi-tool sensation, Shohei Ohtani, the Angels positioned themselves as an imposing and ominous force in either league. Ohtani is the species of player that an entire organization pins its hopes on blindly, because he is worth it, like Yu Darvish before him.
Most everyone hates the Yankees. I think they probably hate themselves to an extent. And, in keeping with that time-honored-tradition, the Bronx Bombers enlisted the talents of hard-hitting right fielder, Giancarlo Stanton. He will compliment New York’s MLB The Show cover athlete Aaron Judge.
Then there’s the team that plays at Fenway Park. Dave Dombrowski possesses an insatiable appetite for executing big-name free agent signings and trades. He did it in Detroit when they were still relevant, and he’s doing it now. Or is at least entertaining the notion.
Heading into an already hotly anticipated 2018 campaign, the Boston Red Sox remain a team still very much in search of an identity. Veteran leadership is a trait which is currently lacking in the clubhouse. In the interest of bucking this trend, the Sox have gone ahead and re-signed Mitch Moreland, the first baseman and outfielder, to a 2-year contract worth $13 million. This move obviously puts to bed the would-be transaction that would’ve sent Eric Hosmer over from the Royals. Hosmer now looks to be relocating to San Diego.
It’s never wise to double down on offensive players, so the fact that Alex Cora’s club has reneged on this blockbuster deal, shows the team is trusting in what they’ve got. J.D. Martinez is still without a home, but if Boston’s intention is to save money, a major signing like that would not be in-line with such a strategy.
Would this move be a knee-jerk reaction to their contemporaries? Time will tell. The more eye-opening question is this: Are we witnessing a new golden age of baseball? Or, will it just be a top-heavy battle of goliaths?
I tend to go with the latter.
The entire sports landscape currently revolves around stardom. Fans both casual and devout, want to show their friends incredible highlights on the smartphone of their choosing. The generation of players we have in this league is perfect for just that. And baseball deserves excitement. Save for the Cubs improbable 2016 World Series, the last time baseball had captured so much attention was in 1998, when Sosa and McGuire battled for home-run supremacy. An era since marred by the rampant performance enhancing drug crisis.
Even if baseball’s top teams will stay at the top, allowing little potential for upward mobility, at least there will be something fun to watch, and for folks to gather around and podcast about.
While paper looks good, a full 162-game schedule will be played to decide who takes home the Commissioner’s Trophy. There is still a such thing as bulletin board material for the rest of the league, which will make matters a bit tougher for the Angels, Yankees, and Red Sox. As Santa loads up his sleigh, baseball’s heavyweights try to deliver themselves early Christmas gifts. And the 2018 season is sure to be very nice indeed.