By Matt Ambrose,
Sports Business Writer
The Major League Baseball season is finally upon us. After a World Series to remember last Fall between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, the 2017 season is sure to be one full of interesting storylines. As the season gets underway, lets recap the offseason and look at which teams could make some noise in 2017.
The defending champion Cubs come into 2017 poised to repeat, and appear as a lock to win the NL Central for the second straight season. The Cubs did not make any major moves in the offseason, as their best addition this coming season did not come via free agency or the trade market. It came via the disabled list. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber will return this season after playing just two regular season games last season due to a torn ACL and LCL in his left knee. Schwarber’s bat adds an extra punch to an already potent offense which finished third in the majors in runs scored last season.
From the World Series winner to the World Series loser, the Cleveland Indians went out and locked up Edwin Encarnacion for three years and $60 million back in December.
Encarnacion has been a key component in the Blue Jays’ lineup for the last six full seasons, hitting 231 home runs in Toronto, including a career-high-tying 42 dingers last season. Along with a rejuvenated offense, the Tribe gets two key starters back who were banged up last season. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar both return to the rotation after dealing with nagging injuries down the stretch last season. With Encarnacion in the middle of this order, and a three-headed monster of Carrasco, Salazar and Corey Kluber headlining this pitching rotation, the Indians are the team to look out for once again in the American League.
On team whose season was ended by the pennant-winning Indians last year were the Boston Red Sox, who were swept in the ALDS. Since then, the Red Sox went out and made perhaps the biggest offseason transaction, acquiring Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for several prospects. Sale, a perennial Cy-Young candidate, brings his 3.00 lifetime ERA from the Windy City to Beantown and a Red Sox team oozing with young talent. Andrew Benintendi is a Rookie of the Year candidate, and Mookie Betts comes into his age-24 season after an MVP runner-up campaign last season. Not to mention, the Sox have reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, as well as former Cy Young winner David Price, who won’t pitch in April due to an elbow injury. If Price’s injury proves to be not long term, this team is extremely dangerous.
Staying on the east coast but switching leagues, the Mets look like a team that will rely on their arms more than their bats once again in 2017. Last year, it got them to the NL-Wild Card Game, where they lost a pitcher’s duel (of course) to the San Francisco Giants. Even with the re-signing of Yoenis Cespedes in the middle of the order, it’ll be up to Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom to shoulder the load in the front end of the rotation as other hurlers like Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are coming off injuries. It appears to be another season of living and dying by the pitching for the Mets.
April is finally here. It’s time to play ball.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 4th, 2017 print edition.
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