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BLOG #13: 2022 Unleashed

Manfraud went to Wanfred in a span of 72 hours

After the 99 day hell storm of a lockout, baseball fans around the world can finally exhale and envision game play in the near future. The MLB and MLB Players Union reached a new deal on its collective bargaining agreement, and the labor dispute that I thought would hold baseball off until early May has now allowed for a targeted April 7th start. Before Opening Day, however, I anticipate quick movement among the 200 or so free agents, immediate reports to Spring Training by all teams, and exhibition games to begin on Thursday, March 17.

Who Cares About Rules?
Rule changes reached in the agreement allow for the MLB to enforce new rules within a 45 day period, which will go into effect in 2023. As for this year, we can expect a Universal DH and an expansion of the playoff team total from 10 to 12. The league has also decided to get rid of single game eliminations, and has implemented a three game series for the wild card going forward. Playoff formatting and seeding is listed below:

New MLB Playoff Format
1 seed: Best overall record*
2 seed: Second best record (division winners)*
3 seed: Third best record (division winners)
Seeds 4-6: Three next best teams
* bye in divisional round

First Round
3 v 6
4 v 5
Second Round
1 v Winner of 4 v 5
2 v Winner of 3 v 6

One of the sneaky changes that people aren’t talking about is the elimination of game 163 which was always a favorite for me. The league has decided to produce a predetermined formula to resolve any tiebreakers, so any moments like these are now gone forever. Predetermined BS if you ask me.

Free Agency Frenzy…. or lack thereof
With names such as Freddie Freeman, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, and Nicholas Castellanos still available and most teams fully reported to their respective Spring Trainings, it is only a matter of time before these guys are signed and ready to go. Clayton Kershaw stayed put in LA, Carlos Rodon went out west to San Francisco, and Nelson Cruz went out east to the Nationals. Outside of that, the top 30 free agents have been relatively quiet with little to no rumors on potential suitors. Speculation is all over the place, but with so little time between now and teams’ first exhibition games, things are bound to develop. I recognize why reporters are jumpy, as their normal schedule of winter meetings and months of work have left them with a week of pure avidity to be reporting anything they can, but it hurts to see all these rumors of a guy like Correa to the Cubs when you know damn well the guy will stay in Houston. Listed below are the notable free agency and trade transactions that have taken place after the resolution of the lockout.

Notable free agency moves include:
Andrelton Simmons (SS) – CHC
Steve Cishek (RP) – WSH
Yusei Kikuchi (SP) – TOR
Jeurys Familia (RP) – PHI
Kurt Suzuki (C) – LAA
Justin Verlander (SP) – HOU
Nico Goodrum (OF) – HOU
Alex Colome (RP) – COL
Josh Harrison (IF) – CHW
Joe Kelly (RP) – CHW
Jordan Lyles (SP) – BAL
Tim Locastro (OF) – NYY
Adam Ottavino (RP) – NYM
Hanser Alberto (IF) – LAD
Ian Kennedy (SP) – ARI
Brad Hand (RP) – PHI

Notable trade moves include:
Mitch Garver (C) – MIN -> TEX
Josh Donaldson (3B) – MIN -> NYY
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS) – TEX -> MIN -> NYY
Gary Sanchez (C) – NYY -> MIN
Gio Urshela (IF) – NYY -> MIN
Sonny Gray (SP) – CIN -> MIN
Chris Bassitt (SP) – OAK -> NYM

Key Takeaways
With the Yankees getting Kiner-Falefa, they are out on the Correa and Story sweepstakes. Latest rumors also have them “pessimistic” on Freddie Freeman, leaving them with Anthony Rizzo or initiating a trade with Oakland for Matt Olson. The Twins are making noise and have swapped Donaldson for a younger Urshela and snagged Gary Sanchez in hopes that a change of scenery and leaving behind his every day catching days could help ignite the offensive prowess he is capable of. I think everyone should keep their eyes on Gerrit Cole and Josh Donaldson if the Yankees struggle this year, as the two had the whole spider tack beef last year. A bad Yankees is a good year for baseball though am I right.

On the other side of New York, going after another arm in Bassitt shows that owner Steve Cohen and his Mets are not messing around. They boast two annual Cy Young candidates in DeGrom and Scherzer along with Carlos Carrasco, Taijuan Walker, and now Chris Bassitt filling out the rest of the rotation. I start seasons like this wondering what a highly projected Mets team can do to throw their season away, but if this team can stay healthy they are clear favorites in a fight for the N.L. East title that should only involve them and the defending champion Atlanta Braves. (side note: Phillies could be sneaky)

As for my Cubs, they are making it really hard to throw in the towel just yet. Put us in the East or West and I’d call this season over, but the N.L. Central is yet again not the strongest in terms of across the board talent. The Cardinals have the best lineup but lack pitching, the Brewers have the best pitching staff but lack a lineup, the Reds look to be in sell mode after unloading almost their entire rotation and not having scooped up Castellanos, and then there’s that team from Pittsburgh. With the Cubs playing cheap ball so far, I will say I do like the additions of Miley, Frazier, Gomes, and Simmons. This team looks to be in the mindset of holding off on contending and going through the first half of the season to see where we lie. As much as I would love to grab Correa, if his ask price is a deal north of 6-7 years I understand the hesitancy (thank Jason Heyward for that one). On the flip side, we have A LOT of money to spend. If they want to be cheap so be it, as there are guys out there who are not $20M+ AAV that I think would be great additions to this team.

Michael Conforto (OF)
Kyle Schwarber (DH)
Anthony Rizzo (1B)
Kenley Jansen (RP)
Andrew Chafin (RP)
Eddie Rosario (OF)
Jonathan Villar (IF)
Ryan Tepera (RP)
Kevin Pillar (OF)
Tommy Pham (OF)

Any of the guys listed above would make an immediate impact for our team, keep the bank account steady since it is clear we aren’t going to spend, and since I am never against a reunion with an ex, 4 of the 10 guys mentioned above have already worn the blue pinstripes and damn it everyone knows Rizzo and Schwarbs belong here.

This team also needs some outfield and bullpen depth, and for the sake of my mental health I won’t mention our starting rotation (big shoutout Stro and Hendo for keeping me somewhat content). My guess is we have room for one big move: Freeman at first, Correa or Story at short, and then Castellanos or Bryant for the outfield (or 3B where he belongs). Unless Jed decides to maneuver some trades, I expect us to coast into this season aiming to try and stay within 5-10 games of the division and waiting it out to see where we are. The truth hurts Cubs fans, and this years truth is most likely a third place seat behind Milwaukee and St. Louis. Please Lord give me hope, and give me Carlos Correa.

As for the rest of the MLB, expect some big news this week as it is only a matter of time before this star studded 2022 class of free agents find their new homes. As I was writing this Brad Hand signed with Philadelphia, so my best guess is by the time you have read this Kris Bryant has broken my heart and signed with the Phillies too.

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