MLB Opening Day 2021 Roundtable
1. What do you think was the best play a General Manager made this offseason?
Trevor Goldstein: I think the best play has to be the San Diego Padre's tying down Fernando Tatis Jr., their 22 year old dynamite for the next 14 seasons. The contract structure is interesting as it is escalating, but giving Tatis an Average Annual Value of about $24M for a guy who will be worth 5+ WAR minimum each season through his age 35 season is incredible for the franchise. Best of all, the Padres will not even be on the hook for the end of his 30s when one would expect him to decline. A.J. Preller made the right move here being proactive.
Isaac Chasen: Lots of teams got better this offseason, from the Mets trading for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to the Blue Jays signing George Springer. But there was one clear winner of the 2020-21 offseason: the San Diego Padres. The Padres made some exciting moves this offseason, including trading for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish to bolster the rotation. However, the best move of the offseason for San Diego was signing Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14 year, $340 million contract. While that may seem like a lot at first glance (and it most certainly is), this move shows the Padres commitment to contending for every one of those 14 years, as well as Tatis's commitment to the franchise and the city of San Diego.
Anna Clemson: After all of the activity from the Padres this offseason, it’s definitely got to go to A.J. Preller. They were willing to spend to try to match arm for arm and bat for bat with the Dodgers. He made some very savvy trades, but of all the moves I am most excited about the Fernando Tatís Jr. extension. It’s such a rare move and he’s already a super star at 22, who knows what he can do throughout his prime. I think it’s exciting for baseball to see a team that wants to build around a player to be competitive for a decade or more. I’m looking forward to Tatís’s future and everything else Preller will do with this team.
Nate Mayor: As a Cleveland sports fan, I hate to admit it but I think the move for Lindor was great for the Mets. Realistically, the Mets are a team who are looking to compete now, so trading young pieces for one of the best shortstops in the league is definitely a good move. While I do think there were some great free agency signings across the league, my heart tells me that Lindor is going to win the NL MVP this season so I have to go for him.
Thomas DeGaetano: Tatis Jr. is the face of baseball. From highlight reel home runs, custom bats with his face on it, and even gracing the cover of this year’s edition of MLB the Show 21, the Padres shortstop is everywhere at just 22 years old. His presence in San Diego will keep the Padres in the spotlight for years to come, something that hasn’t been the case in decades.
Lucas Widerka: For me it’s DJ LeMahieu. After signing a 2 year, $24 million dollar deal with the Yankees preceding the 2018 season, the former Rockie was expected to provide quality depth around the infield, with a solid bat. However, LeMahieu proved to be an absolute bargain for the club, winning two silver slugger awards, and finishing top 4 in AL MVP voting both years, slashing an absurd .336/.386/.922. Even though it took a while, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was able to ink LeMahieu to a 6 year, $90 million dollar deal, with an AAV only $3 million more than his previous contract. Although “LeMachine” will be 38 years old when the contract expires, his hitting style should age well, where the organization should see his continued presence as an absolute steal for the MVP-caliber production.
2. Who is one player you expect to be traded during the course of the season?
TG: I would not be surprised if Max Scherzer gets traded this season. The Nationals are stuck in a crowded NL East, Scherzer will be a free agent at the end of the season, and their offense desperately needs to help Trea Turner and Juan Soto before they can realistically be contenders again.
IC: Given his contract situation, Kris Bryant should be surrounded by trade talk all season long. He will be a free agent after the 2021 season, and is likely to command a massive deal. If the Cubs are not in contention by the trade deadline, expect the Cubs to sell. That would certainly mean trading Bryant, and it may even mean dealing Javier Baez, who is also out of a contract after the 2021 season.
AC: There are several guys who I think will be traded, but the most interesting one to me is Joey Gallo. He had a rough season last year, but it was only 57 games and I think he is a great potential comeback player. His underlying power numbers remained excellent, which is promising for this season. If Gallo can bounce back, he would be a very valuable bat for a playoff contender, and it seems likely the Rangers will be looking for an opportunity to acquire some prospects to build for the future.
NM: While I do think there are more probable trade scenarios like Kris Bryant or Trevor Story, I personally expect Joey Gallo to be traded. He's a powerful hitter, despite having an off-year in 2020, and will likely be shipped out to a contender at the trade deadline while his team, the Texas Rangers, is struggling at the bottom of the AL West.
TD: Byrant is on his last year of his contract with the Cubs and this season could very well be his last in the Windy City. In 2018, Bryant turned down a $200 million extension and the sides have not been able to reach an agreement since. Moreover, very rarely do teams let star players walk in free agency. I foresee teams such as the Braves or Nationals using Byrant to get their roster to compete with the Dodgers.
3. What team do you believe is underrated and what team is overrated coming into the season?
TG: One team I believe is underrated is the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew improved their offense this offseason with additions like Jackie Bradley Jr., and Christian Yelich is still an MVP candidate. Their starting rotation is steadily improving and they have one of the best bullpens in the league. Most importantly, the NL Central looks weak, and someone has to win it. As for team that is overrated, I have to go with the Houston Astros. These past few off-seasons, they have lost a lot of their talent from their Pennant winning teams, and they have not exactly been replacing them. Their success will hinge around bounce back seasons for Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa.
IC: Just two years after winning their first ever World Series, the Washington Nationals are not expected to contend. However, I see them as an underrated team, especially in the crowded NL East. With Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg anchoring the rotation and Trea Turner and Juan Soto sparking the lineup, expect a bounce back season from this group. As for overrated teams, I would have to go with the Chicago White Sox. They have a fantastic roster with quite a few up-and-coming players. But I don't believe they're ready to contend yet. Especially after the devastating injury to Eloy Jimenez. But watch out for this team. In a few years, they will be title contenders.
AC: I know it’s tough to call the defending NL East winner an underrated team, but it seems like the Atlanta Braves have been overshadowed by other teams that had louder offseasons and thus largely ignored. Their young core remains in its prime and has given no reason to doubt that they can finish atop the NL East again this season. And although they were quieter than some, they made some nice signings like Charlie Morton and re-signing Marcell Ozuna. Although there are some questions in the young rotation, there is a lot of potential and a couple of veteran anchors that I think can take this team to the playoffs yet again. The bullpen still has some question marks, but the strong line-up and rotation can carry this team to the top of the AL East. Sticking in the NL East I think the Mets are overrated. Yes, they acquired Lindor, and McCann was a nice signing, as were several of the pitchers they got this offseason. But I don’t think that their rotation is going to hold up. They’re starting off without Carrasco and Syndergaard’s return remains questionable. DeGrom is fantastic of course and Stroman is reliable, but after that their next three starters are not division-winner caliber. Although there are some nice pieces in the line-up, I don’t think they will all live up to expectations. And the bullpen has some nice arms, but I still see holes. That being said, I think the Mets will be good, I just don’t think they’re going to live up to the hype.
NM: For me, both of these teams come from the AL East. Although I loved their run in the 2020 playoffs, I think the Rays are going to be grossly overrated headed into the 2021 season because of their World Series appearance. The Rays lost a lot of talent this offseason while the teams around them continued to strengthen. On the other hand, the Blue Jays had a strong offseason in which they added to their young and talented roster. I think the Blue Jays could make a run as a wildcard team this season.
TD: The Nationals quite possibly had one of the best off-seasons in baseball that no one is talking about. The Nats acquired Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, Brad Hand and Jon Lester this past winter, filling needs in the departments of power hitting and clutch pitching. Granted, none of these moves are jaw-dropping. However, coupled with a rotation already including Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin as well as superstar SS Trea Turner; the Nationals can make another run at the World Series. Yes, the Mets did improve both their roster and ownership group greatly this winter. However, their division could be one of the strongest in baseball. I just touched on the Nationals improvements above. The Braves and Marlins both made playoff runs this past season. The Phillies locked up JT Realmuto and retained SS DiDi Gregorious. This isn’t to say the Mets won’t improve their play this season. However, dreams of a postseason run may fall short in such a loaded NL East.
LW: Underrated: The Atlanta Braves. I know, I know that they were a game away from advancing to the World Series last year, but I still don’t think I see enough respect put on their name. Their young offensive studs in Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson should continue to improve, especially with Albies getting healthy. I also see Austin Riley developing into a really great piece in their lineup, who has displayed the talent to be a great hitter, especially with his improvement against sliders last year, and just needs to put it all together. They also appear to have their second coming of the BIg Three, with Max Fried, Mike Soroka, and Ian Anderson. Couple that with the electric bats of MVP Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, and you have a recipe for disaster for the rest of the National League. Overrated: The Minnesota Twins. Nicknamed the “Bomba Squad,” the current iteration of the Twins roster has raked an alarming number of home runs, breaking the all-time record for home runs in a season, with 307 in the 2019 season. However, the baseball has been “deadened” for the 2021 season, a change which might impact the Twins roster the most, with their reliance on home runs being their main pathway to winning ball games
4. What are your thoughts on the recent news of the player’s union expressing concerns about holding the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta over the passing of voter restriction laws in Georgia?
TG: I think it is important for all of us fans to remember that player's are people too, and have the right to express their concerns over issues they care about. The player's union has created a lot of awareness about these new voter restriction laws. The most important thing for the players' union will be to show that this is not a bluff and take further action if necessary.
IC: The new voting restrictions in Georgia are clearly meant to target the African American community, who came out to vote in record numbers during the 2020 election. The Players Union, therefore, has every right to be concerned about the 2021 All Star Game being held in Atlanta. Any stance that can be perceived as rewarding Georgia's implementation of these restrictions should be closely examined and criticized. At the very least, Major League Baseball must make it extremely clear where it stands on this issue. In addition, the league should seriously consider taking the All Star Game elsewhere.
AC: I support the MLBPA’s concerns. Athletes are in a very valuable position because their voices can carry a lot of weight. In 2017, the NBA moved its All-Star game in the wake of a North Carolina bill that discriminated against the LGBTQIA+ community. Seeing MLB take similar steps as a form of protest against this bill would demonstrate that they will not tolerate this discrimination. In all honesty, I don’t think MLB will end up moving its All-Star Game because not only are they often slow to join social movements, but they have also historically cared a lot about profits. I doubt that they will be willing to sacrifice profits from an All-Star Game in Atlanta’s new ballpark and make new plans in a relatively short time frame. Nevertheless, I’m glad to see the MLBPA stepping up and saying something.
NM: I think it is always a good thing when athletes speak up on social issues and use their platforms to better their community and country. While I'm not sure how the logistics of moving the all-star game would work during the pandemic and with Opening Day around the corner, but I am happy that the player's union is using their platform.
TD: I’m proud of the player’s union for expressing these concerns. Obviously, the NBA and NFL have been on the forefront of the social justice movement for the past year. It's exciting to see MLB players take a stand against injustice and use their platform to fight for those who are being oppressed.
LW: The MLB needs to start following in the footsteps of the other major sports leagues it lags so far behind. When the NBA was scheduled to host the all star game in Charlotte, NC, back in 2017, yet cancelled and moved the event, in response to H.B.2, a North Carolina bill discriminating against the right to use bathrooms for transgenders. Thus, Major League Baseball cannot use a lack of precedence as an excuse for not moving the All-Star game for this season. The new voting laws enacted in Georgia are extremely targeted towards limiting and restricting the already extremely lackluster availability for minorities to vote. Here lies an opportunity for the MLB to not only demonstrate to their fans, but players as well, that the recent discriminatory actions by the Georgia government, and Brian Kemp, is wrong, and should not be tolerated.
5. Fans will be returning to the stands for many franchises this Opening Day. Are you excited or nervous about this?
TG: I am more excited than nervous. I am excited for fans to be able to cheer their team on and boo the other team, especially if it is the Astros. I am nervous for fans of teams like the Texas Rangers, where they are admitting fans at full attendance, which will be a danger to their communities health and safety. Teams that are admitting fans with respect to health and safety have my full support though, and they will bring joy to their communities.
IC: Ideally, I would prefer to wait until a larger segment of the population is vaccinated before fans return to stadiums. I am also unequivocally opposed to extreme measures such as the Texas Rangers opening their stadium to full capacity. That is reckless and dangerous. But if stadium capacities are reduced to 20-30%, and precautions are taken seriously, stadiums should still be a relatively safe place to be. I am nervous to see how fans behave at the start of the season. But I also look forward to once again hearing crowds roar in MLB stadiums once again.
AC: For the most part, I’m very excited about this. Baseball stadiums are usually outdoors (or have the ability to be outdoors, weather permitting), so when capacity is limited and proper social distancing/masking precautions are in place, I think that they are safe environments. That being said, I am unimpressed by the Texas Rangers, who are allowing for full capacity on Opening Day. This appears to be purely profit driven as they open their brand new stadium, Globe Life Field, to fans for the first time. The fact that they are creating a “Distanced Seating” section after opening day seems to signify that they are out of touch with the world and inconsiderate of their staff. Aside from that, most other teams seem to have reasonable capacity limitations and, as a Cubs fan, I hope that I can get to Wrigley Field this season!
NM: If the MLB and each organization have the proper precautions in place to ensure they are being safe during the pandemic then I am very excited to see fans back in the stands. I will most definitely be attending games at Progressive Field in Cleveland this summer, hopefully, these games don't lead to super-spreader events or any spikes in cases.
TD: I’m extremely excited to see fans back in the stands. As vaccine rollout continues, the number of fans will only continue to rise. Granted, we must continue to hold these teams accountable to ensure everyone’s safety. Yet, it's another step in a slow climb back towards normalcy.
LW: Baseball is not the same without fans. As other leagues have demonstrated, there are proper ways to ensure the safety of fans in stands, and as long as the proper protocols are followed, there should be no reason for alarm. During last fall and winter, multiple NFL complexes demonstrated a safe way for fans to watch games in-person, and many NBA teams have followed suit. These leagues have allowed a successful blueprint for the MLB to follow. As long as ballparks open up with limited capacity, and carefully consider expanding such capacity as conditions improve and vaccines are more mass-distributed, fans and other members of society should feel not only comfortable, but relieved, that we are able to somewhat resume the daily activities that many cherished pre-pandemic.