Believe it or not, Major League Baseball spring training camps in Florida and Arizona open next week with pitchers and catchers reporting even though we are still in the midst of a COVID pandemic. MLB owners wanted to delay spring training and the start of the regular season by about a month, but the MLB Players Association didn’t agree so the 162-game season will start on time April 1 barring something unforeseen.
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As of now, though, there will be no universal designated hitter like last season or expanded playoffs. The owners wanted both but the players wanted concessions for agreeing again to both. After allowing 16 teams in the postseason last year instead of 10, MLB had proposed 14 for this year. It’s possible the sides could still agree before the regular season on both. Last year’s expanded playoffs agreement did not come together until hours before the season’s first pitch.
The union has not favored expanding the postseason for a few reasons, including concerns it could disincentivize teams that think it is easier to get in the playoffs from spending more on players. MLB does not want to relent and just apply the universal DH because it would be giving away something for nothing. The collective bargaining agreement is up after this season and there’s a better chance than not that there will be lockout ahead of the 2022 season so enjoy 2021.
There will again be seven-inning doubleheaders and all extra-inning games will start with a runner on second base to help speed things along. Both were designed to shorten time at the ballpark during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 78 extra-inning games last year, and the longest by innings were a pair of 13-inning contests at Houston. Every previous season since 1901 had at least one game of 15 innings or longer.Justin Turner Top Free Agent Left
Most of the top free agents have signed, with reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer landing back in his hometown with the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who are +350 favorites to repeat. The NL West should be fascinating this season with good the Dodgers already are and with how much better the San Diego Padres got this offseason in fortifying their pitching staff in trades for the Cubs’ Yu Darvish and Rays’ Blake Snell, the former AL Cy Young winner.
The top free agent still unsigned as of this writing is likely former Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner – remember, he made news for the wrong reasons in Game 6 of last year’s World Series when Turner was pulled from the game after an inconclusive COVID test yet then came back on the field without a mask to celebrate the championship.
Do the Dodgers need Turner? Not really, as they have two cheaper options at third base in Edwin Rios, who slugged .645 in 76 at-bats for the Dodgers in 2020 and hit 31 home runs at Triple-A in 2019, plus Chris Taylor. Still, Turner has always been a good soldier so the team could bring him back on a one-year team-friendly deal.
Plus, Turner is a noted playoff performer. He holds the Dodger postseason record in hits (79), homers (12), doubles (19), RBI (41) and total bases (136). In 71 career postseason games (all with L.A.), Turner has hit .298 (79-for-265) with 12 homers, 19 doubles and an .909 OPS. Turner was the Dodgers’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award for the third time in four years (also: 2017, ’18) and won his third-career Roy Campanella Award as the most inspirational Dodger.
All that said, Turner, 36, has seen his production slip ever so slightly the last two years, and injuries limited him to 410 of 546 possible games from 2017-20, or 75 percent.
The Mets have been busy this offseason but lost out on Bauer so they might pounce Turner. Mets team president Sandy Alderson has said he is less than impressed with the club’s current situation at the hot corner, especially when it comes to defense. JD Davis is projected as the Opening Day starter despite having a career defensive-runs saved mark of -19 in 110 games at third. Turner was just an unknown utility player with the Mets from 2010-13 when they let Turner walk to the Dodgers in 2014, where he developed into a star.
The Milwaukee Brewers are another possible option. Projected third baseman Luis Urias is a former top prospect and a career .226/.315/.320 hitter in the big leagues, so if the Brewers are going to add another infield bat third base is the obvious place. This might be the Brewers’ last real opportunity to win with this core.
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