Despite being so far away from the playoffs, it is a natural pastime to contemplate the possible contenders for each division championship and of course there after it all depends on who had the consistency and the favorable winds to go all the way to the next World Series. The Indians had it all wrapped up in the first week, yet somehow the Chicago Cubs mustered all the will power, talent, and guts that they had along with the prayers and the will of millions of fans and folks who seemed to wish them to victory.
Now that 2017 has arrived and Spring Training just around the corner, it is time to take stock of who has been moved around and who has been acquired on the teams that will compete once again for the glory of playing in the 2017 playoffs and beyond. Vegas posted their World Series odds and they seem to think the Red Sox and Cubs will face off to win it all.
With the offseason free agency movement, Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista are two to mention. The big names have also been placed in their new team spots. Looking at these placements is a good indicator as to the development of the winning teams this season. Looking at the American League first, the American League Champions, The Boston Red Sox were able to win 93 games in 2016. Most of the team is back for 2017 making the task list very short for adjustments to the game plan for the next season. They are surely the team to beat again in the American League East.
So, what adjustments were made? Minor ones, such as trading Mitch Moreland, the first baseman and Tyler Thornburg, the reliever, for Chris Sale, the Chicago Cubs’ ace lefty pitcher. He will be the new starting pitcher in the rotation along with Cy Young award winners, David Price and Rick Porcello. Even though Big Papi has retired, Sale will pull things together with the assistance of the new arrival of Moreland. The Red Sox also have a number of young talents in the starting line up such as Jackie Bradley, Adrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. This team appears to have no prominent rivals in their division as the Blue Jays and the Orioles have holes in their rosters.
As the American League Central Champions, and finalists that almost took the World Series in the first five games, The Cleveland Indians, have little to do to make the team better for 2017. The are the clear favorites in the AL Central. What they did do was acquire Edwin Encarnacion for three years. He is a big hitter with .912 OPS and 193 home runs since 2012. He will be in the place of Mike Napoli in the next season batting order. The other patches that were needed in the line up were due to injuries. Those are all healed up at this time. The pitchers, Miller and Kluber were stretched to their limits in the World Series and the Playoffs, so there may be some concern there for the coming season.
Still, all looks theoretically great on paper, as the Indians appear to be capable and ready to score even more victories than their 2016 season with 94 wins. No other team in the AL Central, including the Detroit Tigers, has the matching talent to cause enough problems for the Indians.
The National League will offer similar holding patterns in the standings as the season rolls on for 2017. The NL East, Washington Nationals still offer a greater potential of winning more games than the New York Mets as the Mets still have a void in the certainty of who will be playing in center field.
In the NL Central, strength remains again with the Chicago Cubs. Much like the Indians in the Al Central, they remain the favorite. They won 103 games in the regular season and then topped it off with the 107th win to break their 108 year drought, as World Series Champions. The change for them is losing Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman. They traded for Wade Davis, a superior reliever pitcher in 2014-2015.
Both the Indians and the Cubs might suffer from a post World Series slump , but these two teams are very healthy for repeating league championships. The NL West offers teams with vacancies such as the Los Angeles Dodgers who lack a second baseman. They are also missing an outfield and pitching team with depth. Once they get second covered they should be capable of repeating a win record close or better than their 2016-91 game season and while potentially securing the NL West title.
The wild cards are the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. The Giants are strong with pitchers such as Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. The Pirates and the Cardinals could do well if the Mets have problems that continue after their star players Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are recovering from surgery. No matter what happens, it will be another great season to watch and enjoy.