Major League Baseball is set to make its return in just over a week and the New York Yankees, along with a host of other contenders, will find out if their very busy and expensive offseason ventures translate into a return to the post season.
While it was widely reported the Yankees were aiming to pare back spending, the club committed itself to 30 years and $471 million worth of contracts, highlighted by big-ticket deals to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and former Japanese league starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
All those dollars were supposed to help New York take the American League East back from the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox. They’ll also try to slip past the Detroit Tigers, the team that’s eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs in their last two postseason appearances.
For the second straight off season the Los Angeles Dodgers were the National League’s biggest spenders, racking up 21 years and $104.85 million in player contracts.
The Yankees missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 20 years last season, mainly struggling to generate runs and a middle of the road pitching staff and bullpen that will miss now-retired closer Mariano Rivera. This season will also mark the final year of surefire Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter, as the member of the 3,000-hit club announced his impending retirement last month.
The Red Sox weren’t nearly as busy as their century-old rivals, watching fan-favorite Ellsbury slink away to New York, but still maintain the most potent lineup in baseball with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Shane Victorino. There are also some reports that former All-Star Grady Sizemore is looking to re-ignite his career in Boston.
L.A. spruced up the middle of its infield with a five-year, $25 million deal for Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena and the four-year, $28 million contract to second baseman Alexander Guerrero.
So much guaranteed money to Arruebarrena has been panned as very risky, with many questioning how well his bat will translate from the Cuban leagues to the majors.
Already owners of arguably the best one-two punch at the top of their rotation with Cy Young-winner Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers also added righty Dan Haren to the rotation and relievers J.P. Howell and Chris Perez to a bullpen ranked ninth in the NL in ERA last season.
Detroit, which has made the AL Championship Series the last three years, looked to get over the final hump by inking closer Joe Nathan to a $20 million deal. The Tigers offense needed little help behind reigning league MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who should again post another stellar year.
Based off odds from Bovada.lv, the Yankees moves have given them 14/1 odds to win the World Series this fall, with the Dodgers the heavy favorite at 13/2 odds. The Red Sox are 12/1 favorites to be the first repeat champ since 2000, and the Tigers have a 9/1 shot.
The Dodgers will square off against the Arizona Diamondbacks in MLB’s first-ever game in Australia beginning on Friday, March 21. Most other teams will being their regular seasons later in the day with games starting as early as 1:05 p.m. EST.