As the MLB playoffs progress, let me look ahead just a bit to take a quick look at some of the potential excitement in this year’s MLB free agency. I need not mention that Shohei Ohtani will be a free agent and will be the most coveted free agent out there. There will be ample sources of information and speculation about where Ohtani could or should sign – – so I will leave that topic to others. I want to look at nine other free agents and where they might wind up.
- Cody Belinger – – OF/1B: His career has been a yo-yo. He has been Rookie of the Year and an NL MVP. He also stunk out the joint from 2020 to 2022 such that the Dodgers just let him go. Last year with the Cubs he rediscovered his hitting stroke with a batting average of .307 and an OPS of .881. I think the Cubs will work hard to re-sign him.
- Jeimer Candelario — – INF: His value is as a utility player who routinely plays first base of third base but could fill in at second base or shortstop. The question here is how much a team will want to pay for an 8-year veteran whose career batting average is .243.
- Josh Hader – – LHP: As far as I am concerned, he is the best relief pitcher that I believe will be on the market this winter. He is a 5-time All-Star and even though he is 30 years old, he only has 388.2 innings of work on his left arm. I think the big-spending clubs will be in on the bidding here.
- Rhys Hoskins – – 1B: He missed all of 2023 with an ACL tear that required surgical repair. The good news is that he has a career OPS of .864; the bad news – along with that knee injury – is that he will be 31 years old next season.
- Clayton Kershaw – – LHP: His workload has shrunk considerably. He has not started 25 games in a season since 2019 and his innings pitched average out at 127 innings over the last 3 seasons. He will be 36 years old but when he pitches, he often pitches well. My guess is that he goes back to the Dodgers on yet another 1-year contract.
- Aaron Nola – – RHP: Is he the most coveted MLB veteran pitcher – – or is Blake Snell?
- Blake Snell – – LHP: Is he the most coveted MLB veteran pitcher – – or is Aaron Nola?
- Justin Turner – – INF/DH: He will be 39 years old next season; if he signs somewhere, look for it to be a 1-year deal maybe with a club option for a second season. This may be the end of the line for Turner in MLB …
- Yoshi Yamamoto – – RHP: Yes, his accomplishments have been in the Japanese League but those accomplishments have been prodigious. He has won the Tiple Crown in the Japanese League twice and has had the lowest ERA in the league 3 times. He is only 25 years old, and I will be shocked if he signs with any team not recognized as one of MLB’s “big spenders”.
Moving on … For about the last year or so, there have been dozens of reports saying that Manchester United of the English Premier League might be for sale. The team’s fans fondly wished for that to be the case; there has not been an abundance of bonding between Man U fans and the Glazer family since Malcom Glazer bought the team in 2005. Malcom Glazer passed in 2014 but the relationship has not warmed even slightly between the fans and the next generation of Glazers. So, there was hope among the fans that someone not named Glazer would soon be in charge of the club.
The latest reporting is not going to make every Man U fan happy. According to a report last week, Sir Jim Ratcliffe is in line to buy a 25% stake in the team for a reported $1.6B. From the fans’ perspective, that is not a controlling position which means the Glazers will still be in sight and in charge. Reporters and analysts say that this is a first step in a process that will eventually have Sir Jim owning the entire club sometime down the road. I have no idea if that is his thinking and/or if that is part of the Glazers’ thinking, but that seems to be the narrative out there today.
As of this morning, Man U is in 10th place in the English Premier League; for now, they are not nearly in danger of relegation, but they are also 8 full points behind Tottenham and Arsenal who lead the EPL for the moment. Man U fans might – – I said might – – look fondly upon the Glazers as club owners if the standings looked very different, but with Man U sitting in the middle of the table and not being a key figure in the league outcome, the fans’ displeasure is simply magnified.
Up to now, I have been peeking into the EPL newsfeed to follow two teams just because I find them interesting in 2024:
- Everton sits in 16th place in the 20-team EPL. This is interesting to me because it was in 1951 when Everton was last relegated to a league below the top level of English football. This morning, Everton has 7 points in 8 games; the relegation level this morning is 4 points in 8 games.
- Luton Town sits in 17th place in the 20-team EPL. Luton Town had been relegated sequentially out of the multiple tiers of English professional football leagues; and then, over the past 10-15 years has clawed its way back to the top tier of English football. Can they stay there? Well, this morning they have 4 points in 8 games and would only escape relegation based on goal differential with Burnley who also have 4 points in 8 games.
Given the potential sale of Man U, perhaps I will look at EPL news for three teams as this season progresses …
Finally, here is a brief observation from George Bernard Shaw:
“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………