MLB 2023 season preview
Not too long ago, Yordan Alvarez hit a moon shot that sent Space City into a frenzy, and the Houston Astros to their second World Series title. While the stain of their very first championship may never fade, Alvarez’s majestic three-run homer helped fashion a new crown for this colossal franchise. Houston beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to complete a truly dominant postseason. For five years, they reestablished a standard of excellence in Major League Baseball, making the World Series their near-annual playground. Now the question becomes can they be knocked off their perch and if so, just who will be the ones to do it? Free agency has thrown up some shocks and thrust some unexpected names into the spotlight. Some clubs will look back on this winter as the beginning of their unexpected journey to the postseason but there will also be plenty of franchises that carry forward momentum from last year as they bid to go one better and reach the fall classic in 2023. Here’s a look at some of the teams with the best shot of reaching the World Series next year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
For the fourth consecutive season, the Los Angeles Dodgers open the offseason as the betting favorites to win the World Series. Los Angeles has made the playoffs for ten consecutive seasons, winning at least 91 games in every normal season during that run. They’ve gone past 100 wins in four of the last five 162-game seasons. However, they’ve only won one World Series during that time. This past season, they won 111 games and finished with the best record in baseball during the regular season but lost to the San Diego Padres in the NLDS. Despite losing one of the best shortstops in the game in Trea Turner this free agency, they have managed to retain the services of surefire Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw for one more year who, if he can remain injury free, will be immensely important to them. The Dodgers open at +500 to win the World Series and that makes them a clear betting favourite as things stand. Those wanting to bet on the 2023 MLB season should make sure to use free bets when they do.
Houston cruised through the postseason in 2022 with an 11-2 record, sweeping the first two rounds of the playoffs with their only two losses coming in the World Series, to establish themselves as one of the best teams of this era. Fans may never completely forgive them but they cannot attach any known dishonor to this most recent title. no matter how they try. A lot of credit has to go to Dusty Baker for their success. With an impeccable reputation and affable persona, Baker not only stabilized the team but was able to deflect some of the ire aimed at the organization, while maintaining the Astros’ general level of excellence. The franchise has enjoyed five straight trips to the ALCS and they look set to go back there again in 2023. Free agency has some Astros fans a bit restless after a patient approach has seen some big names like Wilson Contreras slip through their fingers. They also lost Justin Verlander and while the pitcher turns 40 in February he has proven that age is not a factor, continuing to produce Cy Young-caliber performances last year. Even so, they still possess more than enough quality in the clubhouse to remain a top contender and potentially claim back-to-back World Series.
Despite an excellent regular season, the 2021 World Series champions were comprehensively demolished by the Philadelphia Phillies in the postseason. Atlanta has won five consecutive NL East titles and is coming off its first 100-win season since 2003. By signing Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Michael Harris to long-term, below-market deals, the Braves are financially secure and can strengthen their roster in whichever areas are necessary. One area that will be a concern for the franchise though will be shortstop, currently occupied by Dansby Swanson. Turning 28 in February, the Georgia native earned his first All-Star selection in 2022 and became a vital part of the infield and lineup. Contract negotiations are underway and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a deal gets done but they’ll need to act fast to secure the much sought after star. It’s their biggest offseason dilemma, but the club is otherwise primed for another postseason run.
New York Mets
The New York Mets were on track to win the NL East crown as they were ahead of the Atlanta Braves for the majority of the season. The Braves snatched control when they swept the Mets on the last weekend before the end of the regular season, which meant Atlanta would not need to go through the new Wild Card format. Going up against San Diego in a best-of-three affair turned out to be a disaster for them, and they were upset by the youthful Padres organization. Their task of going further this year will be made harder without star pitcher Jacob deGrom. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was targeting a multi-year deal worth at least $40 million. However, the Rangers’ willingness to provide him with a five-year deal averaging $37 million per season that includes a sixth-year option to maximize at $222 million, won out. They have enough talent in that clubhouse with the likes of Max Scherzer, Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor to go deep into the postseason, but they will have to be at the top of their game if they’re to have any hope of making the World Series.
New York Yankees
For the first half of the regular season, the Yankees look set to make history with the most successful campaign of the modern age, but sadly for their fans it never came to pass. They struggled to maintain their momentum and in the postseason looked like a team all too aware of their drop in form. A 4-0 humiliation at the hands of eventual World Series champions was a sombre ending to a campaign that was full of hope. Thankfully for Yankees fans they have retained players in key positions that helped them on that immense run last year putting them in a great position to challenge again in 2023. The most important of them of course being Aaron Judge. Judge was easily the best player available in MLB free agency this winter. He is coming off a contract year for the ages, setting the single-season American League home run record, and nearly winning the Triple Crown all while carrying one of the best teams in MLB. Age is no longer much of a concern for franchises and Judge is a superstar on the field and one of the most marketable players away from it. They showed their faith in him by giving Judge a record-breaking deal in 2022 MLB free agency. Expect the Yankees to do big things next year.