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Astros Land Zack Greinke At the Deadline to Become Overwhelming Favorite in the American League

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Currently sitting 30 games above .500 at 69-39, the Houston Astros did not need to make any additions at the trade deadline to ensure their place in the playoffs.

They are one of the best-run organizations in baseball and have a path to contend for a championship this year and for years to come.

Yet despite having a great chance to win another World Series this year, the Astros decided to better their odds at the trade deadline, making a series of trades to improve their roster.

None of which looms as large as the addition of six-time All-Star Zack Greinke.

The Astros traded the Diamondback four prospects to land Greinke, with Arizona picking up a good portion of the remaining money left on Greinke’s deal.

Houston will pay Greinke $53 million for the remaining 2 1/2 years of his deal, making him an even more valuable addition to their roster.

By adding Greinke, the Astros now feature maybe the best 1-2-3 punch of any rotation in baseball.

Although Greinke struggled to adjust in his first year in Arizona, he has been an All-Star in each of the last three seasons with the Diamondbacks.

With two ERA titles, five Gold Gloves, nearly 200 wins and a career 3.36 ERA, Greinke is likely a Hall of Famer and he is being added to rotation that already features one in Justin Verlander.

Along with adding Greinke, the Astros also made trades to acquire Joe Biagini and Aaron Sanchez, adding two arms that will likely fortify Houston’s playoff bullpen.

Finally, the Astros made a trade to reunite with superb defensive catcher Martin Maldonado, giving them another key player towards the run prevention that will be needed to win in October.

With all of these additions, the Astros are now the clear favorites to make it out of the American League and win their second pennant in three years.

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The Chicago White Sox Are Here to Stay, & Here’s Why by Andres Chavez

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When talking about Major League Baseball’s emerging powerhouses, the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and New York Mets get all the headlines, perhaps rightfully so. After all, they were busy during the offseason and managed to get most of the high-profile free agents and trade targets.

However, one specific organization in the American League Central division is about to shatter all expectations: the Chicago White Sox. After several years of watching the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins advance to postseason play, the South Siders finished one game short of the division crown.

Led by an MVP season by slugger José Abreu  (.317/.370/.617 with 19 homers in 60 games, plus a jaw-dropping 60 runs batted in), the Pale Hose made it to the Wild Card round. There, Chicago lost to the Oakland A’s 2-1 in the best-of-three series.

White Sox fans should feel joy instead of disappointment because the team’s contention window is opening. They have a great core of talented hitters, from catcher Yasmani Grandal to young studs Nick Madrigal, Andrew Vaughn, Eloy Jiménez, and Luis Robert. Established stars such as Yoan Moncada, Abreu, Tim Anderson, and Adam Eaton, returning for the 2021 season, will guide the franchise and get the best out of the young talent.

In 2020, the unit was the second-best offense in the American League, judging by Weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, a useful stat that encompasses offensive production like few others. The White Sox, as a whole, ran a collective 113 wRC+ last year (100 is considered “average”), only trailing the New York Yankees (116) in the junior circuit. However, if there was an area that the front office could improve, it was starting pitching. And boy, did they deliver.

On December 8, the White Sox acquired right-hander Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers for Dane Dunning and Avery Weems. Lynn, who led the majors in innings during the 2020 campaign with 84 and finished with an excellent 3.32 ERA, is the type of power pitcher that can make sure Chicago can compete with the American League’s best teams in a playoff series. He and Lucas Giolito will form a formidable one-two punch at the top of the rotation. Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, and Reynaldo López will complete the unit. If that’s not enough, Michael Kopech, who will start the year in the bullpen, is an option to make starts at some point in 2021. He was a top prospect not too long ago

Liam Hendriks’ arrival on a three-year deal (with a club option for a fourth) means that the White Sox’s already strong bullpen got even better, as he is quite possibly the best closer in baseball. Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, Aaron Bummer, and Garret Crochet, plus Hendriks, had ERAs under 2.50 in 2020, which is insanely good, and they will all return this season.

Most of the White Sox’s projected big league roster is 26 or younger: Vaughn, Madrigal, Moncada, Jimenez, Robert, Giolito, Cease, Crochet, Heuer, Foster, and Kopech, to name a few. Chicago is here to stay because it has young, elite talent both on the major league roster and minor leagues. They managed to bring the right veterans to complement that exciting group of youngsters in the last couple of years. The South Siders will be great for years to come, starting in 2021.

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Major League Baseball Owners Ain’t Paying The Five by Scott Lewis

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“I Ain’t Paying The Five!” Martin Lawrence said on his legendary 90s sitcom “Martin” when his landlord, Mr. Lopez raised the rent by 5%. Martin proceeded to boycott the rent increase, and it brought on a zigzag with Mr. Lopez, leading to the heat being turned off in a blizzard with his wife Gina and friends Tommy, Pam, and Cole wanting Martin’s head when they found out that 5% was just $5.

Major League Baseball fans can relate to the same anger that Martin’s friends felt by seeing franchises they’re supporting crying broke when they’re not spending money on high-priced free agents.

There’s a lot of problems with MLB in 2021. The league has the lowest fan interest among the three major American sports; the lack of black players and MLB refusing to market the few black superstars they have.

We’ve been in a global pandemic for almost one year, and it’s starting to affect MLB, which lost up to $3 billion in 2020. Attendance which was already declining year after year, was a non-factor last season as the only objects sitting in the seats were cardboard cut-ups. Team owners will tell you these are the reasons why they’re not spending money in this current 2021 offseason, but that’s a lie.

In 2018 two of the most prized free agents in MLB history, Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and the Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper were ready to hit the open market. Fans worldwide were eager to see one or both of the superstars end up on their team.

Oddly that was not the case, as many owners didn’t even meet with the two superstars. A stand-off would ensue amongst the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Phillies eventually cracked and signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year $330 million deal with no opt-outs. The San Diego Padres became the surprise team who would steal Machado from the White Sox to a ten-year $300 million contract.

Growing up as a DIE HARD White Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago, the Padres stealing Machado from them was frustrating when I found out the contract’s difference was $25 million. To the average hard-working person, $25 million is generation changing, but a billion-dollar sports franchise like the White Sox, its mere pennies.

The White Sox took that $25 million that Machado wanted and gave it to Yonder Alonso and Jon Jay instead of doing something smarter and paying Machado. These negotiation tactics to not spend money are the frustrations of fans and teams worldwide. Now, the whole offseason game is a competition to see who can pay the least amount of money and still compete.

There are multiple models of this, such as the tradition of holding young prospects down in the minor leagues for an extra year even if they’re ready to play in the majors so they can keep an additional year of control on their contract. Players are irritated, as you saw, Kris Bryant’s case in 2015 when the Cubs held him back a few months to keep an extra year of contract control. The relationship between the Cubs and Bryant hasn’t improved six years later as Bryant heads into his final year under contract.

There are rare instances where a team will call up a new prospect without a contract as the Padres did with Fernando Tatís Jr. in 2019, but that is not the norm. The White Sox have one of the brightest young talented teams in the league and didn’t call up their prospects Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert until they both agreed to team-friendly deals that locked them in for the next six seasons. There’s a lot of things we can look at to blame this particular situation, but the number one problem is the new style of winning championships where you rely strictly on your farm system instead of spending money on ready-now talent. The Kansas City Royals were the first to start this method when they rebuilt in 2011 and won the World Series in 2015. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros would follow this model by winning the World Series in 2016 and 2017, although the Astros cheated and that’s a story for another day.

We’ve seen three examples of that model working and another team like the White Sox trying to win with the same method. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation, and he commented on the Cubs trading Yu Darvish earlier in the offseason in his interview with Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:

“There’s a lot of smart guys in front offices. Figure something out that’s easier to do than trading away a [star]. Just, for example, a potential Cy Young [Award winner] in [Yu] Darvish, who has been one of the top five pitchers in baseball for a year and a half, for prospects that could potentially be good, but they’re 17, 18 years old. And [Kyle] Davies is a great pitcher, but to me, that’s just not . . . For the Chicago Cubs to do that, it’s not good. It’s just not good.”

I loved what Kershaw said because it sums up the player’s and fans’ feelings about where the game is going and not paying these players the money they deserve. The Dodgers combine the two methods of having a great farm system and spending money like they did last year when they traded for former World Series Most Valuable Player, Mookie Betts from the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox gave up on a 27-year-old generational talent because they wanted to cut costs. The Red Sox are third on the Forbes list of most valuable major league franchise at a little over $3 billion, but they wanted to cut costs; it’s asinine. The Dodgers won the World Series last year and Mookie led the charge. The Dodgers turned up the heat this offseason by finalizing a three-year $102 million deal with the 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer as they attempt to repeat.

MLB has many problems, but until massive market teams start to pay the five, it will be hard to see interest in MLB get better, and that’s not good for anybody.

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Ian Desmond Opts Out of Season with Powerful Message

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Major League Baseball is trying to get their season underway with players reporting to camp this week to get ready for a 60-game schedule, which will began late-July.

While most players are planning to report and try to play this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, others have opted out of the season for their health, or other family concerns. Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond belongs to the group of players that will not play this season, but his absence goes far deeper than simply due to health concerns.

Desmond, who is mixed race, posted a nine-page explanation to Instagram for why he won’t playing baseball this season. The main message Desmond articulates is that baseball is failing minorities.

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On my mind.

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Ever since George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer on May 25th, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained widespread traction. Protests have become commonplace around the country, as the fight for racial equality and the end to police brutality have become the primary concern for many.

In not playing this season, Desmond is using his platform to protest the injustices he sees in the game he has played professionally for over a decade.

Desmond recently returned to his old little league fields in Sarasota, FL and found them in terrible condition. The game that was made available to Desmond at a young age that he used to prosper and grow, is no longer offered to lower-income families from his hometown.

Instead travel baseball has become the main path towards being able to play the game, which is an organization that caters to wealthy families that can afford the cost of traveling all across the state and country.

Desmond is planning on channeling his energies over the coming months to helping youth baseball flourish again in his hometown. He also spoke of his desire to be there for his family, as his wife is pregnant and he has four young kids at home.

As it relates to game of baseball, Desmond hopes that the MLB will look to grow the game so that it is available to minorities and kids from all walks of life. He also hopes to see more diversity at the top of the sport, in front offices and managers.

Rockies fans may miss Desmond on the field this season, but it is clear that he has made the right decision for him, his family and his community.

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