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5 key storylines for the 2018 World Series

MLB.com @_dadler

The World Series is finally set, and what a showdown: Red Sox vs. Dodgers -- a 108-win Boston team that was MLB's best team in the regular season against a Los Angeles squad returning to the World Series for a second straight season after falling just short in Game 7 a year ago.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

The World Series is finally set, and what a showdown: Red Sox vs. Dodgers -- a 108-win Boston team that was MLB's best team in the regular season against a Los Angeles squad returning to the World Series for a second straight season after falling just short in Game 7 a year ago.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

If we're lucky, this Fall Classic will be exactly that -- a classic. But before the World Series begins on Tuesday in Boston, here are five key storylines to watch.

1. Clayton Kershaw vs. Chris Sale
Two of the best starting pitchers of their generation should be set to square off in Game 1. So how do they match up?

For Sale, the most immediate question is how he'll bounce back from the illness that hospitalized him after his start in the American League Championship Series opener. The left-hander was outdueled by Justin Verlander in his lone appearance in the series, the only game the Red Sox lost to the Astros. Sale allowed two runs in four innings while struggling with his command, walking four and hitting a batter.

There's also still the more general question of Sale's health after he pitched only 17 innings over the final two months of the season due to inflammation in his left shoulder and never quite regained the elite velocity the Red Sox saw from him earlier in the summer. Still, that didn't stop him from dominating in the AL Division Series, throwing 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball to beat the Yankees in Game 1 and then a scoreless inning in relief in the Game 4 clincher at Yankee Stadium.

Kershaw has had velocity concerns, too, as his fastball is at the lowest it's been in his entire career. But he's reinvented himself as one of the most breaking ball-heavy starters, and he just bounced back from a loss to the Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series to dominate in Game 5 -- and close out the series in relief in the winner-take-all Game 7. Add that to his eight scoreless innings to beat the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS, and Kershaw is still pitching like an ace.

Between Kershaw and Sale, hitters on both sides will have their hands full.

Video: ALCS Gm6: Cora on Sale's availability for Game 6

2. Betts and Machado head two deep offenses
The Red Sox have a relentless lineup -- ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. has hit eighth or ninth all postseason -- but their offense still flows from the one-two punch of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, maybe the best combination in baseball this year. Betts won the AL batting title by hitting .346, led the league in slugging at .640 and joined the 30-30 club with 32 homers and 30 stolen bases. Martinez chased the AL Triple Crown and finished with a .330 average, 43 homers and a league-leading 130 RBIs. Martinez has also hit Kershaw particularly well -- he's 5-for-11 in his career against the Dodgers' ace, with a pair of home runs, including one in last year's NLDS, when Martinez was on the D-backs.

JBJ's 9 RBIs vs. Astros earn him ALCS MVP

Video: ALCS Gm5: Bradley Jr. named MVP of the ALCS

Los Angeles has a superstar, too, in Manny Machado, who hit .297 with 37 home runs and a .905 OPS in the best offensive season of his career. Add such hitters as NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger (a walk-off hit in Game 4 and the go-ahead homer in Game 7), Justin Turner (a career .310 postseason hitter), Max Muncy (35 homers in his out-of-nowhere breakout season) and the dynamic Yasiel Puig, and you get two of the deepest lineups in the game opposing each other. The Red Sox averaged 5.41 runs per game this season to lead the AL (and MLB); the Dodgers averaged 4.93 to lead the NL.

Bellinger's turnaround results in NLCS MVP honor

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger wins NLCS MVP Award

3. How do the relief corps compare?
It'd be easy to look at the two closers' contrasting Octobers -- Kenley Jansen's dominance for the Dodgers and Craig Kimbrel's roller-coaster ride for the Red Sox -- and say that Jansen and L.A. have the advantage. But it's not so simple.

Video: Cora on confidence in Kimbrel

Yes, Kimbrel has been scored upon in four of his five postseason appearances (despite getting the save in all five), with a 7.11 ERA and six walks and two hit batters in his 6 1/3 innings. That said, he's coming off his best outing in the ALCS clincher -- a scoreless inning with two strikeouts to close out the defending champion Astros. And yes, Jansen has yet to allow a run in these playoffs, with 6 2/3 scoreless innings, just two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts. But he's not untouchable, as Houston proved in last year's World Series, when it handed him a blown save in Game 2 and a walk-off loss in Game 5.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Jansen racks up 3 strikeouts in Game 7

Most important, though, is that given bullpens' outsize importance in October, the matchup goes far beyond the two closers. Such pitchers as Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez have all played key roles for the Red Sox, as have Ryan Madson, Pedro Baez, Alex Wood, Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers. Both teams have also demonstrated a willingness to use their starting pitchers out of the bullpen -- Sale and Rick Porcello have both pitched in relief for Boston this postseason, and Kershaw and Rich Hill have done so for Los Angeles. In the World Series, it'll likely be "all hands on deck" again.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Kershaw seals Game 7 as Dodgers win pennant

Something else to monitor: Red Sox relievers' walk rate has spiked to 15.2 percent this postseason, from 9.8 percent in the regular season (which was MLB's ninth-highest) -- thanks to Kimbrel's shakiness, plus Barnes (6 1/3 innings, six walks), Heath Hembree (3 1/3 innings, four walks) and Brasier (7 innings, four walks). The Dodgers are well equipped to take advantage of strike-zone issues, having led the Majors in walk rate this season (10.2 percent). L.A. also swung at the lowest percentage of all opponent pitches (43.5 percent) and had the lowest chase rate out of the zone (23.8 percent). So don't expect the Dodgers to help out opponents struggling with control.

4. How will the Red Sox manage their lineup in a National League park?
Martinez will play every game for the Red Sox. He's too good a hitter not to, and manager Alex Cora confirmed as much on Saturday. That will create some interesting questions for Games 3-5 at Dodger Stadium, where Boston will have no designated hitter. If Martinez plays right field, who will be the odd man out of the lineup?

Against a left-handed starter, Betts would likely move to center field, and either Bradley or Andrew Benintendi would sit. Bradley seems the likelier option to sit. But against a righty -- and Walker Buehler seems likely to start one of the games in L.A. -- when the Red Sox might want both left-handed bats in the lineup? Well, maybe they could go unconventional ... and play Betts at second base, where he used to play in the Minors and has filled in in emergencies in the Majors. Cora left the door open, but Boston would have to weigh a lot of factors.

Video: Cora on defensive alignment, Betts at second base

"I don't know, man. He already played second during the regular season, so there's always a chance, I guess," Cora said on Saturday, adding, "[Contact at second base], turning double plays in a big moment, him not playing second base in a while, him being the best right fielder in the league. All that stuff comes into consideration."

Putting Martinez in the outfield at the expense of Bradley or Betts would temper what could otherwise be a sizeable Boston advantage in outfield defense. Betts and Bradley have both been worth 11 Outs Above Average defensively this season (that's Statcast™'s range-based metric for outfield defense), tying them for 10th-best among all MLB outfielders. Martinez has a negative-7 OAA mark.

5. Can the Dodgers' lefty arms give them an edge over the Red Sox bats?
The Red Sox handled J.A. Happ, CC Sabathia and Dallas Keuchel well this postseason. But in a much larger sample during the regular season, Boston ranked first in the Majors in OPS against right-handed pitchers (.817), compared with 18th against southpaws (.719). That gap was less severe when looking only at starting pitchers (.802 vs. .759), but still significant. Among the Red Sox's hitters, only Betts, Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Steve Pearce had at least a .750 OPS off lefties.

The Dodgers likely would put three southpaws in their four-man rotation: Kershaw, Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Los Angeles also can choose from Wood, Urias, Caleb Ferguson and Scott Alexander to stock its bullpen.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers

Red Sox to start Sale in Game 1 of World Series

MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- As of Sunday, the only thing that Red Sox manager Alex Cora had decided for sure about his starting rotation was that ace Chris Sale will start Game 1.

BOSTON -- As of Sunday, the only thing that Red Sox manager Alex Cora had decided for sure about his starting rotation was that ace Chris Sale will start Game 1.

:: World Series schedule and results ::

David Price started Game 2 in each of the first two rounds, but Nathan Eovaldi has been arguably Boston's best starting pitcher in this postseason. Rick Porcello is the other starter in Cora's four-man October rotation.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

Sale continues to feel better by the day, a week after he was hospitalized with a stomach illness.

"He's good to go," Cora said. "He's our Game 1 starter. I think everything works out for a reason, and Game 5 [of the ALCS] happened and he gets a few more off-days so he can take care of his belly button, and he'll be ready to go."

The "belly button" comment was a joke in reference to Sale mockingly saying on Saturday that his stomach problem was related to a belly button ring causing irritation.

"But he's ready to go," Cora said. "He's excited to pitch Game 1. He's been our guy since Day 1. Obviously, the other guys did an outstanding job, but him pitching that game, it's something we mapped out through September. This was the plan all along. Happy that he's going to be able to go out there and perform."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale

Machado shakes off boos, sparks LA rally

Dodgers star after G7 win: 'They're always going to boo the best'
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

MILWAUKEE -- Manny Machado loved every second of this.

The supremely talented shortstop-turned-villain in the National League Championship Series capped his often-controversial series with the last laugh in a 5-1 victory over the Brewers in Game 7 on Saturday night at Miller Park. Machado celebrated his first trip to the World Series in the visitors' clubhouse, spraying and drinking champagne with his Dodgers teammates and relishing the fact that he sent more than 40,000 Brewers fans home unhappy.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Manny Machado loved every second of this.

The supremely talented shortstop-turned-villain in the National League Championship Series capped his often-controversial series with the last laugh in a 5-1 victory over the Brewers in Game 7 on Saturday night at Miller Park. Machado celebrated his first trip to the World Series in the visitors' clubhouse, spraying and drinking champagne with his Dodgers teammates and relishing the fact that he sent more than 40,000 Brewers fans home unhappy.

View Full Game Coverage

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"They're always going to boo the best," Machado said.

Machado set the mood and the table in the series clincher. He stepped into the batter's box in the second inning to a chorus of boos from Brewers fans, who were feeling fine with Milwaukee holding a 1-0 lead. Machado became public enemy No. 1 when he got tangled up with Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar on a controversial play at first base in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium. Words were exchanged. Benches and bullpens cleared. Milwaukee right fielder Christian Yelich afterward called Machado a "dirty player."

Machado couldn't have cared less.

Dress for Fall Classic: Get Dodgers NL champs gear

Brewers fans jeered Machado throughout Game 6. They chanted "Manny sucks!" Machado went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the 7-2 loss.

Machado lived up to his villain status and stepped up his game in Game 7. He worked a 3-2 count against Milwaukee right-hander Jhoulys Chacin in the second inning, when he unexpectedly bunted a slider up the third-base line for a single.

Machado, who famously answered criticism about not hustling in Game 2 by saying he will never be "Johnny Hustle," reached a sprint speed of 29.3 feet per second. It was Machado's fastest tracked sprint speed of the season.

It appears Machado, who averaged 26.3 feet per second. during the regular season, runs well when he chooses.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Statcast™ measures Machado's speed on bunt

But why bunt there, Manny? It was the first 3-2 bunt single since Norichika Aoki had one for the Royals on May 29, 2014.

"I can't say what I really want to say," Machado said.

Machado was upset that Chacin quick pitched him.

"I know it was a little [gutsy], but anything to win," Machado said. "It came out perfectly because Belli [Cody Bellinger] came up next and hit that big, big homer to put us up top."

Video: NLCS Gm7: Dodgers on advancing to the World Series

Machado's unexpected bunt was a moment to savor, but then he sparked further controversy. After he reached first base, he grabbed himself a few times as he faced Brewers fans in the stands. Asked if he made an untoward gesture toward them, Machado sidestepped.

"Honestly, I have no idea," Machado said. "All I heard was, 'Manny sucks.'"

So no gestures to the crowd?

"No," Machado said. "I just hear what they say. I just enjoy it, take it all in, you know?"

Asked if he likes being a villain, Machado sidestepped again.

"I play baseball, I play baseball," he said. "We won today. I love it. There's no better feeling than celebrating."

Video: NLCS Gm7: Roberts gives victory speech in clubhouse

But come on, Manny? Didn't it feel great to drop down a bunt to spark a rally and win Game 7, especially after the boos and his performance in Game 6?

Machado smiled and pointed to the golden champagne bottle in his hands.

"I play for this," he said.

Machado then scanned over the crowd of reporters in front of him.

"Where's the trophy at?" he said. "Where's the trophy at? That's all I play for, baby. That's all I play for."

Machado tries for a bigger trophy beginning Tuesday against the Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series.

Todd Zolecki has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Yasiel Puig

Brad Ausmus named Angels manager

MLB.com @mi_guardado

ANAHEIM -- The Angels completed their first managerial search in nearly two decades on Sunday, announcing that Brad Ausmus has been hired to replace Mike Scioscia.

Ausmus, 49, will be formally introduced during a 1 p.m. PT press conference at Angel Stadium on Monday after signing a three-year contract with the club.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels completed their first managerial search in nearly two decades on Sunday, announcing that Brad Ausmus has been hired to replace Mike Scioscia.

Ausmus, 49, will be formally introduced during a 1 p.m. PT press conference at Angel Stadium on Monday after signing a three-year contract with the club.

Ausmus, who managed the Tigers from 2014-17, spent this past season as a special assistant to general manager Billy Eppler. The former big league catcher beat out nine other candidates for the position, including fellow special assistant Eric Chavez, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde, Rays field coordinator Rocco Baldelli and longtime MLB infielder Omar Vizquel.

"Over the past few weeks, our baseball operations personnel sat down with numerous highly qualified and impressive candidates for our managerial role. We are thankful to all of them for their time and effort throughout the process," Eppler said in a statement. "Ultimately, Brad's balance of connectivity, communication and leadership skills, as well as his understanding of evolving strategies and probabilistic approach to decision-making, led us to him. We believe his knowledge, drive and growth mindset will allow him to integrate seamlessly with our players and staff and will be pivotal in advancing our culture and moving us toward our goals as an organization."

Scioscia announced that he would step down at the end of the season following the expiration of his 10-year contract, ending his 19-year run at the helm of the Angels.

A Dartmouth graduate, Ausmus spent 18 seasons in the Majors with the Padres, Astros, Tigers and Dodgers. He earned his first opportunity to manage with the Tigers, who hired him to replace Jim Leyland in Nov. 2013. Ausmus posted a .486 winning percentage (314-332) over his four years in Detroit, steering the club to the American League Central title in his first season.

After the Tigers announced that they would not renew his contract last fall, Ausmus joined the Angels' front office to assist with scouting and evaluations. He frequently traveled with the team on the road and was often spotted in the Angels' clubhouse after home games.

Ausmus will become the 17th manager in Angels history.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Los Angeles Angels

Red Sox-Dodgers Series is the one we deserve

MLB.com @MikeLupica

We get Boston against Los Angeles in the World Series, the way it used to be the Celtics against the Lakers in all those NBA Finals. But this time, it's Boston against Los Angeles for the first time in baseball history. If you want to go through all the reasons why the World Series we've got is the one we should have been rooting for all along, start there.

Once the Dodgers were the Brooklyn Robins, and the Red Sox played the Robins in the World Series in 1916. But after that the Red Sox never played a Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It has taken all this time for two of the sport's iconic franchises to meet up in October, the way they will meet up at Fenway on Tuesday night for Game 1.

We get Boston against Los Angeles in the World Series, the way it used to be the Celtics against the Lakers in all those NBA Finals. But this time, it's Boston against Los Angeles for the first time in baseball history. If you want to go through all the reasons why the World Series we've got is the one we should have been rooting for all along, start there.:: World Series schedule and results ::

Once the Dodgers were the Brooklyn Robins, and the Red Sox played the Robins in the World Series in 1916. But after that the Red Sox never played a Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. It has taken all this time for two of the sport's iconic franchises to meet up in October, the way they will meet up at Fenway on Tuesday night for Game 1.

So we've got that going for us and more.

No small market vs. big market this time. Instead, it's the biggest payroll in baseball this season in Boston against the third biggest in LA. And they'll split time between the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, old Fenway, and the third oldest, Dodger Stadium.

The Red Sox are the favorites, and they ought to be. It's not just because they have home-field advantage after having the best home-field record in the sport this season. They won 108 games during the regular season and have now beaten the Yankees in four games and the Astros in five this postseason, which means they have eliminated a combined 203 regular-season wins from World Series contention. There have been other teams to beat 100-win teams to get this far, but not many.

The Dodgers? They now become one of only six teams in baseball history to be 10 games under .500 -- they were 16-26 on May 16 -- and make it to the World Series, and the first team since the '05 Astros to do so. Los Angeles is also making back-to-back World Series appearances the way Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers did in 1977 and '78.

The Dodgers played the Yankees in those two Series, and in addition to all of the other storylines for the 2018 World Series, we now get the first East Coast vs. West Coast World Series since Padres-Yankees in 1998.

Of course, there are even more storylines than these. In 2004, as the Red Sox were on their way to winning their first World Series since 1918, it was Dave Roberts who produced the most famous stolen base in October history. It came in the bottom of the ninth of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Yankees at Fenway Park, on a night when the Yankees were up a run and three outs away from a sweep.

Video: 2004 ALCS Gm 4: Roberts sets up, scores tying run

But the great Mariano Rivera walked Kevin Millar, and Roberts entered the game to pinch-run for Millar. On the next pitch, Jorge Posada popped up and fired a dart, but Roberts slid into second safely. Bill Mueller then singled home Roberts. The Red Sox won in extra innings that night and did the same the next night en route to becoming the first team to come back from 0-3 to win a postseason baseball series. It all started with that walk to Millar and a stolen base from the guy now managing the Dodgers.

On Tuesday night, Roberts will come back to Fenway trying to help his new team win its first World Series in 30 years, this time against his old team. Talking to him one day last season, Roberts recalled that famous stolen base.

"I think about it quite often," Roberts said. "I think about what happened that night, and over the next three nights, obviously. I think about the opportunities it's created for me, and how it changed my life."

Roberts has his history at old Fenway, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the star manager of this baseball postseason, has his own history with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the club with which he broke into the big leagues in 1998. In 2004, the year that Dave Roberts stole that base in Game 4 against the Yankees, Alex Cora had his best season in the big leagues, playing 138 games for the Dodgers at second base, coming to the plate more than 400 times, hitting 10 home runs and knocking in 47 to bat a solid .264.

And when that '04 season began, Cora and Roberts were teammates in Los Angeles.

Nothing against the Brewers here. If they had made their first World Series since 1982, in such a great baseball city, it would have been a fine series. Nothing against the Astros either, who were trying to become the first team since the Yankees of '98, '99 and '00 to repeat as World Series champs. But the matchup we now get is arguably the best one we could have gotten, certainly the most interesting one.

"It's great for baseball," Roberts said about the World Series matchup. "Two storied franchises going head-to-head. It's going to be great for baseball."

Starting Tuesday night, we get to see a former Boston hero managing against a former Dodger. Clayton Kershaw will get to pitch in Fenway for the first time in his career. We get to see Boston and Los Angeles, with all the sports history between those cities meeting on the baseball field for the first time. We get Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Cody Bellinger, and J.D. Martinez, Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig.

There is even the chance that Betts, the best right fielder in the game, might play second base when the Series heads to LA. And Manny Machado, called a dirty player by Christian Yelich during the NLCS, will come back to Fenway, where he was once accused of a dirty slide against Dustin Pedroia.

So yeah, we get the best World Series now. One with just about everything except Bird and Magic.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers

Puig celebrated HR with crazy celebration

A one-run lead in a Game 7 is about as stressful as it gets. Yasiel Puig removed all that stress with a single swing. With the Dodgers leading the Brewers, 2-1, in the sixth inning of NLCS Game 7 on Saturday, he gave Los Angeles a little more breathing room with a three-run shot over the center-field wall. That meant it was time for a stress-relieving around-the-bases celebration. 

He started with a textbook, tightly coiled bat flip: 

LA wins NL, setting up titanic WS with Red Sox

MLB.com @kengurnick

MILWAUKEE -- Corey Seager's elbow blew out, and the Dodgers found a way. The entire starting rotation went on the disabled list, and they found a way. Kenley Jansen's heart raced, and they found a way. They even found a way to overcome a nine-game deficit in the National League West. And on Saturday, the Dodgers found their way back to the World Series.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Corey Seager's elbow blew out, and the Dodgers found a way. The entire starting rotation went on the disabled list, and they found a way. Kenley Jansen's heart raced, and they found a way. They even found a way to overcome a nine-game deficit in the National League West. And on Saturday, the Dodgers found their way back to the World Series.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

Dress for Fall Classic: Get Dodgers NL champs gear

With rookie starter Walker Buehler poised under pressure, NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig launching crowd-silencing homers at Miller Park and Chris Taylor pulling off a miracle catch in left field, the Dodgers eliminated the Brewers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, 5-1, and will play the Red Sox in the World Series starting Tuesday night in Boston.

"Every single person in this room has their fingerprints on this season," said Dave Roberts, who will be managing against his former Dodgers teammate, Boston's Alex Cora. "We haven't accomplished our goal yet. Four more wins. Let's go."

The Dodgers are going to back-to-back World Series for the first time since 1977-78, when they lost both times to the Yankees. They'll be trying for their first World Series win since 1988, which was clinched 30 years ago to the day, the same year they last won a Game 7 in the NLCS against the Mets. This one secured their 20th appearance in the Fall Classic, tying the Giants for the most in the NL.

"We found a way to get it done again," said Justin Turner. "You saw big swings from two guys [Bellinger and Puig] that didn't have the success this year they wanted. Walker Buehler gave us almost five innings, Ryan Madson is the unsung hero of the entire postseason and our bullpen was outstanding in a series when their bullpen got a lot of the press, a lot of attention. Our guys stepped up and got it done."

Video: NLCS Gm7: Dodgers on advancing to the World Series

The Dodgers' bullpen, outpitching a more celebrated Brewers bullpen, finished it off with 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Jansen struck out three of the four batters he faced, then handed the baton to Game 5 winner Clayton Kershaw, who struck out Mike Moustakas and was in the middle of the dogpile.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Kershaw on 9th inning, Dodgers' NLCS win

"Where we came from this year, it's a testament to these guys," said Kershaw. "It's a great group, we're excited, we're going to celebrate but we don't want to lose again, so we'll be ready to go."

Los Angeles' bullpen had a 1.45 ERA in the series.

Bullpen of the Week: Dodgers

Video: NLCS Gm7: Jansen racks up 3 strikeouts in Game 7

"All the heavy punches we took all season about the bullpen, including myself, and here we are celebrating," said Jansen. "We win another National League championship and we're going to the World Series. It was harder from the start and feels so much sweeter than last year."

General manager Farhan Zaidi echoed Jansen's analysis.

"We really had our backs to the wall in this game," he said. "Easy wasn't really in our playbook, so it was fitting it took us until Game 7. It was more of a joyride last year."

Like everything else this season, though, the Game 7 victory was tougher than it looked. Milwaukee scored first on Christian Yelich's homer, his second extra-base hit and first RBI of the series, on a 98 mph Buehler fastball in the first inning. Teams scoring first in a winner-take-all Game 7 had been 36-19 and 11-5 in Game 7 of the LCS.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich lines solo HR to open scoring

But Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin couldn't hold the lead for even a half-inning. Manny Machado, with boos echoing through Miller Park, shocked everybody by perfectly bunting a 3-2 hanging slider for a leadoff infield single in the second. Bellinger, batting .190 at the time, followed by crushing a two-run homer projected by Statcast™ at 425 feet for a 2-1 lead. Add that to the dazzling catch and walk-off hit to win the 13-inning Game 4 and Bellinger was named MVP.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger blasts a 2-run homer in the 2nd

Before the top of the second ended, Milwaukee started warming up its most lethal weapon, Josh Hader, and after the inning ended, Kershaw walked from the dugout to the Dodgers' bullpen. And the plot thickened. Hader entered to start the third inning. He put up three zeros for the second time in the series.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Hader fans 4 over 3 scoreless relief frames

But it was Taylor -- co-MVP of last year's NLCS -- who at least matched Bellinger's catch in Game 4 with a spectacularly circuitous, lunging, sliding, over-the-shoulder catch of what would have been a game-tying double by Yelich with two outs in the fifth inning, saving L.A. reliever Julio Urias, brought in specifically to retire Yelich.

"At that point in time, I thought the game was tied," said Roberts. "But C.T. gets a great break on the ball, and really a game-saving play."

"That was the catch of the year," said Bellinger, who held the title for three games.

Video: Must C Catch: Taylor ranges to make run-saving grab

Urias, pitching back to back for the first time in his life, also was pitching the day after the death of his grandmother, revealed to the team in the clubhouse by Enrique Hernandez before the champagne celebration began.

The catch should put Taylor right there with Bellinger and Brooklyn's Al Gionfriddo and Sandy Amoros for the most crucial defensive plays in Dodgers postseason history. Usually soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Taylor made, for him, a scene celebrating.

"You could feel the tension in the stands," he explained. "The stadium was going crazy, Julio facing the MVP and the tying run on second."

That set up the key blow in the sixth after Max Muncy and Turner singled and Bellinger beat out a double-play grounder, as Puig hit a three-run blast off Jeremy Jeffress, who called Turner "lucky" after his Game 2-winning homer off Jeffress. Puig was 3-for-4.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Puig breaks it open with 3-run homer

Buehler struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings. Madson followed Urias for five outs and was credited with the victory, Jansen came on with two outs in the seventh and Kershaw pitched the ninth, his first postseason relief outing since Game 7 of last year's World Series.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Madson K's 2 over 1 2/3, earns Game 7 win

"I think [World Series] Game 7 last year prepared us for Game 7 tonight," said catcher Austin Barnes. "If you make it bigger than it is, it works against you. I think we learned that last year. We executed."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Machado, who felt Chacin was quick-pitching him, effortlessly dropped a ridiculously perfect bunt single on a 3-2 pitch, which hadn't been done by anybody in any big league game since 2014. It silenced a crowd that had been raucously booing Machado and maybe it rattled Chacin, who served up the go-ahead home run to the next batter, Bellinger.

Machado has last laugh at Miller with 1st WS

Video: NLCS Gm7: Statcast™ measures Machado's speed on bunt

SOUND SMART
Puig is the third Cuban player to homer in a Game 7, joining Tony Perez (1975 World Series) and Bert Campaneris ('73 World Series).

Puig celebrated his HR with a crazy celebration

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
If Bellinger doesn't beat out the double-play grounder with one out in the sixth inning, Puig doesn't come up to slug the three-run homer. Statcast™ timed Bellinger's sprint speed from home to first at 30.5 feet per second (30.0 is considered elite).

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger prevents double play in the 6th

HE SAID IT
"Puig was right." -- Barnes, on his teammate's prediction on a World Series return

Video: Dodgers, Red Sox sizzle through postseason gauntlet

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Yasiel Puig

Usain Bolt to Mariners ...? Not so fast

If you woke up on Sunday morning and decided to take a quick scroll through some sports headlines, there's a chance you were greeted with the following.

Bellinger's turnaround results in NLCS MVP honor

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

MILWAUKEE -- Doused in champagne, Cody Bellinger rejoiced. Arms raised, mouth wide, his October demons drowned away.

There was perhaps no player who entered the National League Championship Series with more to prove than Bellinger, a career .160 postseason hitter at the start of the seven-game set that Los Angeles clinched with its 5-1 Game 7 win Saturday night at Miller Park. He now has the hardware to turn those demons into ghosts, after claiming NLCS MVP honors for a series he cemented for the Dodgers with both his bat and his glove.

View Full Game Coverage

MILWAUKEE -- Doused in champagne, Cody Bellinger rejoiced. Arms raised, mouth wide, his October demons drowned away.

There was perhaps no player who entered the National League Championship Series with more to prove than Bellinger, a career .160 postseason hitter at the start of the seven-game set that Los Angeles clinched with its 5-1 Game 7 win Saturday night at Miller Park. He now has the hardware to turn those demons into ghosts, after claiming NLCS MVP honors for a series he cemented for the Dodgers with both his bat and his glove.

View Full Game Coverage

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET/5:09 PT on FOX

:: NLCS schedule and results ::

"It feels unbelievable," Bellinger said. "This is honestly the coldest shower I've ever had."

Bellinger earned it. He became the seventh player in franchise history to claim the award, joining Dusty Baker (1977), Steve Garvey ('78), Burt Hooton ('81), Orel Hershiser ('88), Justin Turner and Chris Taylor (2017 co-MVPs).

But truth be told, there have been few series MVPs quite like Bellinger, who didn't dominate the series in a traditional sense. His play just had the most impact. Bellinger's 13th-inning single sent the Dodgers to a walk-off win in Game 4, and his two-run blast off Jhoulys Chacin gave Los Angeles a Game 7 lead it would never relinquish. He also made a sensational catch in the 10th inning of Game 4. All told, Bellinger hit .200 (5-for-25) with four RBIs and three runs scored in the series.

Bellinger had gone hitless across 11 at-bats in the NL Division Series against the Braves. He also struggled mightily last October as a rookie, hitting .143 with 17 strikeouts in 28 at-bats in the World Series against the Astros.

"All postseason, I felt fairly good, I wasn't seeing any results," Bellinger said. "And luckily for me, I've got a lot of veterans on this team. They said, 'Stick with the process and the results will come.' And that's exactly what I did, and it showed."

Video: NLCS Gm4: Bellinger, defense pace Dodgers to 2-1 win

That was never truer than in the second inning Saturday, when Bellinger strode to the plate against Chacin with Manny Machado on first and the Dodgers down a run. Bellinger worked a 2-2 count, then took a cut at a sinker that Chacin said was meant "to get Bellinger to chase up."

"The ball sunk down," Chacin said. "And he put it out."

The 425-foot, two-run homer, as tracked by Statcast™, put the Dodgers up for good. It also marked the first homer for Bellinger in his past 48 postseason plate appearances, dating back to Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. He has homered once every 18 regular-season plate appearances over his two Major League seasons. Bellinger hit 39 to claim the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2017, and he followed that up with 25 this season. He hit .260/.343/.470 with 76 RBIs in his sophomore campaign.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Bellinger blasts a 2-run homer in the 2nd

Now at age 23, Bellinger gets his second straight crack at a ring. As do the Dodgers.

"We have a talented team. It's going to be hard to beat us," Bellinger said. "We told everyone not to worry. We understood the talent that we had. Now we're here."

Bellinger could have just as well been speaking about himself.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger

Sox want J.D. in each WS game; Betts to 2B?

Cora mulling options for getting Martinez into lineup in NL park, including slotting Mookie in infield
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox get to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, they'll have to lose a key position player from the starting lineup.

However, manager Alex Cora made one thing clear on Saturday: J.D. Martinez, Boston's primary designated hitter and top run producer this season, will start every game in the Fall Classic. Mookie Betts isn't sitting either, which means either left fielder Andrew Benintendi or center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. would have to come out of the lineup.

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox get to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 of the World Series on Friday, they'll have to lose a key position player from the starting lineup.

However, manager Alex Cora made one thing clear on Saturday: J.D. Martinez, Boston's primary designated hitter and top run producer this season, will start every game in the Fall Classic. Mookie Betts isn't sitting either, which means either left fielder Andrew Benintendi or center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. would have to come out of the lineup.

World Series presented by YouTube TV, Game 1: Tuesday, 8:09 p.m. ET on FOX

Video: Dodgers, Red Sox sizzle through postseason gauntlet

Unless, of course, Cora tries something unconventional and plays Betts at second base. Betts, as you might recall, was a second baseman in the Minors. He also started 14 games there for the Red Sox in 2014 when Dustin Pedroia was injured. And earlier this season -- on Aug. 3 against the Yankees -- Betts made a cameo at his old position for six innings when Ian Kinsler sustained an in-game injury.

Video: NYY@BOS: Betts takes over at 2B after Kinsler injury

Cora chuckled when the topic of Betts playing second in the World Series was the first question at his news conference on Saturday.

Dress for the Fall Classic: Shop AL Champs gear

"That's the first question for the World Series? Wow," said Cora. "I don't know, man. He already played second during the regular season, so there's always a chance, I guess."

:: World Series schedule and results ::

That didn't sound convincing. Yet the first question about it wasn't the last. And, interestingly, Cora left the door open.

"Like I said, we're in the World Series," said Cora. "The conversation was going to come up. One thing for sure, J.D. is going to play. That's clear. So we'll see which alignment is better, which lineup is better and we'll make decisions accordingly."

Betts did spend plenty of time taking grounders at second during Saturday's workout, but he spends time there in pregame drills on most days throughout the season.

"I was just joking with him. I'm like, 'There's a reason you're the right fielder.' He feels that he's great at second," said Cora. "I don't know. I never saw it. If you ask him, he's like, 'I'm great.' If you ask Pedroia, then he'll say, 'He sucked!' So there's a lot that goes into it. Teams do it differently.

"I saw [Max] Muncy playing second base [for the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS]. That's the way they do it. We've got some pretty good second basemen. We've got some good outfielders."

Given all the contact that second basemen can endure, the Red Sox would have some natural safety concerns about their best all-around player risking injury at a position he hasn't played with any regularity in four years.

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Cora on Betts at 2B, Kimbrel's role

"That and turning double plays in a big moment, him not playing second base in a while, him being the best right fielder in the league. All that stuff comes into consideration," Cora said.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez

Rumors: Mesa brothers, Corbin, Eovaldi, Machado

The latest MLB free agent and trade rumors for Hot Stove season
MLB.com

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

As the postseason concludes, Hot Stove season begins. MLB.com is keeping track of all the latest free agent and trade rumors right here.

• Complete list of free agents this offseason 

Mesa brothers expected to sign with Marlins
Oct. 20: The Marlins are expected to announce the signings of Cuban outfield prospects Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. in a news conference Monday in Miami, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

Victor Victor Mesa, 22, will receive a more than $5 million signing bonus, and his 17-year-old brother will sign for nearly $1 million, per Sanchez.

The Marlins have about $6.6 million of international bonus pool money and have made clear they intend to be aggressive on the international market this winter. Victor Victor Mesa is ranked as the top international prospect on the market, per MLB Pipeline.

Miami has also been linked to Cuban right-hander Sandy Gaston, but it's unclear if it will be able to sign all three players. More >

Instagram from @victorvictormesa: 5 de octubre 2018Representando 🇨 #victorvictormesa

Free agent market for starting pitchers headlined by Corbin, Eovaldi
Oct. 20: In a relatively thin starting pitcher market this year, the field will be headlined by left-hander Patrick Corbin and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi. Corbin, 29, is coming off a breakout season for the D-backs, going 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA over 33 starts, earning his second career All-Star selection. According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, Corbin will be sought after by the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants and Braves. Cafardo also posits Corbin could be offered a deal in the neighborhood of at least five years and $20 million to $25 million.

Eovaldi, 28, has boosted his stock ahead of free agency this winter with two stellar postseason starts for the Red Sox, Cafardo notes. The right-hander has a 1.88 ERA over two starts between the AL Division Series against the Yankees and the AL Championship Series against the Astros. Cafardo compares Eovaldi to Alex Cobb, who also returned following Tommy John surgery and landed a four-year, $57 million deal with the Orioles last offseason.

Cafardo also mentions J.A. Happ, the veteran left-hander who may garner interest from the Yankees and Astros. Happ posted a 2.69 ERA in seven starts for New York after being acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays. Two other notable free-agents-to-be are Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton. Keuchel, 30, posted a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts for the Astros. Morton, 34, had another solid season (3.13 ERA over 30 starts), and could draw interest from the Yankees and Red Sox, according to Cafardo.

Machado's controversial week not expected to impact value to free agent suitors
Oct. 20: Milwaukee fans at Miller Park weren't all too happy to see impending free agent Manny Machado in Games 6 and 7 of the National League Championship Series after his controversial week, and they made their displeasure known with a hearty round of boos as Machado stepped to the plate, which turned to cheers when Wade Miley struck Machado out swinging during Game 6. Machado was seen gesturing to the crowd as if to egg them on as he walked into the dugout following the strikeout.

After hitting a solo homer and two-run single in Game 1 and following that up with a 2-for-3 showing in Game 3, Machado cooled down over the course of the week, going 1-for-12 with two walks (one intentional) in Games 4, 5 and 6. But he had a 2-for-4 showing with a pair of singles in Game 7, which the Dodgers won to advance to their second straight World Series. The first hit was particularly significant, a bunt single ahead of Cody Bellinger in the second inning. Bellinger proceeded to launch a two-run homer to give Los Angeles the lead.

The week, of course, also included the incident in which Machado clipped Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar's foot while running through first base, prompting Christian Yelich to call Machado a "dirty player," and his interview with MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in which Machado called hustling not his "cup of tea."

But through all of the controversy, Machado is still one of the most tantalizing talents in baseball entering free agency at the young age of 26, and as MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi points out, Machado's 175 homers through his age-25 season ranked fifth all-time among infielders, behind only Alex Rodriguez, Eddie Mathews, Jimmie Foxx and Orlando Cepeda.

Video: NLCS Gm6: Machado on Game 6 loss, handling the boos

Those accomplishments, as well as Machado's bounceback defense with the Dodgers, his positional flexibility and his contact rate, make it difficult for the controversy to move the needle on his free agency significantly -- a high-ranking club executive told Morosi that the impact to Machado should be "minimal," with agreement from others around baseball.

The market as a whole -- not individual front offices -- will ultimately dictate Machado's overall value come free agency, meaning that as long as interest from other clubs holds steady, his ultimate contract shouldn't be too highly affected by all the recent news.

As MLB Network insider Jon Heyman noted in an article for Fancred Sports, the Yankees should be firmly in play for Machado, especially with Didi Gregorius' recent Tommy John surgery. New York has tried to land Machado before, and Machado's interest in joining the Yankees was documented back in August, when Heyman reported that people close to the slugger were suggesting that the club was his first choice in free agency.

Heyman also said in an appearance on "The Rundown" on Thursday that the Phillies are prepared to pursue Machado and fellow uber-free agent Bryce Harper, and many expect them to come away with at least one.

"People around baseball are going to be surprised if [the Phillies] don't get at least one of these two players, and maybe both," Heyman said.

Will Grandal's struggles boost market for Ramos?
Oct. 20: There are going to be a slew of teams in the market for a catcher this offseason, possibly including playoff hopefuls like the Dodgers, Rockies, Rays, Brewers, Red Sox, A's, Astros, Braves, Phillies and Nationals.

Even in light of his well-documented struggles this postseason, Dodgers backstop Yasmani Grandal should still be one of the most highly coveted catchers in free agency -- though any loss to Grandal's stock from his October performance figures to benefit Wilson Ramos, the other premier catcher on the market entering 2019.

The 29-year-old Grandal could hardly have drawn up a worse postseason to cap his walk year. After going 1-for-13 with five strikeouts in the NL Division Series against the Braves, Grandal was 2-for-8 with five strikeouts in his two NLCS starts, but more concerningly, he had three passed balls in those two starts and also committed two errors in Game 1, when he became the first catcher in postseason history with multiple errors and multiple passed balls in a game.

Video: NLCS Gm 3: Grandal discusses defensive performance

For the second straight postseason, Grandal finds himself losing significant playing time to Austin Barnes, who started Games 4, 5 and 6 behind the plate. Last season, Barnes started 13 playoff games, including all seven World Series games, and Grandal started only two. That's concerning in Grandal's last showcase before hitting free agency, but it's worth noting that Grandal is still coming off a regular season in which he posted a career-best full-season OPS+ (121), with his 24 homers and .241/.349/.466 slash line all near his career highs.

Ramos, a year older than Grandal, was sidelined for part of the 2018 season with a hamstring injury and missed his first career All-Star Game start as a result, but posted a .337/.396/.483 slash line for the Phillies in 33 games following his return from injury, capping a season with a career-best 130 OPS+.

The other factor that might slightly increase Ramos' appeal is that due to his midseason trade from the Rays, he's not eligible for a qualifying offer from the Phillies before he hits free agency, whereas Grandal is a solid candidate for a qualifying offer (reportedly valued at $17.9 million for 2019) from the Dodgers. If Grandal were to reject a qualifying offer, the team signing him would forfeit one or more Draft picks, while a Ramos signing would not be subject to such a penalty.

Miley continues surprising 2018 with solid Game 6 start
Oct. 20: Wade Miley might not be one of the premier names on the free agent market this offseason, but he's made a big splash this postseason due to both his solid work on the mound and his unorthodox usage in manager Craig Counsell's unique pitching plan. Couple that with his strong regular season, and he could be a solid option in free agency for teams looking for rotation depth and a veteran presence.

The left-hander hadn't allowed a run in three postseason "starts" prior to his NLCS Game 6 start on Friday, when he went 4 1/3 innings and allowed two runs -- a leadoff homer and RBI double by David Freese -- while striking out four and walking two.

Video: NLCS Game 6: Wade Miley discusses forcing a Game 7

Earlier in October, he pitched 4 2/3 shutout innings at Coors Field to clinch the NLDS for the Brewers and followed that up with 5 2/3 shutout innings of two-hit ball in NLCS Game 2 at Miller Park. Though he faced a first-and-second, two-out jam in the second inning, he induced a foul pop from Freese before retiring the next seven batters in order.

The Brewers might not have been in the postseason at all had it not been for Miley, who helped stabilize the flux in Milwaukee's starting rotation by going 5-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts, mostly from July on, after he was signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason. Gio Gonzalez will also hit free agency for the Brewers whenever their 2018 season comes to an end.

Morton, Keuchel among Astros' key free agents
Oct. 19: After their hopes of back-to-back World Series titles were dashed by the Red Sox in the ALCS, the Astros now turn their attention to an offseason in which they have a number of key free-agent decisions to make.

The rotation could have a different look next season, with Morton and Keuchel entering free agency. Morton has pondered retirement, but he indicated that he'd like to continue his career after Thursday's season-ending loss.

"I'd love to keep playing, I'd love to be an Astro," Morton said, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. "I'd love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it's not really up to me. It's not solely up to me."

Tweet from @Chandler_Rome: Charlie Morton, who is 34 and a pending free agent: ���I���d love to keep playing, I���d love to be an Astro. I���d love to be part of this again. Ultimately, it���s not really up to me. It���s not solely up to me.���

If Morton decides he wants to come back for one more season, he might be open to accepting a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to finish his career with Houston. Keuchel, though, is expected to seek a multi-year deal.

Houston does have several internal options who could step into the rotation if needed, including Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh, Josh James and top prospect Forrest Whitley.

On the other side of the ball, the Astros' don't have to worry about losing anyone from their core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, but utility man Marwin Gonzalez is set for free agency. Houston could look to bring Gonzalez back, as his ability to play all over the diamond while providing above-average offensive production (112 wRC+ from 2014-18) makes him an important part of the roster.

The Astros are also expected to have some turnover at the catching position, with Martin Maldonado headed for free agency and Brian McCann's $15 million club option unlikely to be picked up. Evan Gattis will be a free agent as well, though he made just two appearances behind the plate in 2018. The Astros will probably let Gattis walk, opening up more at-bats for Tyler White at designated hitter in 2019.

To address their need at catcher, Houston could pursue Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos in free agency, or explore a trade for the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto.

What will Indians' outfield look like in 2019?
Oct. 19: With Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall set to hit the open market, the Indians have question marks at all three starting outfield spots for next season. As a result, Brantley is a logical candidate to receive the $17.9 million qualifying offer, in the opinion of MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.

After getting just 101 games and 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per FanGraphs, from Brantley over 2016-17, the Indians nonetheless exercised his $12 million option for '18. The move worked out, as Brantley made the All-Star team and produced 3.5 WAR. Brantley also recorded 10.0 WAR from '14-15, so his '18 production wasn't out of the blue.

Moreover, Bastian thinks the Indians could pursue free agent Andrew McCutchen if Brandon Guyer's $3 million option isn't picked up. Guyer's primary role was to platoon against southpaws, and he posted a 120 wRC+ in those situations this past season, compared to a 34 mark vs. righties. McCutchen performed well vs. lefties (128 wRC+) and righties (118 wRC+) in '18, so he wouldn't need to be held to a strict platoon role. More >

Trading Myers a potential option for Padres this offseason
Oct. 19: With first baseman Eric Hosmer signed to a long-term deal and Franmil Reyes and Hunter Renfroe staking claim to the corner-outfield spots, the Padres don't have an obvious position for Wil Myers in 2019.

San Diego has an opening at third base, but Myers struggled defensively in limited action at the position this past season. Although Myers could improve as he gains more experience at the hot corner, he likely brings the most value to the club as a left fielder.

As a result, MLB.com's AJ Cassavell expects general manager A.J. Preller to explore a trade this offseason that would clear some of the outfield logjam.

Dealing Myers makes the most sense for the small-market Padres, but his contract -- Myers is owed $74 million from 2019-22, with most of that coming in the latter three years -- could be a deterrent. San Diego would also be selling low, as Myers played just 83 games this past season. Thus, Preller might have to trade Reyes or Renfroe instead to fix the situation.

"We'll get into the offseason and talk about what's the best configuration for our club," Preller said. "We have some depth at different positions that I'm sure will be discussed with other teams as well. ... [We'll] figure out what's the best mix." More >

Could Rockies look to trade Gray?
Oct. 19: The Rockies' rotation was surprisingly a strength of the team in 2018, with Kyle Freeland and German Marquez enjoying breakout seasons, but Opening Day starter Jon Gray was a disappointment.

Although he fanned 183 batters, Gray allowed more earned runs than anyone in the National League (98), posting a 5.12 ERA over 172 1/3 innings. His FIP was much lower at 4.08, mirroring a career trend (lifetime 3.68 FIP, 4.65 ERA).

The right-hander has shown flashes of ace potential in four big league campaigns, but he hasn't put it all together yet, and his future role is a major question mark for Colorado.

According to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, the Rockies didn't act on the inquiries they received about Gray before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But with Gray's tantalizing stuff and three remaining years of team control, the trade requests aren't likely to go away this offseason. And after Gray was left off the NLDS roster, Colorado might be more open to dealing him this time around.

Braves could be active on trade market, may take cautious approach to free agency
Oct. 19: While the Braves may have at least $60 million to address their multiple needs, which include a catcher, a corner outfielder, bullpen depth and a frontline starter, they may take a cautious approach to the free-agent market to avoid deals that hinder them down the road.

"We're not going to just walk in the store and buy because we have money in our pockets," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If we don't find the right deal with something we like, there's still other opportunities to shop. There could be opportunities next season. If you start signing guys to big, long deals, if you feel good about the deal, you do it now. I wouldn't force a deal right now that would limit you in years from now."

Atlanta, though, could be active on the trade market, as the club has significant prospect depth from which to deal. Exploring a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto could be a top priority.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Braves should be completely ruled out as potential suitors for some of the top free agents on the market. While they are unlikely to make offers to Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, they could target left-hander Patrick Corbin, or potentially seek a reunion with closer Craig Kimbrel. Both hurlers would fill needs for the club.

Atlanta also hasn't ruled out re-signing right fielder Nick Markakis or catcher Kurt Suzuki, though they would prefer to add a surefire starting catcher so Tyler Flowers can move to a backup role.

"I don't think with our club, with what we have, that the value is going to be there in the free-agent market," Anthopoulos said. "It doesn't mean it won't. We'll certainly explore it. But if I could sit here in the middle of October, I'd say it's more likely we go the trade route. It's not ideal to give up young assets, but it's also not ideal to do a deal you don't believe in -- that may look good for a year or two, and then in years three, four and five, it does not." More >

Cardinals eyeing left-handed relievers
Oct. 19: The bullpen was a weak spot for the Cardinals in 2018, even with the emergence of flamethrowing Jordan Hicks and a strong campaign from Bud Norris, who was signed to a Minor League contract before the season. The left side was particularly troublesome, and as a result, St. Louis is expected to make improving that area a priority this offseason.

The free-agent market will have several options who fit that bill, including Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Tony Sipp and Justin Wilson.

In recent years, the Cardinals haven't done well when giving Major League deals to free-agent relievers. In fact, St. Louis committed a total of $68.25 million combined to Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson, Brett Cecil and Seunghwan Oh for a cumulative WAR of 0.3.

But president of baseball operations John Mozeliak indicated that the club's lack of past success in that area won't be a deterrent in the coming months.

"We did choose to [be aggressive in that market] a few years back, and it has not been a home run. We get it," Mozeliak said. "That's not going to create some paralysis for us now. We understand the volatility of it. And trying to get it right is what we're going to continue to do." More >

Kimbrel delivers first scoreless appearance of 2018 postseason in ALCS Game 5
Oct. 19: The Red Sox beat the Astros, 4-1, in ALCS Game 5 on Thursday to win the American League pennant and advance to the World Series, with closer Craig Kimbrel throwing a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

Video: ALCS Gm5: Red Sox win the American League pennant

It was Kimbrel's first scoreless appearance of the entire postseason. Although he is 5-for-5 in save chances, the right-hander has allowed five runs over 6 ⅓ innings while yielding six hits, six walks and two hit batsmen in this year's playoffs. With Kimbrel struggling on a big stage, it's fair to wonder how much he has hurt his stock with free agency upcoming after the season.

Kimbrel has long been one of the most dominant closers in baseball, and he had another strong campaign in the 2018 regular season. However, he also showed some signs of regression, posting a career-high 3.13 FIP with a 3.1 K/BB ratio (1.42 FIP, 9.0 K/BB ratio in '17).

Recent history may also give teams pause when it comes to the size of Kimbrel's next contract, as the lucrative deals given to big-name closers such as Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Mark Melancon in the past few offseasons haven't gone as well as the signing clubs likely hoped they would.

Still, most teams will likely view Kimbrel as the best available option among the free agents with closing experience, and given the ever-growing importance of relievers in today's game, there shouldn't be a shortage of clubs interested in his services -- especially if he can rebound in the Fall Classic.

Will Realmuto be with Marlins in 2019?
Oct. 18: J.T. Realmuto's future with the Marlins has been a persistent storyline since the club began its rebuild by dealing Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon last offseason, and that's unlikely to change during the coming months.

Realmuto, who will be 28 years old on Opening Day in 2019, has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, and as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro notes, the Marlins will likely need to present him with a path to contention within that timeframe to convince him to sign a long-term deal.

According to Frisaro, the Marlins will try to do that this winter but are also expected to explore trade scenarios for the backstop to keep their options open.

Realmuto made the All-Star team for the first time in 2018, hitting .277 with a personal-best 21 homers, 74 RBIs and .825 OPS. He also posted a 38 percent caught-stealing rate -- 10 percentage points above the MLB average -- and allowed just eight passed balls in 951 innings behind the plate.

The Nationals, Astros, Phillies, Red Sox, A's and Rockies are among the contenders that could be in the market for a catcher, though the Marlins' asking price will likely remain lofty. More >

Reds name David Bell new manager

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Completing a process that began in April, the Reds named David Bell as their new manager on Sunday and signed him to a three-year contract that runs through the 2021 season with a club option for 2022.

The Reds will formally introduce Bell at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Monday at Great American Ball Park.

CINCINNATI -- Completing a process that began in April, the Reds named David Bell as their new manager on Sunday and signed him to a three-year contract that runs through the 2021 season with a club option for 2022.

The Reds will formally introduce Bell at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Monday at Great American Ball Park.

Bell, 46, was the Giants' vice president of player development this past season and is becoming a manager in the Major Leagues for the first time. However, he does have three years of Minor League managing experience in the Reds' farm system. He was the skipper at the Double-A level with Carolina from 2009-11 and at Triple-A Louisville in '12.

A member of a three-generation MLB family, Bell is the son of former Reds player Buddy Bell -- who rejoined the team last year as a senior adviser -- and the grandson of former Reds star Gus Bell. He grew up in Cincinnati and played baseball for Archbishop Moeller High School, the same famed program that also produced Hall of Famers Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr.

Although his 12-year Major League playing career as a third baseman and second baseman from 1995-2006 did not include a stop in Cincinnati, Bell played for the Indians, Cardinals, Mariners, Giants, Phillies and Brewers. He reached the World Series once, in '02, with San Francisco.

Bell was the third-base coach for the Cubs in 2013 and served as the Cardinals' bench coach from '14-17.

The Reds dismissed Bryan Price after four-plus seasons when the team began 2018 with a 3-15 record. Bench coach Jim Riggleman was named interim manager and was one of the candidates for the permanent position.

Along with Bell, the Reds conducted second-round interviews with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. Besides them and Riggleman, others also interviewed in the first round included: former Red Sox manager John Farrell, Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens, Rays bench coach Charlie Montoyo, Pirates bench coach Tom Prince, Rays coach Rocco Baldelli and Reds coaches Pat Kelly, Billy Hatcher and Freddie Benavides.

Bell was also a candidate for the managerial vacancies with Toronto and Texas.

It was not immediately clear if any coaches from Price's and Riggleman's staff would be retained to work under Bell.

Bell is the 63rd manager in Reds history.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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