The week ahead in baseball begins with an already-established Major League milestone, and it's one that makes any seamhead smile.Yes, it's less than a month until pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training, and 30 clubs will start revving up for what they hope will be a memorable championship
The week ahead in baseball begins with an already-established Major League milestone, and it's one that makes any seamhead smile.
Yes, it's less than a month until pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training, and 30 clubs will start revving up for what they hope will be a memorable championship run in 2018.
With a host of high-profile free agents still available and big names reportedly being bandied about in trade talks, there's still plenty of dealing to be done before we can really start predicting the postseason.
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But while it might not yet officially be crunch time, there is a bit of a time crunch for these players to get fitted for their new uniforms.
Here are the top five storylines to keep track of this week:
Yu Darvish: He's widely thought of as the best starting pitcher on the market, but he's not going to come cheap, and the latest scuttlebutt has him as a pinstriped possibility. The New York Daily News reported that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is speculating that the slow pace of the market could lead to a "reasonable price" for the right-hander. The Rangers, Twins and Cubs have also been listed as potential destinations for Darvish, but the pitcher himself teased on social media that there might be another mystery club in the mix.
Jacob Arrieta: The Brewers and Cardinals were listed as possibilities for the right-hander, who was last seen pitching for the Chicago Cubs, but the most recent rumors swirling around the 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner seem to be settling on … the Chicago Cubs. Club president Theo Epstein said last week that the team has kept Arrieta in its sights all along, even after signing righty Tyler Chatwood to join the starting rotation. Maybe this one won't be full of National League Central intrigue after all.
Manny Machado: The ball is in the Baltimore Orioles' infield. They'll have to finally decide to swap this 25-year-old superstar if one of the many potential deals we've heard about over the offseason is indeed going to ripen into reality. Will it be an intra-division deal to New York or Boston like we've read? Or will the D-backs, who've apparently been kicking these tires all along, give up a bounty of Major League talent and top prospects that will likely be required to land such a stud? Maybe we'll find out soon.
J.D. Martinez: The Red Sox have been in on Martinez since he became a free agent, and Martinez, by some accounts, wouldn't mind playing in Fenway Park, either. So what gives? The contract terms, apparently. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that Martinez is aiming for his preferred market value, and it's possible that the number of years is the sticking point. We'll see if the Blue Jays make it interesting or if the D-backs try to keep the player that helped them so much down the stretch last year after the midseason trade from Detroit.
Eric Hosmer: Will it be a Royal return, or will Hoz end up slugging in San Diego or somewhere else? Hosmer was reportedly offered a seven-year, $147 million deal to return to the only big league home he's ever known, Kansas City, but the Padres have been linked to Hosmer all offseason.
Other names to watch are free-agent hitters Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, potential trade target Andrew McCutchen, and free-agent closer Greg Holland.
A lot could happen over these next seven days as we get closer to the dawn of the spring, and it could happen quickly.
So make sure to stay tuned in the week ahead.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.