With their stars, will the Dodgers win the championship?

(Phoenix) Money buys you a lot of stuff, including Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinubu Yamamoto, two Japanese superstars who cost the Los Angeles Dodgers over a billion US dollars. Now we’ll see if they bought themselves a championship too.

Training camps for 28 of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams will open in the coming days, as pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida. The Dodgers and San Diego Padres are already in the field, getting a head start as they will kick off their season on March 20, in Seoul, South Korea.

“There are more people watching us,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. I expect our players and our organization to raise their game a notch. It’s clear that expectations will be higher, which is good for everyone here. »

The New York Yankees struck a big blow by obtaining Juan Soto via transaction and hiring Marcus Stroman. The Philadelphia Phillies brought back Aaron Nola on a seven-year, $172 million contract. The San Francisco Giants took a $113 million bet with Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee, while the Chicago Cubs paid $54 million for Shota Imanaga to leave Japan.

While there is no doubt that the Dodgers won the winter, there is no guarantee that his players will hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after the World Series next fall. Ask the New York Mets, who have sunk despite having MLB’s highest payroll in 2023 at $374 million.

All it got them was a 75-87 record and fourth place in the NL East. And lots of jokes at their expense.

The Dodgers have fueled most of the conversation this winter, but there are several teams that can realistically aspire to the championship. Among these, the defending champions, the Texas Rangers, who beat the Arizona Diamondbacks in five games to be crowned for the first time.

Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Atlanta Braves will try to finish the job after a disappointing early playoff exit last year. The Houston Astros, who have reached the World Series four times and won two titles in seven years, are another formidable team, led by Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.

Here are some other things to look out for during camps.

Free agents


Matt Chapman

Even in mid-February, there are still some big names on the free agent market: two-time Cy-Young winner Blake Snell, third baseman Matt Chapman, left-hander Jordan Montgomery, outfielder and first baseman Cody Bellinger , outfielder Jorge Soler and veteran power hitter JD Martinez, among others.

If Snell’s reputation is well established, Montgomery has just had his best season with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Rangers. Chapman has power and is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball.

Former player par excellence, Bellinger has just rebounded brilliantly with the Chicago Cubs. Soler led the American in home runs in 2019 and hit 36 ​​with the Miami Marlins in 2023. Martinez was true to form with 33 long balls with the Dodgers last year.

The reigning champions


Texas Rangers

The Rangers will begin camp while World Series MVP Corey Seager is recovering from surgery to correct a sports hernia on Jan. 30. The Texas team hopes that the shortstop will be ready for the start of the season and does not seem worried by possible consequences.

In addition to Seager, the Rangers will return their six players selected for the All-Star Game last season: second baseman Marcus Semien, third baseman Josh Jung, catcher Jonah Heim, the power hitter and MVP of the championship series of American Adolis Garcia, as well as right-hander Nathan Eovaldi.

Jacob deGrom (elbow) and Max Scherzer (back) could return to the rotation near the trade deadline. The Rangers won all six of deGrom’s starts this season before he had surgery. Scherzer, acquired at the 2023 deadline, underwent surgery for a herniated disc in December.

No new rule

New rules introduced by MLB have shaken up the sport in 2023. In a good way.

The introduction of a timer between pitches, wider bases and a limit on the number of times pitchers can attempt to wrong-foot runners have led to some episodes of grumbling among some players, but it is difficult to not admitting that these changes were hugely successful.

Baseball attracted 70 million fans to its stadiums for the first time since 2017; the duration of matches was the shortest since 1984; and overall, the sport has been more enjoyable to watch.

If the last training camp served as a laboratory for these new rules, everyone who will take part in the next one is now used to them.

Snakes and birds


Arizona Diamondbacks

Two of the most exciting teams in MLB in 2023 have been the Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles.

The D’backs surprised everyone by reaching the World Series. The unanimous choice for the most outstanding rookie in the NL, Corbin Carroll, was their great leader with 30 doubles, 10 triples, 25 home runs and 54 stolen bases, while playing sparkling defense.

The team added third baseman Eugenio Suarez, outfielder Joc Pederson and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez this winter.

As for the Orioles, they had 101 victories before being swept in the playoffs by the eventual champions. The American’s top rookie, Gunnar Henderson – also a unanimous choice – is back after a 28-homer season.

The Orioles dealt a big blow by acquiring starter Corbin Burnes from the Milwaukee Brewers recently, a 2021 Cy Young Award winner three times selected to the All-Star Game.

Associated Press reporter Stephen Hawkins contributed to this article.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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