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10 biggest storylines before Spring Training begins in MLB

Outside of the on-going coronavirus pandemic, there are a ton of things to focus on in the 2021 MLB season.

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger (35) hits a two run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in game one of the 2020 World Series at Globe Life Field. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After a 60-game sprint and postseason, Major League Baseball is set to begin once again in a few weeks with Opening Day scheduled on Apr. 1. But before we can look towards the start of another baseball season. We have pitchers and catchers across the league soon to be reporting in less than two weeks.

Unlike previous seasons, where the hot stove is firing on all cylinders with major trades and signings, this offseason was relatively quiet in comparison. However, we did have two blockbuster trades involving Nolan Arenado and Francisco Lindor. And there were also a couple of free agents such as Trevor Bauer and George Springer, who signed big-time contracts with brand-new teams.

Outside of those storylines, we are going to rundown a few others that you should keep an eye out for this season.

1. Can the Dodgers repeat as World Series champions?

The last team to repeat as World Series champions were New York Yankees in the late 90s, who won three-straight titles between 1998-2000. However, since then, we’ve seen multiple teams win the World Series the previous season and get back there the next year, but cannot finish the job.

This is now the new task for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are a frontrunner to win the NL Pennant and the World Series. The Dodgers are returning most of their key players from last season and added Trevor Bauer, who just won the NL Cy Young award in 2020.

Los Angeles has a dominant starting rotation that features the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, Julio Urias, and Bauer. In their starting lineup, they have Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts. The Dodgers, however, will have some competition in their division as the San Diego Padres made some major moves in the offseason.

2. Will the Padres be able to take that next step?

For the Padres to be taken seriously as a contender this season, they will need to prove that last season’s playoff run was not a fluke. As we all remember, their GM made multiple moves at the trade deadline in August to push them in October.

Those moves panned out as Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. provided the offense in the lineup. However, the Padres did not rest on their laurels as they went out and traded for former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Snell is now joining a Padres team that had one of the best ERAs in the majors at 3.94. They also added Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs. After losing to the Dodgers in the NLDS, the Padres’ goal will be to try and take the NL West crown from the champs.

3. Lindor in the Big Apple

The New York Mets did not play any games this offseason in their quest to win the NL East and make the postseason. For starters, they signed free-agent catcher James McCann to a four-year deal. And then they acquired All-star shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco in a trade with the Cleveland Indians.

It was a hefty price to pay for the Mets as they had to give up two of their best middle infielders. However, with Lindor in the fold, it makes New York’s lineup scary with McCann, Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Brandon Nimmo, and Michael Conforto. If things start well for Lindor and the Mets, they next steps will be to sign him to an extension.

4. World Series or bust for the Yankees?

The other team in New York, the Yankees are once again in the contention to win the World Series this season, according to the oddsmakers. Unlike the Mets, the Yanks did not make many major moves this offseason other than bringing back DJ LeMahieu. The 32-year-old second baseman signed a six-year, $90 million to stay in the Bronx for the foreseeable future.

As we all know, the Yankees still have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the batting order. However, the biggest question mark is around the starting rotation, which lost three pitchers from last year’s team.

5. Springer and the Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays were one of the surprise and feel good stories from last season. Due to the on-going pandemic, they were forced to play their games in Buffalo, New York and still found a way to make it into the postseason. They should be in the same position this season after signing former Astros outfielder George Springer to a six-year, $150 million deal in free agency.

Last season, Spinger slashed .265/.359/.540 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI. If Toronto can continue to get big production, to go along with the development of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., they should be in contention for a playoff spot.

Other storylines to watch out for:

  • Year 2 for the Phillies and manager Joe Giraldi
  • How do the Tampa Bay re-tool after losing in the World Series
  • The Nolan Arenado experience in St. Louis
  • Will Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim make the postseason?
  • Which young player steps up and puts MLB on notice?