Biggest Storylines Heading into 2021 MLB Season

The New York Mets made a much needed splash this offseason by acquiring All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians.

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The New York Mets made a much needed splash this offseason by acquiring All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor from the Cleveland Indians.

Nick Allen, Sports Writer

Spring training is underway, and Opening Day is only a couple of weeks away. Following a 60-game regular season last year, Major League Baseball is looking to play a normal 162-game regular season that is scheduled for Apr. 1 under strict health and safety protocols due to COVID-19. There were some big storylines this offseason including a couple blockbuster trades and free-agent signings, and with the start of the MLB season in sight, we look at the eight biggest storylines that you should look out for this season.
1. Francisco Lindor to the Mets
The New York Mets made a splash in the Big Apple this offseason by acquiring all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor as well as pitcher Carlos Carrasco from the Cleveland Indians. The addition of Lindor puts the Mets one step closer to reaching their goal of winning the World Series. “If I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years – I’d like to make it sooner – I would consider that slightly disappointing,” Mets owner Steve Cohen said. The Mets currently have the sixth best odds to win the World Series at 12/1 and the second best odds to win the National League East according to vegasinsider.com.
2. The Dodgers add National League Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer
The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off their first World Series title since 1988, the Dodgers are looking to repeat with a stellar batting lineup and pitching rotation. Surprisingly, the Dodgers actually got better this offseason when they added reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Trevor Bauer, who agreed to a three-year, $102 million deal. Bauer is coming off a career year, posting a 1.73 earned run average and striking out 100 batters in 73 innings. The addition of Bauer adds to what is already one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, joining Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price and Dustin May. “I want to be a member of a winning team. I want to be a member of an organization that values me and I value them,” Trevor Bauer said after joining the Dodgers. The Dodgers currently have the best odds to repeat as World Series Champions at 4/1.
3. Padres and Fernando Tatis Jr. agree to massive contract extension
The team the Dodgers should fear the most in the National League is the San Diego Padres. The Padres finished the 2020 regular season with a 37-23 record which placed them second in the National League, only six games behind the Dodgers.. The Padres also added pitching depth in the offseason including Mark Melancon, Mike Clevinger from the Indians, last year’s NL Cy Young award runner up Yu Darvish, , and the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell from the Rays.
But the biggest news this offseason from the Padres was the massive extension San Diego gave to its star-studded shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis and San Diego agreed to a 14-year contract worth $340 million. “He wanted to be one of those very unique players that play his career in one spot… he loves the franchise, he loves the city, he loves his teammates,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller said after finalizing the deal. The 22-year-old is coming off a tremendous season, hitting 17 home runs and 45 runs batted in. Those numbers gave him a fourth place finish in the National League MVP race. With all those storylines for the Padres, they look destined to make a World Series run. San Diego currently has the third best odds to win the World Series at 9/1.
4. The Blue Jays sign a much needed veteran
Star outfielder George Springer and the Blue Jays agreed to a six-year, $150 million deal. Springer had been the top target for the Blue Jays all offseason long, as the team was looking to bring a veteran leader into a locker room full of young talent. Springer hit 14 home runs and 32 runs batted in a shortened season last year and in 2019 he hit a career high 39 home runs and 96 runs batted in. With the addition of Springer, the Blue Jays are in win-now mode.
Springer knows what it takes to win, he was named the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2017 when the Astros beat the Dodgers. The Blue Jays finished third in the American League East and advanced to the postseason in the shortened 2020 season. The Blue Jays are definitely moving in the right direction, as they also acquired shortstop Marcus Semien from the Oakland A’s.
The offseason additions of Springer and Semien add to what is already a star-studded young team with players like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Cavan Biggio. That lineup might prove to be the most exciting team to watch in all of baseball.
5. St. Louis adds star third baseman
The Cardinals made a much needed move this offseason by acquiring one of the best third basemen in baseball, Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies. Arenado is a five-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Arenado played his first eight seasons with the Rockies, where he established himself as one of the best all around players in the league.Over his last 5 seasons he has hit for 27 home runs and 110 RBI’s every year.
“I’m very excited to join this team. It’s a bittersweet moment, right? I’m going to miss some of the boys on the Rockies… But coming to a team like St. Louis with great players and great history, I’m just super excited. I’ve always admired this organization from afar… I plan on staying here for a long time,” Arenado said in his press conference.
The Cardinals agreed to restructure Arenado’s mega contract, adding a year onto the back end of the deal (making it run through 2027) with player opt-outs after the 2021 and 22 seasons.
The Cardinals haven’t had success in the postseason even though they have made the postseason six times since winning the World Series in 2011. But they should be back on the rise after acquiring six-time All-Star and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in 2019 and now Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals currently have the 11th best odds to win the World Series at 22/1.
6. Can Mike Trout lead the Angels to the postseason?
Mike Trout is the best player in the game right now, and he has put up numbers that only some of the greatest the game has ever seen have done. But unlike some of the greatest to ever do it, Mike Trout has only been to the postseason one time. That was back in 2014, and the Angels were swept in the ALDS.
The Angels have never had the supporting cast to make the Angels playoff-worthy until they acquired All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon from the Nationals in December of 2019. Rendon helped lead the Nationals to their first World Series Championship over the Astros in 2019.
One of the major issues the Angels partially solved this offseason was their pitching rotation. The Angels added Jose Quintana from the Cubs and Alex Cobb from the Orioles. But will that be enough to help lead the Angels to the postseason for the first time since 2014?
The Angels currently have the 19th best odds to win the World Series at 40/1.
7. Tony La Russa back in the game
The Chicago White Sox were one of the most surprising and exciting teams to watch last season. The White Sox finished the regular season 35-25, tied for the second best record in the American League Central. But a disappointing first round exit in the Wild Card game in the postseason led to the firing of the former White Sox manager Rick Renteria. Less than three weeks after the firing of Renteria, the White Sox stunned the baseball world by hiring Tony La Russa. La Russa, 76, last managed the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 when they won the World Series. The White Sox organization and La Russa are very familiar with each other, as La Russa managed the White Sox from 1979-1986.
Fast forward almost 35 years, and La Russa and the White Sox have reunited.
La Russa is going to a team that is well-positioned to contend in the American League for years to come. Led by the American League MVP last season Jose Abrue and the 2019 batting champion Tim Anderson, this team is full of young talent. Not to mention slugger Eloy Jiminez, third baseman Yoan Moncada and the former third-ranked prospect Luis Robert who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting last season. This White Sox team is absolutely loaded with offensive firepower.
The Sox also has one of the best young pitching rotations in baseball. They added Lance Lynn in the offseason from the Texas Rangers. Lynn finished sixth in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, and his arrival gives the Sox another veteran arm they very much needed last season. Lynn joins Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito who both finished in the top seven voting for the Cy Young award last season, as well as young aces Dylan Cease, Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech if he can stay healthy, and star reliever Liam Hendriks.
With the hiring of Tony La Russa, all the young talent and the pitching help they have acquired this offseason, the White Sox are a World Series or bust type of team.
The Sox currently have the fifth best odds to win the World Series at 10/1.
8. World Series title or bust for the Braves and Yankees
Both the Yankees and Braves had disappointing endings to their seasons. The Yankees finished with the second best record in the American League East with a 33-27 record. Their great season ended when New York lost in the American League Divisional Series to the Rays in five games.
The Atlanta Braves finished with the best record in the National League East with a 35-25 record. Atlanta made a deep run in the postseason and advanced to the National Championship Series against the Dodgers. Atlanta jumped out to a three games to one lead, however, Los Angeles won the next three games to advance to the World Series.
Both teams were quiet in the offseason, but the Yankees did sign three-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award Winner Corey Kluber from the Texas Rangers. New York also re-signed second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a six-year, $90 million contract. Atlanta signed third baseman, Jake Lamb from the Arizona Diamondbacks as well as pitchers Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly and Atlanta also re-signed Marcell Ozuna.
Both teams are heading into the 2021 season with a World Series title on their mind. Atlanta and New York dealt with major injuries last season, but if both teams can stay healthy they are definitely a threat to the Dodgers, Padres, and Rays.
The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles but haven’t won one since 2009. New York currently has the second best odds to win the World Series at 6/1. The Braves have only won one World Series title since moving to Atlanta which was in 1995. Atlanta currently has the third best odds to win the World Series at 9/1.

There were a lot of shifts and changes that took place this offseason and some that could have major World Series implications. We will have to wait just a couple more weeks until we see how these trades and free-agent signings impact their new teams.