We tell you why you should be paying attention to baseball in January
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It’s the first week of January. The NFL playoffs are ready to go, as is the Alabama/Clemson National Championship rematch. The NBA and NHL are in full swing. The winter meetings are long since over. These could easily be called the “Dog Days of Winter” as far as baseball is concerned. It’s easy to let MLB fall to the back-burner at this time of year, but here’s five reasons you shouldn’t wait until Spring Training to start paying attention again:

⦁ Unsigned Free Agents

The Hot Stove may have cooled down but there are still plenty of big-name players who are looking for a good home. Bats are always in high demand, subpar defense be damned! So rest assured, the likes of Mike Napoli, Jose Bautista, and Mark Trumbo will find suitors for 2017. At this point it’s likely to come below their original asking prices (ahem, like the reported $150 Million Bautista requested from Toronto prior to last season), so these guys may have to swallow some pride in order to ink their next contract.

You know what else is always in high demand? Starting pitching. From Jason Hammel and Doug Fister to Tyson Ross and Nate Eovaldi, there’s quality veterans as well as high-upside, unproven commodities to be had. And once you get to the bullpen, superstar closer Kenley Jansen is still available, for the right price of course.

⦁ Controversial Hall of Fame Voting

You can make cases for and against almost every player on the ballot, and this is before we even touch the thorny issue of steroid use. Let’s focus on a different type of case entirely, that of disgraced former pitcher Curt Schilling.

His resume:

216-146 career regular season record
11-2 career postseason record
3,116 strikeouts
6x All-Star
3x World Series Champion
2001 World Series MVP
May have once bled into his sock during an otherwise non-descript outing of little consequence (ok, ok, that’s just the Yankee fan in me coming out)

A guy like that sounds like a sure-fire hall of famer, but right now he’s only gotten about 54% of the vote, far short of the required 75%. Those not voting from him claim to be invoking the little-used “character clause” due to Schilling’s outspoken and controversial conservative views, albeit, the same views that got him fired from ESPN last year.

Do not mistake this as me defending Schilling’s views in any way whatsoever. In fact, I strongly disagree with his general existence. However, I for one am of the opinion that, outside of criminal activity, a player’s on the filed accomplishments should far outweigh anything else. These out-of-touch voters need to put their personal feelings aside and do the right thing: Vote him in (although it does not help that he recently referred to the voters as “scumbags” and “the worst human beings I’ve ever known”). Plus, how hilariously awkward would a Schilling acceptance speech be?

⦁ New CBA

Is there anything more exciting than organized labor??? (You’re right, probably not)

Relax, there’s going to be a World Series this year, this isn’t 1994. There was never any serious threat of a work stoppage. Players and owners reached a tentative deal in late November on a new collective bargaining agreement that will run through the 2021 season. Here are the key points you need to know:

⦁ World Series home-field advantage is assigned to the team with the best record, not the league winning the All-Star Game.
⦁ The 15-day disabled list is now the 10-day disabled list. (Good news for us fantasy enthusiasts)
⦁ New international series that will see regular season ballgames in Mexico, Asia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and London.
⦁ Teams will no longer have to surrender first-round picks to sign players who declined qualifying offers. Teams will however give up third-rounders if they’re under the luxury tax or second and fifth-rounders if they’re over.
⦁ The owners voted to put the screws to Oakland and phase them out of revenue sharing, seemingly because the A’s were previously hoarding checks while literally playing in a dump – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/05/21/oakland-coliseum-has-a-plumbing-issue-and-the-yankees-are-its-latest-victim/?utm_term=.7fcd632fb8fa

Some of these changes are long overdue, and the last point is just flat out amusing.

⦁ Futures betting

It’s never too early to start gambling! Currently the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs are 4-1 favourites to win it all again. Coming in right behind them at 5-1 are the Boston Red Sox, getting such odds thanks in large part to their offseason acquisition of Chris Sale. Looking for some value? Perennial contenders like the Cardinals and Rangers are both 25-1. Just make the playoffs; it’s all a crapshoot from there, right? Looking for a Hail Mary? Arizona is 100-1. I mean, at least they got rid of Dave Stewart. Perhaps the baseball gods will smile upon them. See Bovada.lv for a comprehensive list of all MLB Futures.

⦁ Pablo’s Weight

 

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If the Sox can get him to play at even a below-average level, it’d still be a massive upgrade over what they’ve received so far.

His weight issues already well-known, the Kung-Fu Panda signed a 5-year $95 Million contract with Boston prior to the 2015 season. Since then, the most memorable thing he has done is break his belt while swinging (and missing) and then promptly going on the DL for the rest of the year due to season-ending shoulder surgery. It’s safe to say this has been their worst signing since Carl Crawford, only this time, there’s no bailout waiting to save them. However, this might not be a lost cause just yet, as recent photos show Pablo looking more like a ballplayer and less like a future victim of heart disease.
While the calendar did just turn over to 2017 less than a week ago, there’s still more than enough baseball news to go around, and more to come; remember, pitchers and catchers report in a little over five weeks.

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