As we near the end of 2018, another season is in the books. Every team this holiday season has a reason to reflect on this past year. After all, there is a silver lining to everything, right? What should each team be thankful for?
Boston Red Sox: There are many things the Sox can be thankful for, the biggest for 2018 has to be the late free agent signing of J.D. Martinez. He added power to their lineup, and, at times, filled the DH void. 188 hits, 43 home runs and 130 RBIs later, they are thankful for J.D.
New York Yankees: Much like Boston, there are many things to be thankful for. The Yankees finally found their core team. Aaron Boone isn’t half-bad as a manager either. But they should be most thankful for not losing a step and staying on track. When Joe Girardi was let go and then trading for Giancarlo Stanton and his heavy contract headlined last off-season, it looked like the Yankees might be a victim of their former selves. Buy big and role the dice. They didn’t though. They bought big, yes, but continued to maintain the development of their homegrown talent. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Luis Severino are the true core here. It’s a good mix that makes this Yankees team, outside of New York, likable again.
Tampa Bay Rays: They are thankful for trading one-time centerpieces Evan Longoria and Chris Archer. The competition in the AL East is sick. And the Rays have to keep up with the Joneses. Their farm is absolutely stacked and we’re starting to see the benefits of this from past trades as those returned prospects continue to make their MLB debuts.
Toronto Blue Jays: The progress of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. they are thankful for. Like the rippling water in Jurassic Park, Vlad Jr. is coming. He’s considered the number one prospect in all of baseball by almost everyone and has risen through the minor league ranks very fast. He’s a plus hitter with 30 to 40-homer potential. Everything points at him being a perennial star when he debuts in 2019.
Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore is thankful for the rebuild process. Of course it killed them to say goodbye to Manny Machado. He was their guy. Much like a few other teams in the league, the Orioles were dragging their feet on going all in on the rebuild. Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, and most likely Adam Jones this off-season, is an overhaul that will finally put focus on their struggling farm system.
Cleveland Indians: A weak division, that’s what the Indians are thankful for. The AL Central is the weakest division in all of baseball, with no sign of getting any better for the next couple seasons still. They’ve won the division title the past 3 years and counting. The window is still open but not for long.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer‘s retirement is what Minnesota is thankful for. Joe Mauer will go down as one of the best Twins players of all time. He’ll have his number retired and the whole shebang. But the past few years the Twins have been stuck in a past that brought them success years ago. Mauer retiring brings a new environment to Minnesota, which will hopefully restart Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano‘s productivity again.
Detroit Tigers: Trading Leonys Martin and Mike Fiers is what Detroit is most thankful for this year. They got a slew of solid prospects in return that are shaping their future nicely. Shortstop Willi Castro was the prize return in the Martin-to-Cleveland trade, and right-handed pitcher Logan Shore was the best prospect in the Fiers-to-Oakland trade.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox should be thankful for Jose Abreu and all he has done for them. The south-side could’ve seen Abreu suit up in the pinstripes for the last time this season. While he had a respectable year, his numbers don’t quite jump off the page. But he has given the Sox a reason to be thankful as he was the only name on that roster that sold tickets. Every game he put his head down and played the game and didn’t complain about the agonizing rebuild the club continues to go through. Though he is victim of that process, he will be missed by the south-side if he leaves this off-season.
Kansas City Royals: It’s ugly right now in KC. Not long ago they sat on the throne of the league. Now they’re starting over. There is a silver lining here, however. They must be thankful they didn’t sign Eric Hosmer to a long term deal. He wanted too much money that would’ve set the franchise back years. The Padres are stuck with him now and if 2018 showed any hint of what they’ll be getting now that he’s in his prime, the Royals can breath a sigh of relief. There’s good young pieces coming up that will help mold this one-time powerhouse in the Midwest.
Houston Astros: The 2017 World Series champions sort of kept the momentum going all year, so we could thank the same people. Justin Verlander became their ace and almost won his second Cy Young. Could they thank him? Sure. Alex Bregman took a big leap in his second full season with the club, becoming a dark horse MVP candidate. Could they thank him? They could. Who they really should thank is the media though. How the media didn’t torch them for signing Roberto Osuna is beyond me. There was some heat in the beginning but it quickly dissipated. Osuna was signed before charges were dropped, and that alone could’ve hurt the team’s brand. Somehow, even after the chargers were dropped, they kept their heads above water and ignored any backlash.
Oakland Athletics: They’re thankful for 3x manager of the year winner Bob Melvin. Being a small market team, the A’s roster is always changing. Melvin has had to keep up with those changes and finesse his lineups, pitching rotations and bullpens since 2011. If there is any manager out there who can work analytics to their advantage it’s Bob Melvin, no matter who is on the roster.
Seattle Mariners: A year from now the Mariners will be most thankful for having Felix Hernandez‘s contract off the books. This year they are thankful for kicking off the beginning of their fire sale by trading pitcher James Paxton to the Yankees, thus potentially kicking off a rebuild. Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and maybe Dee Gordon are the only ones that could hang around. The rest might as well be slapped with a tag and put on the front lawn for sale.
Los Angeles Angels: Mike Scioscia retiring is what the Angels are most thankful for. Make no mistake, Scioscia is one of the finest managers this game has ever seen. But the Angels needed to move on. Whether his replacement in Brad Ausmus is the solution is yet to be determined, but to keep Mike Trout around and build something different, the Angels needed to mix things up.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers seem to be rebuilding again. Change the record. If they are thankful for anything it’s Jurickson Profar‘s 2018 campaign. This was a make or break season for Curacao native and he delivered. No, he didn’t light up the league or even his own team, but he finally appeared comfortable in his role and his production helped gave them perspective on what to actually do with him. The not so long ago number one prospect in all of baseball has stumbled quite a bit in his first few seasons.
Atlanta Braves: They almost have too many things to be thankful for. They have a true game manager, who is respected, in Brian Snitker. Good, young talent on both sides of the field. And they even had an early start to making a run at it; something most thought was another year or two away. But in 2018 the Braves should thank the Phillies for their colossal fall of a September. Their NL East rival went 8-20 down the stretch, eliminating themselves from any postseason berth. Maybe they should even thank the Phillies for their overall second half, where they went 27-40 overall.
Washington Nationals: One name: Juan Soto. Near the end of the 2017 season the gray clouds were moving in over D.C. Everyone knew Bryce Harper‘s last season was finally coming the next year. The emergence of Juan Soto eases the pain of Harper’s leaving.
Philadelphia Phillies: Manager Gabe Kapler is at the top of the thankful list. His start with the club was shaky, but he eventually settled in and brought a different atmosphere to a franchise that was desperately trying to find its identity. September wasn’t good to Kapler and his crew, let’s be honest, but he overshot expectations and brought Philly back into the discussion of contending in the NL East.
New York Mets: Never has a pitcher since Felix Hernandez in 2010 dominated his starts the way Jacob deGrom did in 2018, and not have as many wins as most Cy Young Award winners. If the Mets wanted to be even more thankful for deGrom they would give him a better defense and bullpen in 2019.
Miami Marlins: Miami is thankful that their first season after their latest fire sale is over. No team has taken as much ridicule, or has been the butt of more jokes than the Miami Marlins since Jeffrey Loria sold them and Derek Jeter dismantled the team. With a full season behind them, maybe the focus will switch to what they have instead of what they lost.
Milwaukee Brewers: It has to be Christian Yelich they’re thankful for, right? Too easy? Yeah. The newest NL MVP took Milwaukee to new heights and finally gave them, what appears to be, a longstanding winning franchise. When Yelich was traded to Milwaukee from Miami, he was able to step out of Stanton’s shadow and show he’s a player a team can build around too.
Chicago Cubs: Easy, Yu Darvish. Kidding. The Cubs are thankful for Addison Russell being out of their lineup. His personal issues aside, Russell created a log jam at shortstop and in a way kind of hindered Javier Baez. Baez moving to short really shot him out of a cannon. With Kris Bryant down most of the season and Anthony Rizzo not lighting the world on fire, Baez carried the team at times and wound up finishing second in the NL MVP race.
St. Louis Cardinals: Why not Yadier Molina? The Cardinals are thankful for him. At 36 he caught 123 games while playing in his ninth All-Star game and winning his ninth Gold Glove Award. He hit 20 home runs and was more productive than any 35+ year-old catcher in the league. There’s talk of retirement in a year or two, and when he does leave the game he will be considered one of the best at his position ever. Thank him now, St. Louis. There isn’t much time left.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are thankful for their devoted fan base. No franchise in baseball has endured more devastation than they have in the past 20 years. When they happen to get a few good prospects that become stars they sell them for spare parts. Hometown favorite Andrew McCutchen was the latest casualty of the same old tale of small market teams. There was talk of boycotting games by fans, media, and event local sponsors early on. Somehow that never came to fruition. At the end of the day, the fans still came. Media still showed up. Sponsors stayed on with the team. Pittsburgh needs to thank their fans.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds are thankful for having another top-10 draft pick again. This makes it four years in a row now. Truth be told, the picks have been solid so far too. It compares to Houston’s earlier drafts before they became who they are today. The Reds are hoping to strike the same luck.
Los Angeles Dodgers: While the Manny Machado trade gave them a power bat going into the postseason, the Dodgers are truly most thankful for Walker Buehler. Clayton Kershaw had an up-and-down 2018 that was a mix of injuries and inconsistent starts. Buehler was a bright spot in the rotation, once he finally found his groove. He was asked to step in for Kershaw when he was hurt and Buehler took the challenge in stride. In his two appearances in the NLCS he struck out 15 batters in 11.2 innings pitched. Not bad for the young ace.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies will, and probably always will, be thankful for Nolan Arenado. Whether they have a good or bad year, Arenado is Mr. Reliable in all aspects of his game. He never disappoints. It’s a shame he’s never won an MVP yet. The Rockies put out a good club this year, but if it weren’t for good ole number 28, they wouldn’t even sniff a postseason game. Arenado is a 4x All-Star, 6x Gold Glove winner, 3x home run leader, 2x NL RBI leader and 4x Silver Slugger winner and he’s only 27. Come contract time in the next couple years, I’ve got three simple words for Colorado: “Pay the man”.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Arizona is thankful they didn’t win J.D. Martinez in free agency. They give a hell of an effort this year, and came up short of a postseason berth. Hell of an effort. But how long can they last on fumes? Teams in the NL West are just getting better. Prospects are starting to rise up and form new winners. Arizona can’t fall behind. Do they trade Paul Goldschmidt and embrace the rebuild? They should. If they signed Martinez, he would’ve been another Goldy on a team that won’t do any real damage in the West, and might play a postseason series once in a while for the next few years, all while eating up all the money they should be spending on younger talent.
San Francisco Giants: Much like the D-backs, the Giants need to embrace a rebuild. While there are signs of that, most notably trading Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees for prospects, the Giants are most thankful for actually drafting a difference maker in catcher Joey Bart. Bart is the kind of catcher that is a rarity these days. He projects as a future star at the plate as well as behind it.
San Diego Padres: San Diego is thankful for the trade that gifted them switch-hitting catcher Francisco Mejia. He’s a top-30 prospect with crazy tools and can even play third base. That’s the kind of versatility that will make him a valuable everyday player. The Mejia trade rounds out one of the most impressive farm systems in all of baseball.