Much attention has been given to the number of MLB teams that are currently going through rebuilding processes, but there are still a number of teams trying to win it all this season. The race for the World Series should be thrilling in 2019, with a lot of talented teams from both leagues that can correctly claim that they have a chance at winning the whole thing.
Some teams definitely have a better chance than others, though. Here are the top 10 preseason contenders for the 2019 World Series.
10) St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals never take missing the playoffs well, and that usually provokes a reaction. This offseason, that reaction was to acquire Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the hopes of turning their fortunes around. Goldschmidt has since signed an extension, and that’s great news for a Cardinals team that won 88 games last year. If their talented young pitchers continue to mature, they stand a great chance of making the playoffs, even in a tough division, and anything can happen once they get there.
There had been some talk that Justin Verlander and the Houston Astros may struggle to agree to terms on a short-term deal, but there may be a better chance of it than previously anticipated.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, it is at least “possible” that the Astros would be willing to go north of $60 million on a two-year deal to keep Verlander. Houston is an analytical organization that some believed would be hesitant to offer that kind of money to someone who will be 37 in 2020, especially with Verlander eager to set a new average annual value record for a pitcher.
Wrote today that an extension for Verlander with #Astros would appear to be a long shot. Sources today indicating a two-year deal for more than $60M is at least possible. Verlander earning $28M in 2019 and would want to approach Greinke’s record $34.4M AAV for a starting pitcher.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 22, 2019
Verlander has said he’d be willing to go short, but the caveat was that he added it would only happen if the value was right. That’s going to be the sticking point in any negotiations, and they could be fruitless if the Astros aren’t willing to push $35 million a year.
With MLB Opening Day less than a month away, Dallas Keuchel somehow has not found a job for the 2019 season. That could change now that Bryce Harper is no longer a free agent.
Jim Bowden of CBS Sports reports that the San Diego Padres have been in contact with Keuchel’s agent, and the Houston Astros also maintain interest in bringing the left-hander back.
Next on free agent watch list:
Craig Kimbrel #Twins staying in touch with agent.
It’s March 1st tomorrow.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) February 28, 2019
The Philadelphia Phillies were previously linked to Keuchel, but that is unlikely to happen now that they signed Harper to a $330 million deal. Although, one report claimed they wanted to sign Harper, Keuchel and another top free agent.
In addition to the aforementioned teams, the Atlanta Braves have also emerged as a potential suitor for Keuchel with starting pitchers Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman dealing with injuries.
The ailments Folty and Gausman are dealing with have not concerned the Braves to the point where they are now thinking about Keuchel https://t.co/EtOcGQ0BoC
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 28, 2019
Keuchel turned 31 this offseason, and his ERA jumped from 2.90 in 2017 to 3.74 in 2018. He made 34 starts for the Astros last season and threw over 200 innings, but his strikeout numbers were down a bit to 6.7 per nine innings and his 1.31 WHIP was his highest in six years. It’s possible teams view those as signs that he could be losing effectiveness, but Keuchel remains an elite talent who can be virtually unhittable when at his best.
Houston Astros fans are now thinking about what could have been.
Astros President and General Manager Jeff Luhnow confirmed on Thursday that the team had an agreement to acquire Bryce Harper in a trade prior to last year’s deadline.
Jeff Luhnow confirmed today the Astros had an agreement in principle to trade for Bryce Harper at last season’s trade deadline.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 14, 2019
The Washington Nationals made Harper available for trades last year and even placed him on revocable trade waivers. A November report said the Nats and Astros agreed to a trade that would have sent Harper to Houston for three prospects, but Nats ownership rejected it. On top of Houston, the Dodgers were another team that tried to acquire Harper in a trade.
Harper would have made for quite a rental for Houston, who ended up losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Harper remains unsigned as a free agent.
Michael Brantley had a very productive season with the Cleveland Indians last year that went fairly unnoticed, and the Houston Astros are hoping he can give them more of the same in 2019 and beyond.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports is reporting that the Astros are closing in on a two-year deal with Brantley that is believed to be worth somewhere around $32 million.
#Astros closing in on free-agent outfielder Michael Brantley, sources tell The Athletic. Rival executives expect deal to be in two-year, $32M range.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 17, 2018
Brantley, 31, hit .309 with 17 home runs and 76 RBI in Cleveland last season. He’s a career .295 hitter who missed a significant amount of time with injuries in 2016 and 2017, but he appeared in 143 games with the Indians last year. He should provide Houston with a nice boost in the outfield.
The Houston Astros have been exploring ways to improve a starting rotation that was one of the best in MLB history last season, and one player they are interested in happened to pitch quite well against them in the playoffs.
Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Astros have shown interest in signing former Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.
#Astros showing continued interest in free agent Nathan Eovaldi, sources say. He is the second best pitcher ever from Alvin, Texas. And if Eovaldi signs with Houston, No. 1 on that list will watch him pitch from a seat behind home plate . . . @MLBNetwork @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 28, 2018
As Morosi referenced, Eovaldi grew up in the same Texas town as Hall of Famer and Astros executive advisor Nolan Ryan. In addition to having roots in common with him, Eovaldi also has an explosive fastball like Ryan did, so it’s no surprise Houston is infatuated with the right-hander.
Eovaldi has also been linked to other top teams in the American League, which is no surprise given his postseason heroics. He allowed just four earned runs in 22.1 innings during the playoffs and was one of the most important pieces of a team that won the World Series.
The Houston Astros had one of the best starting rotations in MLB history this season, but they are still exploring ways to improve it heading into 2019.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Astros are among the teams who have inquired about potentially trading for Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton.
#Astros on list of teams talking to #Mariners about a trade for LHP James Paxton, sources say. Market described as “active,” including HOU, NYY and a wide variety of other clubs. Paxton in his career against HOU: 2.89 ERA in 71 2/3 innings, .605 opponents’ OPS.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2018
Paxton, 30, has a career ERA of 3.42. He was 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA in 28 starts with Seattle this season, and he is still under team control for two more years. While he has a lengthy injury history, the Astros and New York Yankees are both said to have interest in him. That’s good news for the Mariners.
In any other season, the Astros may have repeated as World Series champions. The Boston Red Sox were simply too good, and Alex Bregman shed some light on just how good he felt the 2018 Houston team was. Players have to like the idea of management trying to make big improvements even after winning 103 games.