George Springer Will Probably Leave Houston As Free Agent
Both World Series teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays, figure to be favorites to return to the Fall Classic next year as well. It would be almost a sure bet that each one will at least qualify for the postseason, which is much more than you can say about almost half the teams who got in during the expanded rounds in 2020.
Here are the five teams that have the least odds of repeating a tip to the postseason in 2021.
Least likely to repeat as a playoff team is the one that had been a long shot to make it in 2020, due to youth and a long layoff after a COVID-19 outbreak. The Marlins, whose record was good enough to reach second place to nab one of the eight playoff slots, will again be long shots to play beyond the regular season in 2021.
Miami does boast some talented young pitchers such as Sixto Sanchez and Jose Urena, as well as emerging sluggers like Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper. That being said, the overall inexperience in a competitive division will be exposed in a full 162 game season, in spite of being managed by miracle worker Don Mattingly.
Even though the defending 2019 American League Champions came just one game shy of making a consecutive World Series, the Astros might have less chance than the Marlins of playing after 162 in 2021. The only edge it has over Miami is its division, for the American League West is much less competitive than the National League East.
The problems with the Astros were already exposed in the regular season, as their 28-32 record clearly indicates. They did manage to get hot at the right time, playing well enough to advance two rounds.
Not only do the Houston players have to face the hostility from fans resenting the cheating scandal, but they also may be without several of the key pieces that brought them their first World Series Championship a few years ago. George Springer is eligible for free agency, and rotation ace Justin Verlander will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last month.
Another bad sign for Houston's chances to repeat a trip to the postseason regards All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who has inexplicably lost his ability to make accurate throws. In a span of eight innings in the A.L.C.S., Altuve committed three throwing errors and on a half a dozen other occasions relayed balls that bounced or short-hopped his targeted infielder.
His throwing troubles were so alarming that the announcers mentioned past infielders Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch, who both suffered throwing disorders that shortened their careers. It was reported that, at some point before game four, Sax actually contacted Altuve.
Craig Counsell's crew was the last team to qualify for its third straight postseason and, assuming MLB goes back to the five team format, the string of playoff appearances will end with 2021. Even though the Brewers finally found an ace for the rotation and will finally shed the shackles of Ryan Braun's $20 million contract, they have very little proven talent outside of Christian Yelich.
Former all-star Lorenzo Cain has seen a decline in his performance since joining Milwaukee and, after sitting out 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, it is doubtful if he will ever become the player who led Kansas City to the 2015 World Series Championship. Besides Cain the lineup is expected to feature castoffs from other teams, such as Dan Vogelbach, Jed Gyorko and Justin Smoak.
So bad are their prospects for a second straight trip to the playoffs, that President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams abruptly quit after the Reds got shut out in the two game sweep by Atlanta. As that series sadly pointed out, Cincinnati has a frightening lack of offensive consistency.
Before last season the front office spent big to shore up the batting order, but neither the acquisition of Mike Moustakas nor Nick Castellanos nor Shogo Akiyama improved the run production. Assuming that problem still exists heading into 2021, it will be even more of a challenge for the Reds to make the postseason without free agency bound starter Trevor Bauer.
The seventh seed got in the expanded playoffs in spite of finishing third in the American Central, which is where they are likely to end up next year. Minnesota and Chicago are much stronger teams, and Cleveland will almost surely play 2021 without free agency bound shortstop Francisco Lindor.
His absence will make it even more difficult to get runs out of a lineup dependent on inconsistent Jose Ramirez and aging Carlos Santana, as well as castoffs like Franmeil Reyes and Cesar Hernandez. Shane Bieber is certainly a bright spot as the ace of the rotation, but he cannot pitch enough shutouts to get the Indians into a five-team playoff format.