The Rundown: Expansion Could Change Rivalries, Cubs Open 5-Year Contention Window with Counsell Hire, White Sox Trade Bummer

I usually reserve this section for my opinion on the current state of the Cubs, but I’m going to call an audible today. The A’s are officially moving from Oakland to Las Vegas and the landscape of baseball will change dramatically before the end of this decade because of it. The new stadium is expected to open in 2028 and the Athletics have one year left on their current lease at the Oakland Coliseum. They would like to be baseball nomads starting with the 2025 season.

Coincidentally and significantly, the Rays will begin playing in their new stadium in ’28 and AFI Field in Milwaukee is going to get the stadium upgrades necessary to keep the Brewers from relocating. The league will undoubtedly next pivot toward expansion to 32 teams and could move swiftly on that front. Nashville is nearly a slam dunk to get one franchise, and five other cities — Montreal, Salt Lake City, Portland, Oakland, and Charlotte — are competing for the other opening.

Once expansion is finalized, realignment will follow. The league could go to four eight-team divisions or eight four-team divisions, just like the NFL. The universal DH, the balanced schedule, and expanded playoffs are the strongest indicators that MLB is preparing for a 32-team league. Rob Manfred has stated he’d like to eliminate the American and National Leagues in favor of conferences, also like the NFL.

I’m not going to attempt to guess what realignment would look like, but geographically-based conferences seem to make the most sense. That would change existing rivalries, an interesting novelty that I think would eventually dilute those matchups. Manfred and the league owners who support him have no problem homogenizing the game as long as it increases revenues and reduces expenses.

One would hope Manfred does his best to keep the Cubs’ existing rivalries with the Cardinals and Brewers intact. If four-team divisions are the consensus, maybe they’ll add the White Sox in there as well. I wouldn’t mind seeing the New York teams share a division, and the same goes for the Orioles and Nationals. The oddest geographical division might include the Diamondbacks, Rockies, A’s, and an expansion team if Salt Lake City gets a franchise.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

All you needed was a disclaimer during baseball’s formative years.

Central Intelligence

Friday Stove

Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. are the unanimous choices for the 2023 AL and NL MVP awards.

Jon Heyman of the New York Post explained that he spoke with “two experts” about contracts free agents could sign this offseason. One of those individuals forecasted that Ohtani would ink a 10-year deal worth $400 million that would allow him to potentially opt out after one season. Heyman also expects Bellinger to get $240 million on an eight-year deal.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto reportedly prefers a West Coast team according to Heyman.

The Guardians traded starter Cal Quantrill to the Rockies for minor league catcher Kody Huff.

The White Sox and Braves agreed on a semi-blockbuster trade yesterday. Aaron Bummer is going to Atlanta for Michael Soroka, Jared Shuster, Nicky Lopez, Braden Shewmake, and Riley Gowens.

Four teams are interested in Reds infielder Jonathan India.

The league is considering a reduced pitch timer when runners are on base.

Atlanta will host the 2025 All-Star Game.

Extra Innings

Seiya Suzuki is good at baseball.

They Said It

  • “Great relievers are great friends to managers at the back end of the game. Nobody asked me about putting Devin Williams in a game ever or Josh Hader. You don’t get questions about that. So I understand that. But I think teams are composed differently and they’re made up differently. You take advantage of the strengths of your players. Find their strengths, understand their strengths, and listen to their strengths.” – Craig Counsell
  • “One hundred and sixty-two games is a marathon. In our game, the decisions you make are rewarded over the marathon. And players, frankly, are rewarded over the marathon. In short playoff series, we have luck in our game. You control less in really short stints in this game. It forces aggressiveness in managers, I think. The mindset you have to take into the playoffs is aggressiveness. You still have to trust your great players. But with an aggressive mindset.” – Counsell
  • “We’ll have a lot of trade discussions. We’ll meet with a lot of agents [about potential free agents]. But most importantly for me was it’s not about selling ’24 and what it means; it’s about selling this next wave of talent. This next run. I think that that’s important. It’s not just about one year — it’s about a lot of years.” – Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

Sending you into the weekend with a stone groove.

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