As thermometers across the nation begin to creep upwards, as we emerge from the throes of winter, the sound of bats cracking and gloves popping starts to fill our ears. That’s right, baseball season is nearly here and your favorite players have descended upon Arizona or Florida (depending on where they’re headquartered for spring) to begin the “warming up,” as it were, for the return of the national pastime.
During the winter months, it can be hard to keep track of the comings and goings on the diamond, so we’ve compiled a few of the biggest storylines, as the first week of spring training officially rolls on.
MLB Holding Free Agent Camp
One of the biggest and most contentious topics of discussion during the offseason has been the perceived lack of urgency from teams in signing free agents. After years of seeing eye-popping contracts handed out each winter, the lack of big deals was notable. But it wasn’t just the top-end guys left looking for a deal. Many free agents found themselves sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring. So in an effort to make sure that those players can get ready for the season like their counterparts who do have contracts, the MLB Players Association is holding a free agent camp for just the second time in the sport’s history.
Yu Darvish Signs With Cubs
One player who won’t be at free agent camp is pitcher Yu Darvish, who signed a six-year $126 million deal with the Chicago Cubs just prior to the report date for pitchers and catchers. Darvish, 31, is coming off a season in which he compiled a 10-12 record, across 31 starts split between the Rangers and Dodgers, with a 3.86 ERA. However, his year is more remembered for his meltdown in a pair of World Series starts, in which he gave up eight earned runs in just over three innings pitched. Cubs fans hope he’ll have a shot at redemption if he helps the Cubs make the Fall Classic this year.
First Look At Japanese Star Shohei Ohtani
Ohtani was one of the most coveted signings of the offseason, and the 25-year-old decided to take his talents to Southern California, signing with the Angels. Ohtani was a two way star in Japan, hitting .286 with 48 homers and 163 RBI in just under 400 plate appearances, while also posting a 42-15 record and a sub-3 ERA as a starter. He’ll have the chance to do both in the majors as well, as the Angels have said they’ll use a six-man rotation to give him time to be in the lineup as a DH on off-days.