Most MLB spring training facilities are shut down after several players and personnel tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. This marks yet another unprecedented development in baseball’s path to a return. It might be time for fans to consider which teams would be most impacted by a season cancellation.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers won 106 games last season but didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. Now, one season later, Los Angeles believes they have the missing piece to win their first World Series since 1988. They paid a stiff price to acquire Mookie Betts and David Price from the Boston Red Sox. But a season cancellation would make this deal a tragedy for Los Angeles. Betts will hit the free-agent market next season and might never play a game in Dodger blue. Superstars Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler would also miss seasons in their prime, making things harder to stomach. The Dodgers believe this is their year to win it all, assuming the season gets off the ground.
2. New York Mets
No team in baseball underperformed last season as much as the New York Mets did. There’s the back-to-back Cy Young Award winner in Jacob deGrom and Rookie of the Year and Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso to start things. Together, the Mets look like they could be the best team in the NL East on paper. Of course, there are also problems, including a bullpen that needs a good season to re-establish its confidence. But the biggest crime of a cancelled season? Missing the long-awaited return of Yoenis Céspedes, who’s played in only one game since July 2018. He and Marcus Stroman are set to be free agents next season, too.
3. Cleveland Indians
The Indians find themselves on the opposite end of their divisional rival Chicago White Sox. Cleveland is trying to hold onto the resurgence that earned them the American League pennant and World Series runner-up in 2016. As of late the main concern has surrounded the presence of their star shortstop Francisco Lindor. Will the Indians trade him before free agency in 2022? Regardless, Cleveland has a solid young pitching rotation, headed by budding ace Shane Bieber and a returning Mike Clevinger. A cancelled season would pose more questions about the team’s offense, where 10 players legitimately have a chance to start in their outfield. First baseman Carlos Santana also has a club option next year.
Upside: Lindor’s impending free agency is on everyone’s mind. Still, a cancelled season could make a trade return on the shortstop even more valuable.
4. Chicago White Sox
With their last postseason appearance coming in 2008, it has been a long time since the White Sox have looked this good. Chicago expects four of their top 10 prospects to debut this season. In fact, the Sox minor league system has four players in the top 40 overall of MLB Pipeline. The White Sox have also committed to a ‘win now’ approach with key additions of Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación this offseason. Without a regular season, the club could instead lose several key players in free agency. Thus, exit closing pitcher Alex Colomé, catcher James McCann and utilityman Leury Garcia.
Upside: The White Sox retain a year of control on their prospects if they don’t debut this season.
5. Chicago Cubs
The North Siders are already working on borrowed time, and a season cancellation would not help the franchise’s current trajectory. The National League Central figures to be tight again this season. Production from Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez would figure to keep the Cubs competitive. That trio, along with Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber are all set to be free agents in 2022, meaning next year could be their last in Chicago. The Cubs know they’ll have to make a financial decision about who they want to re-sign sooner than later. A cancelled season makes Chicago’s decision even more important.
Upside: A year with no baseball would give Theo Epstein more chances to evaluate his options surrounding players.
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