Welcome to The Opener, our new weekday morning series here at MLBTR! Nick Deeds will take you through three things to watch around MLB, with our typical hot stove leaning.
As the postseason continues and the baseball world gears up for the offseason, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on today across baseball:
1. The World Series Heads To Philadelphia
The World Series is set to return to Philadelphia for the first time since 2009 tonight, with Noah Syndergaard set to take on Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 3. The series is tied 1-1 after the Phillies managed a comeback from a 5-0 deficit in Game 1 but were unable to do so for a second time in Game 2. With Philadelphia’s pair of aces, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, unlikely to return to the mound before Game 5, the Phillies will have to rely on their offense, a well-rested back of the bullpen, and the boost of playing front of their home crowd to overcome the Astros, who won 19 more regular season games in 2022 than Philadelphia.
2. The White Sox Are The Final Team With A Managerial Vacancy
Following yesterday’s announcement that the Royals have hired Matt Quatraro as manager, their AL Central rival on the south side of Chicago is the final team searching for a manager this season, assuming Astros manager Dusty Baker is indeed asked to return for the 2023 season. Chicago’s search for a skipper who can help the team move past Tony La Russa’s tumultuous second run as the team’s manager has lacked the clarity other managerial searches this offseason have possessed. With one of the few known interviewees in Astros bench coach Joe Espada reportedly out of the running, the only candidates known to have received interviews to this point are Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol, who also interviewed for vacancies in Kansas City and Miami, and former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. White Sox GM Rick Hahn noted earlier this month that interim manager Miguel Cairo would be interviewed for the position during his end of season press conference.
3. Kodai Senga Eyes Free Agency
NPB star Kodai Senga has been expected to test international free agency this offseason for months now, and according to Jason Coskrey of The Japan Times, the right-hander has officially filed the necessary paperwork with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to do so. Senga, who will pitch next season at age 30, figures to be one of the more intriguing options in the starting pitching market this offseason. With a phenomenal 1.94 ERA in 2022 and a four pitch mix including a mid-90s fastball and a splitter FanGraphs sees having “bat-missing action”, Senga figures to be given ample opportunity to establish himself in the big leagues as a quality starter, and at a much cheaper cost than the top flight free agent starters such as Carlos Rodon, Jacob deGrom, and Justin Verlander. That cheaper cost is due to the heightened risk in his profile, however; overseas players are rarely guaranteed to see their talents carry over at the same level in the big leagues, and FanGraphs notes that it’s possible Senga may need to pitch in high-leverage relief in the majors due to the relative weakness of his cutter and slider. Still, Senga figures to generate a great deal of interest among pitching-needy teams this offseason, and his free agency should be closely monitored.