We are less than two weeks into the 2023 calendar year, but we’ve got bold predictions of a litany of things that will go down in Major League Baseball over the course of the next 11.5 months.
Most of our predictions are about things that will happen during the 2023 MLB season, of course. A breakout rookie. An unlikely MVP. A surprise AL West champion. A World Series ring three decades in the making. That sort of stuff.
However, as long as it’s something happening during 2023, it’s fair game.
Projecting where one of the top remaining free agents will land in the coming days? Fair game.
A trade that could happen tomorrow, in July or even in December? Fair game.
And a prediction on where Shohei Ohtani will sign when he hits free agency in November? Definitely fair game.
Predictions are listed in no particular order, aside from saving that Ohtani prognostication until the end.
Trey Mancini Returns to Baltimore
At this point, almost all of the top free agents have signed somewhere. There are a bunch of intriguing names still out there, like Michael Wacha, Andrew Chafin, Aroldis Chapman, Brian Anderson and Jurickson Profar, but the biggest name still at large (aside from the ongoing Carlos Correa saga, which we’ll get to later) is unquestionably Trey Mancini.
The 1B/LF/RF/DH got a World Series ring, but he had a brutal finish to the 2022 campaign, batting .161 (regular season and postseason) after getting traded from Baltimore to Houston.
He’s young enough (turns 31 in March) that he reasonably could have gotten a six-year, $100 million deal if his stint with the Astros hadn’t been such a glaring red flag. But now he’s likely destined for something more along the lines of a one-year, $15 million deal, with hopes of reinflating his stock enough to get a five-year contract next offseason.
And if that’s the case, why not a reunion with the O’s, who clearly need at least one more bat?
We thought Baltimore might spend some money this offseason, at least compared to its usual frugal approach in free agency. But it hasn’t done much, merely adding Kyle Gibson to replace Jordan Lyles while committing a combined total of $12 million to Adam Frazier, Mychal Givens and James McCann.
There should be room in the budget to bring back Mancini, who was a fan favorite over the past half-decade.
If they allow him to instead go to the Cubs or the Nationals on a one-year, $15ish million contract, the Orioles might as well take out a full-page ad in the Baltimore Sun telling their fans that they aren’t actually trying to win this season. Though, they might not be willing to spend the money for that ad.
Corbin Burnes Gets Traded
It probably won’t happen this offseason. If the Brewers are anywhere close to a playoff spot at the end of July, it wouldn’t happen during the season, either. But before the calendar flips to January 1, 2024, Corbin Burnes will be traded away from Milwaukee.
Without question, Burnes has been one of the best pitchers in the majors over the past three seasons. Among pitchers, FanGraphs credits him with the most wins above replacement since the start of 2020.
Burnes has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before hitting free agency in November 2024. Spotrac projects his 2023 salary at $12.7 million. If he stays healthy, it’ll probably be closer to $18 million in 2024.
And if he continues to deliver at a high level in each of the next two seasons, Burnes could be headed for a contract on par with or even more lucrative than the seven-year, $245 million deal Stephen Strasburg got from the Nationals in 2019—an investment which the small-market Brewers almost certainly could not afford to make.
Maybe they decide to do what the Nationals did with Bryce Harper, what the Rockies did with Trevor Story and what the Cubs did with Willson Contreras by just keeping their multiple-time All-Star for as long as they can.