Boston, MA

How One Signing Changed Boston’s Offseason

How will Trevor Story's next chapter play out in Boston?Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

By Tyler Maher

For most of the winter, the Boston Red Sox seemed content to have another relatively quiet offseason. They signed veteran pitchers James Paxton, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha – all former stars who now project as giant question marks – in the name of rotation depth. They sold high on Hunter Renfroe, shipping him to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for former Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects. 

And…that was it.

Given the flurry of blockbuster signings that preceded the lockout and immediately followed it, Boston’s moves paled in comparison. They seemed especially light given that the AL East is expected to be a four-headed monster this year with Boston, New York, Tampa Bay, and Toronto all battling for supremacy. With the Yankees trading for Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays trading for Matt Chapman, their rivals only seemed to be getting stronger by the day. 

Meanwhile, the Red Sox only seemed to be getting weaker after downgrading their outfield for the third consecutive offseason and allowing Kyle Schwarber and Eduardo Rodriguez to leave in free agency. After coming within two wins of reaching the World Series last year, the front office hadn’t done much to improve the team’s championship odds for 2022.

It was shaping up to be another underwhelming offseason for Chaim Bloom, who had yet to guarantee more than two years or $14 million to a free agent since taking over as Boston’s top baseball man after the 2019 season. He had preached patience and prudence and been linked to several big names, but his biggest move was (and perhaps still is) his extremely unpopular trade of Mookie Betts prior to the 2020 season.

With the offseason winding down and Opening Day just weeks away, the Red Sox were running out of time and options. Nearly all of the best free agents had already signed with the sole exception of former Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, who came with question marks given his extreme home/road splits in Colorado.

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, Bloom finally pounced last week, inking Story to a six-year, $140 million contract – 10 times more money than Bloom had previously committed to a free agent during his tenure. The deal includes a player opt-out after the fourth season that can be negated if Boston picks up the seventh-year team option for $20 million, giving both sides flexibility.

Bloom has often stated that he wouldn’t make a splash just for the sake of doing so - as several of his predecessors did - but would pony up for the “right” player who fits into the organization’s plan for the future. Story does in several ways, as he can slide over to second base for at least one season while All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts is still with the team, then potentially replace Bogaerts when he inevitably opts out of his contract next winter. Story can then man shortstop until Marcelo Mayer, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 Draft, is ready for the majors.

For Story’s sake, Boston seems like an ideal landing spot for him. The nine-figure contract is nice, of course, and he joins a contender after spending his entire career with the floundering Rockies. He also gets to move down to sea level, which is much easier on the body than playing at altitude, and can take aim at the Green Monster on a regular basis as a right-handed slugger. The only wrinkle is that he’s never played second base professionally before, but he’s a good athlete and shouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting to the keystone.

As a fan, I’m certainly excited by Story’s arrival. It’s been years since Boston acquired a player of his caliber, especially at a premium position up the middle, With Bogaerts and Rafael Devers already in place, the Red Sox now have one of the best-hitting infields in the majors. He’s a tremendous five-tool player with 30-homer power, plus defense, and 20-steal speed for a team that didn’t run the bases well at all last year. And at 29, he’s still close to his prime and should have several more good years ahead of him.  

In short, Story seems like the kind of player that is worth betting $140 million on. I haven’t agreed with all of Bloom’s decisions since he got here, but Story looks like a pretty good investment to me.

Tyler Maher is a Content Editor for The Game Day who hopes Trevor Story hits just as well at Fenway as he did at Coors Field.

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Detroit, MI

Detroit Tigers: Evaluating the System for Seasons Ahead

By Joe Underhill Another September and another losing season is coming to a close for the Detroit Tigers. The focus for Tigers fans now shifts to saying farewell to a future Hall of Famer in Miguel Cabrera, who has a legitimate chance to climb a few more spots on the all-time lists before his season ends. The focus for fans should be the auditions taking place in Detroit and on the farm for roles next year. The focus here will be on the Tigers currently under contract for next year and who fans should be keeping tabs on as AJ Hinch and Scott Harris work to put a playoff-caliber team on the field in Detroit for the first time in almost a decade. Outfield: Currently on the 40-man: Akil Baddoo, Kerry Carpenter, Riley Greene, Austin Meadows, and Parker Meadows. In the minors: Justyn-Henry Malloy (AAA), Wenceel Perez (AAA), Justice Bigbie (AA), Max Clark (low A). What do all of the full-time outfielders on the 40-man have in common? They are all left-handed hitters. Of this group, Austin Meadows has missed the majority of the past two seasons dealing with an injury and an anxiety disorder and is at the greatest risk of being non-tendered. Parker Meadows, Riley Greene, and Kerry Carpenter have solidified their roles. Akil Baddoo has the most to prove offensively, but his defense has been above average. Carpenter, OPS+ 136 and Greene OPS+ 116, have been the Tigers’ best hitters. Matt Vierling has played the majority of his games in the outfield but is being transitioned into more of a utility role by playing third base. Vierling plays strong outfield defense in the corners and can cover center in a pinch. Justyn-Henry Malloy and Wenceel Perez will come to spring training looking to compete for place on the roster. Malloy has a strong right-handed bat, slashing .292/.432/.509 including 23 home runs and over 100 walks. At AA, Justice Bigbie has been the story of the Tigers’ minor leagues. He has hit over .350 across high A and AA. Bigbie and Malloy share a challenge, though: defense. Both Malloy and Bigbie will figure into Detroit’s plans sooner rather than later due to their bats, but defense will determine how much playing time they’ll get. In the low minors, the most exciting prospect is Max Clark, who is already flashing the potential five-tool package that enticed the Tigers to select him third overall. Utility: Currently on the 40-man: Nick Maton, Zach McKinstry, Tyler Nevin, Wenceel Perez, Matt Vierling. Of this group, McKinstry and Vierling have pretty strong grips on utility roles, with Vierling being the only right-handed outfielder currently on the roster. McKinstry has been a very productive player, even though is OPS+ is only 80. With Parker Meadows moving Greene to a corner, Verling has begun to see more time at third base. Nevin can play all four corners but is more of an infielder. He has raked at AAA, slashing .326/.400/.543 for an OPS of .943. The only problem is he has not been able to translate that success at the major-league level, slashing only .132/.242/.189. Perez has made the shift from the dirt to the outfield this season and has taken to the outfield quite well. He is a switch-hitter who brings speed (25 steals) and an OPS of .802 across three levels in the minors in 2023. The challenge for Perez will be overcoming the “yips” that showed up on his throws from second base. His path to playing time will be tied to his ability to play the utility role. Infield: Currently on the 40-man: Javier Baez, Andy Ibanez, Ryan Kreidler, Eddys Leonard, Andre Lipcius, Nick Maton, Wenceel Perez, Zack Short, and Spencer Torkelson. In the minors: Colt Keith (AAA), Jace Jung (AA), Kevin McGonigle (low A). Javy Baez probably won’t exercise his buy-out after a bad year in Detroit. Baez has an opt-out, but based on how poorly his offensive season has gone, he is unlikely to utilize it. Baez has continued to play solid-to-above-average defense at shortstop. Torkelson’s power has come on since June and he now leads the team with 25 home runs and has risen his OPS+ above 100. Defensively the numbers don’t like Tork’s defense, but the eye test suggests he is a solid defender at first. Second and third base are the positions where there is the most movement. McKinstry, Short, Ibanez, Vierling, and now Lipcius are all seeing time at the positions. The Tigers are hoping Keith shows enough aplomb to be able to handle the majority timeshare at third base. The biggest defensive challenge for Keith is rebuilding his throwing strength after a shoulder injury in 2022. Kreidler won a sport on the initial roster, but injury derailed his season. Kreidler and Short are natural shortstops, who both bring plus defense, but question marks with the bat. Lipcius is auditioning to play second and third next season. Maton began the year with the Tigers but struggled with the bat. He’s hit well at AAA and will come to spring training competing for a spot. If Jung continues to hit and show solid defensive acumen, he will be in the picture at second base at some point in 2024. Catcher: Currently on the 40-man: Carson Kelly, Jake Rogers, Donny Sands (AAA). In the minors: Dillon Dingler (AAA). Catching depth is a major concern for the Tigers, who cut ties with Eric Haase and added Carson Kelley in mid-season. Rogers has shown a solid ability to hit for power (16 home runs) while playing excellent defense. Sands and Dingler are time-sharing in AAA and will be joining the competition in spring training. This is an area to expect to see the Tigers looking to add to the competition in the off-season. Starting Pitching: Currently on the 40-man: Beau Brieske, Alex Faedo, Matt Manning (IL), Casey Mize (IL), Reese Olson, Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull, Joey Wentz. In the minors: Sawyer Gipson-Long (AAA), Keider Montero (AAA), Jack O’Loughlin (AAA), Ty Madden (AA), Brant Hurter (AA), Wilmer Flores (AA). The expectation is Eduardo Rodriguez will opt out at the end of the year, and it will be interesting to see if Scott Harris tries to resign him. Rodriguez has been rock-solid for the Tigers and seems to have enjoyed his time in Detroit. The rest of the rotation depth has a lot of question marks regarding health. Mize is still working his way back; Manning just suffered a second foot fracture as a result of a batted ball. Turnbull is working to rediscover his command and control of his pitches and has been optioned to the minors. The Tigers have been playing with using Brieske and Faedo out of the bullpen, but they will come to spring training as part of the competition for the rotation. Right now, the rotation is going to be anchored by Skubal and Olson, with the back three spots up for grabs. Olson has had a strong rookie year and has placed himself firmly in the rotation plan moving forward. This is an area where I would expect the Tigers to go after a veteran or two (similar to last year with Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen). Bullpen: Currently on the 40-man: Tyler Alexander (IL), Miguel Diaz, Mason Englert (IL), Jason Foley, Garrett Hill (minors), Tyler Holton, Alex Lange, Freddy Pacheco, Andrew Vasquez, Will Vest, Brendan White, Trey Wingenter (minors). The bullpen has been a strength for the Tigers this year. Tyler Holton has been a phenomenal this year and worked into leverage situations. The same can be said for Jason Foley, Brendan White, and Will Vest, who are all young pitchers growing into reliable arms. The Tigers have also been deploying Beau Brieske and Alex Faedo in the bullpen and both have had good success. Depending on how the competition for the rotation plays out either or both could find themselves pitching in leverage situations in the bullpen. Expect a few low-profile signings/waiver claims in the off-season to build the competition going into spring training. Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet.

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Opinion: Maury Wills Deserves a Niche in the Baseball Hall of Fame

By Dan Schlossberg One of the most stringent standards for Hall of Fame considerations is whether a candidate changed the game. Maury Wills certainly qualifies. In his 14-year career, Wills was a seven-time All-Star who won three World Series rings, two Gold Gloves, and an MVP trophy. He revolutionized the use of speed as a vital part of the offense, stealing a then-record 104 bases in 1962. That broke Ty Cobb’s record of 96, which had stood for 47 years. Neither Babe Ruth’s nor Hank Aaron’s home run records lasted that long. When Wills was in the minors, Spokane manager Bobby Bragan would make frequent calls to Dodgers GM Buzzie Bavasi urging his promotion to the majors. "Bobby would call six times a day and tell me over again how Wills had learned to switch-hit and how he was a great team leader, off and on the field, and how I was absolutely nuts if I didn't bring him up right away," Bavasi said. Wills was finally promoted to the majors in June of 1959 after batting .313 in 48 games for the Pacific Coast League club. He never looked back. A switch-hitter who led the National League in stolen bases six years in a row, Wills hit .281 with 586 steals. He would have had more except for his late start; he was 26 when he arrived in Los Angeles. Wills parlayed his speed into several championships for the Dodgers, starting in his very first season. The ‘59 Dodgers finished in a tie with the Milwaukee Braves, then won the first two games of an unscheduled best-of-three pennant playoff. The banjo-playing shortstop even supplemented his then-meager baseball salary by singing and cutting records during the off-season. Wills spent 12 years with the Dodgers, sandwiching his stints around stops in Pittsburgh and Montreal. He later managed the Seattle Mariners. Like Lou Whitaker, Maury Wills was a star infielder who somehow got overlooked by the Hall of Fame. It’s an oversight that needs to be corrected. Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes baseball for, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Memories & Dreams, and others. Contact him at

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Opinion: It’s High Time To Shrink the Playoffs, Scrap the Wild-Card

By Dan Schlossberg Sorry, guys, but I’m not wild about the wild-card. I hated it when there was one wild-card winner in the playoffs, hated it more when there were two, and absolutely detest the fact that there are three — expanding the post-season into a tournament that reeks of football, basketball, and hockey. Baseball has a 162-game schedule for a reason: to determine the best team between the end of spring training and the start of the post-season. Anything that creates the slightest chance that the best teams won’t reach the World Series is a travesty. For example, the Miami Marlins managed to win two world championships without ever finishing first. In 31 seasons, including this one, the Fish have never won the NL East. The 2002 Los Angeles Angels won their only World Series by getting hot when it counted, riding a wild-card into a world championship over another wild-card, the San Francisco Giants. Though obviously a bold-faced revenue grab, the wild-card system was supposedly designed to retain interest in cities whose teams dropped out of contention in September. To the contrary, the wild-card justifies mediocrity, creating the very real possibility that a team with more losses than wins can get hot just in time to win a world championship with a losing record. That would be a black mark against the game, as is anything that compromises the integrity of the World Series. With six divisions in baseball today, isn’t there enough interest in the races for the division titles? It’s a good storyline that the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached the playoffs 11 years in a row and the Atlanta Braves have the longest active streak — which will reach six this year — and also own the longest title streak (14) since the 1969 advent of divisional play. Except for the East and West divisions of the National League, all of the divisions have real races going on. There are even three-team races in two of those four, the AL West and NL Central. The American League East race is intriguing because every team is likely to finish over .500, while the American League Central is the weakest division in the land. While wild-card standings change almost daily, does anyone really care about them? MLB Network keeps trying to make that case but isn’t very convincing. The wild-card also weakens the trade deadline, with way too many teams (notably the 2023 Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres) thinking they’re still alive. That stifles trading and deprives fans of the most exciting aspect of baseball season between the All-Star Game and the playoffs. Since baseball would be better balanced with 32 teams rather than the current 30, why not realign into four eight-team leagues, each split into divisions of four, and send the wild-card to the dustbin of baseball history? Baseball has made plenty of changes, especially recently, but focusing on champions rather than also-rans would be an enormous improvement. What say you, Rob Manfred? Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 42 baseball books and a national baseball writer for Email him at

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Atlanta, GA

Jimmy Carter Was a True Baseball Fan

By Dan Schlossberg Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, loved baseball almost as much as he loved his country. A photogenic politician who vaulted from Governor of Georgia to the White House in 1976, Carter not only attended games in Atlanta as an ardent fan of the Braves but also played soft-pitch softball in his native Plains. He pitched for a team of Secret Service agents, while brother Billy pitched for a team of White House reporters. Braves fan Jimmy Carter, then Governor of Georgia, interrupts an interview by Dan Schlossberg (far left) to greet Hank Aaron in the Atlanta clubhouse in 1973. During the Summer of ‘76, those softball games seemed to attract bigger crowds than the Braves games in downtown Atlanta, Carter once joked. “One of the biggest events in our town’s history was when the entire Braves team came down to visit us,” Carter wrote in the book Turner Field: Rarest of Diamonds. "Mama particularly enjoyed having a long discussion with Bobby Cox about baseball strategy and tactics.” By then, Miss Lillian had become an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to her famous son. That happened after Earl and Lillian, who vacationed in a different major-league city every summer, saw Jackie Robinson play in his rookie year of 1947. “During her final years,” Carter recalled, “she watched or listened to West Coast games on special TV and radio systems and often called Tommy Lasorda personally to criticize his management decisions.” Sorting her belongings after she died, Carter actually found a complete Dodgers uniform in her closet. Carter’s three most memorable moments of Braves baseball occurred several years apart. On April 8, 1974, he witnessed the Hank Aaron home run that broke Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run record, then presented him with a new Georgia license plate that read HR 715. In 1992, Carter was present when third-string catcher Francisco Cabrera clouted a two-run, ninth-inning single that won a 3-2 game and gave the Braves the NL pennant over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Four years later, he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day for the Braves as they began their defense of the 1995 World Championship — fulfilling a pledge made by Ted Turner nearly two decades earlier. Despite a winter of practicing the pitch, it was timed at only 48 miles an hour, even slower than a Phil Niekro knuckleball, although it was a perfect strike. Carter’s favorite was the Cabrera game. Pittsburgh was cruising behind Doug Drabek, who nursed a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth in Game 7. But the Braves pushed across three runs, the last crossing in the form of gimpy Sid Bream, the slowest runner in the National League. “To me,” Carter said, “the heart-stopping winning play was typical of the spirit, courage, and ability of the Braves’ teams over the years.” He was right: the Braves of that era won 14 consecutive division titles, a record that remains unchallenged in baseball history. Though beset with economic challenges during his single term in office, the one-time peanut farmer deserves credit for the Camp David Accords, ending years of hostility in the Middle East, and for his subsequent Habit for Humanity home-building project. His smile could light up any room. Jimmy Carter will be missed both by the baseball world and by the world in general. Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ met Jimmy Carter when he was covering Hank Aaron’s home run title chase. Dan now writes for, Sports Collectors Digest, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and Memories & Dreams. His email is

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Ryan Lavarnway Hits Home Run with Baseball Book for Jewish Kids

By Dan Schlossberg During his 10-year career in the major leagues, Ryan Lavarnway was never more than a backup catcher, hitting .217 with nine home runs for eight different teams. Though out of the majors since 2021, he’s been an integral part of Team Israel, which he joined for the World Baseball Classic in 2017. He says that affiliation changed his life. A Californian drafted off the Yale campus by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, he found new life with Team Israel — for whom he chose uniform No. 36 because that number signifies “double life” in Jewish tradition. “When I played for the WBC team in 2017, that was a really life-changing experience for me,” Lavarnway, 36, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I didn’t feel a huge connection to my Judaism, to any religion, or to the community at all. Playing for Team Israel, I felt that for the first time.” Now he’s trying to change the lives of others through a new children’s book entitled Baseball and Belonging, illustrated by Chris Brown, in which the journeyman catcher talks about life, his career in pro sports, and how a call from Israel helped him rekindle his Judaism. Lavarnway, whose mother is Jewish but father is Catholic, was pushed in neither direction. His parents let him choose. But thinking he was half-and-half made him feel like he was neither. Now, with a Jewish wife and a whole new family from Team Israel, Lavarnway has chosen. The World Baseball Classic allows players to represent countries where they are eligible for citizenship. That means Jewish ballplayers can play for Team Israel even if they were citizens of another country, such as the United States. That worked well for Lavarnway, who was named MVP of Team Israel’s division in the first round after it won its first four games — all against higher-ranked countries. Only a loss to Japan in the second round knocked the tenacious underdog out. Team Israel catcher Ryan Lavarnway, right, enjoys a moment during a pregame warmup with Team Israel bullpen coach Alon Leichman. Credit: Hillel Kuttler Lavarnway had never been to Israel before going there to play baseball. His book features illustrations of sites he has seen, including the Dead Sea, Western Wall, and Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. It also includes his excitement about Israeli kids treating the players of Team Israel like superstars and the euphoria of entertaining Jewish fans. The book contains pages of information about Israel, its most significant sites, and its baseball program — which once featured a six-team Israel Baseball League with retired Jewish major-leaguers Ron Blomberg, Art Shamsky, and Ken Holtzman as managers. Lavarnway got the idea for the book after question-and-answer sessions following the release of the 2018 documentary Heading Home: The Tale of Team Israel. The film depicted the team’s surprising success in the previous year’s World Baseball Classic. After audiences urged the former big-leaguer to share his stories of meeting Israelis, leaning about the country, and discovering his own Judaism, he began a college speaking tour. “I think that was a great audience to hear [my story] because college students are deciding who they want to be and deciding who they want to develop in their community,” Lavarnway said. “It’s a transformational time in their lives. And [for me] that was a really transformational experience.” The college tour prompted an idea from Rabbi Joe Black, who heads Lavarnway’s congregation in Denver, to craft a children’s book. For someone who had never authored a book before, the concept came out of left field. After striking out in his first few attempts, all rejected by publishers, he finally found the formula — after reading children’s books to his own daughter. The key for the catcher was keeping it simple. “I think the concept of religion is over most children’s heads, especially the younger audience,” Lavarnway told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “But what they can relate to, and what is universal, is doing what you love and feeling loved. If I really had to boil down the message, that’s what it is: doing what you love, and finding somewhere where you can feel loved.” Peter Kurz, general manager of Team Israel, first recruited Lavarnway in 2017 and calls him “a tremendous inspiration to Israeli players for the last seven years.” Kurz calls Lavarnway “a true team leader” and “true friend,” and adds that he named the catcher Team Israel’s first official captain two months ago. When his playing days are over, the veteran would be welcome to coach for Team Israel, the GM adds. Although his days in the U.S. majors are over, Lavarnway will play for Team Israel in the European Championships next month. He’s hoping things go better than they did in the 2023 WBC, in which Team Israel won just one game before elimination. In addition to the World Baseball Classic, Lavarnway appeared with Team Israel in the 2020 Olympics, which required him to obtain Israeli citizenship [he now holds dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship]. Playing for Team Israel, according to Lavarnway, has been “an experience that changed my life.” Earlier this year, he told JTA, “I don’t have a future in playing the game, but I’m so excited to be a member of this team, and what we’ve done with the program and with the whole sport in the country.” Lavarnway still has a connection to the U.S. majors: he’s does pre and post-game analysis for the Colorado Rockies. In his spare time, he continues speaking at schools and colleges. That leaves little time for writing but Lavarnway doesn’t rule it out. “I don’t know that I’ll make a habit out of making children’s books,” he says. “But this felt like something I needed to do.” Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 40 baseball books and writer for, Memories & Dreams, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. Email him via

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