By Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor, The Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – It may not be fully cranked up, but Major League Baseball’s hot stove is definitely starting to heat up.
Managers are being hired, players have been tendered contracts, options are being picked up and declined, rumors are starting and some of the lesser awards have already started to be doled out.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we are in full-fledged offseason mode.
We have already uncovered our loser of the offseason and that is former Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria, who was fired last week once Joe Maddon became available.
I get it Maddon is probably a better manager and if you have a chance to get him you do it, but you have to feel a little bit sorry for Renteria, who led the Cubs to 79 wins, or seven more from the previous season.
The runner up to this award could be the Philadelphia Phillies, who are supposedly trying to deal first baseman Ryan Howard. I expect teams to be lining up by the droves for a shot at his services.
Let’s hope they have other plans this offseason in case that one doesn’t come to fruition. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall of those conversations with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and other GMs?
And what would an offseason be without some Alex Rodriguez drama? I hope you are all sitting down, but apparently Rodriguez was lying when he said he had no connection to Biogenesis. And get this, he may have even dabbled in some performance-enhancing drugs. I know it’s crazy, but I am starting to think that guy might be a little bit phony.
But there will be plenty of time to discuss all that.
Before the offseason really gets underway, though, there’s a little business of handing out the only awards that anyone really seems to care about, those that are handed out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of American.
So without further ado, here is how I see them going this year:
AL MVP: MIKE TROUT, LA ANGELS
Trout probably would have won this award in either of his first two seasons had his team made the playoffs.
Trout had another spectacular season, as he hit .287 to go along with a league-best 115 runs scored, while setting career-highs with 36 home runs and 111 RBI. He also stole 16 bases in 18 attempts However, he did lead the AL with 184 strikeouts.
With Derek Jeter gone, MLB needs a new face. This MVP Award will go a long way toward making Trout that guy.
AL CY YOUNG: FELIX HERNANDEZ, SEATTLE
It was a historic season for King Felix, as he put forth the best statistical season of his career and a new major-league record with 16 consecutive starts in which he allowed two or fewer runs in at least seven innings of work.
Hernandez, who won this award in 2010, was 15-6 this season and led the league with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.915 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) over 34 starts.He was also fourth in the league with 248 strikeouts and held opponents to a league low average of .200.
As we have seen in the past the key to winning these awards is how you perform in September. Well, Hernandez posted a 1.66 ERA over his final six starts.
AL ROOKIE: JOSE ABREU, CHICAGO
Abreu has won every rookie award this offseason and will likely add another trophy to his mantel next week.
The Cuban first baseman excelled in his first year in the big leagues, as he hit .317 with 35 doubles, 36 home runs, 107 RBI, a major league-best .581 slugging percentage and a .383 on-base percentage.
Abreu was also the first rookie in baseball history to rank among the Top 5 in his league in each Triple Crown category and joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) as the only rookies to record 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season.
AL MANAGER: BUCK SHOWALTER, BALTIMORE
Showalter seems to win one of these Manager of the Year Awards every 10 years. He won in 1994 with the New York Yankees, then again in 2004 with the Texas Rangers. And wouldn’t you know it, he’s headed toward a third this year after guiding the Baltimore Orioles to their first AL East title since 1997.
Should he win, he could become just the second manager to win the BBWAA award with three different organizations. Tony La Russa, a four-time winner, won with the Chicago White Sox (1983), Athletics (1988 and 1992) and the St. Louis Cardinals (2002).
NL MVP: CLAYTON KERSHAW, LA DODGERS
Kershaw is trying to become the first NL pitcher to win an MVP Award since Bob Gibson in 1968. In fact there hasn’t even been a pitcher finish in the top-3 in MVP voting since Greg Maddux finished third in 1995.
Kershaw should absolutely top Maddux and will likely join Gibson after one of the better seasons in recent memory. He was absolutely marvelous for the Dodgers this season, as he led the majors with a 21-3 record, an .875 winning percentage, a 1.77 ERA and an 0.86 WHIP.
He was also second in the NL with 239 strikeouts, three behind Johnny Cueto of the Reds and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals, in 27 starts.
The highlight of Kershaw’s season came on June 18 when he struck out 15 in a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies.
NL CY YOUNG: KERSHAW
While, he’ll likely become first player since Detroit’s Justin Verlander to win both awards, Kershaw will most certainly nail down his third NL Cy Young Award in four seasons.
NL ROOKIE: JACOB dEGROM, NY METS
Everyone knew the New York Mets had a wealth of young pitching and most thought a lot of that talent would start to come to the forefront last season. But, the pitcher who impressed the most was certainly not the one anyone would have expected.
When Jacob deGrom was recalled in May the thought was he would help out of the bullpen. Injuries, though, thrust him into the rotation and he excelled, going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA in 22 starts.
While he may not have been very highly thought of at the start of last season, he’ll enter the 2015 campaign as part of the organization’s backbone in the starting rotation, along with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
NL MANAGER: MATT WILLIAMS, WASHINGTON
Luckily for Williams these awards are voted on before the start of the playoffs.
While his Washington Nationals may have flamed out in the postseason, Williams did guide them to an NL East title with a league-best 96 wins in his first year as the team’s skipper.
The one knock on Williams is that he clearly walked into a terrific situation, as the talented Nationals just underperformed a year ago under Davey Johnson. But, he also had to deal with a ton of injuries throughout the season and is the only one of the three finalists to have won a division.