I’m still not at all fond of the wild card play-in game, in no small part because the wild card, since it’s been introduced, has quite often been the league’s second best team. I don’t think a team should be penalized for being in the wrong division.
However, year one of the new wild card format is giving us a lot more excitement than we might have otherwise.
The NL races would have been all but over with three weeks to go if not for the second wild card. The division titles are set. Sure, there’s a chance the Braves could collapse again and blow their big wild card lead, but it hardly seems likely. Even after losing three in a row to the Brewers, they’re still five games up on the second wild card-leading Cardinals with 18 games to play.
The American League, on the other hand, would have plenty of crazy races going on regardless. But the second wild card means there’s still some hope for the Angels and Rays, who would be pretty huge longshots otherwise. And while it is possible that the team with the league’s second-best record may well end up in the wild-card playoff game, it’s not like there’s any clear second best team in the AL right now.
Because of the second wild card, there are currently 19 teams with some shot at going to the playoffs. That’s a pretty amazing total with just 18-20 games left in the season.
Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.
That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.
Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.