By: Mike Patt
Original Date: 1/1/24
Hello sports fans, and welcome back to the IE Sports Radio blog. The MLB off-season is in full-swing, and boy have we seen some wild transactions. There have really only been a few major moves, but the names involved and the amounts of money discussed is what blows my mind. Juan Soto traded to the Yankees, St. Louis signed Sonny Gray, and the LA Dodgers have spent over a billion (yes, you read that number correctly) dollars on THREE free agents. Not to mention numerous starters pitchers inking eight-figure deals. Heck, even the teams that do not usually spend money are getting into the act. It has been fascinating to watch.
The biggest move of them all was the Dodgers signing Shohei Ohtani to a 10 year, $700 million contract. There are many things you could discuss about the contract and the move LA pulled with deferring the vast majority of the money (which I think should be reviewed by the league, but that’s just me), but that would be a whole blog post all in itself. Instead, the deal got me thinking about another matter entirely. What will the MLB look like over the next decade? Who will be the star players, who will rise from the minor league ranks, who will fade away into retirement? Let’s be honest, things will look very different in 2033.
Now, let’s say I am an MLB owner, and I have boatloads of cash to spend. I want to build the best line-up I can for the next 10 years, and I am going to go out and sign ten guys who will form my line-up over that time. We are going to ignore pitching because we all know its home runs and exciting offense that win championships (okay, this part is a bit sarcastic). I say ten is because I want to be able to rotate, give guys days off, and account for injuries. With ten players, everyone will get 135-150 starts a season, plus pinch hit and other playing opportunities.
This may not end up being the 10 BEST players for the next decade, but this is the team I would want. The only rule for this exercise is that I cannot take teammates. Otherwise, I would have just taken the Atlanta Braves for the foreseeable future. I absolutely took defense into account as well. Also, and this is probably self-explanatory, but age was important. I need this line-up to last ALL 10 years, so anybody older than 28 posed a stronger risk of decline by the later years of the contract. As a result, the whole line-up is below that threshold. Let’s see what we came up with.
Outfield: Ronald Acuna Jr., Julio Rodriguez, Corbin Carroll, Juan Soto (DH)
If you are building an outfield to last, it’s usually a good approach to grab two recent rookie of the year winners and a recent MVP. This is a quartet who will hit for average, hit for power, get on base, and bring blazing speed on the base paths (not Juan, but the others). If these four bats are in the lineup, something is going to happen every time through the order. Defensively, the speed and arm strength are undeniable. They aren’t perfect, but they aren’t a problem either. Carroll and Rodriguez will continue to improve. What I really like is that you can put any three man combination out there and it works. If they do not combine for 140 HRs a year, it’s a disappointment. In the batting order, as you will see below, all of these guys belong at the top.
Infield: Bo Bichette, Rafael Devers, Andres Gimenez, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Luis Arraez (Utility), Adley Rutschman (C)
This part requires more explanation. I value strong defense in my infield. As I result, I selected two defensive focused players in Hayes and Gimenez to play 3B and 2B respectively. Gimenez also has the ability to play shortstop, which will allow Bichette (the every day SS) a game off every now and then. Devers is typically a third baseman, but moves to first where we can hide his less than stellar defense while keeping his incredible power potential in the middle of the batting order. He can still play 3rd when Hayes needs a day off. Rutschman is already one of the best catchers in the league, and Bichette and Arraez bring good defense and quality bats to the table.
So you may ask why I landed on Arraez as the utility option. There are a couple of reasons. For one, he has extensive big league experience at both 2nd and 1st. This allows for great rotation potential as we move players around the infield for rest days and in case of injuries. Second, because he has a great bat but not a ton of power, he can only be placed a few spots in this line-up (lead-off, 2nd, 9th basically). Unfortunately, as you will see below, those spots are occupied by guys with good bats AND power. But do not worry. We will get him in the lineup plenty as a pinch hitter and for rest days. Look, we need this team to last a while, so rest days are a necessity.
1. LF Ronald Acuna Jr.
2. RF Corbin Carroll
3. DH Juan Soto
4. 1B Rafael Devers
5. CF Julio Rodriguez
6. C Adley Rutschman
7. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
8. 2B Andres Gimenez
9. SS Bo Bichette
Utility/PH/Bench Luis Arraez
As I stated above, I would not worry about Arraez not getting playing time. With the versatility of this group, we can sub any player out either directly for Arraez or move pieces around and get him in. With pinch hitting, pinch running, and defensive substitutions, every player on this list will appear in 150+ games a year, barring injury. Reserves are not important, as we are stacked even with a couple of replacements. The only trick is catcher, where Adley will need off-days and DH days to preserve his knees. We will need a good defensive catcher to take his place in these games (around 40-45 a year), but nothing more. He will get the 8 spot in the line-up for sure.
It’s wild to see a line-up with elite bats so low in the order. Can you imagine a pitcher makes their way through the top only to see Adley batting 6th and Bichette 9th? I know Bo’s bat is better than that, but I like having a strong hitter to set-up the leadoff. Depending on who is on a rest day, he will get a higher spot. Let me know what you think of this team. Tune in to Let’s Wine About DMV Sports, hosted by Mike Patt, on Fridays at 9PM EST/6PM PST. Check out all of the great shows throughout the week on IESR, as well as the live calls on our partner station USRN. Shout out to sponsor Planet Jerky and all loyal listeners who continue to help our network grow. Thanks for reading, and we will see you next time on IE Sports Radio; your direct feed for ALL that is sports.