A healthy Corbin Carroll. The Diamondbacks lost 110 games in 2021, so their wish list is very long. Atop that list is a healthy return for Carroll, arguably the team’s top prospect . The 21-year-old blew out his shoulder on a home run swing seven games into this past season and needed surgery. When healthy, he’s a dynamic power/speed threat along the lines of Byron Buxton and Starling Marte . Carroll has the potential to be a centerpiece player for the next contending D-Backs team and getting him back and healthy in 2022 should be No. 1 on the holiday wish list.
A new Freddie Freeman contract. When you’re the reigning World Series champs and you have cornerstones like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies looked up to insanely affordable contracts, your wish list is going to make you look greedy. It is what it is. In this case, we’re wishing for the Braves to re-sign Freeman and essentially make him a Brave for life. He’s building a Hall of Fame case and he’s already in retired number territory with the team. It’s surprising (at least to me) the Braves and Freeman did not work out a new contract prior to the lockout. Better late than never though.
Continued improvement from Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle had a very good yet flawed rookie season. He strikes out a ton and his on-base percentage hovered right around .300 all year. Mountcastle did make legitimate improvement as the season went on though, adding roughly 100 points to his OPS in the second half and also considerably cutting down on his chase rate against non-fastballs (breaking balls, offspeed, etc.). That last part is important. Mountcastle with a little more plate discipline can be an impact middle-of-the-order hitter (what the Orioles need) on a contending team (what the Orioles are trying to become).
A Trevor Story signing. The Red Sox already have a pretty excellent shortstop in Xander Bogaerts , though he probably fits best defensively at second (or third?) base these days (plus he can opt out of his contract after next season). Story would be a defensive upgrade ( as long as his throwing rebounds ), and as a righty with a pull-heavy approach, he would fit wonderfully in Fenway Park. Boston needs a corner outfielder more than it needs a middle infielder, but there’s no harm in adding to a strength.
Frank Schwindel to be real. The Cubs had a surprisingly fun offense following their trade deadline sell-off this past season, and at the heart of it was Schwindel, who hit .342/.389/.613 with 13 homers in 56 games after being claimed on waivers from the A’s. No, Schwindel is not a true talent .342 hitter (no one is), but he has long been a stathead favorite given his history of strong contact rates and exit velocities. He’s been stereotyped as a Quad-A journeyman the last few years and he took full advantage of his opportunity in 2021. Schwindel being a bona fide big-league first baseman would go a long way to helping Chicago return to contention.
Michael Kopech successfully shifting to the rotation. The White Sox say they won’t just give Kopech a rotation spot in spring training, but all signs point to the right-hander getting a starting assignment in 2022 after a stellar season in relief in 2021. Kopech is still only 25 and he has top-of-the-line power stuff. He has true ace potential, and there’s few things in this game more rewarding than watching a kid with ace potential become an actual ace. It’s worth wishing for Kopech to make that jump next season.
A Luis Castillo extension. It is this blogger’s humble opinion that there are too many Castillo trade rumors and not enough Castillo extension rumors. He’s so good! And he just turned 29! This isn’t some guy approaching his mid-30s who’s already had his best years. Castillo is two years away from free agency and rather than trade him, the Reds should lock him up and make him the centerpiece of their rotation going forward, as they try to contend during whatever remains of Joey Votto era.
The David Blitzer sale to happen quickly. In 2018, Cleveland carried a $135 million payroll and won its third straight AL Central title. In 2022, the Guardians are projected to have a $46 million payroll. Owner Paul Dolan is in talks to sell a large minority stake in the franchise to Blitzer , who has ownership stakes in the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, and the expectation is the deal will include a path to majority ownership. The sooner Blitzer takes over, the better for fans and the better for the franchise, because it’s pretty obvious winning isn’t the top priority for the current owner. Pandemic or no pandemic, chopping $90 million — $90 million! — off payroll in four years is straight up embarrassing.
A fresh start. Admittedly, this made more sense before the Rockies removed the interim label from GM Bill Schmidt , who was yet another promotion from within. There is something to be said for loyalty, but Colorado badly needs a fresh perspective and a new set of eyes. They won’t get that with Schmidt, who has been with the organization since 1999, though it is still early enough in his tenure that he could reshape his front office and get the Rockies up to speed. I’m not optimistic that will happen, but if I were, I would have to wish for it, would it?
A Carlos Rodón signing. The Tigers are ready to transition from rebuilder to contender and they acted accordingly this offseason, signing Eduardo Rodriguez and Javier Báez prior to the lockout. There is still more room to improve, of course, and signing Rodón to further bolster the rotation makes an awful lot of sense. Detroit could swing a six-man rotation in 2022, which would give Rodón extra rest in an effort to stay healthy while also not pushing youngsters like Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal too hard, and it wouldn’t require a huge long-term commitment. The AL Central is not exactly a powerhouse division. Sign Rodón, get good work from top prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson when they arrive, and the Tigers could be surprising contenders for a division title.
A Carlos Correa reunion. Getting to keep something you’ve already had is a pretty lame holiday gift, though not in this case. Correa is one of the 2-3 best shortstops in the world and he’s only 27, and if the Astros re-sign him to a long-term deal, he has a chance to go down as the greatest player in franchise history. Houston’s efforts to retain Correa have been half-hearted at best ( five years and $160 million ? really?) so hopefully ownership and the front office will do some self-reflecting during the lockout and realize how silly it would be to let this guy walk.
Bobby Witt Jr. on the Opening Day roster. To their credit, the Royals have not played service-time games with their top prospects in recent years, most notably carrying Brady Singer on the Opening Day roster last year. Witt is on the short list of the game’s top prospects and is about as close to MLB ready as it gets. Kansas City has a loaded infield with Nicky Lopez , Whit Merrifield , and the still only 26 years old Adalberto Mondesi , but Witt has the talent to be a very special player, and you make room for players like that.
A good supporting cast for Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. The Angels have two generational talents and yet they still haven’t come all that close to sniffing the postseason since 2014. Every year you hope this is the year they get over the hump and Trout gets to play on the postseason stage, and then you look up in September and Phil Gosselin leads the team in starts as the No. 3 hitter (that happened in 2021). In Trout and Ohtani, the Halos have a powerhouse 1-2 punch. Anthony Rendon is an excellent third wheel. Now can the other 23 guys finally pull their weight?
The return of a healthy Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw is a legend and one of those players who should spend his entire career with one team. Watching him go out as, say, a Texas Ranger, would be incredibly weird. His elbow (his flexor, more accurately) is a question at the moment, so the No. 1 item on our Dodgers wish list is Kershaw returning to the club with good health. He’s an all-time great and I don’t want to be done watching him at the height of his powers.
A Jesús Luzardo revival. Not too long ago Luzardo was one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. He took a huge step backward in 2021, however, so much so that the A’s were willing to trade him for two months of Starling Marte. The Marlins are loaded with pitching — Sandy Alcantara , Pablo López , and Trevor Rogers are an excellent 1-2-3 punch — but you can never have too much, and Luzardo rediscovering the form that made him so highly regarded would give Miami a championship-caliber starting foursome.
The return of Christian Yelich’s power. Yelich’s fall from grace has been stunning. He hasn’t been bad the last two years, but the guy went from MVP-caliber in 2018 and 2019 to more or less league average in 2020 and 2021. Yelich managed only nine — nine! — home runs this past season. With seven years and close to $200 million remaining on his contract, the small-market Brewers need Yelich to rediscover his power stroke more than simply wish for it. Yelich’s return to MVP form would be the greatest holiday gift for the franchise.
Living up to the hype. We’ve been hoodwinked by the Mets before. They have a splashy offseason and get everyone excited, and then they fall on their face once the season begins. This winter they signed Max Scherzer and Starling Marte, among others, and hired Buck Showalter to manage. Add them to Jacob deGrom , Pete Alonso & Co. and the arrow is pointing up in Flushing. We’ve been here before though. The Mets got the players and got the manager. Now we wish for them to turn all that into results.
A time machine for Gleyber Torres. Two years ago Torres swatted 38 home runs and looked like baseball’s next young superstar. He’s hit only 12 home runs in the two years since though, and played his way off shortstop as well. Gleyber’s star has dimmed considerably and the Yankees would love nothing more than to turn back the clock and get the Torres of 2019 back somehow.
Great returns when they trade away the core. It hasn’t happened yet, but the Athletics are expected to trade away several core players as part of their payroll-slashing efforts this offseason . Wishing for those trades to not happen feels like a waste of time, so instead I’ll wish for the A’s to make great trades that net them young, impact pieces who form the core of the next contending team in Oakland (or whatever they wind up playing). It is the best of an unfortunate situation.
An improved infield defense. Maybe one way to go about this is hiring Ron Washington away from the NL East rival Braves? Washington has long had a reputation for being one of the game’s great infield coaches — Marcus Semien credits Washington for turning him into a Gold Glover — and there’s nothing the Phillies need more right now than an improved infield defense. It was dreadful last year, with Alec Bohm at third and Didi Gregorius at short particularly bad, and that’s a bit of a problem when your top four starters ( Zack Wheeler , Aaron Nola , Kyle Gibson , Ranger Suárez ) are ground ball pitchers. One way or another, wishing for an improved infield defense is an obvious call here.
Oneil Cruz as the Opening Day shortstop. Cruz is one of the best prospects in baseball and he made his MLB debut late this year, going 2 for 9 with a home run in two games. It stands to reason he will be the Pirates ‘ Opening Day shortstop, but that’s not a given. Cruz played only nine games in Triple-A in 2021 and teams do not deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to service-time manipulation. Either because the new collective bargaining agreement somehow eliminates service-time manipulation or because the Pirates do the right thing, let’s hope Cruz is in Pittsburgh’s Opening Day lineup this year. That teams needs to do something to keep fans interested.
One last ring for Molina and Wainwright. Every fan wishes for a World Series championship ever year, but next year will be the final season for Yadier Molina’s and Adam Wainwright’s , and what better way to send them out but with a ring? If a championship is too much to ask — that’s like asking Santa for a PlayStation 5 and an Xbox One — then at least get them back to the postseason, and let them take matters into their own hands from there.
To forget 2021 ever happened. A year ago at this time the Padres were the offseason darling, importing multiple impact starting pitchers ( Yu Darvish , Joe Musgrove , Blake Snell ) and looking very much like a World Series contender. Fast forward to September and they were signing dudes like Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez off the scrap heap. I’m guessing Padres fans wish for nothing more than forgetting 2021 ever happened, and that come 2022, the club will be ready to make good on an extremely talented roster now that they have a top-notch manager in Bob Melvin.
A seamless transition to Joey Bart. Let’s face it, there’s no replacing Buster Posey . He’s the best all-around catcher of his generation and he had a tremendous farewell season in 2021. You can’t expect anyone to do what Posey did, but someone will have to replace him, and all signs point to it being Bart. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft has been Posey’s heir apparent the last few years, and barring a post-lockout trade, the Giants are going to give him the catcher reins in 2022. Being a young catcher in this league is very difficult, so wishing for Bart to have a minimal adjustment period is the way to go.
Continued improvement from Jarred Kelenic. By and large, Kelenic has a disappointing rookie season considering he went into 2021 as one of the top prospects in the game. He did finish the season very well though, swatting seven home runs in September with greatly improved strikeout and walk rates. Not every rookie comes up and dominates right away. Even Wander Franco needed an adjustment period. The Mariners are right on the cusp of contention and Kelenic has All-Star potential. I’m not sure how anything other than Kelenic fully tapping into that potential could top the wish list.
Drew Rasmussen taking a step forward. That’s a weird thing to say about a guy who had a 2.44 ERA in 59 innings with the Rays this past season, but under the hood Rasmussen had comfortably below-average strikeout and hard-contact rates. He didn’t miss many bats and he gave up a lot of loud contact, yet the result was a sub-3.00 and one of the lowest home run rates in the league. It feels like that can’t continue. Either Rasmussen has to miss more bats and limit hard contact, or he’s going to start giving up more homers (and more runs in general). Rasmussen has an excellent arm with top-notch velocity and spin, though there is room for improvement here.
The young arms figuring it out. No team in baseball was more active than the Rangers prior to the lockout. They brought in Marcus Semien and Corey Seager (and Kole Calhoun ) to improve the offense and Jon Gray to head the rotation. The starting staff is still lacking, however, and everyone involved (fans and the Rangers themselves) would love to see a few young pitchers emerge in 2022 and form a contender-caliber rotation. Specifically, I’m talking about AJ Alexy , Taylor Hearn , Spencer Howard , Glenn Otto , and maybe even top prospect Jack Leiter . Not all those guys will work out, that’s just how it goes, but if the Rangers hit on two or three, their long-term outlook improves considerably.
A José Ramírez trade. Ketel Marte and Matt Chapman work too, but Ramírez is a bona fide superstar, and the Blue Jays have both the need on the infield (they lost Marcus Semien to free agency) and the prospects (hello Gabriel Moreno ) to swing a blockbuster. Toronto already looks like a potential World Series contender thanks to their excellent lineup and four above-average starters ( José Berríos , Kevin Gausman , Alek Manoah , Hyun-Jin Ryu ). Add Ramírez to the mix and this might be the best team in the American League. Maybe even in all of baseball.
Carter Kieboom figuring it out. The Nationals are transitioning away from their 2019 championship core and are now working to build the next great Nationals team, and they sure would like Kieboom to be a part of it. The club’s former top prospect hasn’t hit even a tiny little bit in various big league opportunities totaling over 400 plate appearances. Kieboom will play almost the entire 2022 season at age 24 and he is very talented, so it’s too early to close the book on him, but wishing for him to figure things out is pretty obvious at this point.