If you haven’t been keeping up with the offseason deals, World Series favorites, or rule changes—don’t worry, we have all the bases covered. Here’s a guide to get you up to speed with everything you need to know about the 2019 MLB season.
Early Start: The first actual games of the season will be on March 20-21 when the Seattle Mariners take on the Oakland Athletics in Japan. Opening Day will happen just over a week later on Thursday, March 28 when all 30 teams will be in action. This will be the earliest start for the baseball season in the modern era of the MLB.
Happy Birthday Baseball: The 2019 season will mark the 150th anniversary of organized professional baseball in America and the MLB is celebrating with a special logo. The players, as well as the managers and coaches, will wear a special patch with the logo on their uniforms during the season. The logo will also be on MLB hats for Opening Day
The Playoff Schedule: The postseason will have each of the three division winners in the American League and National League, as well as two wild-card teams from each league. As for the schedule, the playoffs will begin on October 1, while the World Series is set to start on October 22.
While the season technically kicked off with the Mariners and A’s in Japan, the true “Opening Day” is on Thursday, March 28, when all 30 teams will be playing games. (Here’s the full MLB schedule for Opening Day.)
First Games: The first game on Opening Day will start up at 1:05 p.m. ET with the New York Mets taking on the Washington Nationals, along with the Baltimore Orioles facing the New York Yankees.
Notable Matchups: In the Mets vs. National game, the top vote-getters for the NL Cy Young Award will face off with Jacob deGrom (the winner) taking on Max Scherzer (the runner-up). In the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros, the same thing will happen but with the AL Cy Young Award as Blake Snell (the winner) pitches against Justin Verlander (the runner-up).
National TV: ESPN will have three games on national TV on Opening Day, with the Yankees and Orioles playing at 1 p.m ET, the Arizona Diamondbacks facing the Los Angeles Dodgers at 4 p.m. ET, and the Boston Red Sox visiting the Seattle Mariners at 7 p.m. ET.
The $300 Million Men (and 1 $430 Million Guy)
Two of the biggest free agent deals ever signed in professional sports happened during the 2019 offseason. Manny Machado hit first with a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres, while Bryce Harper signed a lengthy 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Machado is going about as far away as he can from his former team, the Baltimore Orioles, while Harper will face the Washington Nationals 19 times this season as National League East division rivals. Not to be outdone, Mike Trout has reportedly signed a 12-year, $430 million extension with the Angels.
New Rule Changes
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association announced new rules changes ahead of the season that will be implemented for the 2019 season:
2 Trade Deadlines Into 1: There now will only be one trade deadline, the July 31 trade deadline—the “waiver trade deadline” in August will no longer be a thing and will be eliminated for the 2019 season.
Fewer Commercials: Commercial breaks between innings will change from 2 minutes, 5 seconds to 2 minutes flat in local games, while national games will go from 2 minutes, 25 seconds to just 2 minutes.
Decreased Mound Visits: The maximum amount of mound visits by coaches/managers will be five per game, down from six previously.
Boston Red Sox: By winning the World Series and basically bringing back the same roster from last season, the Red Sox will be the team to beat in 2019. Mookie Betts won the American League MVP award with an incredible statistical season, and he leads a lineup that includes talented players like J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers, while the rotation will be anchored by studs Chris Sale and David Price.
New York Yankees: Even though the team didn’t break the bank for free agents Bryce Harper or Manny Machado as some expected, the Yankees have a strong team returning in 2019. After winning 100 games in 2018, Brian Cashman went out and traded for Mariners ace—and bald eagle badass—James Paxton to bolster the pitching rotation and also signing DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki to help support a lineup that already includes talent like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar.
Houston Astros: Just one season removed from winning the World Series, the Astros remain a force to be reckoned with in the AL. With Cy Young runner-up Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole leading the rotation and the young core of Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and George Springer all returning, a repeat of 2017’s World Series win could be in the cards.
Los Angeles Dodgers: With back-to-back World Series appearances, the Dodgers are looking to make a trifecta behind one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu in the rotation. Shortstop Corey Seager is returning from injury and the addition of A.J. Pollock should add another solid bat to the lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers: After making a surprising run to the NL Central division title last season, the Brewers bring back a solid core that includes reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Ryan Braun, and first baseman Jesus Aguilar. The team also added catcher Yasmani Grandal on a free agent deal to shore up that position, giving the team another strong bat in their lineup.
Philadelphia Phillies: Adding Bryce Harper was icing on the cake for the Phillies, who were one of the most active teams in baseball this offseason. Before signing Harper, the team brought in players like Jean Segura, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, and David Robertson, while also signing an extension with ace pitcher Aaron Nola. After missing the playoffs for a number of years, the Phillies could be back this year.
Other potential contenders: The Atlanta Braves come into the season after winning the NL East last year, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Colorado Rockies could make noise in the National League. In the American League, the Oakland Athletics and Cleveland Indians are coming off of playoff appearances in 2018, while the Los Angeles Angels have the best player in baseball with Mike Trout and could make a run.
The Potential Spoilers
Cleveland Indians: After winning the AL Central division and keeping pitchers Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer (both of whom who were mentioned in trade rumors in the offseason), the Indians return a lineup that includes two back-to-back Silver Slugger-winning hitters Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.
Chicago Cubs: Following a disappointing 2018 campaign, the Cubs bring back a core with World Series winning experience in Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber for another run.
Tampa Bay Rays: Not much was expected of the Rays last season and they ended up winning 90 games and nearly earned a Wild Card berth, while Blake Snell won the American League Cy Young award. Now the team returns with mostly the same roster to try and do it again.
New York Mets: Despite a franchise-best start to the season in 2018, the Mets disappointed by finishing with a losing record, but an offseason overhaul by new general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has fans feeling (slightly) optimistic. The team returns AL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom and top-line pitchers Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard while adding Robinson Cano’s bat to the lineup and All-Star Edwin Diaz to the bullpen.
St. Louis Cardinals: Trading for slugger Paul Goldschmidt should immediately give the Cardinals a jolt after taking a step back in 2018. Outfielder Dexter Fowler could be primed for a comeback after a disappointing year, while new addition Andrew Miller will give the team some punch in the bullpen.
Los Angeles Angels: Having the best player in baseball is great, but so far all that the Mike Trout-led Angels have produced is just one postseason appearance and zero playoff wins.
Old Faces, New Places
We already mentioned Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but there are plenty of other players who have switched teams this offseason, whether it was through trades or free agent deals. Here’s a look at some of the notable ones:
Patrick Corbin: Arizona Diamondbacks –> Washington Nationals
A.J. Pollock: Arizona Diamondbacks –> Los Angeles Dodgers
James Paxton: Seattle Mariners –> New York Yankees
Robinson Cano: Seattle Mariners –> New York Mets
Edwin Diaz: Seattle Mariners –> New York Mets
Yasiel Puig: Los Angeles Dodgers –> Cincinnati Reds
Yasmani Grandal: Los Angeles Dodgers –> Milwaukee Brewers
Nelson Cruz: Seattle Mariners –> Minnesota Twins
David Robertson: New York Yankees –> Philadelphia Phillies
Adam Jones: Baltimore Orioles –> Arizona Diamondbacks
Josh Donaldson: Cleveland Indians –> Atlanta Braves
The All-Star Game
Date: July 9, 2019
Location: Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio – Home of the Cleveland Indians
New Voting Process: The way the All-Star game starters will be selected has been overhauled for the 2019 season. Previously, the fans would vote from a large roster of players from each position and each team in the league, with the highest vote-getters becoming the starters. Now, this round will be called the “Primary Round” and the top three players at each position—with the top six for outfielders—will then advance to the next round, where fans again will vote on a single day to decide the starters.
Home Run Derby $$$: To help try and get more high-profile players into the Home Run Derby—many stars have sat out in recent years—MLB has added cash incentives to the derby, with $2.5 million in total prizes and a $1 million prize for the winner.
Extra Innings: To keep the All-Star Game from going too long if it goes into extra innings, both teams will start the 10th inning and any inning thereafter with a runner on second to help increase the odds of scoring.