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Baseball’s busy offseason full of trades and changes

America’s pastime is back.

Major League Baseball kicked off its 146th season on April 6 of this year, and fans can only hope this season is exciting as the last.

This season is coming off the cusp of a seven-game World Series that saw the San Francisco Giants edge out the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic for their eighth World Series and third in the last five years. It was a series headlined by pitcher Madison Bumgarner, a product of South Caldwell High School in Hudson, North Carolina, who was named the World Series Most Valuable Player.

Following this was perhaps one of the most bizarre offseasons in baseball history.

Within a week of last year’s season ending, the Chicago Cubs signed Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon to become their new manager. Add this to the fact that the Chicago White Sox could potentially be the most improved team in baseball for the 2015 season after an excellent offseason, and the city of Chicago has been in the spotlight for the past six months.

Then the Los Angeles Dodgers, consistent big-time spenders, replaced one of the best middle infields in baseball from 2014: shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dee Gordon. Ramirez signed with the Boston Red Sox and Gordon with the Miami Marlins. The excellent duo of former Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins and former Los Angeles Angels second basemen Howie Kendrick took their place.

Teams from the National League East Division were other major headliners of the offseason.

The offseason also included former Greensboro Grasshopper outfielder Giancarolo Stanton. In his 2014 season as a Marlin, Stanton hit 37 home runs on a .288 batting average with 105 RBIs.  This led Stanton to signing a 13-year, $325 million deal with the Miami Marlins, the largest contract in sports history.

The Washington Nationals were able to make one of the best pitching rotations in baseball even better by signing former Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer to a $210 million deal. Speculation regarding this deal helps make the Nationals the early National League and possibly World Series favorites.

And then there is the local favorite of many North Carolinians, the Atlanta Braves, who traded their best offensive players, catcher Evan Gattis to the Houston Astros, outfielder Justin Upton to the San Diego Padres and outfielder Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals. Then the Braves made perhaps the most surprising late offseason move by trading both outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. and star closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres.

Along with many offseason transactions came multiple offseason rule changes, most of which regarding pace of play.

For the 2015 – 2016 season, managers must now challenge all replays from the dugout, batters must now keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times unless an established exception occurs and play must resume promptly once the broadcast returns from a commercial break.

After all of these drastic changes and a couple of months of spring training, the 2015 season got kicked off April 6 with a matchup between the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Cardinals shut out the Cubs 3–0.

This season, many believe that the National League can be the best of the two divisions despite American League teams getting off to a hot start. The Washington Nationals are the preseason consensus to be the World Series favorite. According to  Vegas odds though, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals are not far behind them.

In the American League, many expect the Red Sox to have a great shot to be playing late in October with the hot-starting Tigers, Royals and possibly the rising Seattle Mariners as World Series contenders.

After the long wait, baseball fanatics have seven months of baseball in front of them.

The quest for October has officially begun.

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