(Montreal) The year 2023 in Major League Baseball was the year of Shohei Ohtani, on and off the field.

While the Japanese first won his second American League MVP award in three seasons thanks to spectacular performances as a hitter and pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels, all attention was focused on his contract, which expired at the end of the last World Series.

His new pact promised to be huge, but now a second serious elbow injury in five years will keep him away from the mound in 2024. Would it also reduce his market value? Nay!

As if signing Ohtani wasn’t enough, the Dodgers added another one just before Christmas. They won the derby for Yoshinubu Yamamoto, a young prodigy pitcher from Japan, by granting him a pact of 325 million over 12 years.

The Dodgers therefore granted more than a billion to two players: we are slowly getting closer to the prediction of the Cowboys Fringants who announced in La Tête à Papineau that a baseball player had just signed for a billion…

While everyone was feverishly awaiting Ohtani’s signing, it was the New York Yankees who hit the first home run at the Winter Conference by landing young power hitter Juan Soto in a mega deal with the San Diego Padres.

In order to get Soto and Gold Glove-winning outfielder Trent Grisham, the Yankees gave up three promising young pitchers as well as catcher Kyle Higashioka.

Soto, 25, has the potential to become one of the best players of his generation, but he’s already on his third roster in six seasons.

The Jays had a season that fell short of expectations. It was as the third team drafted that they managed to qualify for the playoffs, during the very last weekend of the season. Their playoff journey in the American, however, only lasted two games: the Torontonians were eliminated by Quebecer Édouard Julien and the Minnesota Twins.

If Bo Bichette offered consistent performances, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a disappointing season, hitting only .264/.345/.444, 26 CC, 94 PP, his worst production at any level – if we exclude his first season in MLB.

On the mound, the Jays were able to count on solid seasons from Kevin Gausman, third in the Cy-Young voting in the American, and Chris Bassitt. Yusei Kikuchi has also rebounded well after a difficult 2022 season. On the other hand, Alek Manoah has taken a serious step backwards, even being dropped twice at the AAA level. His future with the club would also be called into question.

Their autumn was hardly more glorious.

The Queen City team has also bitten the dust in all transaction and free agent files. Linked to all the big names – Ohtani, Yamamoto, Cody Bellinger, among others – she finds herself at the time these lines were written with the same lineup as last year, minus Matt Chapman. The third baseman is currently a free agent. In short, the Jays badly need reinforcements for 2024.

Édouard Julien arrived through the front door at the Minnesota Twins. The Quebec second baseman, after having enjoyed success at all levels in the minor leagues and having made all of baseball’s eyes widen last year, in the Arizona Fall League, did not miss his arrival with the big club.

Recalled in May, he never went down to the AAA level again this season, maintaining offensive averages of .263/.381/.458 with 16 doubles, as many home runs, 37 PP and 60 PC in 109 games. Those stats earned him a spot on the Twins’ playoff roster – he was used in all six of their games – and finished seventh in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.

Rumors point to a slimming cure on the payroll side in Minnesota. If this is the case, Julien will be the first to benefit.

The season was more difficult for the three other Quebecers knocking on the doors of the Majors.

Charles Leblanc, who believed he had made his niche with the Miami Marlins after an interesting first breakthrough with the Florida team, was instead released from the club’s 40-man roster and spent the season at the AAA level.

His statistics were worse there than in 2022, before his recall by the Marlins. He signed a minor league contract with the Angels last November and hopes to earn an invitation to major league camp.

For his part, Abraham Toro continues to be a “AAAA” player. He spent the season at the AAA level in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, where he presented very interesting statistics (.291/.374/.471, 8 CC, 36 2B, 58 PP). But those numbers only earned him nine short games in the Majors, where he did well, with eight hits in 18 appearances, including two home runs and nine RBIs. That won’t stop him from joining a fifth organization in five years: he was traded in November to the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for a minor league player.

As for Otto Lopez, he seems to be the victim of infield congestion for the Jays and, it must be noted, of lackluster statistics at the AAA level this season (.258/.313/.343, 2 CC, 35 PP, his career-worst minor league numbers). Recalled only for one match in 2023 (in which he did not participate), he seems to have reached a crossroads within the Toronto organization.

Major League Baseball team owners voted unanimously in favor of the Athletics moving from Oakland to Las Vegas after the last World Series. To say that there are still a few loops to complete, however, is an pleonasm.

It’s still unclear where the A’s will play in Las Vegas, although the team plans to build a new stadium there on the Strip. The rental lease for the dilapidated Oakland Coliseum expires after the 2024 season, but the opening of a possible new home in Nevada would not take place before 2027, which leaves some artistic vagueness about this relocation, the first in the MLB since the departure of the Montreal Expos to Washington.

This relocation of the A’s and the announcement of the project to build a new stadium in Tampa Bay could pave the way for expansion in Major League Baseball.

Unfortunately for Montreal fans, it appears that the Quebec metropolis will not be in the mix. The Montreal Baseball Group would have no interest in an expansion team and the political will to invest in the construction of a new stadium downtown is not there. In addition, it seems that we do not have a “baseball plan” in the works for the major repair work that must take place at the Olympic Stadium.

As of this writing, Nashville, Tennessee and Salt Lake City, Utah appear to have the upper hand over Charlotte, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon.