Reasons for fans of all 30 MLB teams to give thanks: Postseason success, breakout stars and more

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow baseball enthusiasts! As the holiday name suggests, this is a day to be grateful for the good things that have happened and the good things that are still to come. Sports are often a secondary focus on this turkey-filled day, but baseball is as much a way of life as it is an interest. It's a companion, there for you every night seven months out of the year.

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, here is one thing baseball fans of each team can be thankful for this year. Sit back, loosen up your belt, and take a gander as you digest.


Marte's breakout. And the bargain five-year contract the Diamondbacks gave him two years ago. Ketel Marte was a bona fide MVP candidate in 2019, slugging 32 home runs with one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball. He's also a really good defender at two positions (second base and center field) and a terrific baserunner. Marte gives the D-Backs a legitimate franchise cornerstone and they are now only a few pieces away from being a serious postseason contender.

The Acuna and Albies contracts. They're arguably the two best contracts in baseball. The Braves owe Ronald Acuna Jr. less than $100 million through 2026 with club options for 2027 and 2028. Ozzie Albies has $30 million coming to him through 2025 with club options for 2026 and 2027. Having those two locked up at such bargain rates allows the Braves to spend on other things, like the $39 million contract they gave Will Smith earlier this month.

Their next franchise player. The Orioles enjoyed Manny Machado's immense production for the better part of the last decade and they now have a worthy heir to his franchise player throne: Adley Rutschman. Rutschman, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, is a switch-hitting catcher with power and strong defensive chops, and he's highly regarded for his leadership skills. Baltimore has lost 223 games the last two years and might lose another 100-plus in 2020. At least fans know they have Rutschman coming to help get the O's pointed in the right direction.

A championship core. There's a lot of chatter the Red Sox will cut payroll and possibly trade Mookie Betts this offseason, and that stinks for Red Sox fans. On the bright side, the team does have a championship core in place. Even if they trade Betts, they can move forward with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in the middle of their lineup, and Eduardo Rodriguez in the rotation. That group helped the Red Sox win the World Series just a year ago. New baseball operations head Chaim Bloom has the smarts to build around that core and get Boston back into the postseason in short order.

The 2016 World Series. The Cubs lost the 2017 NLCS, lost the 2018 NL Wild Card Game, and did not qualify for the 2019 postseason. Not a great trend! Oh, and they're talking about trading from their core this offseason. Now just imagine if they hadn't won the 2016 World Series and put an end to their 108-year title drought. Could be worse, Cubs fans. A lot worse.

Finally landing a big free agent. Last week the White Sox reeled in Yasmani Grandal, one of the top catchers in baseball and a massive upgrade behind the plate. His framing should help their pitchers quite a bit. Chicago has struck out in its pursuits of big-name free agents the last two years (Machado last year, most notably), but the team did land Grandal, and is poised to add even more this offseason. Given their strong young core (Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, etc.), the ChiSox are putting themselves in position to contend for the first time in a long time.

A front office that wants to win. Maybe they didn't go about it in the best possible way this past season, when they traded prospects for rentals, but at least the Reds made an effort to contend after four straight 90-loss seasons. Too many teams are willing to pack it in for a few years and rebuild these days. The Reds tried to contend but it didn't work. That's life. At least the effort was there. Baseball fans deserve a team that tries to win. That is the bare minimum as far as I'm concerned.

Another wave of young starters. The Indians were without Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco for long stretches of time this year, and they traded Trevor Bauer at the deadline, yet their rotation remained very strong. Shane Bieber had a breakout season and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting, and Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale combined for a 3.23 ERA in 31 starts. As a small-market team, the Indians have to develop their own players to contend, and the makings of their future rotation are now in place.

Arenado's commitment. Nolan Arenado could've become a free agent this offseason. Instead, he signed a long-term deal to remain with the Rockies, showing a commitment to the organization. He wants to stick around and help Colorado make a deep postseason run, preferably multiple postseason runs. Seven straight Gold Gloves, five straight All-Star games, four straight top-six finishes in the MVP voting. Arenado is a superstar and Rockies fans, he's all yours.

The No. 1 pick in 2020. For the second time in three years, the Tigers hold the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. They selected righty Casey Mize with the No. 1 pick in 2018 and will have the top pick in 2020. It's a little too early to know who exactly is the favorite to go No. 1 overall next year, but Georgia righty Emerson Hancock and Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson are among the candidates. The Tigers are in a deep rebuild and next year's No. 1 pick will add another stud to their farm system.  

The 2017 World Series. On one hand, the Astros are obnoxiously good and set up to contend for the next several years. On the other hand, the Astros just lost the World Series in heartbreaking fashion, they're likely to lose Gerrit Cole to free agency, and they're at the center of baseball's biggest cheating scandal since Biogenesis. Despite all that, the 2017 World Series win did happen, and there's no taking away how Astros fans felt at the time.

The 2015 World Series. Is this really as good as it gets for small-market teams? The Royals worked so hard and so long on their rebuild, and they still managed only three winning seasons in the 2010s (2013-15). Those three winning seasons brought an AL pennant (2014) and of course a World Series championship (2015). Success can be fleeting in this game -- very fleeting -- but the Royals capitalized on their window in a way so many other small-market teams have not. If that is not worth being thankful for as a baseball fan, nothing is.

The great Mike Trout. Now a three-time MVP, Trout is the best player of his generation and he's entering the conversation for the best player ever. He also turned only 28 in August, so he is right smack in the prime of his career with many more great seasons to come. The Angels have failed -- spectacularly -- to field a quality team around Trout and that's a shame. A player like this belongs on the postseason stage every year. Enjoy him while you can. Greatness like this is rare.

Bellinger's development. The power gets everyone's attention and understandably so, but Cody Bellinger became an MVP this year because of his well-rounded game. In addition to hitting 47 homers, he cut his strikeout rate from 23.9 percent last year to 16.4 percent this year, was one of the fastest players in baseball according to Statcast's sprint speed, and one of the best defensive outfielders according to Defensive Runs Saved. Bellinger was above average at everything. He did it all.

A sneaky-good rotation. Did you know Sandy Alcantara threw nearly 200 innings with a 109 ERA+ this past season? It's true. The Marlins also have high-strikeout lefty Caleb Smith and promising rookie Jordan Yamamoto in their rotation, and top prospect Sixto Sanchez on the way. It has been a long time since the Marlins were competitive -- they lost 911 games in the 2010s, most in the decade -- but at least now you can begin to see the makings of a quality rotation. Better days are ahead.

The Yelich contract. My goodness, what a bargain. Christian Yelich has broken out as an MVP caliber player the last two seasons and the Brewers paid him only $7 million in 2018 and $9.25 million in 2019. They owe him $12 million in 2020, $14 million in 2021, and they hold a $15 million club option for 2022. That is one of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball and it gives the Brewers to freedom to spend elsewhere on the roster, and improve their chances to contend.

A record-setting 2019. 101 wins, the second most in franchise history, and 307 home runs, the most in baseball history. The Twins shattered the all-time home run record -- they broke the previous record by 40 (!) homers -- and are set up to contend against in 2020. Yeah, they could use some more pitching, but the core is young and affordable. With any luck, the Twins will avoid the Yankees in the postseason next year.

The great Jacob deGrom. If you would have told me in 2015 that a Mets pitcher would win back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019, I would've guessed it would be Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. Instead, it was deGrom, who has emerged as one of the top pitchers in the sport the last few seasons and is already on the very short list of the best pitchers in franchise history. The top four is Tom Seaver, Doc Gooden, Jerry Koosman, and deGrom, right? I'm willing to bet Seaver and deGrom stand above everyone else when it's all said and done.

The first unanimous Hall of Famer. And maybe the second too, depending what happens with Derek Jeter this voting cycle. Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer earlier this year and it's fitting seeing how he is indisputably the best reliever in history. If he didn't get in unanimously, I don't know who could. The Yankees have a lot to be thankful for on the field as well, for sure, but making Hall of Fame history is pretty cool too.

The best infield in baseball. Here's a fun fact: the Athletics led baseball in WAR at first base (3.0), shortstop (5.7), and third base (4.5) in 2019. Even with a black hole at second base (minus-1.4 WAR), they sport the game's most impactful infield thanks to first baseman Matt Olson, shortstop Marcus Semien, and third baseman Matt Chapman. All Gold Glove caliber defenders who do serious damage at the plate. Few teams have a core as good as Oakland.

An owner who wants to win. Those are in surprisingly short supply these days. The Phillies gave Bryce Harper a 13-year contract last offseason and they've already hired Joe Girardi to be their new manager this offseason. Chances are the team will make a big push for the top free-agent starters and try to put themselves in the best position to win in 2020. Will it work? Maybe! Not sure. But at least they're trying. Too many teams aren't.

A fresh start. A fresh start that was a long time coming, really. After losing 93 games in 2019, the Pirates fired their president, their general manager, and their manager. Travis Williams replaces Frank Coonelly as team president and Ben Cherington, architect of the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox, replaces Neal Huntington as general manager. In the dugout, Derek Shelton replaces Clint Hurdle. At least now the Pirates are moving in a new direction.

The joy of Fernando Tatis Jr. It did not take Tatis long to become one of the most electrifying players in baseball, and he did it as a 20-year-old rookie this year. He's a great hitter, a highlight reel defender at shortstop, and he runs the bases like his hair is on fire without being reckless. For my money, Javier Baez has been the most exciting player in the game the last few years. You can't take your eyes off him. Tatis is coming for that throne. What a joy to watch.

Being the team of the decade. Other teams had more wins (many more) and other teams had more postseason appearances (several more), but no team had more World Series wins than the Giants in the 2010s. That makes them the team of the decade in my book. Would this even be a debate if the decade had been reversed and San Francisco won three titles in the five most recent seasons rather than the five most distant seasons? No. No it would not. 

Edgar finally getting into Cooperstown. It took 10 years -- 10 long years on the ballot -- but Edgar Martinez is indeed a Hall of Famer. He was voted into Cooperstown earlier this year, in his final year on the ballot. Martinez should've been in a long time ago, of course, but once you're in, you're in. First ballot or tenth ballot, it doesn't matter. Once you get voted in, you're a Hall of Famer for life, and Martinez is now a Hall of Famer. Hooray for that.

Flaherty's breakout. Few pitchers have ever put together a second half as dominant as Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty in 2019. He allowed 10 earned runs in 15 starts and 99 1/3 innings after the All-Star break -- that works out to a 0.91 ERA -- and that earned him a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. St. Louis now has a bona fide ace to lead the rotation and he's only 24, with four years of team control remaining to boot.

A return to contention. Do you know the Rays had the sixth longest postseason drought in baseball going into 2019? True story. Tampa returned to the postseason in 2019 and pushed the eventual AL champion Astros to the maximum five games in the ALDS. The Rays have a 96-win core in place, the best farm system in baseball, and the best prospect in baseball in shortstop Wander Franco. It's not unreasonable to say the Rays may be about to enter the most successful period in franchise history.

A new ballpark. Globe Life Field, which will open next year, has a retractable roof and that means fresh air when the weather is nice and air conditioning when it's hot -- Texas hot -- in the summer. Also, a new ballpark means the Rangers are likely to have an active offseason. They want to open their new facility with a team capable of pushing for a postseason spot.

The literal big-league kids. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio are the sons of Hall of Famers. Bo Bichette is Dante's son. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is the son of a Cuban baseball legend. All those youngsters with Grade-A bloodlines form a very strong offensive core and the foundation of the next great Blue Jays team. Toronto has to get its pitching in order at some point soon. It sure looks like the Blue Jays have the offensive side of their rebuild figured out though.

Finally getting over the hump. After suffering ugly NLDS defeat after ugly NLDS defeat for the better part of a decade, the Nationals and their fans were rewarded with not only a World Series championship in 2019, but maybe the most improbable World Series run in history. Washington's postseason odds sat a 22.2 percent on May 22. Their win probability was 11.6 percent in the eighth inning of the NL Wild Card Game. It was 9.7 percent in the eighth inning of NLDS Game 5 and 15.0 percent in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the World Series. The Nationals made all those comebacks to win the first title in franchise history. That is pretty, pretty cool.
CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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