way to duplicate their success from last season is to forget it happened altogether.Milwaukee won the NL Central last year for the first time since 2011 and made it all the way to the NL Championship Series before losing to the more experienced Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. Yelich earned his first NL MVP award after nearly winning the Triple Crown
, and Josh Hader and Jesus Aguilar each had a breakout performance.Barreling toward a season with considerable expectations, Yelich and Co. have little interest in revisiting the past.“I think our message is nothing that happened last year means anything going into this year,” Yelich said. “It’s a new year. It’s a new team. We got the same goal, but you can’t think just because you did it last year it’s just going to happen all over again. You’ve got to have that drive and the hunger to get back to that point.”Milwaukee has never won the World Series. Only once before have the Brewers even made consecutive playoff appearances, back when they won the AL East in 1981 and 1982.They are well-positioned to enjoy more success this year.Yelich, Aguilar and Lorenzo Cain lead a versatile offense that bashed 218 homers last season, second in the NL to the Dodgers, and swiped 124 bases, tops in the league. Hader is back after setting a major league record for a left-handed reliever with 143 strikeouts in 81 1/3 innings. The rotation is a work in progress, but there are lots of viable options for manager Craig Counsell.The Brewers are going to need all of them, and more. The NL Central is much improved since Milwaukee beat the Chicago Cubs in a tiebreaker game for the division title.“It’s the only division in baseball where every team’s trying to win
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,” Yelich said. “So yeah, it’s going to be a tough division. I think we understand that and I bet you it’s decided by a game or two just like it was last year. So we know every game counts.”Milwaukee hosts NL Central-rival St. Louis on opening day on March 28.WHO’S ON SECONDMike Moustakas re-signed with the Brewers last month, agreeing to a $10 million, one-year contract. He came over in a July trade with Kansas City and provided a steady presence at third base during Milwaukee’s playoff run. But the Brewers plan to play him at second even though he has never played the position in a major league game. Travis Shaw is the starter at third for now after he hit a career-high 32 homers for Milwaukee last year.NEW FACESWhile Manny Pina and Erik Kratz were an effective duo in the playoffs last October, Milwaukee upgraded its catching situation when it signed Yasmani Grandal to an $18.25 million, one-year contract in January. Grandal batted .241 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs in a career-best 140 games last year with the Dodgers. He has hit at least 20 homers in each of the past three seasons. The addition of the 30-year-old switch hitter makes Milwaukee’s lineup even more dangerous.STILL GOINGRyan Braun made some changes to his swing after he hit .254 with 20 homers and 64 RBIs in 125 games last season. The 35-year-old Braun isn’t the player he once was, but the 2011 NL MVP remains a key figure for the Brewers.WORTH WATCHINGJeremy Jeffress made the All-Star team for the first time in 2018, teaming with Hader and Corey Knebel to form a dominant trio at the back end of the bullpen at the end of the season. But the 31-year-old Jeffress set career highs for appearances (73) and innings (76 2/3), and then was slowed by right shoulder weakness during spring training. Any sort of prolonged health issue for the dynamic Jeffress could affect the Brewers’ pitching plans.CARRYOVERThe Brewers are hoping Orlando Arcia can carry over his strong finish into this season. The 24-year-old shortstop struggled for much of last year, and he had a big September and then hit .333 with three homers and four RBIs during Milwaukee’s run to the NLCS. The Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox
, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers still have their championship aspirations intact, but the other 26 Major League teams are all looking ahead to the 2019 season.That includes the New York Yankees, who were beaten by the Red Sox in the American League Division Series. General manager Brian Cashman saw his team finish eight games behind the Red Sox during the regular season in addition to dropping the postseason series, and he knows his team has to make some moves to close the gap on the Old Towne Team.One of those moves is likely to involve pitcher Sonny Gray, who was acquired by the Yankees in the 2017 season. Gray was quite sharp earlier in his career with the Oakland A's, but he has largely struggled since donning the pinstripes.Gray was 11-9 with a 4.90 earned-run average in 2018, and he had a 1.496 WHIP. In addition to the numbers, Gray seemed to have a difficult time throwing with confidence in key games for the Yankees.Cashman believes that Gray is talented, but pitching under the microscope in New York City has not helped him. The general manager willtry to move Gray in the offseason, according to David Lennon of Newsday.The 28-year-old Gray is arbitration eligible in the upcoming season and could be a free agent in 2020. He made the All-Star team in 2015 and has finished as high as third in Cy Young voting, so the Yankees should be able to get a decent-to-good asset for him.The Philadelphia Phillies were in contention for the National League East title throughout much of the summer before they struggled in the final weeks and gave way to the Atlanta Braves.The Phillies are expected to be heavily involved in free agency during the offseason
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, and they could be among the suitors for superstars Manny Machado of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.It seems unlikely that they could sign both of those players, but Jon Heyman of FanCred Sports says that possibility should not be ruled out.The Phillies have been interested in Machado since it became known that the Baltimore Orioles were willing to move him, but signing Harper could have a more significant impact because he could help their lineup and also weaken the division rival Washington Nationals.Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs did not have the kind of season that he was hoping for in 2018 as injuries took their toll.However, the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player still has great confidence in his own ability, even though he was held to 13 home runs and 52 runs batted in while playing 102 games.Bryant has reportedly turned down a $200 million contract extension from the Cubs, according toESPN Radio's David Kaplan and alsoSports Illustrated'sScooby Axson.Instead of signing a long-term extension, the belief is that Bryant will receive annual salary increases until he becomes eligible for free agency in 2022 when he turns 30.
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