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Shohei Ohtani shipped to NL rival and other bold predictions for the 2023 MLB season

Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Take a hammer to the piggybank. Cash out the kid’s college fund.

Throw it all in a money bag with next month’s mortgage and run — don’t walk — to the nearest sportsbook.

Because we’ve got the results for this year’s MLB pennant races, awards voting and prop bets that can make you rich, Rich, RICH!

Trust us.

The latest, greatest, boldest predictions for the baseball season. Remember, you heard it here first:

Both Texas teams make the playoffs for only the fourth time in history (1998, 1999, 2015)

The Houston Astros? Sure. If there’s a surprise here, it’s that the Texas Rangers will get to the postseason after six straight losing seasons — albeit, after adding the best pitcher on the planet, Jacob deGrom, and a Hall of Fame manager, Bruce Bochy. Check that, the real surprise here is that the Rangers will do it because deGrom, 34, will be healthy enough to make 30 starts, which he hasn’t done in four years.

Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Neither New York team make the playoffs, for the first time since 2014.

That’s right. The big-spending, Big Apple boys with 200 combined wins a year ago will miss October this time around because of improved competition, key injuries and lack of depth in areas that will bite each of them.

First time a team vacates left field to deploy an outfield defensive shift: April 18, Minnesota Twins at Boston Red Sox, top of the first inning.

The batter: Joey Gallo. The Boston Red Sox actually did this already during spring training, testing a loophole in the new rule banning the extreme infield shift. They have the ballpark dimensions, questionable athleticism in their infield, the exact dead-pull lefty opponent and obvious mindset to do it.

First pitch clock violation: Saturday or Sunday, depending on when San Diego Padres All-Star Yu Darvish gets his first start of the season.

Because he’ll be the guy who commits the violation. The powerful right-hander and 2020 Cy Young runner-up found elevated success in 2019 when he began consciously taking even more time than his past lengthy time between pitches. And he only got a fraction of spring training to adjust to the new pitch timers because he pitched for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic (which did not employ the new MLB clock rules).

willson contreras
Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since World War II, St. Louis Cardinals will have back-to-back MVPs who are not the same player — and, no, this isn’t about Nolan Arenado.

It was Mort Cooper, Stan Musial and Marty Marion from 1942-44. This time it’s newly signed catcher Willson Contreras — a three-time All-Star who has never received an MVP vote — following Paul Goldschmidt last year. No player with this much talent is as motivated in 2023 to succeed in place of Yadi Molina as the player who was all but ushered into free agency and out of town by the ingrate, pound-foolish Chicago Cubs.

Shohei Ohtani gets traded in July to … the Los Angeles Dodgers.

You thought the Juan Soto trade last summer was a blockbuster for the ages? Brace yourself for the frenzy created by the rent-a-player of all rent-a-players on the market. The Dodgers have the farm system to deal from, the potential need (especially to shore up the front end of the rotation), an aggressive enough ownership for the pro-rated $30 million salary, the division-rival heat from the San Diego Padres and the possible long-game motive of getting a head start on wooing him as a free agent. The Los Angeles Angels, meanwhile, do Shohei Ohtani a solid by allowing him in stay in his adopted home market and sleep in his own bed as they eye their own free-agent bid for him after the season — and pocket a haul of Dodger prospects for their trouble. (This cross-league trade also is why he won’t win an MVP award this year).

kyle hendricks
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Most impactful deadline trade coming this July that nobody’s thinking about: Kyle Hendricks from the Chicago Cubs to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The former ERA champ with big-game chops is expected back at full strength from a shoulder issue in May, and he’ll put former Cub Sam Fuld’s Phillies rotation depth over the top for the final stretch and into October. Why would the Cubs trade him? Because they’ll be out of contention, and they’ve salary-dumped, released or let walk literally every other player who helped win the 2016 championship (albeit, eventually hiring one as manager). Also this: If they don’t trade him and pick up his modest 2024 option to retain club control, Kyle Hendricks reaches 10-and-5 status about three weeks before next year’s deadline, which means full no-trade rights.

Gordon Wittenmyer, MLB expert and former beat writer for NBC Sports Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times. Get Gordon’s latest Sportsnaut Exclusive today!

The Cincinnati Reds will tank so thoroughly while trying to sell a few tickets that they will make Ken Griffey Jr. — retired so long he was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2016 — their fourth-highest-paid player on the team.

Wait. Just being told that vision is actually already a contractual obligation from 2000 that assures annual deferred salary worth $3.59 million this year.

This year’s Milwaukee Brewers (the team that finished one game out of the playoffs last year): the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The sneaky-good D’Backs are still a year away but have enough talent in the likes of Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte and Zac Gallen to put a scare into the bigger-payroll contenders this year.

san diego padres
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

West Coast drought conditions ease dramatically

For the first time in 22 years, the Seattle Mariners will finish in first place, riding exceptional pitching and an MVP season from Julio Rodriguez past two other playoff qualifiers to win the AL West. And for the first time ever, the San Diego Padres will win the World Series.

The Playoff Field

NL East — Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central — Milwaukee Brewers

NL West — San Diego Padres

NL Wild Card — Atlanta Braves

NL Wild Card — St. Louis Cardinals

NL Wild Card — Los Angeles Dodgers

AL East — Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central — Minnesota Twins

AL West — Seattle Mariners

AL Wild Card — Houston Astros

AL Wild Card — Texas Rangers

AL Wild Card — Baltimore Orioles

World Series — Padres over Blue Jays

BBWAA Awards

NL MVP — Willson Contreras, Cardinals.

AL MVP — Julio Rodriguez, Mariners.

NL Cy Young — Aaron Nola, Phillies

AL Cy Young — Alek Manoah, Blue Jays

NL Rookie of the Year — Hayden Wesneski, Cubs

AL Rookie of the Year — Anthony Volpe, Yankees

NL Manager of the Year — Craig Counsell, Brewers

AL Manager of the Year — Bruce Bochy, Rangers

Gordon Wittenmyer covers Major League Baseball for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @GDubCub.