MLB Offseason 2012: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Each MLB Team

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2012

MLB Offseason 2012: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Each MLB Team

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    Major League Baseball is now approaching the final turn of what has been thus far a very surprising offseason in many respects.

    Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno spent more in one single day ($331.5 million) than many teams have spent in 10 years of offseason free agent signings, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been relatively quiet, at least until the Yankees dropped a bomb on Friday with the trade that netted Michael Pineda and the signing of Hiroki Kuroda, and the second-biggest free agent on the market (Prince Fielder) has yet to sign.

    The rich have certainly gotten richer, which is not surprising. However, this offseason, there has clearly been more of a method to each team’s madness, so to speak. Many teams have talked more about long-term planning rather than just spending for the short term (Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles), and have acted in a much more fiscally responsible matter as a result.

    Inevitably, the signings made by each team will be researched and studied ad nauseum, as experts and pundits either laud or pan the decisions made by teams. And, inevitably, many of the free agents will ultimately prosper or flame out entirely.

    Bleacher Report will take a look at the activity of each MLB team during the offseason, and make a determination as to what would be the best or worst case scenario for each. For some, we’ll take a look at the positive, for some the negative.

     

Arizona Diamondbacks: Trevor Cahill Finds Life Outside of Oakland is Harrowing

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    On Dec. 9, the Oakland Athletics traded cash, LHP Craig Breslow and RHP Trevor Cahill to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RF Collin Cowgill, RHP Jarrod Parker and RHP Ryan Cook. The move was seen as a huge win for the D-Backs, who added Cahill to an already impressive starting rotation that features Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter.

    However, Cahill will now be pitching outside the confines of the cavernous Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, which has a tendency to mask mistakes. In addition, Cahill’s second-half numbers in 2011 (4-7, 5.80 ERA, 1.636 WHIP) were a major falloff from a terrific first half (8-7, 3.12 ERA, 1.291 WHIP).

    Cahill was able to get away with certain mistakes in his previous home, however, Chase Field won’t be nearly as forgiving.

Atlanta Braves: Inactivity Will Lead to Stagnation

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    Thus far, the Atlanta Braves have been one of the quieter teams this offseason, other than the trade of Derek Lowe to the Cleveland Indians and re-signing their own players, Jack Wilson and Martin Prado.

    While the Braves feature a wealth of young pitchers and will no doubt be able to prevent runs, their inactivity with respect to their offense could lead to disappointment once again in 2012.

    Can Tyler Pastornicky step up and be a quality everyday shortstop at the major league level? Can Jason Heyward bounce back from a horrible sophomore season? Is there a contingency plan in case 39-year-old Chipper Jones succumbs to age and injury?

    The Braves certainly have a solid core with Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla in the middle of the lineup, and with Michael Bourn setting the table at the top of the order. However, will inactivity haunt them next season?

Baltimore Orioles: Oriental Connection Spells Success

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    To be completely honest here, the Baltimore Orioles really have nowhere to go but up. Mired in a period of mediocrity that has only been outmatched by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the O’s have now suffered through 14 straight losing seasons, and fans are staying away from Camden Yards in droves.

    With Dan Duquette now in charge, the Orioles will feature a bevy of international stars, and the starting rotation will be headed by Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada and Taiwanese pitching sensation Wei-Yin Chen.

    While the history of pitchers who are of Asian persuasion hasn’t exactly translated into major success at the MLB level, Duquette is known as a terrific evaluator of international talent.

    Let’s face it, folks, things really can’t get much worse in Baltimore. If Wada and Chen perform to the levels that Duquette projects, then at least manager Buck Showalter can save some of what is left of his silver mane.

Boston Red Sox: Right Field Becomes Area of Albatross

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    The Boston Red Sox have certainly undergone an offseason of change; however, most of that change has occurred in management rather than the field of play.

    With a new manager and GM in place, it stood to reason that other changes would be occurring as well, especially in light of the clubhouse issues that were brought to light in the weeks following the epic collapse in September.

    However, the Sox have been relatively quiet, save for the trade with the Oakland A’s that netted closer Andrew Bailey. In the trade, the Sox gave up right fielder Josh Reddick, who showed some promise in the closing months of the 2011 regular season.

    Now, the Sox are left with a possible platoon in right field between Darnell McDonald and Ryan Sweeney, who was included in the trade with the A’s. Ryan Kalish, another promising prospect, will likely be out until at least late May/early June following offseason shoulder surgery.

    The offseason isn’t over yet, but Red Sox fans can’t possibly be happy with the current lineup in right field, and if Carl Crawford isn’t able to bounce back from an abysmal first season in Boston, they could be left with even more major concerns.

Chicago Cubs: Going from One Extreme to the Other Spells More of the Same

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    The Chicago Cubs are one team certainly guilty of signing players to bloated contracts that yielded nothing close to return value over the past several seasons. While one of those headaches is gone (Carlos Zambrano), they still own players that will be difficult to get off the books (Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster) without having to pony up most of their 2012 salary along with any possible trade.

    They are already paying the vast majority of Zambrano’s 2012 salary for the Miami Marlins, and they likely won’t get away without doing the same for both Dempster and Soriano, should any trade possibilities arise.

    New president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has already made it clear that any significant monies spent will be for the benefit of long-term success, rather than to satisfy the cravings of Cubs fans who want that success tomorrow.

    The 2012 season may see the Cubs simply wait it out and completely clear out the abundance of cash tied up with current bloated salaries, and use the money to make significant long-term moves next offseason.

Chicago White Sox: Kenny Williams Rebuild or Rework or Retool Yields More Misery

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    In the wake of the 2011 season which saw the Chicago White Sox spending lavishly to yield a miserable 79-83 record, GM Kenny Williams embarked on what was originally termed a rebuilding process. However, that theory was debunked by new manager Robin Ventura, who called it a retooling process.

    Whatever it’s called, the offseason transactions by Williams to rebuild or rework or retool have been puzzling to say the least. The trades of Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor netted some prospects, but none of them were anywhere near top-tier prospects. The signing of John Danks to a five-year, $65 million contract was questioned by many as well, as Danks was thought to be the one chip the White Sox had that could yield quality return.

    The White Sox season will likely hinge on huge bounceback seasons for Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, and the success of Matt Thornton as the everyday closer. If 2011 numbers are repeated for this quartet, White Sox fans will almost assuredly feel disappointment once again.

Cincinnati Reds: Mat Latos Proves He Can Survive Outside of Petco Park

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    Much like Trevor Cahill earlier on this slide show, starting pitcher Mat Latos will be staring at life outside of a ballpark that was conducive to hiding mistakes.

    Latos featured a lifetime ERA of 3.11 during his three seasons at Petco Park with the San Diego Padres. While his road numbers aren’t significantly worse (3.57 ERA), it will nonetheless be interesting to see how Latos fares in his new domain.

    Albeit a small sample size, Latos has a 1.93 ERA in two starts at Great American Ballpark, which certainly bodes well. If Latos can find his new surroundings to his liking, he and Johnny Cueto at the top of the Reds’ starting rotation could prove to be daunting for the rest of the NL Central.

Cleveland Indians: Sizemore and Hafner Actually Stay Healthy

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    In the 2011 season, center fielder Grady Sizemore and designated hitter Travis Hafner played a combined 165 games between them, leaving the Cleveland Indians to fill the void far too often with players that were unable to produce anywhere near the same amount of offense.

    With Sizemore signed to a team-friendly contract that increases exponentially according to games played, and Hafner hoping to play in more than 120 games for the first time since 2007, there is some hope. However, both stars absolutely must stay healthy if the Tribe expects to contend in 2012. Otherwise, the likes of Shelley Duncan and Matt LaPorta will become go-to guys in their absence, and neither have yet to show they’re worthy of go-to status.

Colorado Rockies: New Collection of Arms Reaps Collective Calamity

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    The Colorado Rockies have gathered up a veritable cornucopia of arms over the past several months, starting with the trade of Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians that netted Drew Pomeranz and Alex White last July, to the trade with the Los Angeles Angels that netted pitcher Tyler Chatwood, to the free agent signing of former Minnesota Twins starter Kevin Slowey.

    With the acquisitions, the Rockies have Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Esmil Rogers, Jason Hammel, White, Pomeranz, Chatwood and Slowey all in the mix for the starting rotation. While Chacin is a relative lock, it’s anyone’s guess as to who the final three will be. Nicasio is working his way back from a broken neck suffered last year, and has nasty written all over his repertoire of pitches if he can in fact return. Rogers is working back from a dismal 2011 campaign (7.05 ERA, 1.89 WHIP) and Hammel hasn’t exactly been lights out in his three-year stint with Colorado.

    Pomeranz certainly shows promise, and White and Chatwood both showed flashes of brilliance mixed in with a healthy dose of putridity in their rookie seasons. Slowey was a throwaway in Minnesota, which doesn’t say much considering they were the worst pitching staff in the American League last year.

    General manager Dan O’Dowd expressed extreme displeasure in last year’s team, and promised change. Last September, O’Dowd told the Denver Post, “The one option that you won't see is adding marginal players in the mix for average dollars. I have to stop making those decisions."

    Um, excuse me, but isn’t that pretty much what O’Dowd has done with his pitching staff?

Detroit Tigers: Inability to Upgrade Corner Positions

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    The Detroit Tigers were two games away from reaching the World Series last season, and much promise was seen for the future, aided by mainstays in the lineup and a more than solid pitching staff.

    While GM Dave Dombrowski made some moves to shore up his bullpen, signing free agent Octavio Dotel and trading for Collin Balester, no moves have been made to shore up some glaring needs in the lineup itself.

    Second baseman Ramon Santiago was resigned to a two-year, $4.2 million contract; however, third base and left field remain major question marks.

    While the Tigers have officially said they like Young, they don’t like his free-wheeling bat that led to a .274 batting average, but just a .298 on-base percentage. That, and the fact that they are high on the list of teams in the hunt for free agent Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, lends credence to the fact that their impression of Young is merely lip service.

    If the Tigers are unable to land Cespedes and make no move to upgrade at third base, the prospects for the top third of the batting order remain about on par with last year’s results, which weren’t pretty.

Houston Astros: They Win 57 Games

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    What more can be said about the Houston Astros’ 2011 season other than the fact that they were horrible?

    The best thing to come out of the 2011 season was the fact that news regarding the Astros’ transfer of ownership and possible move to the AL West overshadowed the awful play on the field.

    Now, with new owner Jim Crane in place and with new GM Jeff Luhnow directing baseball moves, the question is now about what the Astros will do to improve in 2012 and beyond. Based on moves made thus far, the future is still in question, and 2012 may be a wash.

    While the trades of Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence last season significantly improved the Astros’ farm system (Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana), the only significant acquisition thus far this offseason netted them an everyday shortstop (Jed Lowrie) who has yet to prove he can actually stay on the field every day.

    At this point, 57 wins in 2012 would be an improvement. As for the future, who knows.

Kansas City Royals: Breaking the Break-Even Point

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    For an organization that has seen one winning season since 1994, the Kansas City Royals have a renewed optimism for the future, with rising young prospects and  a mix of veterans to provide leadership as well.

    The Royals closed out last season on a positive note, winning 11 of their last 16 games and finishing with a 15-10 record in September. Rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Johnny Giavotella broke through with loads of promise and potential, and veterans Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Jeff Francoeur supplied solid bats throughout the year.

    The pitching staff has been upgraded as well, with the additions of Jonathan Broxton and Jonathan Sanchez. Danny Duffy and Aaron Crow both show long-term potential, and Bruce Chen has been more than solid in his two-plus years with the Royals.

    Much of the Royals’ success in 2012 will depend on the continued maturation of their youngsters. If Moustakas, Hosmer, Giavotella and young center fielder Lorenzo Cain can deliver, Royals’ fans can look back on the 2012 season as the year that turned things around in Kansas City.

Los Angeles Angels: Anything Short of a Pennant Will Be Utter Disappointment

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    Considering what the Los Angeles Angels spent in one day on Dec. 10, anything short of an American League pennant will be a bitter disappointment.

    Angels owner Arte Moreno didn’t just open up his checkbook on Dec. 10; he emptied it completely. Spending $331.5 million on free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels suddenly went from just good on paper to World Series contenders with two signatures on contracts.

    In addition, new general manager Jerry DiPoto brought in catcher Chris Iannetta to shore up the catcher’s position that combined to hit just 29th in the majors overall, signed LaTroy Hawkins to bolster the bullpen, and locked up second baseman Howie Kendrick to a four-year contract.

    Expectations will indeed by high in Anaheim, and while they still have question marks that center on whether or not Vernon Wells can bounce back from an awful first season with the Angels, whether or not Mark Trumbo can adapt to a new position, and whether or not Kendrys Morales can come back healthy and provide offense at DH, the new acquisitions far outweigh the question marks, and nothing short of a pennant will suffice.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Frank McCourt Is Still Around Come Opening Day

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    For everything that happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, they still wound up with a record above .500, which is pretty remarkable considering the circus atmosphere that surrounded the play on the field.

    From the divorce proceedings of owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie, to the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow in the parking lot on Opening Day, to the takeover of Dodgers’ operations by MLB, to the bankruptcy filed by McCourt in June, and to the pending auction of the sale of the team itself, it would have been perfectly understandable if the Dodgers melted and lost 90 games or more.

    However, they stood proud on the field and finished with a record of 82-79, produced a Cy Young Award winner (Clayton Kershaw) and a runner-up MVP (Matt Kemp) who very nearly hit for the Triple Crown, an achievement not seen in the majors since 1967.

    The only thing that could possibly be worse for the Dodgers at this point in time is if McCourt is still the owner to start the 2012 season. Baseball would do itself proud if they proceeded expeditiously to ensure new ownership is in place by the start of the season, so that the Dodgers can actually focus on what’s going on between the chalk lines.

Miami Marlins: Same Scenario as the Los Angeles Angels

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    The Chicago White Sox had a mantra for their 2011 season. “All in” was the phrase generally used on the South Side, as GM Kenny Williams lifted Sox payroll to above $120 million in hopes that the Sox would indeed be “all in” in their quest for the 2011 World Series championship.

    Well, it didn’t quite work out that way in Chicago, and for this upcoming season, the phrase “all in” could certainly be used for the new-look Miami Marlins.

    Forget the new team name, the new stadium, the new manager, the new uniforms and the new logo. Owner Jeffrey Loria and team president David Sampson have certainly adopted an “all in” mentality with regard to the product on the field as well, signing free agents Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and trading for mercurial Chicago Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

    Loria also went hard after first baseman Albert Pujols, and could be in the chase for free agents Prince Fielder and Yoenis Cespedes as well.

    Even if Loria and the Marlins are unsuccessful in obtaining Fielder or Cespedes, expectations will indeed be high in South Florida. While they will no doubt get plenty of opposition from both the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves in the NL East, there is no question that anything less than a pennant in 2012 will be unacceptable.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers Prove to be Right About Mat Gamel

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    The Milwaukee Brewers have had an active offseason, bringing in a brand new left side of the infield with the signings of free agents Alex Gonzalez and Aramis Ramirez, shored up the bullpen with the trade of Casey McGehee to the Pittsburgh Pirates that netted reliever Jose Veras, and brought in infield depth with first baseman Travis Ishikawa and shortstop Cesar Izturis.

    Now all they have to worry about is a gigantic hole at first base.

    With Prince Fielder almost certainly gone to find an expensive home somewhere else, the Brewers will look to 26-year-old Mat Gamel to fill the void. Presumably, Ramirez will help take the load off offensively, so the pressure won’t be on Gamel to be the main thrust for the offense.

    If Ryan Braun successfully defends against his pending 50-game suspension for violation of MLB’s drug policy and puts up similar numbers, and if Ramirez can provide anywhere near the offense he’s been known for the past several seasons, the pressure on Gamel won’t be massive.

    A .270 season with 25 home runs and 80 RBI would be more than enough from Gamel, provided the rest of the Brewers’ lineup can do what’s expected. It’s a big if, but the Brewers seem to be counting on that big “if.”

Minnesota Twins: The M & M Boys Can’t Muster More than Massive Misery

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    Putting a lot of M’s in the title seemed appropriate, as the 2012 Twins season will likely hinge on the health of first baseman Justin Morneau and catcher Joe Mauer.

    Mauer and Morneau combined to miss 173 games last season, and while the Twins had a wealth of other problems that beset them on their way to a league-worst 99 losses, their bats missing from the lineup over half the time certainly didn’t help.

    The Twins lost both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer to free agency, with the two combining for a major percentage of the Twins’ offense in 2011. While the additions of Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit and Jamey Carroll will help, the overall health of Morneau and Mauer will be the key to whether or not the Twins can turn things around once again.

    Anything approaching last season, and the Twins could likely be looking at the cellar of the AL Central once again.

New York Mets: Fred Wilpon Still Owns the Team

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    The New York Mets lost Jose Reyes. Rumors persist that David Wright is on his way out. No significant signings of merit have occurred whatsoever during the offseason. Is it any wonder what is behind all of that?

    The situation regarding the pending lawsuit against Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz have cast a pall on the future of the Mets. Given the fact that the Mets recently took out a $40 million loan just to fund daily operations, and are on the hook for $386 million tied to the lawsuit brought by trustee Irving Picard, who is trying to recover funds to distribute to victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

    Even if Wilpon and Katz settle for less, they don’t have anywhere near the capital to spend improving the Mets’ roster. The Mets would be in far better shape if Wilpon simply walked away and put the team up for sale.

    Given the amount of investors currently interested in the Los Angeles Dodgers, there should be no shortage of willing buyers for the Mets as well.

New York Yankees: Anything Short of a 28th World Championship

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    Leave it to the New York Yankees to pull off a surprise.

    Just when everyone was wondering why general manager Brian Cashman seemed to be operating from a bunker over the winter, he poked his head into the clouds and made some noise, much like Punxsutawney Phil, only Cashman did it about three weeks earlier than good ole’ Phil.

    On Friday, Cashman changed the landscape of the AL East considerably, acquiring Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Michael Pineda and promising pitching prospect Jose Campos for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.

    If that weren’t enough, Cashman also signed free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million deal.

    For all of those who were constantly worried about the state of Yankees’ pitching, worry no more. Cashman appeared from his hole, saw his shadow, and made his own mark. Now, the future in New York in six weeks’ time looks a whole lot brighter.

Oakland Athletics: Do You Know the Way to San Jose?

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    With apologies to Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Dionne Warwick, the title to the popular 1968 hit song is now the mantra for the Oakland Athletics.

    When MLB commissioner Bud Selig was signed to another two-year extension on Thursday, he told reporters at the time that the Oakland A’s possible move to San Jose “is very much on the front burner.”

    A’s owner Lew Wolff has long wanted out of Oakland—tired of declining attendance and the miserable conditions at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, and wanting a fresh start in a market that will embrace them.

    GM Billy Beane for years now has been forced to either trade or not even consider signing fast-rising stars (Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Dan Haren, Josh Willingham, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Miguel Tejada, just to name a few), and in 2012, the A’s will likely resemble a team something between Double-A and Triple-A.

    In one of the verses to that popular 1968 hit song, it says “You can really breathe in San Jose, they've got a lot of space. There'll be a place where I can stay.”

    That is certainly what Lew Wolff and Billy Beane are honestly feeling right about now as well.

Philadelphia Phillies: Revenge is Sweet, Sayeth the Philly Faithful

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    That is what will be on the mind of most Philadelphia Phillies fans at the start of the 2012 season—revenge.

    The team that won 102 games in 2011 was the most successful in franchise history, yet they had absolutely nothing to show for it, courtesy of the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals.

    Heading into the 2012 season, the Phillies are once again armed, dangerous and powerful. Restocked with a new closer (Jonathan Papelbon), added depth (Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Scott Posednik), and the return of the Big Three (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels) plus Vance Worley, the Phillies will clearly have revenge on their mind, as they look to claim what they believe should be theirs—the World Series trophy.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Decades of Futility, as if 19 Years Wasn’t Enough

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates already own the most dubious team record in all of professional sports—19 straight losing seasons.

    However, making it an even 20 would make it sound really bad.

    General manager Neal Huntington is trying to do his part to make sure that doesn’t happen, signing shortstop Clint Barmes, pitcher Erik Bedard, bringing back outfielder Nate McLouth and trading for third baseman Casey McGehee.

    The Pirates have a solid nucleus up the middle, with center fielder Andrew McCutchen and second baseman Neil Walker; however, they also return with no real answer at first base, a pitching staff that faded fast in the second half of 2011, and very little depth on the bench.

    Two decades of misery could very well be on the horizon, and extending a dubious record is certainly within sights.

San Diego Padres: Youth is Served, and Served Well

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    With new general manager Josh Byrnes in place, the San Diego Padres have been busy bees this offseason.

    While veterans Huston Street and Carlos Quentin infused a bit of old age onto the roster, the acquisitions made by Byrnes have largely been youth-oriented, including new first baseman Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger and Andrew Cashner.

    While returning stars Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, Will Venable and Nick Hundley will be expected to produce, it’s the youth of the Padres that will be the telling tale for the 2012 season. Alonso, 24-year-old Cameron Maybin, Cory Luebke and Cashner will be big keys as well.

San Francisco Giants: One Injury from More Misery

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    The San Francisco Giants made some waves early in the postseason, acquiring center fielder Melky Cabrera from the Kansas City Royals. However, the only other significant move made by the Giants since was the acquisition of outfielder Angel Pagan from the New York Mets.

    Not one free agent signing thus far. Not one.

    For a team that finished dead last in runs scored in the National League, the Giants seem to be placing a whole lot of significance on the return of Buster Posey and Freddie Sanchez, and on the young bats of Brandon Belt and Brett Pill.

    Once again, the Giants are literally one injury away from a completely punchless offense.

Seattle Mariners: Can the King Guide His Flock?

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    With the news on Friday that Michael Pineda will no longer serve as Felix Hernandez’s wingman, the pitching staff for the Seattle Mariners now has a King, but no other royalty to speak of.

    Hernandez will be supported by Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush. Iwakuma has no major league experience, and Beavan and Furbush have a combined total of 27 starts between them.

    Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010, and he’ll need to at least put up that kind of performance again if the M’s are to have any success whatsoever.

St. Louis Cardinals: Can LAP Be Fruitful?

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    The 2012 season for the St. Louis Cardinals will forever be known as LAP—Life After Pujols.

    The big question is, have the Cardinals done enough to make up for his loss? Bringing in veteran Carlos Beltran will help, and Matt Holliday will be counted on to continue providing solid offensive production as well.

    However, can the rest of the offense pick up the slack? The pitching staff will be more than happy to welcome back former Cy Young Award runnerup Adam Wainwright, and together with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, the top of the rotation appears solid.

    The Cardinals will begin the defense of their World Series championship with a lineup largely intact. That is, if you don’t look at the fact that they lost their rock. If the Cards are unable to get past the loss of Albert, 2012 will indeed be dreary.

Tampa Bay Rays: Lack of Funds Equals Lack of Offense

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    The Tampa Bay Rays have a stable of talent in their starting rotation that is the envy of Major League Baseball—all homegrown, all durable and all pretty damn good.

    However, the batting lineup tells a bit of a different story. While GM Andrew Friedman signed free agent Luke Scott as the team’s everyday DH, questions abound throughout the lineup.

    Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon have yet to be retained, and while that may be rectified before Opening Day, it leaves a major hole in the offense that can’t be filled by Scott alone. If Ben Zobrist is forced to move to first base, the middle infield combination of Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson and Sean Rodriguez are all below-Mendoza line hitters, and a catching tandem of Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either.

    The continued lack of revenue for the Rays may rear its head once again, and there may be no amount of great homegrown pitching talent that can make up the difference.

Texas Rangers: Bullpen Transition Spells a Lack of Relief

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    With the loss of C.J. Wilson to the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers will have a reworked starting rotation that will likely feature Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz and Yu Darvish, provided Darvish is signed later this week.

    While much of the conversation has centered around Darvish and his potential, there are certainly question marks concerning Feliz’s move to the rotation after two successful years as closer. While Wilson himself made the transition successfully, Feliz still faces a major change.

    There is no guarantee that Darvish can find success immediately, and certainly no guarantee that Feliz can be successful, either. Combined with the fact that new closer Joe Nathan is looking to bounce back from an up-and-down season following Tommy John surgery, nothing is a given for the Rangers next season, and they’ll certainly be relieved, so to speak, if all goes well.

Toronto Blue Jays: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

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    Barring any unforeseen changes over the next several weeks before pitchers and catchers report, the Toronto Blue Jays will return in 2012 as a team eerily similar to the team that ended 2011.

    Aside from a new closer (Sergio Santos), a new backup catcher (Jeff Mathis) the return of a familiar face (Jason Frasor) and newcomers Darren Oliver and Ben Francisco, the Jays’ lineup and rotation are largely the same team that delivered a .500 record last season.

    I know that GM Alex Anthopoulos is loathe to sign free agent contracts, but can a couple of trades really turn the fortunes of the team around, a team that finished at the level of mediocrity the year before?

Washington Nationals: Just One More Tommy John, Please

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    The Washington Nationals saw two of their prized possessions, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, both requiring Tommy John surgery in 2009 and 2010.

    While both came back strong one year later, they certainly don’t need any other elbow inflammations, strains, tears or anything else that might invoke the name of a certain former Yankees/Dodgers pitcher.

    The Nationals did themselves proud by bringing in Gio Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics. They should do all they can to avoid introducing him to one Thomas Edward John.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.