Yu Darvish might be the $112-million man the Texas Rangers bought right away in 2012. The team scouted Darvish exhaustively for the past 18 months, and they saw an ace when they did. From a decision-matrix perspective, they did as well as they could to sign him under the miserable posting system that brings Japanese ballplayers Stateside.
On the other hand, Darvish also presents risk. He has never pitched in MLB, and many adjustments are necessary once he does. He will need to get used to pitching every fifth day, rather than every sixth. He will need to get used to a larger, heavier ball; stronger, more powerful hitters; and a game predicated far less on bunts and contact.
If Darvish is a major risk, so is Neftali Feliz. The converted closer has the upside of a solid co-ace for Darvish, but he has plenty of downside risk, too. His command might not be good enough for the rotation; his change-up might be insufficient.
Derek Holland is inconsistent; Colby Lewis is vulnerable to external factors almost at all times. Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre are injury risks. Mike Napoli and Michael Young are regression risks. Though they're two-time reigning AL champions, the Texas Rangers face a wide range of possible outcomes in 2012.
Some teams have more uncertainty; most have less. As Spring Training opens, there are some 21 teams with a real chance to make the playoffs in 2012. For most, it will depend on the performance of those in whom they invested most during this wild baseball winter, like the Rangers did in Darvish. What follows are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team in 2012, viewed through the prism of their most important off-season addition.