Every MLB Team's Worst Nightmare Next Season
With the 2012 MLB playoffs in full swing, we're seeing some of the game's best players showcasing their talents as teams look to win baseball's biggest prize.
The postseason isn't for everyone, and as only eight teams find themselves still playing, the majority of the league's teams are already preparing for the 2013 season in hopes of improvement.
Fans often think of the best-case scenarios for their favorite teams, whether it's a breakout season, a heralded acquisition or a clutch run in October.
For every good outcome, however, there are a dozen things that can go wrong. And while I'm not saying any of these things will end up coming to fruition (in fact, I hope they don't), here are some worst-case scenarios for teams heading into next season.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton's Trade Value Dips
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Justin Upton won't enter free agency for a couple more years, but that didn't stop him from entering into the rumor mill this past summer as teams gauged interest in the star outfielder.
Upton wasn't moved, as the D-Backs indicated that they weren't necessarily shopping him. But that won't stop his name from popping up as time goes on.
He didn't have as good of a season in 2012 as he did in prior years, and if he sees a decline once again in 2013, the D-Backs might be wishing they would've moved him while his price was higher.
Atlanta Braves: Can't Fill Void Left by Chipper Jones
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The Atlanta Braves didn't replicate their 2011 collapse this season, working their way into a one-game playoff against the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball's first Wild Card Playoff Game.
Errors and a questionable infield fly rule call may have ultimately done them in, but they should be in good shape heading into next season.
There will be a noticeable void at third base, however, as longtime star Chipper Jones has played his final game. While there are players who can step in, replicating his offense and leadership could cost more than might be expected.
Baltimore Orioles: Finding Out 2012 Was a Fluke
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Currently tied 1-1 in the ALDS with the New York Yankees, the Baltimore Orioles are one of many great stories that emerged in the 2012 season, pulling themselves from the depths of the AL East and into postseason contention.
It seems like a different player emerged at different times, as the Orioles constantly rode their clutch performances to what would be their highest win total in years.
For every bounce that went their way this season, however, it's hard to believe things will continue to fall their way.
Boston Red Sox: Futility After Offseason Inactivity
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The Boston Red Sox made big waves this summer, trading away a slew of stars, including Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
They've freed up a massive amount of payroll and have plenty of room to work in free agency as they look to rebuild their franchise and get back to AL East contention.
With all the opportunity, however, comes expectations. Red Sox Nation is one of the best fanbases in baseball, and it demands success.
Chicago Cubs: Nothing Changes
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With lofty expectations, the Chicago Cubs franchise has underperformed for years now, failing to contend in the NL Central.
Bringing in general manager Theo Epstein gave the fanbase plenty of reason for optimism, as he's built an excellent track record in the front office.
There weren't any big changes made in 2012, however, as the team remained relatively the same. But that won't be able to last much longer, with an antsy group of fans waiting for a winner.
Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale Regresses to the Mean
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The Chicago White Sox narrowly missed postseason play this fall. The team regressed from its standing atop the AL Central and eventually succumbed to the Detroit Tigers in the season's final weeks.
The White Sox did, however, have some strong performances from their starting pitching. Jake Peavy became the pitcher they expected when they traded for him, and first-year starter Chris Sale emerged as one of the league's young stars.
In 2013, it's unlikely Peavy will be in the fold, as his lucrative option may not be picked up. That adds pressure to Sale, who will become the unquestioned ace.
Cincinnati Reds: Moving Backward After 2012 Success
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The Cincinnati Reds took big steps forward this season, winning the NL Central and jumping out to an early 2-0 lead in the NLDS over the San Francisco Giants.
They didn't close the series out last night, but they still have two more chances to return to the NLCS.
With all the excitement that comes about from such a productive 2012 season, here's to hoping that the Reds don't find themselves taking steps backward in 2013.
Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez Officially Becomes a Bust
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In the midst of what was a futile attempt to make postseason play in 2011, the Cleveland Indians brought in one of the game's best arms, Ubaldo Jimenez, in exchange for a number of top prospects.
Jimenez struggled after the trade in 2011, going 4-4 with an ERA north of 5.00.
Things didn't get any better this season, as he won only nine games and led the league in losses (17). He also posted an ERA over 5.00 and saw his walk numbers jump and strikeout numbers fall.
Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki's Health Issues Continue
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After making some big-name signings during the offseason, the Colorado Rockies' efforts in 2012 fell well short of their aspirations. Although, it wasn't underperforming so much as injury issues that cost them wins.
Star infielder Troy Tulowitzki, one of the game's best players who is set to be the star of the Rockies for years to come, managed to play only 47 games in 2012. If he isn't able to stay on the field in 2013, it could be much of the same for fans in the Mile High City.
Detroit Tigers: Power Outage
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With slugger Prince Fielder in the fold for the 2012 season, the Detroit Tigers became one of the fiercest offenses in baseball and were an instant title contender.
They struggled to play up to expectations early on, but now find themselves in position to head to the ALCS, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Miguel Cabrera, the game's first Triple Crown winner in over 40 years.
Detroit does have a balanced attack, but if its own version of the Bash Brothers experiences a power outage in 2013, things could get closer than they should in the AL Central.
Houston Astros: Deja Vu All over Again
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After a handful of dismal seasons, the Houston Astros hope that they can get a fresh start in 2013, as they're leaving the confines of the NL Central for the American League.
Even with a move to the AL West on tap, though, the team is still undermanned and could very well find themselves in a similar position: at the bottom of the division.
Kansas City Royals: Young Stars Still Aren't Ready
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As we saw at times during the 2012 season, the Kansas City Royals could have a great future ahead of them, as a number of years at the bottom of the league has afforded them the opportunity to draft top talent that is ready to break out.
Stars like Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Wil Myers are going to be mainstays for years to come. But if they don't live up to the expectations that fans and the media have set, the Royals may still find themselves coming up short of the goals they're setting.
Los Angeles Angels: Sophomore Slump for Mike Trout
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Baseball witnessed the emergence of one of the game's biggest stars this season, as Mike Trout put up MVP numbers across the board, flashing power, patience and speed.
He may very well end up being crowned the AL MVP when awards are handed out.
But what does that mean moving forward?
It's almost impossible that he'll put up numbers identical to this year's on an annual basis. And while the dreaded sophomore sump may not be in the cards, it's certainly possible.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Investments Don't Pay off (again)
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The Los Angeles Dodgers made some huge moves this summer, acquiring Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and others in an effort to make a postseason push.
Things didn't work out as planned, though. The Dodgers came up short of playoff positioning, though they did send a message that they're in it to win it and won't shy away from spending to do so.
They'll be back at it again in 2013 with a strong roster, but if things don't work out once again, their investments will no doubt come into question.
Miami Marlins: Empty Seats Remain the Norm
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After fighting for years to call their own stadium home, the Miami Marlins finally christened their new ballpark this spring, doing so to great fanfare and with a bolstered roster in tow.
Their efforts proved to be futile, though, as stars like Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez were all shipped out of town as the team failed to contend.
They've got a nucleus to succeed in 2013, but if they fall behind early on, there will be many empty seats in a stadium barely a year old.
Milwaukee Brewers: Pitching Issues Become Major Problem
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When Prince Fielder bolted for the Detroit Tigers and Ryan Braun faced a 50-game suspension heading into the 2012 season, the emphasis on starting pitching gained significant importance.
Braun's suspension was eventually overturned, and he went on to have another fantastic season. But the pitching staff took on a different look when Zack Greinke was traded and Randy Wolf was released.
Shaun Marcum will enter free agency this offseason, so the rotation will no doubt take on a different look next season—something that will be a focal point in the team's success.
Minnesota Twins: Mauer Gets Injured (again)
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After missing out on a 100-loss season by a single game in 2011, the Minnesota Twins put a better product on the field in 2012 and finished with a better record—three games better.
In 2011, star catcher Joe Mauer's health was a major factor in the losses. But this year, Mauer was his productive self, contending for a batting title.
Should he fail to stay on the field in 2013, there's no doubting that the Twins' offense will struggle to find its rhythm—something that almost always translates to losses.
New York Mets: R.A. Dickey Departs, No One Steps Up
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The New York Mets struggled through the 2012 season, but their fanbase did see an inspiring season by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
With a 20-win season under his belt, Dickey heads into free agency. And if the Mets let him walk, there's a good chance they won't have another pitcher fill the void of his lost production.
New York Yankees: Veteran Stars Aging Process Accelerates
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After many questioned whether Derek Jeter was worthy of the salary that he signed prior to last season, the longtime shortstop responded this season in a big way, leading the league in hits with 216—a number he hasn't posted since 1999.
Alex Rodriguez is still a dangerous hitter, but he's had two consecutive seasons with less than 20 home runs—something he's never done.
As these stars continue to age, their productivity will no doubt decrease; if it happens at an expedited pace, the Yankees could be in trouble.
Oakland Athletics: Moneyball Doesn't Work This Time Around
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With the lowest payroll in the American League, the Oakland Athletics shocked the baseball world once again, overtaking the AL West on the final day of the season in a remarkable late-season comeback.
We've seen the "Moneyball" philosophy work before, and while GM Billy Beane has made it work in the past, the look of the team in 2013 could change enough to impact the A's chance at a repeat performance.
Philadelphia Phillies: Hamels' Extension Proves to Be a Mistake
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With a significant chunk of change already dedicated to Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, the Philadelphia Phillies made a bold move in signing Cole Hamels to a massive contract extension before he had a chance to enter free agency.
The Phillies have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, so it can certainly be argued that the move made plenty of sense. However, Philadelphia may not have enough payroll left to improve its struggling offense with all the money tied to the pitching staff.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 2013 First Half Resembles 2012 Second Half
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Entering the halfway point of the 2012 season, there was plenty of reason for optimism in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse. The team was 11 games over .500 and in great position to make a return to the postseason.
Unfortunately, things went horribly wrong from there. The team went 31-46 in the second half, once again missing a .500 record for the season and falling back into the depths of the NL Central.
The Pirates will welcome a fresh start in 2013, but if their season starts the way the last one ended, there could be trouble in the Steel City.
San Diego Padres: Still No Good
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The San Diego Padres find themselves in an unenviable but familiar situation in the NL West. The small-market team has sent big-name players like Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez to other franchises due to the San Diego's inability to offer lucrative enough contracts.
With all the trade rumors swirling this past summer, it's almost a shock that Chase Headley survived in San Diego. Although, he could end up moving eventually if the Padres don't figure out a way to add additional talent to help the team contend in the talented NL West.
San Francisco Giants: Offense Isn't Addressed
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In the first three games of the NLDS, the San Francisco Giants have struggled to put runs on the board. They scored only twice in Game 1, were shut out in Game 2 and managed only three hits (albeit in a win) in Game 3.
The Cincinnati Reds definitely have solid pitching, but as the NL West continues to improve, the Giants could find themselves in a tough situation in 2013 if they don't add some pop to the lineup.
Seattle Mariners: King Felix Needs Tommy John Surgery
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I'm not one to wish harm on anyone else, so I certainly hope that this doesn't come to fruition. However, when you think of all the things that could go wrong for the Seattle Mariners at any point of any season, nothing would be worse than seeing ace Felix Hernandez lost to a torn elbow ligament.
There's the old saying that it's not a matter of if a pitcher will need Tommy John surgery, but rather when a pitcher will need it. But that's something Seattle fans are certainly hoping is not the case.
St. Louis Cardinals: Staff Struggles Without Lohse
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After taking a 2-1 lead in their NLDS matchup against the Washington Nationals, the St. Louis Cardinals are once again showing the fight that got them to the Fall Classic just a year ago.
On the mound, they're led by Kyle Lohse, who put an impressive 16-3 record on the board and will no doubt be a hot commodity on the free-agent market this offseason.
Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, Adam Wainwright should be improved. But having a more reliable option like Lohse on the mound would certainly help the team's chances at a return trip to the postseason in 2013.
Tampa Bay Rays: AL East Continues to Improve
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Year in and year out, the Tampa Bay Rays find a way to contend in the always-tough AL East despite having payroll limitations that prohibit them from spending at the level of their peers.
Looking at the division, the Yankees are always competitive, the Orioles are an emerging force and the Boston Red Sox can never be counted out for long.
With the Toronto Blue Jays also working toward respectability, it could be tough sailing for the Rays as they look to survive in the division.
Texas Rangers: Josh Hamilton Is Re-Signed, Doesn't Produce
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The Texas Rangers' season ended on a sour note this fall. The team watched its lead slip away in the AL West standings, ultimately losing the division on the final day of the regular season before losing to the Baltimore Orioles in a one-game Wild Card Playoff.
Heading into the offseason, there will be decisions to make. And though the Rangers will let Josh Hamilton test the free-agent waters before considering a contract extension, there's still plenty of reason to think he'll be back in a Rangers uniform in 2013.
If he is, he'll face plenty of scrutiny. He's got the potential to be one of the game's best hitters, but inconsistency tends to get in the way of what he can be.
Toronto Blue Jays: Ricky Romero Is Still Awful
Strong pitching is a focal point in any team hoping to contend in the AL East, as the division is chock-full of power hitters that can turn the tide of a game in an instant.
The Toronto Blue Jays have plenty of offense in their lineup, so pitching will no doubt be a priority this offseason.
One arm they hope they can count on is Ricky Romero, who had a dismal 2012 after coming off an All-Star campaign just a year earlier.
Washington Nationals: Strasburg's Arm Doesn't Hold Up
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Currently down 2-1 in their NLDS matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals no doubt wish they had Stephen Strasburg in waiting.
Unfortunately for the team, his inning count was reached early in the fall and he's watching the playoffs from the dugout instead of on the mound.
He'll be back in action in 2013, but if he's unable to hold up for many innings, the team could once again find itself at a great disadvantage.