The San Francisco Giants’ Cinderella-like postseason run that was capped by their second World Series championship in three seasons will forever be cemented in franchise history.
The Giants proved they could compete and be successful with far inferior talent than their opposition. The Giants were the best team during the 2012 playoffs for one reason; they had a solid nucleus of veteran leadership that never weakened.
The 2013 season could be much different.
A number of teams went all-in during free agency, looking to reload and better themselves for the season to come, while other teams leaned on the conservative side.
It’s certainly premature to say which teams will make it to the Fall Classic in October. But it’s fair to point out that the aforementioned clubs are in the best position to do so based on how active they were this offseason.
Having won the National League Central Division for the second time in three years, the Reds are eyeing a deeper postseason run in 2013.
Up two games to nil on the NL West champion San Francisco Giants, the Reds were in position to bury their opposition for good. In the best-of-five divisional playoff round, the Reds needed one more victory to advance to the National League Championship series.
But the eventual World Series champion Giants stormed back to win the series, sending the Reds into a state of complete shock.
Having another playoff series under their belts to reflect on, the Reds, once again, will be a tough team to beat in 2013.
Cincinnati allowed the fewest combined runs of any team in the Major Leagues last season, 588. And the same can be expected from the Reds pitching staff in 2013, especially their starting rotation.
Johnny Cueto had a career year in 2012, amassing a mark of 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA. And Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey each had 12 or more victories last season.
Fireballer Aroldis Chapman racked up 38 saves for the Reds, thanks in large part to his 100-plus mph fastball. As a club, the Reds combined for a league-best 56 saves. It will certainly be interesting to see if manager Dusty Baker decides to move Chapman to the starting rotation. If so, will Jonathan Broxton be able to handle the ninth inning? As a member of both Kansas City and Cincinnati, Broxton blew six saves last season.
During the offseason, the Reds upgraded offensively by acquiring outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for outfielder Drew Stubbs. The Reds also packaged Didi Gregorius and received third baseman Jason Donald in that deal on Dec. 11.
With the Indians, Choo played in 155 games last season and managed a steady .283 average to go along with 16 home runs and 67 RBI.
The Reds also lured in veteran outfielder Ryan Ludwick to a two-year contract. Ludwick cranked 26 homers and drove in 80 last season.
Finishing with a 98-64 mark, the Nationals boasted the league’s best regular season record and claimed the National League East Division crown. Additionally, the Nationals were the best road team in all of baseball with a record of 48-33.
But a 3-2 loss to St. Louis in the divisional round of the playoffs gave the Nationals an early exit to the offseason.
Nonetheless, the Nationals have tremendous upside and this bunch will be exciting to watch in 2013.
With the fourth-highest team batting average in the NL last season, the Nationals traded right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer to Minnesota in exchange for outfielder Denard Span. Span managed a .283 average in 128 games last season with the Twins.
The Nationals also upgraded their starting rotation with the addition of veteran Dan Haren. In 30 starts with the Angels last season, Haren won just 12 games, but should be a positive influence in a relatively young rotation that features the young gunslinger, Stephen Strasburg.
Washington also boasts Gio Gonzalez, who was traded from Oakland in a six-player deal in December 2011. Gonzalez crafted a 21-8 mark last season, the most wins of any starting pitcher in the majors.
Offensively, the Nationals re-signed veteran first-baseman Adam LaRoche, who had a career year in 2012. LaRoche launched 33 home runs to 100 RBI and recorded 155 hits, a single-season high.
Bryce Harper, the youngster, already has a full season under his belt and should only improve from here on out.
Last season proved another disappointing campaign for the Dodgers, their third straight without reaching the postseason.
A mark of 86-76 wasn’t enough to get the Dodgers into October.
After signing free-agent starting pitcher Zack Greinke this offseason, the Dodgers hope their newly signed hurler can get them over the hump and back into the postseason.
Greinke, who was previously with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Angels, is a key addition for the Dodgers, who now boast a solid starting rotation. Greinke arrives in Los Angeles having won 31 games in the past two years combined.
Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will be a robust starting duo atop the Dodgers' rotation for 2013.
The Dodgers also need for their offense to be consistent. The likes of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and outfielders Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford need to explode out of the box early and often.
If everything clicks, the Dodgers could get hot late in the season and perhaps make a deep run into the postseason.
The first year with slugger Albert Pujols proved to be disappointing for the Angels, as they rounded out the 2012 regular season with a record of 89-73, third in the American League West.
But last season is considered an afterthought with the focus turning to 2013 and the hype surrounding this ballclub.
The Angels could be something very special this season.
They traded for pitcher Tommy Hanson of Atlanta and signed free agent outfielder and power hitter Josh Hamilton, who suited up for Texas last season.
With Pujols and outfielder Mike Trout, the Angels ranked first in the majors in batting average, .274 and fourth in combined runs scored, 767. Imagine the damage this lineup could create with Pujols, Trout and Hamilton.
It simply doesn’t get much better than that, barring a significant injury or two.
The Motor City is still ridding the foul taste from its mouth in the aftermath of an embarrassing four-game World Series sweep last October.
But the Tigers will get their shot. Perhaps it will be in 2013.
Detroit signed free agent center-fielder Torii Hunter to a two-year contract, adding both protection and depth to a lineup that features Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson.
Hunter, who tabbed 16 homers and 92 RBI to accompany his .313 batting average, should be able to aid the Tigers' offense that ranked 11th in the majors in runs scored last season.
As far as the pitching staff is concerned, the Tigers look like the team to beat in the American League Central Division behind ace Justin Verlander. The five-time All-Star and 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner, tallied a mark of 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA, the third-best in all of baseball last season. While racking up over 238 innings pitched, Verlander fanned 239 batters and held opponents to a .217 batting mark.
It will be crucial for veteran hurler Max Scherzer to build off of last season, which saw him pile up 16 wins to seven losses in 32 starts.
The offense will be there for Detroit, but the starting pitching could determine whether or not the Motor City makes it back to the Fall Classic.