With Cliff Lee signed and delivered to Philadelphia, it seems appropriate to take a very early look at who has the best chance to be fitted for rings come next winter.
Will the star-studded rotations and lineups of the Phillies and Red Sox prevail? What about last year's champs, the San Francisco Giants? What about the Yankees, who seem to make October reservations every season? Or could a surprise team step into the mix and shock us all?
Only time will tell, but this is a ranking of the five teams who could win the the World Series today.
After making a surprise run to win the World Series in 2010, it would be wrong to leave the San Francisco Giants out of the mix.
With a starting rotation featuring studs like like Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, and a bullpen anchored by Brian Wilson, the Giants will win their fair share of games.
Add in the fact they play in the National League West, a seemingly very weak division, and the road to winning the division should be the easiest of the five contenders.
The Key: As with last season, the chances of winning the World Series will hinge on the Giants' opportunistic offense, led by Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. If the lineup can scrape together runs down the stretch and in the postseason, the Giants will prove difficult to beat.
Last year the Twins won 94 games to win the American League Central by a comfortable six games. All of this was done without the services of Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan for a substantial part of the season or, in Nathan's case, the whole season.
While the Twins have not made as much noise this offseason as their division rivals the Tigers and White Sox, standing pat is not necessarily a bad thing.
Assuming Morneau and Nathan return to their former selves this season, the Twins would still have one of the best three-four combinations (Joe Mauer and Morneau) to go along with an All-Star-caliber closer. They also have an established ace for their pitching staff, with Francisco Liriano finally finding his form after his injury several years ago.
The Key: Unfortunately for the Twins, the bullpen in front of Nathan will be slim with the departures of Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and Matt Guerrier to free agency. None of the three have signed elsewhere yet, but it is assumed none will return to Minnesota. If Ron Gardenhire can patch together a solid bullpen, the Twins will be quite dangerous come October, assuming they do not have to play the Yankees, of course.
Speaking of the Yankees...
It just would not seem right to have a World Series favorite list and not include the 27-time world champions.
While the team does have its flaws, specifically age and starter depth, this is a team that won a world championship in 2009 and made it to the ALCS last season.
After having some "down years," it is safe to assume Alex Rodriguez (.270 batting average) and Mark Teixeira (.256 batting average) will bounce back to their old selves. Add in the development of an MVP candidate in Robinson Cano and the Yankees have power in their lineup to take them a very long way.
Let's also not forget the bona fide ace they have in CC Sabathia.
The Key: While the age of a couple of crucial parts, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, may come into play, starter depth will be this team's Achilles heel. After Sabathia the pitching staff truly thins out, with Phil Hughes as the most likely No. 2. It seems the possible retirement of Andy Pettitte will be more significant than many would have thought just a few days ago.
After a very busy and headline-grabbing offseason, the Red Sox have put together a lineup that could take them all the way.
Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis at the heart of the order with pieces such as Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury around them will give pitchers a very hard time and could help prevent slumps for extended periods of time by the team as a whole.
Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz emerging as potential aces last season also provides cause for excitement for the 2011 Boston Red Sox.
The Key: With truly lackluster performances from John Lackey, Jonathan Papelbon and Josh Beckett in 2010, potential World Series rings rely on their arms.
The team will absolutely need a bounce-back year from Papelbon, who posted career highs in earned runs average (3.90) and blown saves (8), as well as at least one from either Beckett or Lackey. It would seem Beckett would be more important since Lackey still pitched like an average pitcher last year, while Beckett was truly horrible.
It is probably an obvious choice to pick the Phillies, who just recently added Cliff Lee to the rotation, but who wouldn't pick a rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels as the favorite?
The Phillies also feature a lineup with two former MVPs (Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins) as well as another elite hitter in Chase Utley. Adding a lineup with these types of hitters to the previously mentioned rotation seems a little unfair to the rest of the National League.
The Key: As with any team hoping to contend, the bullpen will be what this team's title dreams hinge on. Brad Lidge will have to channel his 2008 self, when he did not blow a save the whole year, and the rest of the relievers will need to be on their game if this team is to live up to its potential.