With the regular season just a few weeks away, it's time to start to figure out just what 2013 is going to bring us. There's no better place to begin this than in the National League West, where the current defending champions, the San Francisco Giants, reside.
Rather than bore you with the minutiae of each club's off-season -- an exercise that would take more time than there is before the season actually begins -- we'll hit you with the basic need-to-knows to bring you up to speed on the state of baseball in 2013. We'll also get an assist from our expert team bloggers to see just what the best- and worst-case scenarios are for each of baseball's 30 clubs. As you might guess, some are less optimistic than others.
For the record, the previewed teams are not in any particular order, but if it helps you to argue over them, you can pretend these are in reverse-order of expected standings.
2012 record: 86-76, second place in NL West, despite a hot start and constant roster upgrades
2012 Opening Day payroll: $105 million
2013 projected payroll: $213 million
McCourt-owned parking lots: Frank McCourt still owns the lots and will receive payments for that, but won't receive additional money from parking for Dodgers' games. So, he's still kind of like a disease that Los Angeles just can't shake, but at least he's benign now that he's out of power.
Key additions: Zack Greinke signed a (short-lived) record contract for a pitcher by switching from faux Los Angeles to the real thing, but other than that, the "additions" are simply players and contracts acquired in 2012 that will theoretically be with the Dodgers for all of 2013: Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, etc. Hence the year-to-year jump in payroll that exceeds the projected total payroll of roughly half of the league's teams.
Also, the entire city of Los Angeles doesn't hate the Dodgers' owners heading into Opening Day, so there's that seismic shift to consider.
Eric Stephen of True Blue LA:
Dodgers' best-case: "The highest payroll in MLB history plays up to their salary level and the Dodgers ride a deep lineup and powerful pitching staff to the best record in the National League, followed by a deep run into the playoffs. This is contingent upon Carl Crawford looking more like the Tampa Crawford, and Chad Billingsley becoming the poster boy for non-surgical elbow ligament tear recovery."
Dodgers' worst-case: "The money spent still isn't good enough to wrest control of the NL West from the Giants, and the Dodgers get left out of the playoff mix in a top-heavy National League. Chad Billingsley's elbow doesn't hold up, Hyun-jin Ryu is a bust, Matt Kemp still takes a while to find power in his left shoulder, and the Dodgers find out why Boston was so eager to dump Crawford and Gonzalez."
San Francisco Giants
2012 record: 94-68, undisputed champions of the NL West, National League, and Major League Baseball.
2012 Opening Day payroll: $131 million
2013 projected payroll: $135 million
Number of general managers many fans think is a joke despite constant success: 1
Key additions: Well, that's kind of the thing. The Giants are basically seeing if they can make it in 2013 with the roster that got them there in 2012. It didn't work out so hot in 2011 when they used the same strategy after a 2010 World Series win, but it's hard to criticize the team that's won two of the last three championships that much, either. Now, anyway. We'll totally criticize them in June or something.
Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles:
Giants' best-case: "Tim Lincecum is his old self, the rest of the staff stays healthy, and Buster Posey continues to hit at an MVP-level. Marco Scutaro staves off decline for one more year, Hunter Pence returns to form, and Brandon Belt carries his August and September gains into the new season. Oh, and as long as we're going for full optimism, Clayton Kershaw discovers that he can help millions more people if he becomes an inspirational pastor at one of those mega-churches. It would really be a noble decision, Clayton."
Giants' worst-case: "Posey wears down during the long season, every left fielder struggles to post an OBP over .300, and Lincecum really is this bad now. Angel Pagan regresses to his 2011 form, Marco Scutaro acts his age, and Clayton Kershaw continues to be a selfish jerk playing a children's game for money."
2012 record: 81-81, a step back from 2011's playoff berth and division championship
2012 Opening Day payroll: $75 million
2013 projected payroll: $83 million
2012 Upton count: 1
2013 Upton count: 0
Key additions: If you just list the adds -- Cody Ross, Brandon McCarthy, Heath Bell, Eric Chavez, Martin Prado, Didi Gregorius -- it sounds like the Diamondbacks did pretty okay for themselves and beefed up the roster. Thing is, though, they also bailed on Justin Upton, Trevor Bauer, and team-building plans that don't lead to constant discussions of grinding it out, grit, and the intensity of manager Kirk Gibson's stare as he sizes up his enemies. So, we'll kind of have to wait and see on this one.
Jim McLennan of AZ Snake Pit:
Diamondbacks' best-case: "California sinks into the ocean, leaving us to compete with Colorado for the NL West, and cash in on some valuable beachfront property. Less apocalyptically, Brandon McCarthy's shoulder finds the Arizona climate to its liking, Adam Eaton stops being mistaken for the pitcher, while Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers strike pay dirt with their belief that grit is the new undervalued commodity, replacing OBP. (Hey, if the performance of Italy in the World Baseball Classic is anything to go by, they may be on to something.)"
Diamondbacks' worst-case: "Wade Miley proves a one-season wonder as a starter, like Barry Enright and Josh Collmenter before him. Eaton wears his legs down to a bloody stump in center, trying to cover all the ground Jason Kubel and Cody Ross can't. And we discover that the problem with Heath Bell wasn't Ozzie Guillen or Miami -- it was Heath Bell. Grit, meanwhile, turns out to be as elusive as Osama Bin Laden, and about as useful to baseball. (Sorry, just watched Zero Dark Thirty.)"
2012 record: 76-86, but much better than that if you pretend that April and May never happened! (As of now, Major League Baseball won't play pretend. Alas.)
2012 Opening Day payroll: It started with a five! It really, really did! $55 million, to be exact.
2013 payroll: It starts with a six! $60 million this time around, so maybe by the time Chase Headley is set to be a free agent the Padres will admit they can afford him.
Key additions: lol
Chase Headley extensions: If you couldn't guess already, the answer is zero. However, that will really only be a terrible thing if that's the case on this date next year.
Dex from Gaslamp Ball:
Padres' best-case: "Through a series of career performances and historical setbacks by the Giants and the Dodgers, the Padres win 92 games and take the NL West, but tragically get eliminated in the first round, spitting in the eye of Padres "fans" who only care about payroll and proving to true Padres fans that player payroll is only one part of a puzzle that includes things like, 'Faith', 'Determination', 'Smarts', and 'Sexy'."
Padres' worst-case: "Through a series of career performances and historical setbacks by the Giants and the Dodgers, the Padres win 92 games and take the NL West only to be swept out of the post season by the Cardinals in the first round, thereby "proving" to the O'Malley family that they're God's gift to front offices and can scale back the baseball operations budget by 50 percent for the rest of the decade."
2012 record: 64-98, thanks to terrible defense, injuries, experiments with starting pitchers gone wrong, and karmic balance finally restored to the universe to counter Matt Holliday's run in game 163, 2007. #neverforget
2012 Opening Day payroll: $81 million
2013 projected payroll: $68 million
Key additions: The Rockies took a step back with their payroll, as it's prospects and the young players already on the team they need to focus on now. Also, that whole Michael Cuddyer thing kind of soured them on free agency a little.
Troy Tulowitzki games needed for 2013 relevance: All of them.
Jeff Aberle from Purple Row:
Rockies' best-case: "While on a hunting trip deep in the Pacific Northwest this week, the Brothers Monfort encounter five attractive alabaster-skinned youths hurling baseballs at unheard of velocities and hitting mammoth home runs. They ask no questions, signing each for the major league minimum.
The Rockies' home field advantage is unmatched due to the noise generated by its suddenly robust teen-age-girl fan demographic and the team coasts to a World Series championship. Troy Tulowitzki's sterling health, Wilin Rosario's maturation as a catcher, and Todd Helton looking friskier than he has in years also plays a role.
The season is marred only by an incident in which an opposing player's untimely bloody nose ends in a bizarre bench-clearing brawl, where all five of the new stars have to be physically restrained from, as one fan overhears, "enjoying the sweet nectar of the vanquished enemy". Jonathan Herrera mysteriously disappears after a night out with his new teammates."
Rockies' worst-case: "2012's run of terrible injury luck persists, leading to the team going to a three-man rotation with a 40 pitch limit, with the rest of the pitches going to replacement level relievers. Jonathan Herrera starts 162 games at shortstop after yet another Tulo groin injury and hits .190/.190/.190 -- the front office praises his scrappiness and extends him for five years.
All the former Rockies on staff (Walt Weiss, Dante Bichette, Eric Young Sr, and Pedro Astacio) are called into active duty when half of the team is laid low due to food poisoning associated with a team-bonding trip to Casa Bonita gone horribly awry. The team becomes the first in history to pull a fan from the stands that happened to be wearing a Rockies jersey to the game...but they kick him off the team for showboating after he bunted for a single when up six in the ninth inning.
Colorado finishes below even the Astros in the standings after they are forced to forfeit their last 10 home games because Coors Field is infested with feral cats after a Weird Al concert takes a dark turn. The player they draft with the number one pick signs for a record sum to a non-insured contract, then decides to live a life of seclusion as a Tibetan monk after actually watching the Rockies."
All contract data courtesy of Cots' Contracts of Baseball Prospectus