Spring training is here, and it is only a little over a month away before Americas Pastime begins the long regular season schedule.
Before teams can start competing for pennants, however, managers and skippers must figure out who deserves a major league spot and who goes to the minor leagues, all while working out the kinks of not playing for months.
There are always stories during spring training worth following for baseball fans, and then there are stories that could potentially mean everything depending on the outcome for certain teams.
There are always one or two teams that drastically change their roster during the offseason. Last year it was the Miami Marlins and that move proved to be fatal. This year, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Dodgers have made trades and signed top players to try to get over the hump and make the playoffs.
The Blue Jays have spent years competing in the always-tough A.L. East but never quite competing for a playoff spot. They hope to change that with a revamped roster. A big trade with the Marlins gave the Blue Jays short stop Jose Reyes, first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, pitcher Mark Buehrle and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio. These were all vets added just a year ago by the Marlins to lead their team.
The Blue Jays also added R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball throwing 38-year-old who won the National League Cy Young Award with the New York Mets last year, and Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average last year before being suspended for PED use after the All Star break. Add in homegrown stars like Brett Lawrie and Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays are looking at this year to finally make the postseason.
The question with the new talent is: can it get together this season? The Blue Jays will try to avoid what happened to the Marlins, who went on a shopping spree of their own and ended up with one of the worst records in baseball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers also enter with a new roster that they expect to help them make the postseason for the first time since 2009. Last year a big trade with the Red Sox brought the Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left fielder Carl Crawford and pitcher Josh Beckett. Another trade with the Cubs gave them Ted Lilly. An offseason signing of Zack Grienke, one of the best young pitchers in the game right now has helped to make the Dodgers, at least on paper, to be a favorite to make it to the World Series. The question for the Dodgers is the same.
The Cincinnati Reds have the most intriguing player position switch in all of spring training. Aroldis Chapman, the Reds closer last year, will begin training this spring for a move to the starting rotation. Chapman saved 38 games and struck out 122 batters in 71.2 innings last year. He has one of the best fastballs in MLB, Only time will tell if this move works.
The Los Angeles Angels continue to spend big. For the second year in a row, the Angels signed a former MVP and the best offensive player on the market. This time, they lured Josh Hamilton away from the division rival Texas Rangers with a five year deal worth $123 million. Last year the Angels signed the Rangers top pitcher C.J. Wilson but still couldnt overcome them in the standings. With Hamilton alongside Albert Pujols and phenom Mike Trout, the Angels hope they have done enough to make a return to the postseason.