Josh Hamilton joined forces with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in Los Angeles, primed to pry the American League pennant from Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez in Detroit.
“They always say, ‘There’s always next year,’ and next year is here,” Angels ace Jered Weaver said.
Not so fast, big boys.
Toronto wants in, too, and it brought a bevy of All-Stars, led by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and shortstop Jose Reyes, north of the border for its shot.
Tampa Bay locked up Evan Longoria for six more years.
AL West champion Oakland is hoping Yoenis Cespedes can keep it on top in a loaded division.
Texas lost Hamilton and clubhouse leader Michael Young and it still thinks it’s armed to be the best in the West with Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison leading a deep rotation.
And never count out the New York Yankees.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Improving a lineup anchored by Triple Crown winner Cabrera and Fielder sounds difficult, but Detroit did it. Martinez is back from the disabled list and Torii Hunter is here to provide even more punch.
Justin Verlander leads a solid rotation with Max Scherzer and late-season addition Anibal Sanchez.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Fans will be sticking to their seats when the hitters are taking their hacks, but when Weaver’s not on the mound the concession lines could get a little long.
Weaver’s an ace and C.J. Wilson can be a formidable No. 2.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
GM Alex Anthopoulos went on a trading spree that would make fantasy owners jealous, unloading spare parts and prospects for Dickey, the NL Cy Young Award winner, Reyes, All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera and former aces Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The spendthrift Rays opened their checkbook to keep Longoria for six more seasons and $100 million. Now, he must stay healthy if light-hitting Tampa Bay is going to make a run in this hefty division. Longoria missed 74 games last season because of a partially torn left hamstring and the Rays went 41-44 without him.
Led by AL Cy Young Award winner David Price and closer Fernando Rodney, the Rays will be tough to beat no matter how many runs they score.
Can they repeat the magic that produced a majors-best 14 walkoff wins when Brandon Moss likely slugs at a percentage closer to his career average of .442 rather than the .596? Cespedes appears ready to be a breakout star and his production will be key. Jed Lowrie’s addition should help perk up the middle infield.
For Oakland to pull off another stunner in this division, it’s going to need ace-in-the-making Brett Anderson to remain healthy and the veteran Bartolo Colon to help bolster the young staff.
The Rangers didn’t open their wallet to keep Hamilton or Mike Napoli and traded the team’s career hits leader, Young, to the Phillies.
There’s no panic in Texas, though, and rightly so. The Rangers’ lineup is still formidable, with MVP candidate Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz.
Texas might not be able to match the Angels run for run, but it will outpitch Los Angeles.
NEW YORK YANKEES
The aging Yankees came into camp in poor health and things quickly got worse. They’ll start the season with Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and likely Derek Jeter on the disabled list.
New York will count on spare parts to keep Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki zipping around the bases until the big hitters return.
But a top pitching staff led by CC Sabathia and closer Mariano Rivera could help this club to its 18th trip to the postseason in 19 years.
Vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter made a stunning turnaround last season, going from a team that lost 93 games to winning a wild-card spot with a 93-69 record – Baltimore’s first winning season in 15 years.
And they did it with exuberance, going 29-9 in one-run games.
The good fortune could run out, though, in the rugged East.