The Upton brothers were reunited in Atlanta. Zack Greinke signed a big free-agent deal with Los Angeles, and Arizona remade its club with fiery manager Kirk Gibson in mind. Washington and Cincinnati each traded for a leadoff hitter, and Philadelphia added Michael Young to its already potent lineup.
“History is not in our favor. It doesn’t happen very often,” ace Matt Cain said, gearing up to defend the title. “But if we do all we can, it certainly is possible.”
San Francisco decided to make another run with the same core group of players who went the distance in the first two rounds of the playoffs last season, then swept Cabrera and Detroit to win its second title in three years.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Atlanta will field one of the best young outfields in baseball after signing B.J. Upton in free agency and trading for Justin Upton to play alongside Jason Heyward. The potential extends to the rest of the lineup, which includes first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons, both just 23 years old.
The bullpen is loaded with power arms and the rotation is solid.
Washington won the NL East last season, finishing with the best record in baseball. But it was eliminated in the division series when it blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game 5 vs. St. Louis.
The Nationals then signed closer Rafael Soriano in free agency and traded for Denard Span to add more speed to their dynamic lineup. With Stephen Strasburg all clear for a full year atop the rotation, this could be another memorable summer in the nation’s capital.
Cincinnati is hoping for a long postseason run after a disappointing finish a year ago. The Reds had the Giants on the ropes in the division series, then dropped three consecutive games.
Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos front a deep rotation, and Joey Votto anchors one of the deepest lineups in the league. Cincinnati could finish with one of the best records in baseball once again.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Los Angeles continued its spending spree that began when the new ownership group took over last summer. Greinke received a $147 million, six-year contract, then has been slowed by a tender right elbow this spring.
Cuban slugger Yasiel Puig has been impressive during spring training and could force his way into the lineup, which already includes Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier.
Don’t forget about Arizona. General manager Kevin Towers traded away talented center fielder Justin Upton and right-hander Trevor Bauer over the winter, but received an interesting haul in return.
Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill form the heart of a strong rotation, and Randall Delgado, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin provide good young depth.
There is plenty of talent in Philadelphia. The question hanging over the Phillies’ key players is can they stay on the field enough to make a difference.
Ace right-hander Roy Halladay was hampered by injuries last year. New right fielder Delmon Young will begin the season on the DL, and sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have dealt with major injuries in recent years.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
While St. Louis had a rough off-season with injuries to Cris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal, there are reasons for hope. Sluggers Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran are back to anchor a dangerous lineup.