Camps are open across the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, and exhibition games begin in just a few days. And as teams get an early look at what they've got for this year, and get a little more insight as to what they might need, deals begin to be made.
There are still a few impact free-agents available, and we'd expect a few trades in the next few weeks.
While most of what follows leans strongly toward speculation, isn't that what being a baseball fan is all about? What might be? Or could be?
The Arms Market
Quality starting pitching is always key to success at the ML level, and seemingly always at a shortage. Off the top of our heads we can list at least a half-dozen potential contenders whose chances this season could be greatly enhanced if they could add one more good starting pitcher.
The Texas Rangers are already down one starter in Derek Holland, who's probably out until the All-Star break after (allegedly) losing a domestic battle with his dog and a staircase. And now word comes that Matt Harrison, who missed all of last season but is being counted on to fill a spot this year, just had an MRI on his lower back.
Texas already made a big move over the off-season, trading for Prince Fielder, but he can't pitch. The Rangers just missed the playoffs last year, and they'll need innings eaten by people other than Yu Darvish to get back this season.
Along with Texas we could see any of several other teams, including the Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Angels and Mariners, making a deal for a quality starting pitcher in the near future.
Who might those teams target?
Well, Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs haven't been able to work out a long-term deal. And at the moment he's probably got as much trade value as he's gonna have.
Cleveland made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2007, but should be considered a candidate to regress this season. If that happens SP Justin Masterson might become available.
A slow start by the Phillies might bring on a fire sale. In that eventuality Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would be among the first to be shopped around.
Tampa has been thinking about moving lefty ace David Price for quite a while now. Most recently, the team that's been most closely linked to such a deal is the Dodgers. LA is already among the favorites to win the World Series this season, at odds of right around 6/1. Adding Price to a rotation that already includes two other Cy Young Award winners in Kershaw and Greinke would probably put a dent in those odds.
Pittsburgh been connected to a possible deal with the Mets for 1B Ike Davis. The Pirates could use a good stick at that spot, considering the guy at the top of the depth chart at the moment, Gaby Sanchez, tallied a whopping 36 RBI last year in 136 games. Davis has been an all-or-nothing proposition with the stick so far as a Major Leaguer, but he does have 30-homer potential and had a decent second half last year.
Philadelphia SS Jimmy Rollins was recently quoted as saying he had no plans to waive his “no trade” rights or to ever put on another uniform. That means he'll probably be dealt by the All-Star break.
The Dodgers have a slight overload in their outfield at the moment, and Matt Kemp might be the odd man out. But Kemp comes with a risk, having missed 140 games the last two seasons.
Finally, Yankees SS Derek Jeter has announced he will retire at the end of this season. But will he make it to the end of the season? Jeter suffered a nasty ankle injury in the playoffs two years ago, and missed all but 17 games last year. He'll also turn 40 years old in June.
If something happens to Jeter this season, we could see the Yanks taking a stab at Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, especially if/when the Rockies fall out of contention.