Baseball's sterling sophomore class isn't the only thing people will be talking about during spring training. Here are the six things likely to be overheard in Florida and Arizona during the next six weeks.
MAKE ME AN OFFER.
There could be an unusual amount of trade activity as a number of teams address roster imbalances. After signing Michael Bourn last week, the Indians have four starting outfielders but holes in their rotation. The Diamondbacks have seven big-league-ready starters. The Rays, as usual, are pitching heavy and hitting light. The Reds, the NL Central favorites, don't have a major-league-caliber centerfielder—they're wish-casting Shin-Soo Choo into the role—and the Yankees lack a catcher. The free-agent market is picked clean, so during camp G.M.'s will have to fill gaps the old-fashioned way.
IS THIS WHERE I SIT?
A year after Mike Matheny (Cardinals) and Robin Ventura (White Sox) had great success as managers with no previous major league experience, the Rockies hope to follow suit with new skipper Walt Weiss, last seen coaching a high school team in Aurora, Colo. Two other managers will be running their first big league camps: Bo Porter with the Astros and Mike Redmond with the Marlins.
IS ANYONE HERE A DH?
Porter has his work cut out for him: After 51 years in the NL, the lowly Astros (107 losses last year) are now in the high-rent AL West. For Houston, this spring—the whole season, really—is about grooming young talent. But an immediate challenge is finding a designated hitter, no easy task for the team with the second-worst OPS in baseball last year. The leading in-house candidate: Chris Carter, who hit 16 home runs in 218 at bats for the A's in 2012.
The Yankees' camp looks like a rehab facility for the aged. Derek Jeter, 38, is coming back from left-ankle surgery. Mariano Rivera, 43, is trying to return from a torn right ACL. CC Sabathia, 32, is recovering from arthroscopic left-elbow surgery. Alex Rodriguez, 37, isn't even in Tampa—he's staying away as he works his way back from left-hip surgery and another p.r. disaster. Michael Pineda, 24, is trying to return from right-shoulder surgery and make his Yankees debut more than a year after being acquired from the Mariners. And Brett Gardner is working back from a strained right elbow suffered last April, which cost him all but 16 regular-season games in 2012.
NO, LET ME GET THE CHECK.
When the Dodgers go out to dinner, there's no excuse for alligator arms. After last August's mammoth trade with the Red Sox and a winter shopping spree, Los Angeles has the game's highest payroll, projected at $213 million. Ten players—including righthander Zack Greinke, who signed for six years and $147 million in December—will make eight figures in 2013. That might not be enough, though. Questions about the health of outfielder Carl Crawford (left elbow) and starter Chad Billingsley (right elbow), as well as the lack of a true leadoff hitter, make the Dodgers just a slight favorite over the defending world champion Giants in the NL West.
WE LIKE BOTH PLAYERS.
Deciding who starts and who comes off the bench is one of the main reasons for a six-week training camp. The key job battles to watch: Rangers centerfielder (Leonys Martin versus Craig Gentry), Cubs closer (Carlos Marmol versus Japanese import Kyuji Fujikawa), Cardinals second baseman (Daniel Descalso versus Matt Carpenter, with rookie Kolten Wong possibly taking it from both), Diamondbacks fifth starter (Tyler Skaggs versus Randall Delgado versus Patrick Corbin) and the left side of the Dodgers' infield (where some combination of Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon, Juan Uribe and Luis Cruz will play).
KIM KLEMENT/US PRESSWIRE (MARTIN)
PAUL SANCYA/AP (GREINKE)
DARRON CUMMINGS/AP (WEISS)
KIM KLEMENT/USA TODAY SPORTS (RIVERA)