1 Excess Hollywood: Here's yet one more team the execs in our poll are clearly mesmerized by. Since last we saw the L.A. Dodgers of Chavez Ravine, they've extended the contracts of their manager (Don Mattingly) and their resident Cy Young ( Clayton Kershaw). They've provided helpful driving tips for Yasiel Puig. They've lengthened their rotation by handing much-lauded, one-year deals to Dan Haren and Paul Maholm. They've loaded up on bullpen depth by signing Jamey Wright and Chris Perez, and by bringing back J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson's facial hair. They've got a payroll that's still hovering somewhere around $220 million. And yet we still don't know what to make of their four-headed outfield monster, where Josh Beckett fits or whether much-ballyhooed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero can play second base. Then again, what we do know is that, if trouble arises, there's apparently enough money in the checking account to fix it.
2 Braveheart: In case you didn't notice, just two teams in baseball (the Red Sox and Cardinals) won more games last year than those Atlanta Braves (who won 96 of them). But not only have the Braves neglected to add a single Upton brother since last fall, they've barely disturbed any other family trees all winter. Ready for their only two big league additions? (1) A catcher/outfielder/DH whose DH skills won't come in real handy anymore ( Ryan Doumit) and (2) a pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery ( Gavin Floyd). In other news, when they weren't escaping ice storms, the Braves also waved sayonara to two of the dominant personalities on their roster over the last nine years ( Brian McCann and Tim Hudson), and apparently never came close to keeping their unhittable closer ( Craig Kimbrel) from heading to an arbitration hearing. So while the Braves are still a young, really talented team, the feeling in other front offices is that they had an odd winter.
3 House Of Cards: How many World Series teams overturn the middle of their infield? Well, the Cardinals have. Matt Carpenter is their third baseman now. Pete Kozma is a utility man now. So the big questions are: Is Kolten Wong ready to start at second base, at age 23, for a team with win-it-all aspirations? And was Jhonny Peralta really the $53 million solution at short after a brush with Biogenesis fame, especially, as one exec mused, considering that "multiple teams thought he couldn't play shortstop every day?" Granted, every recipe the Cardinals pop in the oven seems to come out smelling like peach pie. But this is a spring where we'll start finding out if they were right about their latest up-the-middle renovation plans. And they need to be.
Other NL storylines:
• With A.J. Burnett moving across the state, with questions about first base, with the memories of an actual trip to October warming their souls, where do the Pirates go from here, now that there are no more Curse of Sid Bream anchors attached to their shoulders?