Five burning questions with Spring Training on deck
By Doug Miller
Welcome to Presidents' Day, the last official holiday before the unofficial one that baseball fans worldwide have been anticipating all winter.
This coming Thursday, Feb. 19, will bring pitchers, catchers, eager position players, managers, coaching staffs, rays of sunshine and crowds of fans to the complexes of Arizona and Florida for the first time in 2015. In other words, Spring Training is finally here, and the questions leading up to Opening Day all the way through October will begin to be answered.
Here are five big ones that are on all our minds as we once again smell the grass, see the blue sky, hear the crack of the bat, the smack of the glove, and those four magical words: pitchers and catchers report.
1. How 'bout those champs?
Shouldn't it always start with the World Series winner? The last time we saw the San Francisco Giants, third baseman Pablo Sandoval was squeezing a Salvador Perez popup to win the club's third World Series championship in the last five years. Well, Sandoval is gone now, having signed as a free agent with Boston, and the Giants replaced him at third base with Casey McGehee.
Otherwise, San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean didn't do much in the offseason. The roster looks very similar and will hope to get first baseman Brandon Belt and righty Matt Cain healthy for an entire season to break out of that "slump" that only sees them win rings in even-numbered years.
2. For that matter, how 'bout those almost-champs?
The Kansas City Royals were so close to winning their first title in 29 years. They took the Giants to seven games, had Alex Gordon on third base to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, and just ran into a bit too much of San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner.
3. How will the famous faces in new places adjust?
Jon Lester went to the Cubs to give a young team with a lot of talent a star at the top of the rotation for a possible postseason run. Max Scherzer signed for huge bucks in Washington and will front a five-man starting crew that looks like one of MLB's best in years. The Red Sox landed Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in hopes that this massive collective investment will give them another last-to-first turnaround.
And, oh yeah, just for the heck of it, Preller waited until a week ago to land ace James Shields. That doesn't mean he's done, though. Nineteen-year-old Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada is still available, and there's still a few days before pitchers and catchers report.
There's plenty of time to get another deal done.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.