It was always going to be an enormous task for the National League West to keep up with its American League divisional breathern, especially after the Angels lassoed both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson during a dizzying December spending spree.
Nevertheless, there already has been significant movement in the NL West thus far with prominent additions and departures. Changes to the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Rockies have given the clubs hope they are moving closer toward an answer to a very important question.
Can anyone catch the D-backs?
The D-backs, coming off a 97-loss season in 2010, ran off with the division under general manager Kevin Towers, who has already shown this winter he's not content to simply sit on his hands and hope for the best in 2012.
Arizona resigned several players from their 2011 team -- Aaron Hill, Henry Blanco, John McDonald, Willie Bloomquist and Lyle Overbay -- but reserved their biggest move for the December deal that saw them acquire starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow from the A's as part of a five-player deal.
The win-now move by Towers gave the D-backs a proven Major League starter in Cahill, who won 18 games in 2010 for the A's. The addition of Cahill gives the D-backs rotation a boost as he joins Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter.
"We see a window here specifically in the NL West. Winning a division, we're in a go-for-it mode to kind of stay on top of the division and do whatever that we can," Towers said in December.
The D-backs feel that they also have bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Breslow and Takashi Saito, who signed a one-year deal. The team also signed free agent Jason Kubel to be their everyday left fielder.
In the NL West, you come to expect the unexpected. After all, three different teams have won the division the last three years. The Padres won 90 games in 2010 and then lost 91 the following season. Weird stuff happens.
Who will be the D-backs of 2012? How about the Rockies, who have made several notable changes to their roster after a disappointing season that saw them lose 89 games?
The Rockies have made a handful of moves to shake up the culture of the franchise, as they signed outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a three-year deal. The Rockies also signed catcher Ramon Hernandez and traded for pitchers Kevin Slowey and Tyler Chatwood.
The team also parted with closer Huston Street, catcher Chris Iannetta and also made a change-of-scenery trade with the Cubs that involved four players. The Rockies added veteran infielder Casey Blake on a one-year deal as well.
The inference from general manager Dan O'Dowd was that 2011 was a disappointment and that changes were needed. Changes, he said, are needed from the returning group of players as well.
"We are looking for the right kind of players. But we don't have this belief anymore that anything we're going to add from outside the organization is going to change the issues that we have from inside the organization," O'Dowd said.
The Giants, a year removed from winning the World Series, are probably close to being finished in terms of adding to their roster for the upcoming season. The Giants focus for now appears to be on taking care of pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum with contract extensions.
Only the Mariners scored fewer runs than the Giants in 2011, but general manager Brian Sabean is hopeful that new outfielders Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera -- two players who will be free agents after 2012 -- can have big seasons to help bolster the offense.
"There's a comfort zone with guys like Cabrera and Pagan having to play for a contract," Sabean said.
The Dodgers have been active this winter, bolstering the starting rotation with additions of Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano to help make up for the loss of Hiroki Kuroda. The two will team with Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley to give the team a formidable rotation.
"We felt we needed to go into Spring Training with five experienced Major League starters," said Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti. "We've got five that had at least 10 wins and 170 innings. We've got depth to the rotation."
The Dodgers also added infielders Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hariston Jr. The team also made a significant in-house decision in November when it signed NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp to a club-record, eight-year deal worth $160 million.
New Padres general manager Josh Byrnes wasted little time in setting out to improve the roster of a team that lost 91 games a year ago by pulling off two significant trades. The first sent pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds for four players and another on Saturday that saw him send two Minor League pitchers to the White Sox for slugging left fielder Carlos Quentin.
Byrnes, the former general manager of the D-backs, also added a backup catcher in John Baker and added veteran Mark Kotsay to give the team quality at-bats off the bench.
"Improving our offense is a priority this offseason and the acquisition of Carlos gives us a proven middle-of-the-order bat," Byrnes said.
"He's a real threat and we lacked that last season. Last year, when we were down two or three runs, we were out of the game."
The Padres expect an influx of Minor League prospects to reach the big leagues in 2012 with an eye on 2013 for making a legitimate run at the division crown.