Remember when everyone picked the Giants to win the 2011 NL West? That was fun. Can't go against them defending champs, nosiree. You'd have a few rogue smartypantses picking the Rockies or Dodgers, but for the most part, the cognoscenti were all about the Giants.
That's depressing. But it's also uplifting! Because I'm anticipating that every pundit and prognosticator will predict that the Diamondbacks will take the NL West again. And it will be discouraging. But we'll just have to remember that preseason predictions can go horribly wrong. Maybe they'll wake up in September and find out that Mark DeRosa is hitting cleanup for them. A fella can dream.
But the Diamondbacks are favored, as well they should be. I was hoping they'd make some choice moves in the offseason, like swapping five tools for five tools in a straight-up Vernon-for-Upton trade, but they never even responded to my letters. A look at the moves they did make:
The Diamondbacks might have made the goofiest move of the offseason. They committed to Jason Kubel for two years so they could replace a 24-year-old Gold Glove outfielder who outhit Kubel last year. It'd almost be like the Giants actively acquiring Aubrey Huff this offseason to play him over Brandon Belt instead of just being morons who are doing it out of habit. A plan to convert Justin Upton back to shortstop is the only way this makes sense.
And the list of players that were re-signed are sort of hilarious. "DON'T BUY YOUR FROZEN TURKEY FOR THANKSGIVING YET, EVERYONE. WE'RE NOT LEAVING THIS OFFICE UNTIL EVERY MIDDLING INFIELDER IS RETAINED. And Lyle Overbay."
But while I'd give even odds that Cahill is broken, he's probably more likely for 2012 success than Jarrod Parker, and that's what we're concerned about here. And it's not like Kubel is a horrible player -- just a weird one based on budget and need. All told, I'd wager that the Diamondbacks are a better team this year than last, especially since I predict that Justin Upton will hit .339/.490/.793 ever year, and one of these years, I'll be right. He should just take Mike Stanton and start his own league on the moon.
It's not all bad news, though. While the Diamondbacks are probably a better team with Cahill and Stephen Drew coming back, they also have some really impressive minor-league pitching depth. Wait, that's bad news too. Trevor Bauer reminds me of Tim Lincecum to an annoying degree, and he's a hard cat to root against. This could get worse before it gets better.
But remember the parable of the 2011 NL West predictions. As in, Scott Cousins happens. Aubrey Huff happens. Baseball happens. There's no reason to ignore baseball and start doing something hideous, like study up on 40 times for the NFL Draft. I remember standing on the beach, opening my arms, and just waiting for the Diamondbacks' dynasty to overwhelm me a few years ago. Turns out that Chad Tracy wasn't that good. Turns out that a lot can go wrong, even after getting Dan Haren.
It's still a good team that didn't do anything to screw that up, though. I wish the Diamondbacks had a much worse offseason than they did. At least they kept Aaron Hill so I could continue to make Luann references six times a year.