The young men have gone west, for the money.
The New York Yankees are no longer baseball’s financial powerhouse. The Dodgers are. But Dodger dollars are not the only dollars flowing west.
The richest free-agent contracts this winter came from L.A.: Zack Greinke got $147 million from the Dodgers; Josh Hamilton got $125 million from the Angels.
Add the extensions for two stars _ the pending $175-million deal between Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners, and the completed $138-million deal between David Wright and the New York Mets _ and three of the winter’s four $100-million contracts came from the west.
Not from the Yankees. Not from the Boston Red Sox. Not from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Of the six free-agent signings worth at least $50 million, four came from teams that train in the Cactus League _ including the Cleveland Indians, with $56 million for outfielder Nick Swisher. Of the 10 free-agent signings worth at least $30 million, seven came from teams that train in Arizona _ again including the Indians, who bestowed $48 million on outfielder Michael Bourn on Monday.
As the Angels and Dodgers break out the bats and gloves, a quick look around the Cactus League:
ANGELS, Tempe Diablo Stadium
Ervin Santana gave up the most home runs in the majors last season, and he’s no longer an Angel. But Jason Vargas, a new Angel, ranked right behind Santana. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are back, but the new starters _ Vargas, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton _ gave up more home runs than the old starters _ Santana, Dan Haren and Greinke. If the pitchers can keep the fly balls to the warning track, Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos should be able to run down just about all of them.
DODGERS, Camelback Ranch, Glendale, Ariz.
For a team projected to have the highest payroll in baseball history, there are a startlingly high number of questions this spring: Can the Dodgers really play Hanley Ramirez at shortstop? How do Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford look coming off injuries? Did Adrian Gonzalez really leave his power in San Diego? Should the Dodgers platoon Andre Ethier, and with whom?
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale
This could be defining ground in the eternal debate on the importance of chemistry and intangibles. The Diamondbacks traded wonderfully talented but perennially disappointing outfielder Justin Upton and promising but quirky pitching prospect Trevor Bauer primarily for two infielders, neither with star quality. Manager Kirk Gibson knows something about chemistry; the sabermetric community is apoplectic.
CHICAGO CUBS, Hohokam Stadium, Mesa
The Cubs lost 101 games last year, their worst season since Leo Durocher was their manager, and they no longer have the Houston Astros to finish behind them in the National League Central. The better pitcher Matt Garza and outfielder Alfonso Soriano perform, the better their chance at a trade escape. Garza ($10 million) is eligible for free agency in the fall; Soriano’s once-prohibitive eight-year contract is down to two years and $36 million.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX, Camelback Ranch, Glendale
In 2009, when the San Diego Padres could no longer afford ace Jake Peavy, the White Sox happily took him, injury and all. In 2010 and ‘11, Peavy gave the White Sox a total of 2182/3 innings . But he gave them 219 innings last year, with 194 strikeouts, so they gave him another two years and $29 million. If Peavy can deliver an encore _ and he has to if the Sox are to contend _ he and Chris Sale might rival any duo atop an American League rotation.
CINCINNATI REDS, Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear
The Reds have won the NL Central twice in the last three years, but they have not won a postseason series since sweeping the Dodgers in the 1995 NL division series. The most fascinating spring story line is an encore: What to do with Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman? He arrived as a starter last spring, but injuries left an opening at closer _ and Chapman struck out 122 in 72 innings, with a 1.51 earned-run average and 38 saves. For now, Chapman starts, and Jonathan Broxton closes.
CLEVELAND INDIANS, Goodyear Ballpark, Goodyear
Swisher is a career .169 postseason hitter. That shouldn’t be an immediate issue with the Indians, who lost 94 games last season and have made one playoff appearance in the last decade. Swisher is an Ohio native, and he, Bourn and Manager Terry Francona are the new faces of the Indians. The departed ones: oft-injured designated hitter Travis Hafner and oft-injured outfielder Grady Sizemore, Cleveland mainstays since 2004.
COLORADO ROCKIES, Salt River Fields, Scottsdale
Quick, who led the Rockies in home runs last season? Not shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who combined for 61 homers the last time the Rockies had a winning record, in 2010. The duo totaled 30 last year _ Tulowitzki was limited to 47 games because of injury _ and a limited budget and limited pitching mean Colorado can go as far as the big two can take them. The home run leader for last year’s 98-loss Rockies? Catcher Wilin Rosario, with 28.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS, Surprise Stadium, Surprise
It’s win-now time for the Royals, in search of their first playoff appearance since they won the 1985 World Series. They scored more runs than the Reds last year, but the top two starters each had an ERA over 5.00. So the Royals traded top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis _ Davis could not crack the Rays’ rotation _ accepted the Angels’ donation of Santana and threw $25 million at Jeremy Guthrie.
MILWUAKEE BREWERS, Maryvale Baseball Park, Phoenix
These are tense times in Milwaukee, and not just because Major League Baseball investigators are again trying to get a 50-game drug suspension to stick to the Brewers’ best player, outfielder Ryan Braun. Of their four starters in the 2011 NL Championship Series, all but Yovani Gallardo are gone. The projected four starters behind Gallardo this year _ Marco Estrada, Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers _ have a combined 68 major league starts.
OAKLAND ATHLETICS, Phoenix Municipal Stadium
The Athletics boasted the best ERA of any AL team last season outside of Tampa Bay, and they’ll need their young arms to neutralize the big bats of the Angels and Texas Rangers. It could work. In a combined 63 at-bats against Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols last year, how many home runs did the A’s quintet of Brett Anderson, A.J. Griffin, Tommy Milone, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily give up? Two.
SAN DIEGO PADRES, Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria
The Padres could have practically named their price for third baseman Chase Headley, who drove in more runs last year (an NL-best 115) than any player not named Hamilton or Miguel Cabrera _ and that was before San Diego moved in the fences at Petco Park this winter. But the Padres want to take a shot at a wild card, and their biggest signing came last July, extending outfielder Carlos Quentin for $27 million. The oft-injured Quentin has only two seasons with 500 at-bats.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, Scottsdale Stadium, Scottsdale
When the Giants won the World Series in 2010, they had 30-and-older position players in Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Andres Torres and Juan Uribe. Now, in the wake of the 2012 title, the Giants have a nice 26-and-under core: first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford, World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval and NL MVP Buster Posey. The pitching issue: Can Tim Lincecum reclaim his role as a key starter?
SEATTLE MARINERS, Peoria Sports Complex, Peoria
Once the Angels signed Hamilton, they had no room for Kendrys Morales. So they traded him to the Mariners, who plan to use him as their cleanup hitter. Seattle finished last in the AL in runs, batting average and slugging percentage. Maybe Jason Bay, from nearby British Columbia, has something left. Maybe Raul Ibanez, 40, from glory last October, has something left. Maybe moving in the fences at Safeco Field will help. The kids are good, but the division is mighty.
TEXAS RANGERS, Surprise Stadium, Surprise
In 47 seasons before the arrival of Hamilton, the Rangers/Washington Senators franchise won one postseason game. In five years with Hamilton, the Rangers won 18 postseason games, with consecutive trips to the World Series. The Rangers whiffed on Hamilton, Greinke and Upton this winter, but they signed veterans Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski to help pick up the slack on offense.