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Spring Awakening

With pitchers and catchers about to report, here's what you need to know in tracking the off-season's big moves

Posted: Tuesday February 5, 2008 11:54AM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 12:02PM
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The clubs that picked up Hamilton, Fukudome (above), Haren and Jones are dreaming big.
The clubs that picked up Hamilton, Fukudome (above), Haren and Jones are dreaming big.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
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Near daily musings about the future whereabouts of two Cy Young Award winners dominated baseball's off-season: Would Johan Santana wind up in New York, and would Roger Clemens end up in Washington?

Santana did indeed land in New York, though it was the Mets, not the Yankees, who snagged him in a trade with the Twins and a subsequent six-year, $137.5 million contract extension. Clemens remains in the crosshairs not of the Nationals, but of Congress, which is scheduled to grill him on Feb. 13 over his denial of accusations in the Mitchell Report by his personal trainer, Brian McNamee, that he used steroids.

Otherwise the business of baseball continued largely under the radar. With spring training set to begin next week, this list of the most important changes in the game -- non-Santana-Clemens division -- will bring you up to speed.

The Detroit assembly line: Hank Greenberg and friends scored 958 runs for the 1934 AL-champion Tigers, which still stands as the franchise record. This year's club, coming off an 887-run season, will challenge that mark after adding third baseman Miguel Cabrera and shortstop Edgar Renteria.

Arizona's pair of aces: Ten pitchers have each thrown 650 innings and won 43 games over the past three years, and the Diamondbacks are the only team with two of them: Brandon Webb, 28, and Danny Haren, 27, whom Arizona acquired from Oakland. It's the best one-two punch in the league, which means Arizona, loaded with twentysomething players coming into their own, is baseball's best growth stock.

So-Cal center stage: The Angels, Dodgers and Padres acquired All-Star, Gold Glove centerfielders in hopes of pushing deep into the playoffs. The Angels, looking to provide cover for Vladimir Guerrero in their lineup, signed free agent Torii Hunter (five years, $90 million). The Dodgers, desperate for power, signed Andruw Jones, coming off a .222 year, for a fraction of Hunter's guaranteed money (two years, $36.2 million). And the Padres traded a minor league prospect to St. Louis for Jim Edmonds, 37, whose production has declined across the board three years running. In all, more than half the major league teams will have someone new playing centerfield this season, including the Giants (Aaron Rowand), White Sox (Nick Swisher), Brewers (Mike Cameron), Rangers (Josh Hamilton), Braves (Mark Kotsay) and Astros (Michael Bourn).

The 100-year wait: Not only is this the 100th year since the Cubs last won the World Series, it is also the 100th year since they even made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. The defending NL Central champions hope the signing of free-agent rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome (careful, it's foo-koo-DOH-may, and he gets $48 million over four years) works out as well as the signings last year of Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly.

Jobless aging sluggers: Barry Bonds, 43, Sammy Sosa, 39, Mike Piazza, 39, Shawn Green, 35, and Mike Sweeney, 34, all remained unwanted at week's end. If Bonds, Sosa and Clemens don't play again, do you think the Hall of Fame ballot that includes them in December 2012 will generate some interest?

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