I've made some bold statements the last three months, so now it's time to branch out and make some bold predictions for the 2013 season. Well, they might not all be bold, but they will be predictions and I'll stand by them as I have everything else I've written. So enjoy a little light reading.
American League East
1. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays play in a stadium that should never host a baseball game in a city that doesn't appreciate baseball, but from top to bottom the front office hierarchy has running a baseball franchise down to a science. The Rays won't miss James Shields and could get a midseason boost from Wil Myers to push them over the top in an always-tough division.
2. Toronto Blue Jays (WC): I was behind the Blue Jays pushing their chips all the way in this offseason. On paper, they have the best team in the division, but their one downfall could be staking their fate to players with vast injury histories (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio), a Cy Young winner with a short track record (R.A. Dickey) and an outfielder coming off a PED suspension (Melky Cabrera).
3. Boston Red Sox: It's not the Red Sox's year to return to glory, but they're headed in the right direction after purging their roster in 2012. At least they'll be better than the Yankees.
4. Baltimore Orioles: Buster Olney and several other ESPN personalities I've listened to have gotten incredibly positive vibes from Orioles camp, but I'm not buying in. Everyone is upbeat in March.
5. New York Yankees: Too many injuries, too many aging players and no money to spend to stay under the luxury tax threshold. There are promising prospects on the way, but this season is simply the Yankees' chickens coming home to roost.
American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers: The most complete team in the division topped off by perhaps baseball's best hitter and pitcher in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander.
2. Cleveland Indians: A sneaky good offseason, giving up draft picks to sign free agents such as Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. If Scott Kazmir can actually resurrect his career, there's no reason the Indians can't compete in an otherwise blah division.
3. Chicago White Sox: They're similar to the Rex Sox, but seem to be going in the wrong direction. They're going nowhere important this year and probably aren't headed in the right direction as players like Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy continue to age.
4. Kansas City Royals: No surprise here as I fully expect Dayton Moore's poorly executed offseason to blow up in his face. But if the Royals approach .500, he'll likely keep his job for another undeserved season.
5. Minnesota Twins: This will be a truly sad season if the Twins are forced to trade Joe Mauer. But if the same clause that allowed the Yankees to acquire Vernon Wells and stay under the luxury tax threshold would also be in effect with a Mauer trade, the timing may never be better.
American League West
1. Texas Rangers: This division is the toughest for me to predict. I did not like the Rangers offseason, whatsoever. But I do trust GM Jon Daniels, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. Because he's held onto his elite prospects, he is still in position to make a major trade should the opportunity arise.
2. Oakland Athletics (WC): Billy Beane. Nothing more. Nothing less.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels do have more firepower than the Rangers on offense, but their pitching is likely to be worse. Perhaps much worse. It will be interesting to see how Mike Trout performs with his added weight, how Albert Pujols performs as age continues to gain ground on him, and how Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo perform with their struggles in the second half of last season.
4. Seattle Mariners: The Mariners tried to make strides this offseason, but a supposed trade refusal by Justin Upton put the kibosh on that. Like the Royals, a franchise that for some reason is forced to try too hard to land top tier talent.
5. Houston Astros: As hard as it was to remember the Rays were no longer the "Devil Rays," it will be even more difficult to remember the Astros are now an American League team. It's a nice fit to have both Texas teams in the same division, but why weren't the Brewers forced to switch back, Bud Selig?
National League East
1. Washington Nationals: No innings limit for Stephen Strasburg equals no chance for the rest of the National League.
2. Atlanta Braves (WC): I was incredibly impressed by the Braves' offseason and can only believe combining B.J. and Justin Upton can only better both of their careers.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: As much as I liked the Braves' offseason, I despised the Phillies'. Michael Young and Delmon Young did nothing to improve their chances and if Domonic Brown busts for good, I wouldn't be surprised if Ruben Amaro Jr. trades for Jeff Francoeur.
4. Miami Marlins: Despite all the young talent the Marlins received for selling off their best players, if they trade Giancarlo Stanton, they might as well move the team because no self-respecting baseball fan would enter their stadium again.
5. New York Mets: Marlon Byrd is penciled in as their starting right fielder.
National League Central
1. Cincinnati Reds: The starting rotation is a concern, but the Reds have the most checkers of any team in the division.
2. Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun is fully capable of carrying this club to a division title, but he has to avoid suspension first.
3. St. Louis Cardinals: It goes against my nature to doubt the Cardinals' ability to win, but the infield is a disaster and injuries are already popping up across the diamond.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates: I've adopted the Pirates as my National League team to pull for but there just isn't enough around Andrew McCutchen. I just hope they can reach .500. If not help should be on the way soon.
5. Chicago Cubs: Compared to the Royals' attempts to land pitching, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer put on a clinic. And they can still trade Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Marmol and Matt Garza to build for next year.
National League West
1. San Francisco Giants: They're not as sexy as their neighbors in Los Angeles, but they're built solid from top to bottom. There's a reason they've won two of the last three World Series titles.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (WC): All the spending they've done in the last year should get them into the postseason, but so many question marks remain, barring another big move (or three), they likely won't advance past the Wild Card round.
3. San Diego Padres: This is more a vote against the Diamondbacks and Rockies than a vote for the Padres. It will be interesting to see how the new outfield dimensions affect Padres hitters and pitchers.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: As much as I disliked the Royals' offseason, I was offended by the Diamondbacks'. I give them credit for choosing a path and committing to it, but if it leads anywhere but a 72-90 season it will set baseball back ages.
5. Colorado Rockies: The only storyline I'm interested in with this team is whether or not Troy Tulowitzki gets traded. Or whether he stays healthy long enough to get traded.
American League Championship Series
Tampa Bay Rays def. Detroit Tigers in 7 games
National League Championship Series
Washington Nationals def. Atlanta Braves in 6 games
Washington Nationals def. Tampa Bay Rays in 6 games
Fire Dayton Moore