As spring training gets close to beginning each year, we see columns pop up all over the internet declaring the winners and losers of that particular offseason.
Often, the teams that make the big splashes - the big-name signings, the major trades - are declared winners for that offseason period.
It's those type of moves which excite a fan base, which make headlines and generate a lot of attention towards a club.
The Marlins were considered winners last offseason after signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. The Angels went out last winter and spent big on Albert Pujols (does the word "big" still cover a $240 million deal, or does that reach a new level?) and signed starter C.J. Wilson, as well, making them a World Series favorite in many people's eyes.
This offseason, the Blue Jays, Angels and Dodgers have been the big spenders so far, and that's caused those three teams to be viewed by many as the ones to beat in 2013. The sportsbook Bovada has Toronto and the two Los Angeles teams as the three squads most likely to win the 2013 World Series, with the Nationals right behind in the No. 4 spot.
But big splashes during the offseason don't guarantee in-season success. Far from it, as Marlins fans will certainly tell you.
The Nationals could have made a few monster moves this offseason. They could have signed Michael Bourn to play center, putting one of the top free agents at the top of their lineup and letting him track down balls in the Nats Park outfield.
They could have signed Zack Greinke to round out their rotation and give them an absurd starting five.
They could have packaged Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa and looked to upgrade their rotation or replenish their farm system. (Technically, this is still a possibility, although it appears quite unlikely at this point. Morse might go, but Espinosa is expected to remain the Nats' second baseman.)
Instead, the Nats traded for Denard Span, a less-heralded center fielder but one who is talented and affordable. They signed veteran Dan Haren as their fifth starter, a guy who doesn't have elite stuff anymore but can still be very effective, when healthy.
The Nats haven't made the monster moves that other teams have this offseason, but they didn't necessarily have to. General manager Mike Rizzo liked his core group of players (why shouldn't he, after last season's 98-win campaign?) and opted to just add a couple guys around that core.
If the Nats are able to re-sign Adam LaRoche and get another left-handed reliever, their offseason would be a major success in my eyes. LaRoche, Span and Haren might not match up against the pieces the Blue Jays, Angels or Dodgers have added, but given what the Nats already had in place, they didn't need to toss around boatloads of cash this offseason in order to be a major player for the title next season.