We say it all the time, and it bears repeating: Baseball is a young man's game. And as the many still-unsigned free agents can attest, it's trending younger all the time.

This can serve to put the squeeze on those older than 30. And one thing that's striking about the lead-up to exhibition games in the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues is the number of instances in which teams insist contractual matters won't cloud their pure baseball judgment when it comes to settling roster spots this spring.

With that in mind, here are eight guys -- some of whom are very, very well-paid -- with plenty to prove in their spring camps.

CC Sabathia, Yankees

Persistent knee troubles. An 83 ERA+. An alcohol rehab stint that began just as the Yanks were heading into the AL Wild Card Game.

The 2015 season clearly was a struggle for Sabathia on every front, but there is hope that he's entering 2016 in a better place physically, mentally and emotionally. Though Sabathia was not expected to be in the Yankees' postseason rotation had he stayed with them and had they advanced, he did benefit from using a knee brace late in the year, posting a 2.17 ERA in five September starts. Sabathia told the New York Post he's entering '16 with "a clear head and a healthy body," and that will serve him well as he tries to fend off Ivan Nova in the battle for a back-end rotation spot.

Beyond pure pride, Sabathia has a lot of money on the line this year: His $25 million vesting option for '17 kicks in if he can avoid the DL and doesn't make more than six relief outings due to a left shoulder problem.

Omar Infante, Royals

Maybe it's all spring lip service meant to motivate, but the Royals are saying Infante's contract, which guarantees him $7.75 million this year and $8 million next (with a $2 million buyout for '18), will not be a determining factor in what they decide to do at second base. They're calling it an earnest competition between the 34-year-old Infante and Christian Colon, Kansas City's former No. 1 Draft pick who has spent the entirety of his big league career as a bench guy. Top prospect Raul A. Mondesi has an outside shot, too.

Though he came dangerously close to being voted into the All-Star Game starting lineup by ravenous Royals fans, Infante had a terrible '15 at the plate, posting a puny .220/.234/.318 slash line. Perhaps he just hasn't been the same since getting hit in the face by a fastball in April 2014. Or maybe the shoulder injury that necessitated offseason surgery is the culprit. Whatever the case, the Royals want to see life in Infante's bat this spring.

Coco Crisp, A's

With an $11 million salary, he's the A's second-highest-paid player (behind Billy Butler, at $11.67M), but he enters camp without a guaranteed spot in the starting lineup following the Khris Davis trade. You can understand the A's opting for a new look in left, because 2014-2015 was pretty much a lost period for Crisp. Neck, elbow and wrist issues limited him to just 170 games over those two seasons, including just 27 starts last year, when he posted a .474 OPS.

Crisp says he's healthy now, but he's also 36. And he's going to have to prove to Bob Melvin this spring that he's worthy of some starts ahead of sophomore center fielder Billy Burns, who had a strong '15, in center field and the aforementioned Butler at DH.

Ricky Nolasco, Twins

The Twins still owe him $25 million over the next two seasons, so it's not as if his financial future is on the line here. But you'd be hard-pressed to call Nolasco one of the Twins' five best starters right now. Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson are locks for the rotation, and Nolasco will have to battle Tyler Duffey (Minnesota's best starter down the stretch last season), Tommy Milone, Trevor May and prospect Jose Berrios for one of the last two spots, or else end up in long relief.

Nolasco is 33 and had to have midseason surgery on his ankle last year. He returned in time for the last week of the season, only to be knocked out of his lone start of the second half in the third inning. In two years with the Twins, Nolasco has posted a 5.64 ERA in 36 games. Not exactly what Minnesota was expecting when it gave him a then-team-record $49 million prior to '14.

Brandon Moss, Cardinals

In Moss and Matt Adams, the Cards have two bounceback candidates at first base, and, in a sense, they are two variations of the same player -- a left-handed slugger who battled injuries in 2015 and whose greatest value lies in his home run potential. Of course, Moss, at 32, is five years older than Adams, so maybe the latter has more upside. That said, Moss had hip surgery prior to 2015, and that undoubtedly affected his offseason strength training. So perhaps he enters '16 in a better place physically.

So this will be an interesting battle for playing time in the Cards' camp. St. Louis gave up a promising pitching prospect in Rob Kaminsky for one-plus season of Moss, who, with a .753 OPS, wasn't terrible for the club after the Trade Deadline last year but, with a 30-percent strikeout rate, wasn't great, either. Moss hit 55 homers in 2013-14 before hitting 19 total last year with the Cardinals and Indians.

Bronson Arroyo, Nationals

When you're coming off a season in which you had more teams (three) than innings thrown (zero), yeah, you've got something to prove. Arroyo used to be considered one of the most dependably durable arms in the game, averaging 211 innings between 2005-13. His elbow ligament finally gave out in '14, and now he's trying to work his way back to the big league stage with a Nats team that has plenty of younger options to round out its rotation.

Arroyo would have had a guaranteed roster spot in Cincinnati with the rebuilding Reds, who wanted him back. But the opportunity to win a job with a contender was too good to pass up, and now he's got to show his old skipper, Dusty Baker, that he has enough left in the tank to beat out young Tanner Roark, who had a terrific 2014 before serving as a swingman last season, or Joe Ross, who had an encouraging rookie year in '15.

Carl Crawford, Dodgers

Because they didn't move Andre Ethier or Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers continue to have their now-standard issue of too many outfielders for not enough spots. They brought in Trayce Thompson as an intriguing bench option, who, if nothing else, could give them strong defense late in games. And Ethier's solid '15 season likely gives him a leg up on the left-field opportunities.

But anytime there's a managerial and coaching staff change, there's an opportunity to reinvent your reputation. The oft-injured Crawford, whose remaining contract (two years and more than $43 million) could use such an opportunity. He already proved himself enough of a liability against lefties to basically become a platoon player, but Don Mattingly even opted to bench him against the right-handed Jacob deGrom in Game 5 of the NLDS in favor of Kike Hernandez. Crawford has to fight his way back into status as a viable regular.

Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox

It's not like Ramirez is in danger of losing his first-base job this spring. Dude's making $22.75 million. He's going to get every opportunity to make it work.

But Hanley's commitment and improvement in his latest position switch will be monitored closely by a Boston team both with big expectations and reasonable alternatives. Ramirez might have a huge (and likely unmovable, at the moment) contract, but that doesn't guarantee him a long leash. Travis Shaw played very well for the Red Sox down the stretch last season, and Brock Holt is another possibility at the position.

And of course, Boston's other corner infielder -- Pablo Sandoval -- has plenty to prove, too. But at least he had a solid history at his position prior to 2015.


Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.