The bad injury news is already springing out of Spring Training camps. Alex Reyes, the most electric piece of the Cardinals' arms assemblage, needs Tommy John surgery. Chris Tillman, the would-be Opening Day starter for the Orioles, is iffy for Opening Day because of continued shoulder woes. Braves infielder Sean Rodriguez, newly signed to a two-year contract, needed shoulder surgery after a terrible auto accident and could miss the entire season.
We'll hear more of this kind of news in the coming days and weeks, because it's an unavoidable byproduct of guys ramping up their routines. But, for now, let's focus on the good news, the guys returning from 2016 injury woes who could function as key "acquisitions" (of a sort) for their clubs in 2017.
1. Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, Indians
The Indians had a big offseason in getting discount prices on Edwin Encarnacion and Boone Logan, and these are the other additions to what proved to be a World Series-caliber roster. Carrasco (broken hand) and Salazar (elbow flexor strain) weren't available in the rotation for the postseason run (Salazar did pitch in relief in the World Series). Carrasco has a 134 ERA+ over the last three seasons, while Salazar had a 2.75 ERA in an All-Star first half last year before the elbow issues set in. The Indians are expecting to get both of them a big workload -- possibly around 30 innings apiece -- in the World Baseball Classic-lengthened spring schedule.
Brantley's the wild card. He missed all but 11 games last year following shoulder surgery in November 2015, then had another follow-up procedure in August. Can he recover that sweet swing? The surgeries were on his lead shoulder, which could wreak havoc on his power. Brantley will be a fascinating figure to monitor in Cactus League play, assuming he's active.
2. Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Neil Walker, David Wright (?), Mets
This ... is a long list. And it illustrates how incredible it was that the Mets made the National League Wild Card Game last year.
Matz (bone spurs) and deGrom (nerve issue) both underwent season-ending elbow surgery in September and, while both will be closely monitored, neither injury was considered serious. Harvey's situation is a little trickier, as he's coming back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. And Wheeler, who hasn't pitched in the bigs since 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, could wind up in the bullpen as he works his way back. But Mets fans can enter camp salivating over what a fully healthy rotation would look like.
In the infield, Walker and Wright both had their seasons cut short by back woes. Though Walker had surgery to repair a herniated disk, Wright's spinal stenosis remains the more worrisome condition. Wright has admitted he has no idea when or if his back will flare up again, but he'll enter camp hoping to make an impact.
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Andre Ethier, Dodgers
A year ago, the Dodgers were scrambling for usable bodies in their rotation. This year (at the risk of jinxing them), they could have a surplus. McCarthy pitched just 40 innings for the Dodgers last year after returning from Tommy John, only to injure his hip. Ryu returned from shoulder surgery to throw all of 4 2/3 innings in an early July start, only to injure his elbow and never be heard from again. Both pitchers are up and running in camp, but it remains to be seen how or whether the Dodgers utilize these two in the rotation, because Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood (who dealt with injury issues of their own in '16) could be competing against them for the fifth spot.
The Dodgers also hope to have a full season from Ethier, who missed all but 16 games last year but could still be an important bat for them against right-handed pitching.
4. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs
Last we checked, Schwarber has no plans to skip the season and just show up at the World Series again. In the Fall Classic, his body was limited after dual left knee surgeries, but his bat wasn't (7-for-17 with a double). Returning a now-mobile Schwarber to left field is arguably the defending champs' biggest addition. He's even been cleared to catch on a limited basis, and it will be interesting to see how much he gets utilized behind the dish.
5. Pablo Sandoval and Steven Wright, Red Sox
After Sandoval missed all but three games of 2016 following shoulder surgery, the Panda will be back to try to prove his doubters wrong. John Farrell said the third base job isn't promised to him, and Brock Holt will be there to push him every step of the way, but the spot would seemingly be Sandoval's to lose.
The knuckleball-tossing Wright will also be back from a shoulder injury suffered on the basepaths in the midst of his breakout '16, potentially further lengthening a rotation that has, you may have heard, added Chris Sale.
6. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, Astros
Despite a brutal April, the Astros might have snuck into the postseason last year had their rotation not totally come apart at the seams in the second half. Keuchel's follow-up to his AL Cy Young Award-winning season was a disappointment, never more than when he was shut down in September with what he called "major inflammation" in his rotator cuff. McCullers began '16 with a sore shoulder of his own but had a 3.22 ERA in 14 starts before going back on the DL in August with elbow discomfort.
Houston has done a great job padding its lineup this winter, but the Astros' fate might ultimately rest in this pair's ability to get through Spring Training -- and the season -- at full health and full strength.
7. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
Once again, the Nats were without Strasburg in October and, once again, they saw their championship dreams die in the NL Division Series. This time, it wasn't a planned shutdown but an unplanned partial tear of a forearm tendon. As has become an annual tradition, Strasburg will be watched very closely this spring and this season. The Nats traded away some serious starting depth this winter, so it's imperative that Strasburg and Joe Ross, who was limited to 19 starts because of shoulder soreness last season, stay healthy.
8. Lance Lynn, Cardinals
St. Louis is hoping its rotation can again be the strength it was in 2015, but it has already been dealt a huge blow with the loss of Reyes. So getting Lynn back as a key contributor is all the more essential. Lynn made at least 29 starts each year from 2012-15 and strung together a 3.38 ERA along the way. He missed all of 2016 following Tommy John surgery, but Lynn did make a few rehab starts in the Minors late in the year, and he'll open camp looking to lock down a spot with a healthy and effective spring.
9. Garrett Richards, Angels
Richards has been emerging as the Angels' ace over the last few years, but he tore his UCL just 34 2/3 innings into 2016 and was presumed to need Tommy John. Instead, he had a stem-cell therapy treatment that had him throwing a baseball by year's end, and the Halos hope to have him up and running for Opening Day. Richards could front a rotation in which Tyler Skaggs will begin his first full season following Tommy John, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano could be available late in the year after their recoveries from the procedure.
10. Shin-Soo Choo and Jake Diekman, Rangers
Choo was available to the Rangers in the American League Division Series, but he played just 48 games last year and made four trips to the disabled list. The Rangers need him to bounce back to help counter their free-agent losses. Remember: Choo's 1.016 OPS in the second half of '15 was a big reason why Texas surged to the top of the West.
11. Nick Castellanos and Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers
Castellanos was having a breakout '16 before breaking his hand, and he logged just 23 at-bats after July 31. Zimmermann was an April sensation but a variety of groin, neck and lat issues limited him to just 9 2/3 innings after June 30. The Tigers still have their core group together but their depth issues demand a healthy lineup and rotation if they're going to make a run.
12. Gerrit Cole and Jung Ho Kang (?), Pirates
Cole threw just 116 innings last season due to triceps and elbow issues, and those issues contributed to a jump from a 2.60 ERA in 2015 to a 3.88 mark in last. But Cole went through his usual offseason throwing routine, leading to optimism that the Buccos will have their ace back on track in their bid to return to October after an all-around frustrating '16.
Kang's situation is similar in that while he didn't miss the bulk of the season, he was limited to just 103 games -- early in the year because of his rehab from knee surgery and late in the year because of a shoulder injury. But Kang's situation is dissimilar in the sense that we have absolutely no idea what to expect after he received his third DUI in South Korea. He's missing the start of Spring Training because of his trial. Kang, when healthy, has on measure been an above-average offensive contributor (125 OPS+) in 229 big-league games.
13. Greg Bird, Yankees
We've hardly gotten to know this guy, but we want to. Bird was a sensation late in '15, cranking out 11 homers and nine doubles with an .871 OPS in 46 games. But he aggravated an old shoulder injury and tore his labrum about a year ago at this time, thus ending his '16 before it started. Whether Bird merely gets the share of a first-base platoon or claims the job outright remains to be seen, but he'll be an intriguing young bat in the Bronx.
14. Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins
Chen was a free-agent bust in his first season with the Fish, posting a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts, just three of which occurred in the second half due to an elbow strain. Perhaps a healthy Chen can more closely approximate the 3.34 ERA and 123 ERA+ he put up in 2015 in Baltimore.
15. A.J. Pollock, D-backs
When Pollock broke his elbow just a few days before the start of the 2016 season, plenty of people had a sinking feeling the D-backs -- a team that had made some serious splashes in the Hot Stove season -- were toast. Those people were right. As a result, entering '17, Arizona won't be a popular postseason pick, but getting Pollock back for a full year (he did appear in 12 games late in the year) has the potential to ignite their lineup and improve their defense. Pollock was a Gold Glove Award winner who received down-ballot NL MVP Award love after hitting 20 homers and 39 doubles with an .865 OPS in 2015.
16. Mike Moustakas, Royals
The Moose tore his ACL in May, and that's when you pretty much knew the Royals would not be successfully defending their 2015 crown. Now he returns to a roster loaded with pending free agents, Moustakas included. It's imperative the Royals stay in it after the All-Star break, or Moose and others could become trade candidates. Moustakas' recent claim that he's "almost 100 percent" bodes well for a bounceback.
17. Sonny Gray, A's
Gray missed his Opening Day start in '16 with food poisoning and things didn't get much better from there. In the midst of posting a 5.69 ERA, he made two trips to the disabled list with trapezius strain and a forearm strain. The A's are counting on Gray, who could pitch for the United States in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, to rebound and either pitch them to a surprising surge in the West or rebuild his trade value.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.