The Dodgers started their season with James Loney at first base and ended it with Adrian Gonzalez there. They upgraded from Dee Gordon to Hanley Ramirez at shortstop and from Juan Rivera to Shane Victorino in left field.
But it didn't matter, at least as far as this year was concerned.
These high-priced Dodgers finished where the bankrupt Dodgers of last season finished — out of the playoffs.
The Guggenheim-backed Dodgers were officially eliminated from postseason contention Tuesday night, as they fell to the San Francisco Giants, 4-3, at Dodger Stadium. Their pursuit of the second of two National League wild-card spots was over.
The St. Louis Cardinals, not the Dodgers, will play the Atlanta Braves in the wild-card game.
"It's kind of going to stick with me for a while," Matt Kemp said. "It hurts."
When reflecting on this defeat over the winter, the Dodgers will probably replay the seventh inning in their minds.
Down 4-1, they cut the deficit to one run when catcher A.J. Ellis muscled a two-run home run over the wall in right-center field.
Two batters later, Mark Ellis hit a ball to left-center that skipped to the wall. Ellis tried to turn a double into a triple — to his everlasting regret. He was easily thrown out at third base on a relay by shortstop Joaquin Arias.
"It was the wrong play," Mark Ellis said.
That mistake was magnified when Shane Victorino immediately followed with a triple off Guillermo Mota.
Kemp had a chance to set everything right when he came to the plate with two outs and Victorino standing on third. But he struck out, flailing at an outside breaking ball by George Kontos for the third strike. Enraged, Kemp spiked his bat.
"I didn't do my job," Kemp said. "It's my fault."
The Dodgers made another run at the Giants in the ninth inning, which started with Andre Ethier's single to center against left-hander Jeremy Affeldt.
Dee Gordon pinch-ran for Ethier and stole second base with two outs, but Mark Ellis flied out to shallow center field to end the game.
"Obviously, I'm proud of the guys and the way we didn't want to give in," Manager Don Mattingly said.
The Dodgers started the day trailing the Cardinals by two games with two games left, meaning they had to win their last two games and the Cardinals had to lose their last two for the Dodgers to tie for the wild card and force a play-in game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
In the top of the fourth inning, encouraging news trickled in from St. Louis: The Cardinals had lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 3-1.
The Dodgers trailed by a manageable 2-1 at the time. But that didn't last long.
Left-hander Chris Capuano, pitching with a bruised shoulder, had served up a home run to Buster Posey in the second inning and another to Arias in the third, before being removed from the game with no outs in the fourth.
He was replaced by veteran Jamey Wright, who was on the mound for the game's deciding moments.
Wright made an errant pickoff throw to first base in the fifth inning that allowed Arias to reach second. With two outs and first base open, Wright intentionally walked Angel Pagan to pitch to Marco Scutaro.
Scutaro came in with an 18-game hitting streak and a.337 average since the All-Star break, third-best in the National League. But he had only two hits in 19 previous at-bats against Wright.
Scutaro doubled to right field, driving in Arias and Pagan for a 4-1 Giants lead.
In the wake of the crushing defeat, the Dodgers clubhouse was silent.
"If you had guys who didn't care, you wouldn't have that," Mattingly said.
"It's this feeling that you don't want to have again."