|AL West Offseason Grades|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 27, 2009
Well, there is plenty of time for more deals to change the landscape across the Majors including potential trades and free agent signings, but with Spring Training just a little over three weeks away, it’s time to offer some opinions on what teams did to prepare for the upcoming season.
Los Angeles Angels: The offseason hasn’t been good to the Angels thus far. They desperately needed to keep slugger Mark Teixeira in the center of their lineup in order to provide protection for aging key man Vladimir Guerrero. They failed to do that and lost him to the Yankees, because they weren’t willing to spend what it took, and that leaves a gaping hole in this team, when compared to contenders from the eastern division.
In order to contend, they’ll have to correct that by opening day, probably by trade, but GM Tony Reagins, seems determined to fill that gap from within the organization, but that seems far fetched since the only home grown true offensive talent the team currently boasts is Chone Figgins.
They did better on the pitching front despite losing record breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez. They did this by importing free agent Brian Fuentes who spent last season toiling in the unfriendly confines of Coors field.
The team also parted ways with lifelong Angel, Garret Anderson, a fan favorite who has been somewhat hobbled defensively the last few years. At 37 Anderson’s still has skill with the bat but his power numbers have significantly declined over the five seasons, leading the team to conclude they could get similar product with better defense for less money.
Financially the Angels might be in better shape, but the 2009 team doesn’t look (at this moment) to be as good as the one they put on the field in 2008 and with Vlad Guerrero’s health and production beginning to decline the Angels either have to start finding players to transition or face a rebuilding process and give up being the class of the west.
Grade C -
Texas Rangers: The Rangers can hit, and they’ll need to do that in 2009 in order to succeed because they failed to do anything on the pitching front during the off season. However, all is not lost, since the Rangers farm system is arguably the best in the game at the moment and has a commitment to building from within. That offers them not just internal growth, but the chance to trade for a pitcher if the right situation presents itself.
The only key loss the team suffered offensively was that of OF Milton Bradley who was a important part in 2008, but the Rangers are loaded with offensive talent and intend to showcase it in 2009 to see who is a keeper and who really isn’t. It will be a blow, but the Rangers offense was the best in the game last year and unless Josh Hamilton fades into obscurity as fast as he rose, the loss won’t be that great.
Grade C. No gain, no major losses.
Oakland A’s: The A’s have certainly had an interesting offseason, but knowing just what to make of it, is the big question. After trading away most of their top pitchers during the final months last season, they’ve also traded away their closer Huston Street and the second best starter they had left (Greg Smith).
Still the offensive return has been very good. They netted superstar outfielder Matt Holliday and brought back power hitter Jason Giambi. Combined with a healthy Bobby Crosby and a healthy Eric Chavez, that could turn into a solid offensive core, but it’s more likely that at least three of the four won’t last the season in Oakland uniforms, as Holliday and Crosby are in the last year of their contracts, and Giambi is on his last legs career-wise.
Still, they are dark horse contenders when the trading deadline comes around as both the Rangers and Angels are not nearly as strong as they were last season.
Any time you can get Matt Holliday for a closer who you feel you can replace and a pitcher who no one had heard of before last season, you have to consider it a great deal.
Seattle Mariners: Despite the insistence of Mariners boosters, the Mariners look more like a team in disarray and transition than they do contenders for the title in 2009. A lot of the problem lays in the financial side of the equation as the Mariners have a lot of payroll tied up in Adrian Beltre, Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva and apparently can’t afford to spend much on the free agent front.
Still that hasn’t stopped the team looking from dealing players they considered expendable in order to boost the pitching staff. Adding wannabe starter Aaron Heilman [Update: This article was written before the Mariners traded Heilman to the Chicago Cubs.] and four decent looking relievers (Jason Vargas, Tyler Walker, David Aardsma and rule V pick Jose Lugo) add the depth they’ll need in order to allow Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith to try to fill the voids in the starting staff.
Offensively, they took a big hit with the loss of free agent Raul Ibanez, a driving force in their lineup, and they’ll need big improvements from C Jeff Clement and OF Wladimir Balentien to fill that void. Adding Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierez might fill the positions, but won’t improve the offense.
They’ll be looking to scavenge offensive players from invitees to Spring Training. That’s definitely not good.
Grade C. The addition of Aaron Heilman could pay surprising dividends, but this team is offensively challenged.
How do the teams in the AL West stack up? Leave your comments below.