|The Texas Rangers were last year's American League Champions.|
It was also a somewhat successful season for the Oakland Athletics, as their young pitching rotation actually led the league in ERA en route to a .500 record, but the other two teams in the West experienced down years and lost years.
The Los Angeles Angels, who were favored by many to win the division, struggled mightily after the loss of powerhouse first basemen Kendry Morales in late May. They also diverted away from manager Mike Socia's ways of moving runners over and stealing bases. The Angels tried to keep up with the Rangers, after their acquisition of Cliff Lee, by acquiring ace Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks for scraps, but it still wasn't nearly enough to top the Rangers, or the A's, with an lethargic offense and struggling bullpen. The Mariners, another favorite to win the division, faded early primarily on their inability to score runs, and that found them giving up on their all-in season, trading phenom Cliff Lee to their division-rival Rangers. Their bright spot, however, came from the absolute dominance that their ace pitcher Felix Hernandez displayed. So dominant, in fact, that sports writers decided to overlook the horrible 12-11 record and named him the AL Cy Young award winner.
So now that the season is over, let's see what these teams have been up to:
2010 Record: 90-72
The defending American League Champions had very little tweaking to do this offseason to have their team ready to grab another American League Pennant. Their lineup was solid, their pitching was deep, and they had a decent defensive team. A small addition here and a minor trade there was going to be enough to guarantee them another shot at the title, but there was just one thing in their way: they needed to re-sign their ace pitcher, and perhaps godsent pitcher, Cliff Lee.
|Texas GM Jon Daniels and Adrian Beltre shake hands at the |
press conference announcing his new deal.
With the help of mlbtraderumors transaction tracker, I've been able to scrounge together all of Texas' signings since the beginning of the offseason, I will throw in all of the notables.
Most notable arrivals:
Barret Loux - RHSP
Yorvit Torrealba - C (2-years, $6.25MM)
Brandon Webb - RHSP (1-year, $3MM with incentives)
Arthur Rhodes - LHRP (1-year, $4.1MM with an option for 2012)
Adrian Beltre - 3B (5-year, $80MM with vesting option for $16MM)
Mike Napoli - C/1B/DH (Trade from Toronto for Frank Francisco)
|Josh Hamilton, OF, the 2010 AL MVP.|
So even though they lost top free agent Cliff Lee, I would consider the Rangers big winners for the offseason and they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2011. I predict 90 wins and then some on their way to the top spot in the AL West.
But why will they win?
First and foremost, this team is going to be riding on the shoulders of its offense, which it is not short of. With speed at the top in Elvis Andrus and Julio Bourbon this team looks to get on base early and often, and then stifle the opposition with the power of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and hell, for what it's worth, Ian Kinsler. This team is going to be built to outslug its opponent with a deep lineup and a deep bench starting Michael Young and continuing with David Murphy and Matt Treanor.
|Neftali Feliz's role with the Rangers in 2011 will be|
pivotal to the team's success.
2010 Record: 81-81
|Dallas Braden (center), threw the first of two perfect|
games last season, there are only 20 in history.
The Oakland A's were somewhat of a surprise to me last season. A team that I expected to struggle mightily actually set themselves up for a nice year in 2011. The growth of their young but dominant rotation was key to their success in 2010. They posted the lowest rotational ERA in the league, but they were also one of the youngest. The peak of that success came on Mother's Day when Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. 2009 Rookie of the Year built off of his very successful campaign and continued to shut down opposing offenses. Aside from that, however, their lineup really lacked some firepower, so it was up to GM Billy Beane to take charge and keep pushing Oakland towards their first playoff berth since 2006.
The problems that surround Oakland are mainly geographical, their stadium is so bad that players are actually pushed away from signing there, and it's a damn shame really. The A's offered multiple lucrative contracts to marquee free-agent Adrian Beltre, which he continually turned down before he signed with division rival Texas, because few want to play in Oakland's Coliseum, a huge park with dwindling attendance rates. Ownership is working with MLB to move the franchise to San Jose by 2015 or so, which would greatly benefit their team, and it seems that baseball is headed in that direction. When that happens, the A's will attract many free agents to its ballpark (wherever that may be), but for now, let's take a look at what Oakland did to improve their team for next season.
Most Notable Arrivals:
David DeJesus - OF (Trade from Kansas City for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks)
Brandon McCarthy - (1-year, $1MM)
Hideki Matsui - DH/OF (1-year, $4.25MM)
Rich Harden - RHSP (1-year, $1.50MM guaranteed should he make the roster)
Josh Willingham - OF (Trade from Washington for Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown)
Grant Balfour - RHRP (2-years, $8.1MM with a club option for 2013)
Brian Fuentes - LHRP (2-years, $10.5MM with an option for 2013)
Andy LaRoche - IF (Minor League deal)
The A's put themselves in fantastic position for the 2011 season, which is why they're clear winners this offseason, probably more so than the Rangers. They added loads of bullpen depth in Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, easily two of the best relief options available this offseason. They added some speed at the top of the order in David DeJesus and some pop in the heart of the lineup with Matsui and Willingham. They also added a ton of starting pitching depth as well in McCarthy and Harden, using the terminology "you can never have enough pitching", the A's have done just that. Added loads and loads of pitching.
Unfortunately, this won't be enough for them to top the Rangers in the AL West, I see them posting a better record than last year's, but they're not going to the playoffs.
But why are they simply bound for a 2nd place finish and nothing better?
|Will the A's bats be enough to overcome the Rangers in 2011?|
Los Angeles Angels
2010 record: 80-82
|Kendry Morales (middle), after he had broken his leg|
celebrating his walk-off home run at home plate.
No one would have thought that a walk off grand slam would be the demise of the 2010 Angels.
Morales had broken his leg, and he would be out for the season. Before the injury, Morales led the team in most hitting categories, including average, homers, and runs driven in. From that moment on, the season was a lost one. With no hitter that could really solidify the lineup, and their pitching faltering with the exceptions of strikeout king Jered Weaver and midseason acquisition Dan Haren. The bullpen was lackluster, their lineup lacked speed, and they simply retracted away from what they had done so well for so many years: moving runners over and stealing bases.
Fast forward to November, and owner Arte Moreno vows to spend money in the offseason, and fans are understandably ecstatic. Many saw them aggressively pursuing outfielder Carl Crawford, third basemen Adrian Beltre, and closing pitcher Rafael Soriano, and spending a lot of dough to get them, thus making them the team on top of the AL West once again. Torii Hunter was aggressively recruiting Crawford, it was all but inevitable that he was headed to Southern California.
|Adding Vernon Wells was a questionable move by LA.|
Most Notable Arrivals:
Scott Downs - LHRP (3-years, $15MM)
Hisanori Takahashi - LHRP (2-years, $8MM)
Vernon Wells - OF (Trade from Toronto for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera)
|Mike Trout, baseball's number one prospect.|
But why are they going to be so bad?
|Jered Weaver paced the AL with 233 strikeouts.|
2010 record: 61-101
|Griffey, one of baseball's all time greats, is one of just|
five in the 600 home run club.
Most Notable Arrivals:
Jack Cust - OF/DH (1-year, $2.5MM)
Erik Bedard - LHSP (1-year, $1MM)
Miguel Olivo - C (2-years, $7MM)
Brendan Ryan - SS (Trade from St. Louis for Maikel Cleto, then signed for 2-years, $2.75MM)
Denny Bautista - RHRP (Minor League Deal)
Josh Bard - C (Minor League Deal)
Nate Robertson - LHSP (Minor League Deal)
Adam Kennedy - IF (Minor League Deal)
Jody Gerut - OF (Minor League Deal)
Ryan Langerhans - OF (Minor League Deal)
The Final Verdict:
My final examination of the Mariners puts them as winners for the offseason because they got better than they were on the last day of the season last year, but they're losers in the long haul, because the moves won't be enough to get them out of the cellar of the AL West. Obviously, the Mariners were quietly busy this winter. Signing a lot of players to minor league deals and making a minor trade for defensive specialist Brendan Ryan. Defense wins ballgames, and this team will be a defense-oriented team, but the lack of hitting depth will really hurt this organization this season, and they will struggle to win even 75 games this season. But that doesn't go to say that the M's won't be fun to watch this year.
But if they're finishing in the cellar, why are they going to be "fun" to watch?
|Ackley, one of the games top prospects, will be one of Seattle's bright spots in 2011.|