Projected 2013 Finish: 2nd
- Acquisitions: The A’s filled the biggest hole in their lineup, when they signed Japanese superstar Hiroyuki Nakajima to play shortstop this coming season. In eleven seasons in Japan, Nakajima became a three time Gold Glove winner and was named an All-Star eight times. He’s posted a lifetime batting average of .302 and hit 20+ home runs four times. The A’s have had minimal production from shortstops Cliff Pennington, and Stephen Drew in recent years, so the potential offensive threat that Nakajima represents has Oakland’s management excited.
- Departures: Oakland lost a large piece of their starting rotation, when Brandon McCarthy elected to become a free agent, but they should be able to do just fine without him, seeing that they won the division last year with McCarthy hurt most of the season. Shortstop Stephen Drew was traded, but management quickly replaced him with Nakajima. Versatile fielders Jonny Gomes, and Brandon Inge were lost to free agency also, but their replacements we most likely be pulled from the A’s farm system.
- The Verdict: I like what the A’s have done so far this off season, considering they have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. They let go of what they had to, but still managed to bring in some much needed offensive firepower, as well as filling the biggest hole in the depth chart, shortstop. This team is carried by young players, strong pitching, and reigning AL Manager of the Year, Bob Melvin. Just like last year, the A’s will find a way to win in 2013, but in a stacked division with the Angels and Rangers, they won’t come out on top. Look for the A’s to sneak in the playoffs as a Wild Card, finishing second in the West to the Los Angeles Angels.
Projected 2013 Finish: 3rd
- Acquisitions: Texas had a fairly quiet offseason. They made some key veteran acquisitions in AJ Pierzynski, Lance Berkman, and holstered the bullpen with Joakim Soria. Pierzynski will take over as starting catcher, and Berkman will see time as DH until young slugger Mike Olt is ready to be a full time major leaguer (Adrian Beltre or Mitch Moreland would most likely take over DH in that case). Soria, one year removed from finishing 10th in AL Cy Young voting, will bring a lot of potential to a below average bullpen. Through five years in the majors, he has averaged an excellent WHIP of 1.04 and 2.40 ERA.
- Departures: Fan favorites Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli made headlines after choosing to leave Texas as free agents, but the Rangers also lost several veteran pitchers including Mike Adams, Roy Oswalt, Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe, and Koji Uehara. They definitely took a hit as far as pitching depth goes, and lost some serious power in the middle of the order.
- The Verdict: While the Angels had an exciting offseason that included stealing Hamilton away from the Rangers, Texas chose to lie low. They missed on opportunities to acquire Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke, and Justin Upton, and in doing so, might’ve missed their chance to compete in a division full of up and coming contenders. There’s no question that the Rangers got worse this winter, but they are eagerly awaiting the arrival of highly acclaimed prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. While they are an older team, the Rangers have a bright future ahead of them. I don’t see them continuing the success of recent years in 2013.
Projected 2013 Finish: 4th
- Acquisitions: With the addition of Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay, Kendrys Morales, and Michael Morse it’s clear that Seattle was looking to add some power to their lineup. Some depth has also been added to the pitching staff, signing Joe Saunders, Jon Garland, and Kameron Loe. Almost all of the players brought in by Seattle’s front office this winter have struggled with injuries throughout their career, and many of them are just getting old.
- Departures: Jason Vargas and John Jaso were traded away in the deals for Morales and Morse. In addition, veterans Chone Figgins, Miguel Olivo, Kevin Millwood, and George Sherrill parted ways with Seattle. None of these players were game changers for the Mariners, and they should be ok moving on without them.
- The Verdict: The M’s had an excellent offseason, but I don’t think it will be enough to put them in contention for this season. The AL West is just too strong right now for them to have a shot at a division title, but in a year or two, they could be a legitimate threat. Morse and Morales have the skill to become perenial 30+ HR 100+ RBI players. There’s no doubt that there was some risk in some of the guys (Bay, Ibanez, Garland) that they brought in, but if the newest Mariners perform anywhere close to their potential, this could be a very strong team for years to come.
Los Angeles Angels
Projected 2013 Finish: 1st
- Acquisitions: Well, it’s safe to say that the Angels have done an excellent job of putting together a group of players that are fully capable of winning a World Series right now. Josh Hamilton, Tommy Hanson, Ryan Madson, Sean Burnett, Joe Blanton, and Jason Vargas will all be joining Los Angeles this year. Hamilton will form a ” big 3″ with fellow MVP candidates Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols, while Hanson, Madson, Burnett, Blanton, and Vargas will join a rotation that is already home to Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson.
- Departures: Even though the Angels brought in a fantastic group of players this winter, they also lost Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Maicer Izturis, and Torii Hunter. While Greinke will be tough to replace in the rotation, Haren struggled mightily last year and should be replaced easily in the starting five. Izturis’s versatility will be missed, but they were willing to give him up to gain Hamilton and co. As for Hunter, he’s getting old, and Los Angeles had no problem removing him from an outfield that will be home to Hamilton, Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Peter Bourjos.
- The Verdict: The Angels have put together a team that has the potential to run over one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Offensively, the have a fantastic balance of power and speed, and in addition to that, their pitching has incredible depth, especially in the bullpen. If this group isn’t playing deep into October something will have gone horribly wrong. Expect big things out of the 2013 Angels.
Projected 2013 Finish: 5th
- Acquisitions: Something’s not right when your biggest signing of the offseason is Carlos Pena. Rick Ankiel and Erik Bedard will also join Houston this coming season.
- Departures: Jed Lowrie, who they traded a decent group of prospects for not too long ago, was traded just weeks ago. Jordan Schafer was claimed off waivers by Atlanta. Fernando Abad, one of their best relievers, elected free agency, and Chris Snyder joined him.
- The Verdict: The Astros are really just a sad franchise and an embarrassment to pro sports in general. They spend no money, they don’t seem to be developing any kind of successful farm system, and now they’ve moved to the AL West, one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Houston has no hope this year, and they probably won’t have any for a long time. They seem to be content with winning less than sixty games every year. They will finish last in their division this year, without question.