Saturday, December 7, 2013
AL West: Three questions for each team
By David Schoenfield
Let's move on to the AL West as we get ready for the winter meetings. We'll do the National League on Sunday.
What do they need? The A's were busy last week, acquiring closer Jim Johnson from the Orioles, signing starter Scott Kazmir, and trading for outfielder Craig Gentry and reliever Luke Gregerson, a slick flurry of moves by Billy Beane. They could still upgrade second base; Eric Sogard played well there last year, but he's more of a utility infielder. The A's could also acquire a better defensive shortstop and move Jed Lowrie to second base.
Any moves left? Beane would love to unload Brett Anderson, the talented lefty who has made just 24 starts the past three seasons and is due $8 million in 2014 (plus a $1.5 million buyout). Beane will likely wait for the remaining free-agent starters to get inked and shop Anderson to those teams who didn't get one of the expensive guys.
Can they win a third straight division title? Sure. Like the past two seasons, it's a roster built on depth more than star power. The big question is whether Sonny Gray can replace Bartolo Colon, who went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 30 starts. He certainly looked good down the stretch and in the postseason. Even if they trade Anderson, they still have six starters, with Tommy Milone now the odd man out. If Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick hit like they did in 2012, the offense should pick up some of the slack for a rotation that may be quite as good.
What do they need? Another middle-of-the-order bat. The Rangers were seventh in the AL in runs scored, which playing in their home park means the offense was mediocre at best. Prince Fielder will help and Jurickson Profar should come close to matching what Ian Kinsler gave them at second base, but right now the outfield would be Alex Rios, Leonys Martin and rookie Michael Choice (acquired from Oakland) with Mitch Moreland at DH.
So, Shin-Soo Choo? Assuming they let Nelson Cruz walk (as they should), and with Mike Napoli going back to Boston, Choo is the big target left. Expect a bidding war between the Rangers, Tigers and Mariners.
Any trades? If the Rangers don't want to lose their first-round pick for signing Choo, maybe they dig into the farm system. How about going after Jose Bautista or Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier?
Los Angeles Angels
What do they need? Besides Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to play better? Starting pitching. Right now the rotation would be Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Joe Blanton (ouch) and Matt Shoemaker (who?). Hey, about bringing back Ervin Santana?
Does anybody really want Mark Trumbo? The Angels used one trade chip (Peter Bourjos) to acquire David Freese and they're hoping Trumbo will land them a solid starter, but general managers will see his .294 OBP as much as his 34 home runs. The Orioles are a possibility, but there just isn't a big market for first basemen and the Angels likely overvalue Trumbo.
Where will Howie Kendrick be in 2014? Probably not with the Angels. A trade to the Royals for some of their bullpen depth makes sense, and the Braves would like to upgrade over Dan Uggla. The Angels could slot Grant Green at second if prospect Taylor Lindsey isn't ready.
What do they need? More than Robinson Cano. They need help in the outfield, a No. 3 starter to put behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma and a designated hitter. Right now, the back of the rotation would include rookies Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, with Erasmo Ramirez and Brandon Maurer battling for the fifth spot. The outfield would be Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and Abraham Almonte.
Will they spend more money? They're going to try. They were definitely interested in Napoli, since they could use a right-handed batter to help balance out a lefty-heavy lineup. They may bring back Kendrys Morales, especially since there will be lukewarm interest in him after he was given a qualifying offer. The big catch would be Choo to play a corner outfield spot and give them a nice OBP guy in front of Cano.
Could they really land David Price? Sure, if they're willing to give up Walker and second baseman Nick Franklin, they could probably get the former Cy Young winner from the Rays. Preferably, they find a way to keep Walker and use Franklin as the main bait to get somebody like Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs.
What do they need? Patience.
Hey, they signed Scott Feldman and traded for Dexter Fowler. Anything else in the works? GM Jeff Luhnow has said he'll upgrade the bullpen, which was historically awful last season. Hey, Mariano Rivera is a free agent.
Which prospects will arrive this year? Outfielder George Springer, who hit 37 home runs and stole 43 bases between Double-A and Triple-A, could break camp with the big league team. First baseman Jonathan Singleton will need more time in Triple-A after a disappointing season but could arrive at midseason. Mark Appel, last June's first overall pick, will be on the fast track and could reach Houston sometime this season.