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AL West Rivals: Offseason Report Card

Everyone made moves, but were they smart, and were they effective?

Ed. note: you’ll notice a new author in the byline — please welcome Luke Mounger to the site. If you’re a Husky fan (Bow Down), you may know of Luke from Dawgman, but now he’ll also be talking about professional sports, ie the ones that really matter.

While our full-fledged previews of the Mariners AL West rivals in the books, we can’t stop talking about them just yet. We gave you a brief overview of every other team’s offseason moves, but today we’re going to be judging them. Which team did the best job in advancing the franchise, and which team flunked and will have to struggle through summer school?

Los Angeles Angels
Grade: B+

The Angels are in a very similar position as the Mariners. The core is largely intact but is aging; the team needs to win now, but the farm system is bare so acquiring talent is difficult. Much like the M’s, deck chairs were shuffled and now the boat can stay upright for awhile longer.

The Angels’ made nearly all their changes to their lineup. Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere will take over for the failed platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry, making an already athletic outfield ever more so. Danny Espinosa will take over at second base, and while his power outburst waned as 2016 went on, he will at least provide steady defense. Luis Valbuena, a late addition, is likely to take over at first base for C.J. Cron, providing better production and further depth to a team previously lacking in that department.

Gone are Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson from the rotation, and in comes Jesse Chavez to provide some depth. Former Seattle hero Blake Parker is also now in the Angels system, but the rest of the Halos’ bullpen is going to be the same as before.

The team added depth, talent, and a bit of upside. It was not flashy, but their moves were substantive and smart. They’re in good hands with Billy Eppler. -ZS

Oakland Athletics
Grade: C

Trading Danny Valencia early on in the offseason initiated an outfield remodeling of sorts for Oakland. They brought in Matt Joyce and Rajai Davis via free agency to join Khris Davis and Jake Smolinski in the outfield. Additionally, Alejandro De Aza also joined on a minor league contract, which probably won’t mean anything, but hey, it’s something.

The recent addition of Trevor Plouffe helps firm up the hot corner, allowing rookie standout Ryan Healy to assume the designated hitter role while occasionally getting reps at either corner infield spot. The Athletics also brought Adam Rosales aboard for his second/70th stint with the organization. He hit a career-best 13 homers in just 214 at bats last season and will supply some depth at the corners.

The A’s other big addition was bringing Santiago Casilla back to the place where he made his MLB debut in 2004. His FIP has only finished north of 4.00 once since 2010, but has increased in each of the past three seasons. But give the guy a break; he’s 36 years old, and the A’s don’t need to count on him to close. Oakland nabbed Paul Blackburn from the M’s in the Danny Valencia deal, who might find his way to the bigs before the end of the season.

Oakland’s offseason confused me a bit, because, sure, they did technically improve, but they did so by adding some pretty old guys that won’t make enough of a difference to make the A’s playoff contenders. Their short-term upgrades should prevent them from losing 90 games for the third year in a row, but fail to influence their likelihood to make the postseason now or in the years to come. -LM

Houston Astros
Grade: B-

Leave it to the Astros to make the moves everyone talks about. After a disappointing 2016, the ‘Stros weren’t content to patch things up, they had to go all-out and bring in some star power.

Houston struck early, bringing in our frenemy Nori Aoki to take over in left field for Evan Gattis, moving the lumbering man out of the outfield, once Josh Reddick was signed to take over in right. Reddick’s offensive production has been consistently above-average, but he’s been unable to stay healthy and is going to turn 30 next month, so the Astros didn’t stop there. Carlos Beltran was signed to play DH, but he also provides depth in the corners, both by virtue of his own ability and the freedom that’ll be provided to others by his presence.

Brian McCann was also acquired to take over at catcher for the departed Jason Castro. McCann will be counted on to provide a veteran presence behind the dish while improving on the bat of Castro, which has left the club wanting for the past three years.

Despite questions surrounding the team’s lack of a true top of the rotation starter, the Astros stayed relatively quiet on that front. Charlie Morton signed with the team early in the offseason, but he’s a fragile mid-rotation starter, not someone a club can count on to consistently take the mound and contribute.

The Astros were admittedly in a tough spot; their core is young and cost-controlled, so now is the time to strike in free agency and via trade...but the moves aren’t all that impactful. Reddick is an average player, Beltran and McCann are both declining, and no one should be counting on Morton. The team’s big moves likely came last year, when they signed Yulieski Gurriel and brought Alex Bregman to the big leagues, but those don’t count towards a offseason that lacked bite despite the bark. -ZS

Texas Rangers
Grade: B-

I’ve always fancied myself a pretty good student, never having to exert much effort to earn a satisfactory grade. That all changed last quarter when I took business statistics; I dedicated myself to the grind, attending extra help sessions and studying for days before exams, only to earn the lowest grade of my collegiate career. All of this is to say sometimes how hard you try and how well you do aren’t linearly related. That held true for the Texas Rangers this offseason.

After an incredible bounce back season, Ian Desmond accepted $70 million and a chance to play in an even more hitter-friendly park with the Rockies. His departure emphasized the importance and reliance on resigning Carlos Gomez, who managed a .905 OPS in 116 at bats with the Rangers in 2016, but struggled before that with the Astros.

The departure of Mitch Moreland, to this point, remains unresolved for the Rangers. This means one of many things.

  1. Texas is content with Ryan Rua shouldering the burden at first.
  2. Guys like James Loney, Will Middlebrooks, and Josh Hamilton, unbeknownst to the rest of us, found the fountain of youth and are going to set the AL West ablaze.
  3. The Rangers still expect to sign Mike Napoli.
  4. Joey Gallo is going to be handed a full-time gig.
  5. The club is willing to limit itself elsewhere by playing Jurickson Profar at first.

Texas made a little more noise, however, in the market for pitchers; one-year deals with Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross bolster a pitching staff that yielded the third most runs in the majors last year. One more pitching transaction may still be in order with LHP Jake Diekman out for the first half of the year.

A relatively quiet offseason from the reigning AL West champs gets a B-. Not bad. -LM