Jumping on Nick’s bandwagon, here’s a look at how the teams in the AL West are looking so far in 2007 and “what they need”.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Reliable Power Threat Not Named After An Impaler
The Angels of Wherever There’s A Big Market are currently tops in the AL West. They have one of the most talented starting rotations in all of baseball (Lackey, Escobar, Weaver, Colon, and the lesser Santana) with a decent bullpen anchored by K-Rod and the underappreciated Scot Shields (although the less innings given to Darren Oliver, the better). The entire corps of young arms have thus far compiled a team ERA of 3.68, good enough for 6th out of the 30 teams.
They could, however, use more power at the plate. Their undisputed best hitter is of course Vlad Guerrero. But who’s their second best? The answer could be second baseman Howie Kendrick, but he has just returned from the DL where he spent over a month rehabbing a broken finger. But how much can a playoff contender rely upon a hitter with only 321 at-bats in his big league resume? The front office probably expected Garret Anderson to fill this offensive void but he’s been gone for the past month with a torn hip flexor tendon (which makes me cringe even writing it), and it can easily be argued that counting on him was a mistake to begin with since he has not been a major offensive threat in quite some time. I’ve been surprised by the offensive output thus far from Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Willits, without whom the Angels offense, I suspect, would be among the bottom third in MLB. Can those two guys keep up their high levels of performance? It’s certainly possible, but even if they could, neither would ever be considered power threats.
Many teams in baseball would love to be in the position that the Angels currently find themselves in as a team leading their division with a roster full of promising players such as Casey Kotchman, Kendrick, Kendry Morales, and Brandon Wood. They could possibly decide that they have a great chance to win this year and trade away either Morales or Kotchman for another power bat. Perhaps Toronto, who must know that 2007 is all but over, would be willing to trade Troy Glaus (who would then have to waive his no-trade, and in turn, would most likely demand a contract extension to do so). Unless Chone Figgins proves that he can still be a productive player, the Angels do have a hole at third base until Wood is ready.
It would also help if they picked a name and stuck with it.
Texas Rangers of Arlington: An Idea About How To Build A Pitching Staff
Even in the mediocre AL West, the Rangers are already out of it. And it ain’t the offense’s fault. The Rangers have thus far scored 235 runs, good enough for fifth place in baseball. But when your team ERA is 5.12, wins are going to be few. Among their SPs, the lowest ERA currently belongs to Robinson Tejeda, who sports a 5.18. He’s their best. Their worst belongs to Kevin Millwood, whose $60m contract signed in late 2005 has given the team a 2007 ERA of 6.62.
The problem is that this is not an isolated instance. Since the Y2K phenomenon died out, the Rangers starters (there were 57 different pitchers) have combined for an ERA of 5.37.
Before we blame The Rangers Ballpark at Arlington (which is a 2007 nominee for the stupidest name for a baseball field) for its propensity to be a hitter’s park, let’s sit back and think of one good starting pitcher to wear a Rangers uniform over the past eight seasons. Not easy to do, is it? The closest you’ll find is Chris Young (and no, Chan Ho Park does not count) or possibly Kenny Rogers, but neither are/were legitimate aces. The team appears to be unable to lure any of the top free agent pitchers in any season and is paying mediocre pitchers like Millwood and Padilla top money, making them nearly untradable unless they swallow a majority of the contact, which is unlikely since they’re still paying for a good chunk of A-Rod’s contract. Perhaps their younger guys like Tejeda, Cameron Loe, and Brandon McCarthy could grow into the core of the staff. But judging by their past front office moves (I still don’t know why they traded away Chris Young), they may not be given the chance to grow.
Oakland Athletics of Oakland: Health
In what is becoming an annual off-season ritual, Oakland let go one of their highly regarded pitchers in Barry Zito figuring they can sufficiently replace him with far cheaper options. Once again, they have been proven correct. Anchored by Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin, Danny Haren, and Joe Kennedy they have managed to compile the second best team ERA in all of baseball at 3.40. What’s even more amazing is that they’ve succeeded even without unquestionably their most talented pitcher, Rich Harden.
Their list of injured players goes on: Milton Bradley, Mike Piazza, Justin Duchscherer, Huston Street, Mark Kotsay, Esteban Loaiza, etc, etc, etc. And yet, the A’s are in second place and certainly have the talent to make a run a division leading Anaheim.
Dan Johnson is beginning to look like he was deserving of the hype. Jack Cust fulfilled his baseball destiny when he was traded to Oakland from San Diego earlier this month and is already regarded by some as one of the top DHs in the league. Even Travis Buck has contributed, slugging over .500 so far. If Huston Street, and Rich Harden can come back healthy (always a big if), they should be all the help that the team may need.
Seattle Mariners of Seattle: Less Bill Bavasi
On paper, the Mariners have a decent lineup: Ichiro, Beltre, Sexson, Johjima, Ibanez, etc. In actuality, three of those five names have been less than, well, good.
Beltre, Sexson, and Ibanez have hit a combined .227 AVG, .300 OBP and .371 SLG. Oh, and did I mention these three are earning $31m this year?
The man responsible is their GM, Bill Bavasi, who has been in the position since November 2003. He signed Both Sexson and Beltre in early 2005, committing $114m for these two players. In addition, he signed Jarrod Washburn for $37.5m/4 yrs, gave Miguel Batista $25m/3yrs, talked himself into “gambling” on one year-deals for Jose Guillen and Jeff Weaver for a combined $13.825m, and actually traded for Jose Vidro and in doing so agreed to pay $12m out of the remaining $16m on his contract.
All in all, the team has a $106m payroll and is yet going nowhere. In fact, over his 4 years as GM, Seattle ownership (Nintendo) have given him $363.69m to spend on his baseball team. He inherited a roster that had averaged over 100 wins in the three seasons prior to him taking over. Since he’s taken the helm, they’ve averaged 70. Only in baseball can a man so inept at his job keep it for so long.