American League West Winter Preview

Over the next few weeks, we here at LWOS will be going from division to division and discussing a move that we believe each team MUST MAKE to improve the most. Today, we present the fourth of six MLB previews: the American League West winter preview.

American League West Winter Preview

Houston Astros

The Astros came out of nowhere this year. Everyone was caught by surprise by one of the youngest teams in the league. They dominated most of the year being in first place all season long, but in the end -not minimizing their season- were only able to clinch a playoff spot as the second AL Wild Card team. As the early season success of the Astros came as a surprise, most of us considered the Astros as one of the top teams for 2016 before even envisioning them as a team with a winning record at the end of the 2015 season, and that’s why we expect the Astros will be back at it in 2016. However, what do they need to capitalize on during the winter to push the team to the next level in 2016?

They Need Some Depth in Their Rotation

Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and 15 plus game winner Collin McHugh are slated to be the number one and two starters for the Astros. This however leaves uncertainty regarding what the Astros will  do with Scott Kazmir, who arrived to the club in a swap with the Oakland Athletics. Kazmir wasn’t as sharp as the Astros would’ve wanted him to be, having a 4.17 ERA and just two games resulting in a win. Consequently, it is probable that Kazmir could be saying farewell to the Astros during the offseason. The Astros will need to explore the market, and they will have a lot of options to choose from. I see a probable signing in the form of Yovani Gallardo that can win as much as $50 million over four years. With that being said, the Astros can rely on Lance McCullers as their number four starter in 2016. J.A. Happ can also be an intriguing option for the Astros as their number five starter.

Oakland Athletics

As a fan of the A’s, 2015 was hard to swallow. We watched many former green and gold players have success this year on other ball clubs, including AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, and Addison Russell among others. Imagine how the 2015 season could’ve gone if Billy Beane had elected to stick with the plan. However, despite the undesirable short term results, those past moves made space for young talent to surge, such as Billy Burns and Mark Canha, and has opened the club to new possibilities for 2016.

Upgrade the Outfield

When Yoenis Cespedes was traded 2014, the Athletics outfield absolutely crashed. Sam Fuld took over in left field, but the offensive numbers didnt make up for no longer having having Cespedes in the lineup. To makes things worse, fans saw nothing from Coco Crisp as he dealt with injuries most of the season. With the need to rebuild to what was once a consistently offensive outfield, the A’s should see about about inquiring for Dexter Fowler. This could create a solid number one and number two hole in the lineup with Billy Burns.

They Desperately Need to Improve the Rotation

When Scott Kazmir was traded in July, Sonny Gray was left alone in the rotation. Additionally, Jesse Hahn missed most of the season dealing with injuries, leaving  Chris Bassit, Drew Pomeranz and Kendall Graveman to split time taking his place in the rotation. With the lack of depth shown in 2015, the Athletics desperately need to acquire some arms for the rotation. They’ve already begun, as they have signed veteran right-hander Rich Hill to a one-year contract. The A’s also dealt Jesse Chavez to the Blue Jays in exchange for reliever Liam Hendricks, who could be promising with some development.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

As what seems like has been every single year since Mike Trout has began his major league career, the Angels were projected to be a possible World Series team coming into the 2015 season. However,  the Halos couldn’t even get to the playoffs and finished with an 85-77 record. The Angels also spent a rocky year in the headlines, when GM Jerry Dipoto departed the team mid season, among reports that he and skipper Mike Scioscia weren’t seeing eye to eye.

Shortly after the 2015 season ended, Billy Eppler has come in as new GM and looks to try and solve the challenges the Angels face for 2016.

They Need Some Help in the Outfield

Mike Trout can’t do everything alone, and neither can Kole Calhoun. The Angels will need to bring an elite-caliber player to make them great again. The Angels ranked 27th in the league for Average, 20th in runs scored,  and those just aren’t playoff statistics. An excellent option could be former AL West foe  Yoenis Cespedes. 

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were certainly the most disappointing team of 2015, as they were projected to clinch the AL West, but couldn’t even finish the year with a .500 record. Jerry Dipoto has been hired as their new GM and faces several challenges, primarily with the two big names on the roster.

Trade Nelson Cruz and/or Robinson Cano

They need to start a rebuilding process, and the first step is to part ways with Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano. Nelson Cruz lead the league in HR during 2014 making him an attractive signing last off-season, but it is probable that he’ll see less production on 2016. The Mariners can get excellent prospects in return for Cruz. They also need to move on from Cano, especially with a recent rumor that he is unhappy in Seattle, and desires to return to the Yankees. This is a win-win situation for Cano and Seattle if they can deal him back to the Yankees. Cano can make a comeback in New York, and Seattle can get in return some big-name players or prospects, as the Yankees have expressed that they’re “open to anything” according to Brian Cashman.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers were the surprise team of 2015, clinching the AL West without their ace Yu Darvish, who missed the year thanks to Tommy John Surgery. After Darvish’s season abruptly came to an end, many rightfully assumed that it would be yet another another losing season in Texas. AL manager of the year Jeff Banister was able to flip the script, with the help of  Yovanni Gallardo, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, and the addition of Cole Hamels, who gave the Rangers the extra pitching boost they needed to clinch the AL West.

They Need to Upgrade the Catcher – But Stay with the Nucleus of the Team

With Derek Holland and Martin Perez, having back Yu Darvish in 2016 will improve a team that doesn’t need much of an improvement.  The possible departure of Yovanni Gallardo can hurt their rotation, but should be offset with Colby Lewis or Nick Martinez. As a result, the Rangers should focus on bringing in a catcher, as Robinson Chirinos isn’t a playoff caliber catcher.

Some interesting options for catcher could come in the form of former Tigers player Alex Avila, or Dioneer Navarro. Other than focusing on a catcher, the Rangers can could add more depth in their rotation, bullpen and their bench.

What do you think? Which moves do the AL West teams most need to make in order to have a successful 2016 campaign?

Check back next Monday for our NL East preview.

Previous parts of this series may be found here:

NL Central

AL Central

NL West

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