Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
Driven to the final series of the season, the Texas Rangers lost their crown as the AL West champs to the Oakland A's. Both teams are looking to improve, but they will have plenty of competition in the division.
The only four-team division in baseball is no more. The American League West has welcomed in the Houston Astros to be their newest member (read: doormat). The Astros will improve though. It will take some time, but they will become competitive like much of the AL West has been and continues to be. The Texas Rangers now have two immediate threats in the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. The Seattle Mariners were not bad last season, and they could be even more competitive this year. Now, let's take a look at the news and rumors that may shape the competition.
Ryan Theriot is the type of player who can inspire a ball club. He is a great "clubhouse guy" as they say. He plays hard, and when given the opportunity, he can produce. Theriot spent much of his career with the Chicago Cubs, but he has been playing on a series of one-year deals since the end of the 2010 season when he was traded to the Dodgers. Theriot will likely get another one-year deal this season, and that deal could come from the Texas Rangers.
Theriot has said his decision on where to sign could be based on the playing time he could reasonably expect. That may be a problem for the Rangers who seem all set with their infield. However, if Texas can convince him to sign, Theriot would provide a great deal of depth. He hit .270/.316/.321 in 104 games with the San Francisco Giants last season.
After struggling for the last couple seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization, there had been hesitation among teams in signing Hideki Okajima. However, the Oakland Athletics threw caution to the wind and signed the Japanese reliever. In all actuality, they retained all caution and made a smart business decision by signing Okajima to a minor league deal.
Okajima was a highly-touted pitcher out of Japan when he came to the Majors in 2007. He had plenty of success between 2007 and 2009, but then things broke down. In 2010, Okajima posted his first ERA over 3.00. Then in 2011 and 2012, he couldn't keep his ERA under 4.00. The A's hope he can provide solid bullpen support and rebound to his 2007-09 form.
Here Come the Sailors
The Seattle Mariners mean business. They tried to land both Justin Upton and
Michael Bourn Josh Hamilton. Neither player worked out, but the fan base has to be pretty excited in the direction the team is heading. Felix Hernandez will be around for at least the next seven years, and the Mariners have showed a willingness to spend money in order to succeed. That includes pulling off minor deals that could yield large dividends.
- They designated Mike Carp and may end up trading him if the deal is right. Carp had some success in Seattle, but he was not consistent enough. If they can work out a trade, Carp's value may be best put to use that way.
- The Mariners signed Kameron Loe. Loe has not proven himself to be a fixture of any bullpen, but if he can push the other players competing for spots during spring training, the signing will be a good one. If Loe can make the 25-man roster and contribute with an ERA under 4.00, the signing will be great. Loe could also offset the loss of Shawn Kelley.
- As I wrote earlier tonight, the Mariners traded away Shawn Kelley. But in return, they will be getting an outfield prospect who could develop into a player with similar skills as Michael Bourn. Remember, the Mariners were interested in a speedy, top-of-the-lineup type outfielder.
- Let's not forget, the Mariners signed Joe Saunders and Jon Garland. These are two veteran pitchers who can win games. Don't let the high ERAs fool you, they can provide solid pitching. However, each has had his share of rough patches. If the Mariners can get both performing at the top of their game, the team could make some noise.