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Tuesday, February 07, 2006 

AL West Offseason Report Cards

The AL West is the third of the six MLB divisions to be graded by Noobsports.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Additions: 3b Edgardo Alfonzo, RP J.C. Romero, RP Hector Carrasco, re-signed OF Tim Salmon
Subtractions: OF Steve Finley, SP Paul Byrd, SP Jarrod Washburn, INF Lou Merloni

Trading Finley away means that Darin Erstad will move from first base back to centerfield, where his glove can help offset the damage of his declining offensive skills (.273, 7 HRs, 66 RBI in over 600 ABs). Casey Kotchman will take over at first and seems to be ready, as does third baseman Dallas McPherson. Since that is the best thing we can say for the team's offseason, you can tell that the team's winter was more disappointing than Ocean's 12.

Paul Konerko was the only free agent that owner Arte Moreno and GM Bill Stoneman were willing to sign to a big contract. Since Konerko rejected their offer to return to the White Sox, the Angels have chosen not to make their typical big splash in the free agent pool and have made only minor acquisitions. Romero and Carrasco add depth to a pitching staff that lost Byrd and Washburn. While Carrasco is coming off a stellar 2005 season(5-4, 2.02 ERA), he last posted an ERA below 4 in 1996. Carrasco, 35, is currently listed as the number 5 starter on the team's depth chart. Romero is the better addition, since he is a southpaw and held back only by his composure and high walk totals. Alfonzo is pretty much worthless at this point in his career (.277, 2 HR, 43 RBI) and should not be given regular at bats, especially at the expense of McPherson.

Rumors have recently surfaced that the Angels are still talking to the Red Sox about a trade involving Manny Ramirez. Man-Ram would certainly be imposing in the middle of the order behind Vladimir Guerrero, but the chances of acquiring him are slim. A move that might be more realistic is signing free agent SP Jeff Weaver to bolster the rotation. Weaver, Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Kelvim Escobar might give LA of Anaheim a chance at competing with the A's rotation. If the team can ink Weaver to a reasonable deal, preferably short in years, they might save themselves from having the most disappointing offseason in the league.

Offseason Grade: D

Oakland A's
Additions: SP Esteban Loaiza, DH Frank Thomas, OF Milton Bradley, INF Antonio Perez, RP Chad Gaudin, re-signed Jay Witasick
Subtractions: RP Ricardo Rincon, RP Octavio Dotel

Just when you think that Gwen Stefani can't possibly come up with a more addictive or annoying song than "Bananas," she drops "Crash." Just when you think Billy Beane can't possibly make another lobsided deal, he brings in Bradley (and Perez) for just one average prospect (OF Andre Ethier). Sure, Bradley was discounted for his numerous behavioral problems but his talent is well worth the risk. Bradley's temper and Thomas' foot are the type of high risk, high reward types that Beane must take on in order to win with his budget.

The Big Hurt's 2005 season consisted of only 105 official at bats and just 23 of those at bats ended with a base hit. So why do we think Frank still has some baseball left in that enormous body? 12 of those base hits were homers and Thomas can still take a walk (16 BB in 2005). Beane himself said it best: the Big Hurt is still a hitter "whose presence in the lineup is undeniable. Frank Thomas is a presence. Not only is he our type of offensive player, he's everybody's type of offensive player." If his foot is healthy, look for Thomas to mash.

It is hard to believe that Bradley is only 27 years old. His misadventures are well chronicled and he is running out of chances. Maybe that is why I have a good feeling about him in Oakland this year. He hit .290/.350/.484 in 2005 for the Dodgers so clearly talent is not the issue. If Bradley can avoid distraction this year, he will have success. On the flipside, if he blows up and has another incident, the A's have lost next to nothing and can turn to Jay Payton to replace him.

However, Beane was not flawless this winter. He might have overpaid Loaiza and could not work out an extension with ace Barry Zito. The bullpen could use another arm as well, but Beane's track record suggests that he will unearth an effective reliever from the scrap heap this spring. The A's are the team to beat in the division in 2006, and yes, I am firmly entrenched in the Moneyball camp.

Offseason Grade: A-

Seattle Mariners
Additions: SP Jarrod Washburn, OF Carl Everett, C Kenji Johjima, re-signed SP Jamie Moyer, OF Matt Lawton, RP Marcos Carvajal
Subtractions: INF Pokey Reese, SP Ryan Franklin, C Yorvit Torrealba

Remember when the Mariners were rattled off 4 straight 90 win seasons? Surprisingly, that run ended just 2 seasons ago. Its too bad that the M's could never get past the Yankees in the postseason, as they really did have an excellent team. Today, the Mariners do not resemble anything close to the 2001 team that won 116 games. Ichiro does remain; he was just a rookie in '01 and has barely slowed down since batting .350 that year. It is the rest of the team that gives one reason to worry (69-93).

The big acquisition this offseason was Washburn, and the M's paid dearly for his services (4 years, $37.5 million). I've already named this signing the worst of the offseason because no one else seemed willing to go more than 3 years, $21 million. The contract given dinosaur disbeliever Everett was also for too much money. I do like Lawton at a discount and the reports on Johjima have been terrific. But where is this team going?

Don't get me wrong, I do like a lot of the players in Seattle. Jeremy Reed is a terrific centerfielder, King Felix is the next big thing, and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt has an absolute hose. The problem is that this offseason's moves seem to lack long term vision and cohesion.

Offseason Grade: C-

Texas Rangers
Additions: SP Kevin Millwood, SP Adam Eaton, SP Vincente Padilla, 1b/OF Brad Wilkerson, RP Akinori Otsuka, 2b D'Angelo Jimenez, re-signed SS Mark DeRosa, re-signed SP John Wasdin, re-signed SP Brian Shouse
Subtractions: 2b Alfonso Soriano, RP Doug Brocail, SP Kenny Rogers, RP Steve Karsay, C Sandy Alomar Jr.

Will Millwood be able to repeat last year's success while pitching at the Bandbox in Arlington? Millwood had a productive one year stop in Cleveland (9-11, 2.86 ERA) that resulted in a contract from the Rangers that could reach 5 years and $60 million. For advising Millwood to take a one year deal last winter, Scott Boras deserves a raise. Re-entering the market in a down year for free agents paid off big time. Or perhaps Boras just has incriminating photos of Texas owner Tom Hicks. Because Millwood is a groundball pitcher, he could anchor the staff throughout the length of the deal, but it is hard to fathom throwing all those dollars at someone who has won only 9 games in each of the last 2 seasons.

Padilla and Eaton are just ok, and the Rangers have only youngsters Juan Dominguez and Kameron Loe behind them. Flirting with Roger Clemens is worth the effort, but he is still expected to return to the Astros or retire. Trading Soriano was an interesting move, and Wilkerson can play centerfield, but why deal him for more outfielders? Have they already given up on 25 year-old Laynce Nix?

Offseason Grade: B-


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