The Oakland Athletics ran through the AL West in the first four months of the season, and then scraped and clawed their way into the playoffs after collapsing down the stretch. The Angels rolled all year, and coasted into the Postseason. Naturally, neither team won a playoff game. Isn’t baseball fun?
Free agents: none
I don’t think anyone as any idea what the Astros are going to do in 2015. Last winter, they attempted to bolster their bullpen, and that didn’t go so well thanks to injuries. Their pen is still looking a little shaky going into the offseason, so buying low like they tried to last year will probably be in the cards. I don’t think the club is going to bother signing any hitters for starting jobs, though – they’ve got plenty of young talent in the majors right now locking down starting jobs. In fact, I think someone like Dexter Fowler, Chris Carter, or even catcher Jason Castro could get moved if a team is willing to blow the Astros away with an offer. Believe it or not, this organization has some depth, and their rebuilding process is finally showing some fruit.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Free agents: Sean Burnett, Jason Grilli, John McDonald, Joe Thatcher
Needs: Bullpen, starting pitching
The Angels are in good shape after a great 2014 season. Their offense is already locked in, though they could move Howie Kendrick or David Freese to help bolster their pitching staff a little bit and move Gordon Beckham into their starting lineup. The Angels will lose three relievers from their 2014 team, but already replaced Joe Thatcher with Cesar Ramos from the Rays, and have enough depth to adequately replace Jason Grilli and the constantly-injured Sean Burnett. Then, there’s the rotation, which is going to miss Tyler Skaggs for the bulk of the (if not the whole) 2015 season and will probably be missing 2014 breakout star Garrett Richards for part of the first half. Freshly-acquired Nick Tropeano could fill a rotation hole, and maybe someone like Cory Rasmus could too. Aside from that, going in on a veteran innings-eater like Aaron Harang could be the best course of action for the Angels in 2015.
Free agents: Alberto Callaspo, Jonny Gomes, Luke Gregerson, Jason Hammel, Jon Lester, Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Geovany Soto
Needs: Starting pitching, second base, shortstop
The A’s went all-in this summer, and fell flat on their faces. Now, they lose four trade deadline acquisitions (Gomes, Hammel, Lester, and Soto), their starting duo of middle infielders, and an excellent reliever. This could get ugly. The club is reportedly already considering trading Jeff Samardzija, just acquired at the deadline last year. It’s not going to take much to make the A’s contenders in 2015, but they’re going to need a couple of back-end starting pitchers and a middle infielder or two – I don’t think Eric Sogard, Nick Punto, and Andy Parrino are answers for Oakland in 2015.
Free agents: Joe Beimel, Endy Chavez, Chris Denorfia, Corey Hart, Kendrys Morales, Humberto Quintero, Chris Young
Needs: Designated hitter
The Mariners will be a contender once again in 2015 after shocking everyone and contending for a Wild Card spot until the final day of 2014. They return every relevant player from that squad, only losing bench players, ineffective DH options, and a starting pitcher whose 3.65 ERA doesn’t match his peripherals. The main thing the Mariners should look at this year is a full-time DH that really beat the tar out of the ball – someone like former Mariner Michael Morse would probably be a great fit, as long as he’s not playing the damn field. I don’t think a third go between the two parties is in the cards, however.
Free agents: J.P. Arencibia, Scott Baker, Neal Cotts, Colby Lewis, Alex Rios
Needs: Catcher, starting pitching, health
Everything fell apart for the Rangers in 2014 – Matt Harrison, Martin Perez, Derek Holland, Jurickson Profar, and Prince Fielder were non-factors for most of the year, and Yu Darvish and Shin-Soo Choo ended the year on the DL. Just a little better luck in regards to keeping players healthy and on the field would help them out a lot.
The Rangers could still use a solution behind the plate, where incumbent Robinson Chirinos is a 30-year old with one good season. Some more rotation depth could also be needed, especially considering that 15 different players started games for the club in 2014 and both Harrison and Perez don’t appear too likely to be ready on Opening Day.