Only a few short months stand between now and Opening Day 2014 (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

All Quiet on the Western Front

The last few off seasons have seen the teams in the AL West add some serious star power.  From the Oakland Athletics themselves shocking the world by signing Yoenis Cespedes, to the surprise signing of Albert Pujols by the Los Angeles Angels, to the addition of Japanese ace Yu Darvish by the Texas Rangers, the division has seen a major influx of talent.  This offseason has been no different for any of the teams.  This time the Seattle Mariners got in on the action in a big way, signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year mega-contract worth $240 million.  The Houston Astros even made a potentially shrewd deal in acquiring centerfielder Dexter Fowler from the Colorado Rockies, they also added Scott Feldman for a veteran presence in their rotation.

The Athletics themselves have made some additions, bringing in relievers Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Abad, along with outfielder Craig Gentry, starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, and utility man Nick Punto.  On the surface it would seem the A’s are really loading up their roster, but consider the departures of Bartolo Colon, Grant Balfour, Brett Anderson, Seth Smith, Michael Choice, Chris Young, Jemile Weeks, and Jerry Blevins and you realize they were filling holes.  That’s not to say that they’ve regressed, but there’s much to question as to whether they’ve really improved.

The aforementioned Cano signing and the additions of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to protect him, as well as the addition of Prince Fielder (although it did mean the departure of Ian Kinsler)  and Shin-Soo Choo by the Rangers were impact moves, and signal the continuation of an arms race in the AL West.  But now, the madness has died down.  No impact moves have been made within the division since December, but that doesn’t mean the teams are done.  There is still much work to do.  The Rangers just lost Derek Holland to a knee injury for at least half the season, so they may be in the market for a starting pitcher.  The prize of the offseason is on the market as we speak, and the chances of Masahiro Tanaka landing in the AL West seem to be fairly high.  Whether the Rangers open up their wallets one more time to lure another Japanese ace, or if the Angels see fit to address their starting rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, or if the A’s shock the world once again with a massive international signing, Tanaka’s arrival in MLB could be a major factor in who wins the 2014 AL West crown.

The bottom line is this, the A’s have made moves to strengthen themselves, but they haven’t done enough.  While the battlefield that is the hot stove season is quiet now, rest assured that it will see a few more shots fired.  The fate of the division is far from decided.

Tags: Oakland Athletics

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