Sports writer Barry Svrluga analyzed the 2014 baseball season for The Washington Post. Here is how he sees the teams lining up in the American League’s West Division:
1. Texas Rangers
Manager: Ron Washington, eighth season.
Biggest additions: The Rangers shook up the entire AL by acquiring 1B Prince Fielder, who, since 2007, has only once hit fewer than 30 homers and once driven in fewer than 100 runs. They also signed Shin-Soo Choo and his .423 OBP to lead off. Add LHP Joe Saunders and RHP Tommy Hanson to the rotation, and Texas didn’t take last season’s collapse – losing 12 of 14 to start September – lightly.
Biggest losses: Closer Joe Nathan, C A.J. Pierzynzski, RHP Matt Garza and OFs Nelson Cruz and David Murphy (free agency) and 2B Ian Kinsler (trade).
Guy who makes the manager look good: Adrian Beltre’s slugging percentages the past four years: .553, .561, .561, .509.
2. Oakland Athletics
96-66, first, lost division series to Detroit
Manager: Bob Melvin, fourth season.
Biggest additions: Closer Jim Johnson led the AL in saves each of the past two years with Baltimore. Free agent LHP Scott Kazmir joins a rotation fronted by breakout performer Sonny Gray.
Biggest losses: Former closer Grant Balfour departed for Tampa Bay. RHP Bartolo Colon, the surprising anchor of the rotation, is a Met – as is OF Chris Young.
Guy who makes the manager look good: 3B Josh Donaldson made his first full season count: .301/.384/.499, fourth in the MVP race.
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Manager: Mike Scioscia, 15th season.
Biggest additions: The main additions to what should have been baseball’s best lineup – with Josh Hamilton hitting behind Mike Trout and Albert Pujols – are 3B David Frese, acquired in a trade with St. Louis, and DH Raul Ibanez, a 41-year-old free agent. LHPs Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago arrived via trade.
Biggest losses: OF Mark Trumbo went to the Diamondbacks in that trade. LHP Jason Vargas wasn’t offered a contract and left for Kansas City.
Guy who makes the manager look good: Trout’s performance in his first two full seasons is stunning: .324/.416/.560. He’s 22!
4. Seattle Mariners
Manager: Lloyd McClendon, first season.
Biggest additions: It’s possible no team made more of a splash, adding 2B Robinson Cano – more than a commitment at 10 years and $240 million. But Seattle also has a new closer (Fernando Rodney) and new right fielder (Logan Morrison) to go along with McClendon, who coached with Detroit and previously managed Pittsburgh.
Biggest losses: LHP Joe Saunders (and his 5.26 ERA) gone to Texas. DH Raul Ibanez (29 homers in 454 at-bats) is an Angel.
Guy who makes the manager look good: Who’s more constant than RHP Felix Hernandez? His 2.85 ERA since 2009 is best among AL pitchers with at least 50 starts.
5. Houston Astros
Manager: Bo Porter, second season.
Biggest additions: CF Dexter Fowler hit .300 two seasons ago with Colorado and arrives via trade to lead off. Free agent reliever Chad Qualls has more teams (seven) than saves (zero) since the middle of 2010, yet he’ll share closer duties with fellow free agent Matt Albers, who has never had a major league save.
Biggest losses: LHP Erik Bedard signed with Tampa Bay.
Guy who makes the manager look good: This team lost 111 games last year, and is in a complete, from-the-ground-up rebuild. No one looks good.