I find this a difficult division to guess (among the top 3 teams) because I honestly think all the teams are weaker this year. Really, who’s the top newcomer? Jake Odorizzi? Mitch Moreland? Nate Lowe? Good players, but not on the level of George Springer. Anyway, as always, I address the teams in the order I’m guessing they finish.
- Houston Astros. They’ve brought back Michael Brantley; that’s likely their best free agent signing, including Jake Odorizzi. They also signed Jason Castro and Ryne Stanek. Meanwhile, nobody gets better by losing George Springer. Also, Justin Verlander is not expected back this year after undergoing TJS. I’m putting them in this position based on who’s still on the roster—Altuve, Bregman, Correa, Greinke, et al.
- Oakland A’s. They finally broke through and won the division last year. However, they’ve lost Marcus Semien along with Liam Hendriks and Khris Davis. They e brought in Mitch Moreland, Sergio Romo, Elvis Andries, and Mike Fiers. Again, I think they’re overall weaker, but they’ve played .599-.600 ball each of the last three years, so I’m not ready to drop them any lower than second.
- Los Angeles Angels. Their in-comers include Dexter Fowler, Alex Cobb, Jose Quintana, and Kurt Suzuki. Departures include Matt Andriese, Andrelton Simmons, and Julio Teheran. This is very likely Albert Pujols’ last season as a player. Last year they came close to making the expanded playoffs, and obviously they hope to do better. Any team with Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon is dangerous, but i don’t see their moves being enough to get them over the top. It looks like they’re hanging their biggest hope for improvement on removing the kid gloves from Shohei Ohtani. The Angels did have my favorite transaction wire announcement this offseason: “Atlanta Braves traded 2B Jack Mayfield to Los Angeles Angels for $0.” He’s on the Angels roster, so that looks to be quite a bargain!
- Texas Rangers. They’ve lost Corey Kluber, hardly had him really, as it worked out. They traded away their most popular player in Elvis Andrus. Shin Soo Choo is now playing in South Korea. Edinson Volquez and Lance Lynn are gone too. New players include Kohei Arihara, who has come over from Japan’s Nippon-Ham Fighters. They obtained Nate Lowe from the Rays, Khris Davis from the A’s, and Mike Foltynewicz from the Braves.
- Seattle Mariners. It’s been since 2001 that they last made the playoffs. The streak isn’t ending this year. Indeed, they’re a strong bet to be the worst team in the AL. They brought in pitchers Ken Giles and James Paxton, said goodbye to Dee Strange-Gordon. I posted a couple weeks ago about their former GM getting himself fired for acute stupidity. One of his not bright statements was admitting a plan to manipulate prospect Jarred Kelenic’s service time in retaliation for not signing a long term, team friendly deal. The Mariners, in a way, got lucky when he got injured as now they can bring him up slower regardless.