Like the AL East, there are 4 teams in the AL West currently at or above .500. I address each team below in the order in which they appear in the standings. Remember the draft is in one week, during the All Star break, and the trade deadline is July 30—most trades, if they happen, will be between the All Star Game and the end of the month.
Houston Astros—Nobody seems to be forgiving them for 2017 yet, and they don’t seem to care. They have roster holes in the bullpen and center field. However, they also have a $209M payroll. With the “competitive balance tax” AKA luxury tax AKA soft salary cap set at $210M, I’m not expecting any big moves without some creative accounting, and maybe even then without a significant injury creating a higher priority hole in the lineup.
Oakland A’s—They have a big hole at shortstop. The Colorado Rockies’ Trevor Story is available. No other playoff contenders have a hole at short like the A’s. This should be a done deal. It’s not. Right now, the A’s are acting like they aren’t interested. That could be posturing. They also need outfield help. The original “Moneyballers” do run on a tighter budget than most teams, but let’s see if they get more aggressive in trying to defend their division title.
Seattle Mariners—They are a surprise winning team but are not in position to end their two decades long playoff drought. It’ll be interesting to see if they are buyers, sellers, both, or neither. Mitch Haniger and Kendall Graveman have shown up in rumor mills. Of note, all but two games until the trade deadline are against teams at .500 or better ( the lone break being the Rockies).
Los Angeles Angels—They’ve managed to not fall apart without Mike Trout. For his part, Trout thinks he will be back shortly after the All Star break, which would constitute the biggest “get” the Angels could hope for. As always, they need frontline starting pitchers. However, with a $207M payroll, they probably are not gunning for one during the season. To me, it doesn’t look like Trout gets to the playoffs…again. Still, this is an improved team, and Shohei Ohtani is the MVP were the season to end today.
Texas Rangers—Mired in last, and there to stay, the only real question is “Who’s leaving?” Probably Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy will all have new digs by the end of the month. Watch to see if Gallo in particular gets hot this month. In the past he’s struggled against high spin rate pitches and crushed lower spin rate ones. One effect of the “spit ball” crack down is a league wide decrease in spin rates. That might help hitters in general of course, but especially Gallo.