Even without George Springer, the Houston Astros figure to compete in the AL West. What is one present each team can get the Astros to help them win the division?
Seattle Mariners: Do not add a big bullpen arm.
The Mariners had the worst bullpen in 2020 and have already added relievers Keynan Middleton and Rafael Montero. While both players have been effective in the past and present upside, they have recently undergone serious arm procedures and are not the high-impact additions the team needs to solve its bullpen woes. The team has been connected to Blake Treinen and figures to be in on other free-agent relievers, too, with the Mariners having money to spend.
Most of baseball is searching for relievers and the high-end arms – Treinen, Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, among others – could be priced out of the Mariners’ range. And if they indeed are, it could make their already slim chances of winning the division dwindle even more.
Oakland Athletics: Let Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks depart in free agency.
The Athletics are primed to lose both players in free agency, with each expected to command lucrative multi-year contracts. And while they figure to remain competitive under manager Bob Melvin and a front office that has proven to be creative with a tight budget, it may be tough for the Athletics to maintain their level of success in previous seasons if they lose Semien and Hendriks.
The front office figures to replace each player with cheaper alternatives. The team hopes to bring back Tommy La Stella. But the looming losses of Semien and Hendriks will make this an easier division for the Astros to win.
Los Angeles Angels: Don’t upgrade the rotation.
The Angels’ need for rotation help is obvious. It has been their biggest downfall in not getting Mike Trout to the playoffs. And this winter does not offer any clear solutions. Trevor Bauer is likely to be out of their price range and the market is filled with mid-tier starters. They could get creative on the trade market, but the asking prices are quite high for Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove.
Arte Moreno and Perry Minasian have made it clear they want to upgrade the rotation. But in a market that offers few options, will they be able to?
Texas Rangers: Continue planning for the future.
The Rangers have had a strong offseason, highlighted by hiring Chris Young as general manager. The team has made a flurry of moves, including trading Lance Lynn and Rafael Montero, while also signing players such as David Dahl. The moves have the long-term view in mind and should result in the Rangers being more competitive in 2022 and beyond rather than 2021.
It won’t be easy for the Astros to win the division in 2022, especially if George Springer and Carlos Correa leave. But the division should be winnable in ‘21 with the rest of the division getting weaker and the Angels unlikely to be able to properly upgrade the rotation.