Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Buy or Sell - AL WEST

In past years, AL West teams competed with the juggernauts from the AL East for the American League Wild Card, and three of the four teams were routinely buying at the deadline. However, with the dominance of the AL Central, and the strength of the AL East, it grows increasingly unlikely by the game that two West Coast teams will make the cut. With all four teams within 4.0 games of first, I suspect two or three teams will be buying at the deadline to gear up for what has usually been an exhilarating pennant race.

Oakland: Buy

Needs: Billy Beane excels at putting together spare parts to make a solid team, while integrating new and old players to maximize production. He also is known for getting between trades and extracting talent he wants, almost as a fee for facilitating a trade. Beane could use more production from his Catcher, with Kendall underperforming his career numbers, but it isn't a priority. 1st base has also been a weakness offensively, though Johnson has been solid with the glove and is there for the long-term. Bubba Crosby has struggled in '06, though I'm not sure the A's are actively searching for an upgrade. 2nd has been a weakness with Ellis and Scutaro, and certainly would be among the easier positions to upgrade. The A's have received pretty good production from their OFers, with the exception of Milton Bradley who is playing himself out of a great contract (though he is behaving). I wonder if they would want fellow pain-in-the-a$$, Carl Everett, who will be available?

Chips: The big one is Zito, who has been solid in his contract year. Zito could probably stand to improve in front of a better defense, but Beane will not trade him for anything less than a small ransom with the Athletics positioned to make the playoffs. Kendall could go, as could any number of infielders (Chavez will be safe). Another starter could go in the right deal once Harden returns from the DL. Beane has a habit of inflating the value of pitchers by putting them in the bullpen, swapping them, and getting serious talent in return. I expect two BP members to go, though I admittedly have no idea who will go (Street will be safe). Beane is open to just about any deal, provided he gets his price (and when doesn't he?).

Texas: Buy

Needs: This team would have been even more of a beast had they been able to convince Soriano to play LF for them, instead of trading for Wilkerson, who could be upgraded at the deadline. Teixeira has suddenly lost all of his power at first, unexplainably unless he's hiding an injury or skeleton in his closet, but it doesn't make sense to replace one of the game's most promising young players. The Rangers possess a great offense and don't even need much of a boost in that department, but could certainly use some pitching with a rotation full of #3-#5 starters and an abysmal bullpen below closer Otsuka.

Chips: The Rangers had been trying to move Blalock in the off-season, and he's having a great season. With DeRosa also having a good season, the Rangers could move Blalock for pitching and move DeRosa into the IF. The Rangers have some prospects they could move for talent (pitcher John Danks has done well since arriving in Oklahoma), but don't have a particularly deep system right now. They could move a mediocre pitcher as part of a deal for an upgrade. The Rangers have a lot of OFers and guys who can multiple positions, increasing flexibility for either the Rangers or a trading partner, and one or more OFers could be packaged to improve other aspects of the team.

Seattle: Sell

Needs: Seattle is technically still in the race for the AL WEST pennant, but we all know they aren't really in it - they need to swap old bodies out for younger players. Seattle needs a complete overhaul of the rotation, short of King Felix. Sexton (.294 OBP?) and Beltre have battled all season for title of "Most Overpaid Mariner" and drastically underperformed expectations and their contracts. Both are such albatrosses, it'll be tough to swap them out for an improvement. Betancourt has a tough time getting on base. CF has been a weakness with Reed having an adjustment year offensively and currently on the DL. Guardado hasn't been an ideal set-up guy.

Chips: As sure as I am the sun will rise again tomorrow - I am sure that some pitching-hungry team will talk itself into taking some of the underperforming pitching off the Mariners' hands by assuming they just need a change of scenery. Guardado always has suitors, though his lagging numbers may make him less appealing this year (EDIT: Guardado has since been moved the Reds). Piniero and Moyer, maybe even Meche and Washburn, could go to contenders so desperate for a warm body to bolster their rotation. The Mariners would love to move Beltre, but it's not going to happen this year. Last year teams were interested in Reed, though this year that probably won't be an issue. Ibanez has been solid in the OF, and could be up for grabs for a team looking to fix a hole in the OF. Surprisingly, the bullpen has been okay and the Mariners could use some of those arms to get good talent back, should they decide that they are better off retooling for 2007 and beyond.

Los Angeles: Buy

Needs: Conventional wisdom says that the last-place team sells, but I have my doubts about LAA, if only because the payroll is so high and they are still within a solid winning streak of first place. However, the smart move would be to hang onto their youth, even if it means not contending for the playoffs. If they can make their upgrades (and there are plenty of holes) without losing the depth of their farm, the Angels will be in terrific shape. The primary need of the Angels is hitting - without solid offensive protection of Guerrero, the line-up is much easier to get around. The Angels need better players than Rivera and Anderson, who is sub par, starting in the OF. There have been rumors about the Nats' Soriano, though renting him (he's a FA after the season) will probably cost a pitcher and top prospect. Burrell and Abreu of the Phillies could both drastically alter the make-up of the Angels, and with expensive long-term contracts, the Angels could hold onto their prospects. Kennedy has been weak at 2nd, and the Angels could stand to improve offensively behind the plate. Injuries have hurt production at 1st (Kotchman) and 3rd (McPherson), so the return of both players should help greatly.

Chips: The Angels have an exceptionally strong system, especially with infielders Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Brandon Woods (plus Morales and Kotchman at 1st base, and McPherson at 3rd). They are one of the few teams with the trading power to acquire just about anyone. Ervin Santana is another possibility for the right deal. The Angels found little in the way of value for the elder Weaver, an inning-eating veteran. Supersub and starter Figgins is a valuable trading chip to any team with an IF or OF need, but also valuable to the Angels in a playoff run - especially with so many offensive holes throughout the line-up.

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