Familiar faces fortify division rivals

If you can’t beat ‘em, sign ‘em. Or deal for ‘em.

That seems to be the shared philosophies of the Mariners and Rangers, who have been busy importing former Angels as they try to overtake the three-time American League West champions.

Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman have moved to Seattle, giving the Mariners superior defense, quality offense and a whole lot of desire.

Texas, meanwhile, has upgraded its bullpen with Darren Oliver joining Darren O’Day and given the offense another lethal weapon with Vladimir Guerrero bringing his bat to an Arlington playground he has made look very small in his six AL seasons.

All that’s left is for the Mariners, Rangers or A’s to sign free agent Garret Anderson, who’d look especially good in Seattle with best buddies Figgy and Kotchman.

The Mariners and Rangers certainly have improved with these moves. Seattle also added a second ace to its rotation, with Cliff Lee joining Felix Hernandez for what could be the best 1-2 punch in the division. Texas also brought in a potential ace in Rich Harden, but it surrendered one when it sent Kevin Millwood to Baltimore. It remains to be seen how beneficial that will be, hinging almost entirely on Harden’s ability to get through a season intact.

The Angels are looking primarily within to replace the departed, having thus far limited their acquisitions to DH/left fielder Hideki Matsui and reliever Fernando Rodney. It says a great deal about the depth of organizational talent that they can do this and remain confident that they’re still the team to beat in the division.

Their deal for Scott Kazmir at the Aug. 28 deadline enabled the Angels to let John Lackey go to Boston for a king’s ransom. They wanted the big Texan back, but not for five years and $82.5 million.

A fifth starter to complement Kazmir, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana remains a priority, and it’s likely the Angels will get their man – if not now, sometime this spring. There are at least al dozen legitimate candidates out there, a market glut that could bring prices down to a reasonable level.

Of the AL West clubs, Seattle has made the most dramatic moves, obviously. If they’re going to claim the division, they’ll do it in a style reminiscent of the ’60s Dodgers: dominant starting pitching, defense and speed. They don’t have anything close to the power of the Angels or Rangers, but their defense should be the best in the game.

It is remarkable, in a sense, that the Angels’ biggest advantage over the vastly underrated division is their offense.

For years, fans have fired off emails by the hundreds expressing disenchantment with a lack of clout. But this is an offense that should roll up big numbers again with Matsui driving the ball in the middle of the order and Brandon Wood, if he fulfills his potential, bringing another loud bat to the mix at third base.

Their overall balance and depth make the Angels the team to beat again. You’ll hear differently from insiders who want to be able to boast in October that they told you it would be Seattle’s year, or Texas’ year. They conveniently forget those predictions when the Angels prevail.

Recent history shows rather conclusively you’ll save face — and money – if you resist betting against Mike Scioscia and Co.

4 Comments

It certainly is awkward seeing so many old faces spread out in the division! I do wish the very best for all of them but still they are competition! How awkward will it be when we face Vladdy or Figgy? Or heck if we face Lackey?!

Seattle looks very good thus far and even Texas is improving. Looks like we’re gonna have ourselves a dog fight and I welcome it with open arms yet a bit nervous. Oh well maybe now we won’t be called “a weak division” by the media anymore. I always appreciate the positivity and enthusiasm Mr Spencer!

http://mimi.mlblogs.com

Fret not Angel fans. The Angels will be as solid in 2010 as the team that won 97 games in 2009.

Kazmir replaces Lackey (and is 5 years younger), Matsui gives them a more patient bat than Vlad and another lefty, Wood is ready to man the hot corner and Shields returns.

Plus Aybar, Kendrick, Mathis/Napoli, Morales, Rivera, Jepsen, Palmer and Bulger all proved they were major leaguers in 2009. And who knows about O’Sullivan and Reckling. Plus there is still time to pick up a 5th starter if the Angels really need one.

Seattle can have Bradley, Figgins and Kotchman because who follows after King Felix and Lee? Do they have anyone to match Santana and Saunders after the Angels go with Kazmir and Weaver? Sure don’t.

Did Texas really get better with Harden and Vlad? Harden hasn’t started more than 24 games in recent history and who knows how long Vlad will last this year. And who replaces Marlon Byrd?? Too many question marks about the rotation too considering all their young guys had bust out years and now have to be the front liners.

Now that Matthews is gone, is there any chance that the angels could sign Edmonds to a 1 year deal? He would be very cheap and more productive than Willits

more info on the halos @
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