Mariners Insider Blog

AL West: Every team a work in progress

One thing was obvious by the time the general managers meetings broke up – everyone in the American League West has a lot of work to do before opening day 2009.

The Mariners and new general manager Jack Zduriencik may have the longest road to contention after losing an AL-worst 101 games, and he is looking for help at first base, designated hitter and center field.

They don't yet have a manager or coaching staff, haven't made offers to free agents Raul Ibanez and Willie Bloomquist – but they have hope in a rotation that figures to include Felix Hernandez, Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith.

No matter what direction Zduriencik goes in, he won't be the only GM neck-deep into filling holes.

The Angels ran away with the division, but free agency has cut deep into the core of their roster. A team that spent $120 million last year has seen record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez, first baseman Mark Teixiera and starting pitcher Jon Garland file for free agency – and severed its ties with outfield Garret Anderson.

F-Rod wants five years and $75 million, what Teixiera wants will dwarf that and the Angels insist they're after free agent C.C. Sabathia.

The Rangers, as always, need pitching – and with Nolan Ryan now the team president, at least they should recognize it when they see it.

Operating last year on a $70 million payroll, the Rangers have hired a new pitching coach – Mike Maddux – have depth at catcher to trade and figure to lose only one of their big bats, outfielder Milton Bradley.

Oakland has issues at third base, where Eric Chavez played only 23 games before shoulder surgery, at first base and at DH. GM Billy Beane always seems to grab a secondary free agent bat like Mike Piazza, Mike Sweeney or Frank Thomas.

This winter, he's eying free agent Jason Giambi, who once won the league's Most Valuable Player award as an Athletic. With a payroll under $50 million, the A's likely will trade former closer Huston Street – and the Mets, Indians and Tigers have interest.

Clearly, the Angels are still the best in the west, although if they lose, say, Teixiera and Rodriguez, the gap could close for other teams.

The Rangers and Athleics don't seem to be much stronger, although Oakland's kids could in theory come together earlier than expected.

One of Zduriencik's main strengths is finding young talent, and the Mariners almost certainly are headed in that direction, led either by their own farm products or those they can acquire from others.

Contention in '09 seems too much for the Mariners to pull off, but getting out of the AL West cellar? Doable.