The American League West has been the property of the Los Angeles Angels in recent years, with Texas, Seattle and Oakland playing largely for second place.
With that in mind, all four teams made off-season moves that could change the standings. Everyone added new pitching. Everyone grabbed a new bat or two.
Who benefitted the most from their winter retooling, and which pickups are the most likely to impact the AL West? Here's a look, and a few thoughts:
The Angels added: Hideki Matsui, Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney.
Los Angeles may have come back to the field a bit, losing Chone Figgins, John Lackey and Vladimir Guerrero, but in Matsui they have a middle of the lineup hitter who's also the second-most-popular Japanese player in the division.
Rodney becomes a setup man capable of closing should Brian Fuentes need help. Pineiro, who appeared done when the Mariners let him go after 2006, has gone 21-12 since.
Texas, which finished second in 2009, traded away innings horse Kevin Millwood and lost Marlon Byrd to free agency. The Rangers brought in Guerrero, pitchers Rich Harden and Colby Lewis.
Guerrero and Harden are both gambles: Harden because of health issues, Guerrero because of age and health. If each has a good year, Texas will challenge. If neither does, the Rangers are going to be hard-pressed to improve.
Oakland finished last a year ago, and the Athletics made changes in hopes of upgrading - outfielders Coco Crisp and Jake Fox, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and former All-Star pitcher Ben Sheets.
Sheets is the impact player of Oakland's '10 team, an ace if healthy and a trading chip in July. If he's hurt, as he has been often in his career, he's a $10 million write off the Athletics don't need.
As for the Mariners, they lost Adrian Beltre, Russell Branyan, traded Brandon Morrow and Carlos Silva. They added Figgins, Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, Ryan Garko, Eric Byrnes and - oh yeah - former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee.
For Seattle, Lee and Bradley are the keys to making up ground in the standings. Lee remains a dominant pitcher, capable of winning 20 games. Bradley is a higher risk, a man with a high offensive upside and a personality no team has yet been able to harness.
Given all that, what do you see as the final standings in the AL West? Which acquisitions will help their new team the most - and who will be the division's biggest bust?
Now, a few links:
- SI's Cliff Corcoran looks at a handful of winter acquisitions and, using sabermetrics, divines that the additions of Lee and Figgins will improve Seattle by 4.5 games in 2011.
- If you're in Milwaukee Aug. 24, you'll be there for the unveiling of a bronze statue of Bud Selig outside Miller Park. It will join statues of Robin Yount and Hank Aaron there.
- Former Astro great Craig Biggio is enjoying retirement - he's coaching the St. Thomas High School team in Houston, where son Conor is a junior second baseman.
- Columnist Scott Ostler says the Giants Tim Lincecum has the right attitude when it comes to pending arbitration: "Whatever!"
- A bit dismayed by their power numbers at home, the Mets have lowered the center field fence in Citibank Park from 16 feet to 8.
- Nausea alert: Scott Boras now says client Johnny Damon likes the Detroit Redwings so much that he orders octopus at Greek restaurans. Are the Tigers biting? Just nibbling, so far.
- White Sox reserve Omar Vizquel asked Hall of Fame shortstop Luis Aparicio if he could wear his number - which Chicago had retired - in 2010. Aparicio agreed, and 'Little O' is now No. 11.
- Former Mariners manager Bob Melvin, the National League Manager of the Year in '07 with Arizona, has been hired by the New York Mets - as a scout.