Thereâ€™s rarely a quiet offseason in Oakland as General Manager Billy Beane knows that his team, more than most, cannot afford to stand still whilst those with more money (which is pretty much every other team in the Majors) can outspend them.
The Aâ€™s have won the division in each of the last two years and, although they havenâ€™t made any major moves, theyâ€™ve shuffled the pack to try and make it three on the spin. Oakland normally canâ€™t afford to keep hold of players that hit free agency and, sure enough, Bartolo Colon (Mets) and Grant Balfour (still to find a team) will not be with the club in 2014. However, these losses didnâ€™t start an Oakland firesale; in fact they immediately replaced those two key players with Scott Kazmir and Jim Johnson, the latter acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Aâ€™s have traded away several players â€“ including Seth Smith to the Padres, Brett Anderson to the Rockies and Jerry Blevins to the Nationals â€“ but theyâ€™ve done so mainly to improve their options for the current roster, rather than as part of a rebuilding project. Outfielder Craig Gentry (from the Rangers) and reliever Luke Gregerson (Padres) are the main two new recruits likely to be regulars on the team.
The last two seasons havenâ€™t been completely disastrous in Texas, yet theyâ€™ve certainly been a disappointment with a Wild Card game loss in 2012 and missing the playoffs completely last year.
The Rangers hope that some better luck with injuries will lead to an improvement in their pitching, so their offseason so far has been geared towards improving the batting lineup.
They did this in one surprising swoop when they traded away second baseman Ian Kinsler to acquire first baseman Prince Fielder from the Detroit Tigers. Fielder was only two years into a nine-year contract in Detroit, but he became something of a target from Tiger fans when logging just one extra base hit (a double) in 11 postseason games after ending the season with the lowest home run total of his career (25). A change of scenery could work out extremely well for Fielder and the Rangers.
Heâ€™ll be joined in the lineup by outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who signed a 7-year, $130m contract with the team in mid-December. Choo will take over from Nelson Cruz, a free agent still searching for a new team, whilst Neftali Feliz is likely to return to being a closer after Joe Nathan left for the Tigers as a free agent.
Los Angeles Angels
After the big-ticket offseason signings of 2011/12 (Albert Pujols) and 2012/13 (Josh Hamilton), the Angels have been relatively quiet this time around. Their big hope is that theyâ€™ll be able to add fit, healthy and productive versions of those two players to their lineup regularly in 2014.
David Freese has been acquired from the Cardinals to take over at third base, whilst slugger Mark Trumbo has been traded away to the Diamondbacks. Trumbo is really a home-run-hitter who provides little else and having traded away such a player they arguably acquired another one in 42-year-old veteran Raul Ibanez, whoâ€™s not much of a fielder and had just a .306 OBP last season, but did hit 29 homers in 124 games for the Mariners.
Jason Vargas has left the team as a free agent to join Kansas City. Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, who was reacquired from the D-Backs having been traded to them in August 2010, will join the battle for a rotation spot, with Joe Smith signed as a free agent to be the set-up man for Ernesto Frieri.
The Mariners havenâ€™t been leading players in offseasons of recent years, but theyâ€™ve made the biggest move of all so far in 2013/04. Rumours that they were genuine contenders for the signature of Robinson Cano seemed fanciful right up to the point when the New York Yankees admitted defeat in their attempt to keep hold of their second baseman.
For all of the excitement generated by their $240m investment in Cano, everyone knew that Seattle needed more than one player, however talented, to be genuine playoff contenders after finishing 25 games behind the Aâ€™s last year.Â Theyâ€™ve acquired Logan Morrison in a trade with the Marlins and signed Corey Hart, who missed all of 2013 with a knee injury, but you still feel they are several players short and that may well mean their offseason work is far from over, especially in adding to the pitching staff.
The main free agent departures have been Ibanezâ€™s above-mentioned move to the Angels and the anticipated departure of Kendrys Morales, who is yet another player still seeking a team.
The rebuilding work continues in Houston where even the most optimistic Astros fan will see a winning season as being beyond them this year.
They have moved towards signing some established Major League players though. The main feature of their offseason work has been compiling what looks to be a good bullpen thanks to the acquisitions of Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.
Scott Feldman has been brought in on a three-year contract to lead a young rotation, whilst the Astros swung a trade with the Rockies to make Dexter Fowler their new centrefielder.