Top need for each AL West team this offseason

December 4th, 2019

Every team will come armed with agendas, wish lists and varying amounts of cash to spend when the Winter Meetings commence in San Diego next week. While not everything will be accomplished during the four-day annual convention, it's possible we could see a flurry of transactions, especially when considering 56 players recently became free agents after being non-tendered by their clubs earlier this week.

Every team -- from those that finished in last place, right on up to the World Series participants -- has a hole or two (or five) to fill before the start of the 2020 season. What are the needs of the teams in the American League West? Let's examine:

Astros: Relief pitching

The Astros have holes at the catching position and would like to acquire at least one starting pitcher, but the biggest need at this point is in the bullpen. Several key members of the relief corps in 2019 are now free agents: Will Harris, Joe Smith, Héctor Rondón and Collin McHugh.

The Astros could attempt to re-sign Smith and Harris, but for now, the only relievers guaranteed to return in 2020 are Ryan Pressly, who was hampered in the second half after having knee surgery, closer Roberto Osuna, Josh James, Brad Peacock (who was also not fully healthy last season) and Bryan Abreu, all right-handers. Could a lefty be on the agenda?

Angels: Starting pitching

The Angels have a lot of work to do after losing 90 games in 2019, but their top priority has to be the rotation, which finished with the second-worst ERA in MLB, behind only the Rockies. The Angels appear to be open to acquiring two starters and have been linked to Southern California native Gerrit Cole, who might be tempted by the idea of pitching close to home. Zack Wheeler, who was also linked to the Angels, came off the market on Wednesday after agreeing to a five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies.

Cole will likely command a record-setting contract for a free-agent pitcher, and he's being pursued by several of the big-market teams, including the Yankees. That leaves the Halos with no guarantees that they have any kind of advantage beyond location. That said, the Angels have payroll flexibility, and they are actively working to put a competitive team on the field while they have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani under contract and in the prime of their careers.

A's: Relief pitching

Truthfully, the A's biggest need is to no longer have to play in the American League Wild Card Game and just win the division outright. How do they do that? Bolstering the bullpen would be a good place to start.

Oakland signed left-hander Jake Diekman to a two-year deal on Tuesday, adding a workhorse to form a strong trio with All-Star closer Liam Hendriks and Yusmeiro Petit. But there are still spots to fill. The A's opted to non-tender Blake Treinen, who, despite a down year, would have drawn a significant salary in arbitration. Lou Trivino, who had a terrific debut season in 2018, struggled in his sophomore campaign.

The A’s, who blew a Major League-high 30 saves last season, could dip into the free-agent pool (Harris and right-hander Dellin Betances may be affordable), or they could tap into their second-base depth to trade for an arm.

Mariners: Starting pitching

General manager Jerry Dipoto signed former A’s starter Kendall Graveman to a one-year contract last week, but fleshing out Seattle’s rotation remains the primary need. The Mariners let Félix Hernández, Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone go in free agency, leaving Marco Gonzales and Yusei Kikuchi as the lone rotation returners.

Promising prospects Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn both finished the year in Seattle last season and will get opportunities at full-time spots next spring, but Dipoto wants to add more depth without blocking the long-term paths of Sheffield, Dunn and Logan Gilbert, another fast-rising youngster.

That likely means adding another second-tier free agent like Graveman, who is a bounceback candidate after missing 2018 with Tommy John surgery, or Phillips Valdez, a Minor League starter who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers. Or if Dipoto pulls the trigger on a trade for catcher Omar Narváez or another one of his returning veterans, he’ll be looking for a young starter who could fit into the long-term plans in return.

Rangers: Third base

If the Rangers are looking to make a splashy acquisition in advance of opening their new retractable-roof ballpark next season, free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon would be a good place to start. The Houston native will be courted by several teams, and at this point, it would be impossible to discern if a team in his home state would have an advantage. But the Rangers, who were also interested in Mike Moustakas before he inked a four-year deal with the Reds, are showing a desire to be aggressive this offseason.

Also on the Rangers' radar: free agent Josh Donaldson, who might require a shorter commitment than Rendon, and Yankees third baseman Miguel Andújar, if he has become expendable due to the emergence of Gio Urshela. If the Yanks try to move either third baseman, the Rangers would be interested.