AL West must-watch topics to end 2020

December 9th, 2020

The all-virtual Winter Meetings are underway, which could serve as a jump start to what's been an otherwise stagnant offseason. That might be particularly true for each of the five clubs in the American League West, with all still possessing significant roster needs regardless of their status as rebuilding or contending.

As the calendar chugs along to 2021, we look at where things stand across the division. Below is one topic to watch as well as what moves might get made and/or possible reasons they might not happen until the new year.

Angels: Can they land impact starting pitchers?
The Angels have already addressed a few of their needs by acquiring shortstop José Iglesias and closer Raisel Iglesias via trades, but they have yet to acquire any starting pitching. Improving the rotation remains the primary goal this offseason, and they are in the market for the top starting pitchers available, including free agent Trevor Bauer. The Angels are likely to acquire at least two starting pitchers this offseason, and they could accomplish that before the new year. But new general manager Perry Minasian isn’t in a rush, and he’s looking to make the kind of moves that make the Angels a contender in both the short term and long term after missing the postseason the past six years.

Astros: Can they re-sign Springer?
The direction of the Astros’ offseason probably hinges on three-time All-Star and All-MLB finalist , the free-agent center fielder who’s one of the biggest names on the market this winter. If the Astros can convince Springer to stay, it will be a huge step toward filling the two outfield holes created by Springer and becoming free agents. It would also give the Astros a better idea where they stand money-wise, considering they’d still need to add some bullpen depth and address the backup catcher situation, as well as perhaps adding a mid-level starting pitcher. If the Astros don’t re-sign Springer, their top priority will shift to finding his replacement -- and soothing the hearts of Astros fans.

Athletics: How will they address the middle infield?
Oakland’s middle infield remains vacant with and on the free-agent market. Whether it’s re-signing one, both or looking elsewhere, filling that void is of great importance for the A’s this offseason. If Semien and La Stella sign with another club, the A’s would likely have to go outside the organization for middle-infield help. The only options on the current roster who could possibly fill those spots are Vimael Machín and Tony Kemp, both of whom spent last season in backup roles. Chad Pinder could be an option for second base, though the A’s value his versatility and would prefer to keep him in the super-utility role he’s performed so well in. If deals can’t be reached with Semien and/or La Stella, look for the A’s to be in contact with some of the many veteran free-agent middle infielders on the market, such as Freddy Galvis, Ehire Adrianza and Kolten Wong.

Mariners: Can they add veteran depth to the bullpen?
General manager Jerry Dipoto has made it very clear that the top priority this offseason will be to add experienced arms to a young relief crew that had the highest bullpen ERA in the AL last year (5.92). While there is a surplus of relievers available in free agency, that market has been slow to develop -- like pretty much everything else -- so far this offseason. But Dipoto typically strikes quickly when he knows what he wants, and it will be no surprise if he’s among the first GMs to sign a reliever or two in the coming days. The Mariners have some promising young prospects and re-signed after declining his initial option, with the intent of converting him to a permanent bullpen role. But no one on Seattle’s roster has more than three career saves, and it could definitely use some experienced late-inning options to help out a young rotation.

Rangers: With Lynn gone, how do they allocate innings?
Texas needs to reassess its starting pitching after trading Lance Lynn to the White Sox for prospects Dane Dunning and Avery Weems. Dunning -- rated as the Rangers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- will be a candidate for Texas’ rotation, but he pitched just 34 innings this past season after missing all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Rangers are facing a similar situation with . The club has a decent amount of young pitching, but injuries and the lack of a Minor League season means the Rangers will have to be judicious in how they use those arms. They could use one or two veteran starters to plug holes in the rotation until the young pitchers are built up and can carry a heavy workload. Right now, Jordan Lyles and Kyle Gibson are the only two proven veteran starters in the rotation, and both struggled in '20.