AL West teams look ahead to Trade Deadline
Rangers, Mariners, A's are down -- but not out -- and could make moves
Aftershocks from the thunderous Wild Card Games last October are still being felt, courtesy of the 2014 World Series champion Giants and the American League champion Royals.
Madison Bumgarner subdued the Pirates, and you know the rest of that San Francisco story. The Royals rallied from four runs down in the AL Wild Card Game against the Athletics to force extra innings, prevailing in 12. The momentum carried Kansas City all the way to Game 7 of a Fall Classic that ended with MadBum slamming the door on its dream season.
Those twin jackpots guaranteed that the won-or-done Wild Card rides never again can be taken lightly. The upshot is that any team with any shot is not likely to be selling off valuable assets at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Royals, in particular, set an enticing template with that conquest of the A's that completely altered their culture while causing a major remodeling in Oakland.
Consider the Wild West of the AL, housing the new-look A's. At midseason, it looks like a two-horse race between the Astros and the Angels. The hungry hearts from Houston have led the division since April 19, but the defending division champs from Anaheim appear to have their high-profile act together at last.
So where does that leave the Rangers, Mariners and A's, all below .500 but by no means out of it? To sell or not to sell is the question. Each club has a few weeks to sort it out.
Devastating blows to the rotation seemingly doomed Texas before Opening Day. The biggest blow came in mid-March when Yu Darvish was lost to Tommy John surgery. With the ace's return projected for midseason 2016, the Rangers knew they'd be operating at a serious deficit.
But along came longtime Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo to fill the void, joining revitalized Colby Lewis at the top of the rotation. And Prince Fielder came back from his neck ailment hitting like the Prince of old, inspiring hope.
On June 13, the Rangers were four games above .500 and only 1 1/2 games off Houston's pace -- without the customary production from injured Adrian Beltre. Hard times followed, but any offense with Fielder, Beltre and, yes, Josh Hamilton, has to be considered a threat.
Rangers GM Jon Daniels is on the clock. With free agency on the horizon, Gallardo could attract a nice return from talent-rich contenders, such as the Dodgers, with rotation needs. Mitch Moreland, under control through 2016 and in the midst of a solid season, is a left-handed weapon that could appeal to a number of clubs.
Widely viewed as a legitimate division contender after acquiring big bopper Nelson Cruz, the Mariners disappointed the fan base with a sluggish start. Adding another proven 30-homer man in Mark Trumbo to a lineup featuring Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, Seattle has intriguing pieces in place.
Sometimes the best idea is to be patient and see if it all comes together. There are signs, notably in Cano's bat and Taijuan Walker's strong right arm in support of King Felix Hernandez, that this is a club capable of making a post-break run.
The anticipation is that the Mariners will roll with what they have and react accordingly this winter. Sometimes it just makes sense to see where the cards fall.
No general manager in the game is as bold -- or unpredictable -- as Billy Beane. He could move half the roster in two days, or he could reverse his field and keep it intact. Your deal, Billy.
On everyone's radar are impending free agents Ben Zobrist, Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard, along with Josh Reddick. These are assets any contender would be happy to land for prospects that Beane has a history of collecting with remarkably positive results.
Zobrist's appeal is his unmatched versatility. He can play just about anywhere on the field and is capable of producing offensively anywhere in the lineup.
Reddick, under control through 2016, offers left-handed power and superb outfield defense. Having shipped Josh Donaldson to Toronto, Beane seems unlikely to move a talent like Reddick within the division.
If his triceps tightness isn't a serious issue, Kazmir has significant value. He has used his time in Oakland wisely, returning to the elite level among lefty starters after appearing done at 27 in 2011 with the Angels. Kazmir would be a fine fit with the Dodgers or Yankees, along with the champions across the Bay Bridge from the A's.
With a track record as a setup man and closer, Clippard's value is enhanced by the blueprint created by the Royals. Even Kansas City manager Ned Yost would find room for this guy.