THE RANGERS ARE BEST IN THE WESTBy Richard Durrett
The Los Angeles Angels grabbed all the headlines and will fork over a lot of green in acquiring Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. And they got a lot better in one brief Thursday morning shopping spree three weeks before Christmas.
But while the Angels closed the gap on the Rangers, they didn't overtake Texas as AL West favorites in 2012. Why? Because Texas still has a considerably deeper lineup from top to bottom and a young pitching staff capable of winning games.
Pujols, one of the best hitters in the majors for a decade now, immediately adds a spark to the offense. But who protects him? The Angels must have young players step up and hit or teams can pitch around Pujols and feel like they can get away with it in key situations. The Angels had trouble scoring runs a year ago and just adding Pujols doesn't eliminate that problem.
As for the Rangers, they must find a way to replace 16 wins in the rotation. Wilson gives the Angels one of the AL's top rotations, but Texas has also shown an ability to hit nearly anyone in the league. Jered Weaver had a 2.41 ERA in 2011 but had a 3.34 ERA against Texas. Dan Haren sported a 3.17 ERA last season. Against the Rangers? 6.29. Ervin Santana put together a 3.38 ERA, yet the Rangers hit him hard in 2011 and he had a 5.96 ERA against them. So while the Angels' triumvirate pitched well against most teams, they weren't as effective against a Rangers lineup that returns intact for 2012.
Let's also remember that this offseason isn't over. While the Rangers' priority continues to be to sign players currently on the roster and keep developing their young players, if they can make a deal for an upper-half-of-the-rotation starter, they'll look at it.
The AL West used to belong to the Angels. But it's now the Rangers' division after two straight World Series appearances. The Angels finished 10 games behind Texas in 2011. They aren't likely to finish that far out in 2012, but they haven't closed the gap entirely, either.
THE ANGELS ARE BEST IN THE WESTBy Arash Markazi
The signing of Albert Pujols will grab the headlines and rightfully so. It's not every day you can acquire one of the greatest hitters in baseball history and perhaps the most iconic bat in the game today.
But the signing that will be credited when the Angels win the AL West next season over the Texas Rangers will be that of C.J. Wilson. Not only did the Angels acquire one of the best pitchers in baseball but they took him away from the Rangers in the process.
As a starter the past two seasons, after spending his first five years as a reliever, Wilson helped the Rangers win back-to-back AL West titles while advancing the World Series twice. Last season, he posted a 16-7 record with a 2.94 ERA in 220-plus innings and made the All-Star team. He gives the Angels, with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, the best rotation in the AL and the best in the majors outside of Philadelphia.
Wilson will be returning home (he's from Newport Beach) to play in a pitcher's ballpark where he will not only flourish because of the ballpark's dimensions but with the comfort of knowing he will be on a staff where he can be the third or fourth starter.
In addition to having the best rotation in the AL, the Angels' signing of Pujols gives their once stagnant offense a Hall of Fame jolt. Not only does Pujols give them the best bat in the game, he will also make life easier on players like Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, who have struggled to say the least. If the Angels can also get back a healthy Kendrys Morales it would almost be like another free-agent signing.
The Angels sat back and watched the Rangers take control of the AL West, a division they had dominated since 2002. On Thursday, thanks to one of the biggest one-day hauls in baseball history, they took a big step toward reclaiming the AL West crown next season and for the foreseeable future.