The Blue Jays, White Sox, Rangers and Angels each entered the winter amid multiyear playoff droughts and on the heels of sub-.500 showings in 2019. No one from that American League quartet has been a sorrier bunch for longer than the White Sox, owners of an 11-year postseason-less skid. The Blue Jays, Rangers and Angels have at least been relevant more recently than Chicago, but success has still escaped those other clubs for far too long. However, judging by the teams’ actions in the past weeks, they’ve had their fill of serving as doormats in their league. The offseason has gotten off to rollicking starts for all of these franchises, each of which has made more than one significant addition since the floodgates opened in November.
The Angels, they of the pitiful 72-90 record last season, finally look as if they’re in decent position to capitalize on all-world center fielder Mike Trout’s presence. They added the foremost position player on the market, third baseman Anthony Rendon, on a whopper of a contract worth $245MM over seven years. The rotation-needy Halos have also picked up a pair of starters in Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. Neither will be confused for an ace, but they should give the team much-needed competent innings at reasonable prices near the back of its rotation. If you’re a glass-half-empty type, though, you may be unimpressed by the Angels’ lack of a front-line starter pickup (though the return of Shohei Ohtani from Tommy John surgery should be a major help) and/or that they haven’t addressed their problems at catcher yet.
The White Sox, also coming off a 72-win season, have been extremely busy in upgrading their lineup. Their offense produced the third-fewest runs in the AL, but that should change for the better in a year with the signing of star catcher Yasmani Grandal (four years, $73MM). The White Sox also helped their cause by retaining first baseman/designated hitter Jose Abreu (three years, $50MM), and they’re clinging to hope that 24-year-old outfielder Nomar Mazara (acquired from Texas) will start living up to his immense promise now that he has changed teams. Even with those three in tow, the White Sox might not be done yet on the offensive end. They’re reportedly at the forefront of the sweepstakes for Edwin Encarnacion, yet another slugging 1B/DH, and remain in the mix for outfielder Nicholas Castellanos – possibly the second-best position player left in free agency.
Of course, upgrading at the plate hasn’t been Chicago’s sole focus. The White Sox made a large splash on the pitching side last weekend when they agreed to sign former Cy Young-winning southpaw Dallas Keuchel for three years and $55.5MM. He followed the much more modestly priced Gio Gonzalez as the second accomplished lefty the team signed for its rotation. With those two, ace Lucas Giolito, the high-upside Reynaldo Lopez–Dylan Cease–Michael Kopech trio, and (once he returns from Tommy John surgery) Carlos Rodon, the club actually has plenty to look forward to with regards to its starting staff.
The same can be said for the Blue Jays and Rangers, who have each spent the majority of the offseason bettering their rotations. Toronto, a lowly 67-95 last season, just took a four-year, $80MM gamble on ex-Dodger Hyun-Jin Ryu. After offering elite production in his final year as a Dodger, Ryu’s in line to lead a Jays staff that will also consist of fellow new additions Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson, Matt Shoemaker (returning from a torn ACL) and perhaps some combination of ex-Japanese star Shun Yamaguchi (yet another just-signed hurler), Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay and stud prospect Nate Pearson. Unlike late last season, after the Jays traded two vet starters (Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez) and their rotation was a barren wasteland, possibilities abound.
On the offensive side, the Jays replaced departed first baseman Justin Smoak (now a Brewer) with ex-Brewer Travis Shaw in the corner infield. It’s hard to see that as an upgrade on paper, though, after the woeful 2019 Shaw had. But for one year and $4MM, it’ll look brilliant if Shaw returns anywhere near the 3.0-WAR production he managed from 2017-18.
As for Texas, this offseason looks like a bit of a mixed bag. The Rangers have not added at third base or catcher, two positions that still look iffy, even though they partook in the Rendon derby and have also been part of Josh Donaldson’s market. On the other hand, their rotation looks far superior to the 2019 group that got very little outside of the Mike Minor–Lance Lynn duo and played a key role in a 78-84 finish. Those two are back, while two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (acquired from the Indians), Kyle Gibson (three years, $28MM) and Jordan Lyles (two years, $16MM) will round out the quintet. For the first time in a while, it’s fair to say the Rangers’ rotation looks strong one through five.
All of these clubs have been extraordinarily active as they seek ways to move past their longstanding struggles in 2020. In your opinion, though, which has enjoyed the best offseason so far?
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