While the National League added some of the better pitchers in the game, the American League retained some of the top hitters on the market and added to their list of elite hitters at the National League’s expense. This is the second list of teams that have improved themselves within their divisions. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean these teams will do the best when the season begins, just that they have made the best off season moves so far.
Some of the best off season moves came from the Oakland Athletics in the American League West. A team rich with pitching talent looked to address its horrendous offense and its new additions made them the team with the best off season in their division as well as contenders for the AL West division crown. The A’s off season moves began by acquiring David Dejesus from the Kansas City Royals. Dejesus will provide great defense in the corner outfield position while batting in the .290 range with a little power. He’d look great in the number 2 hole. They also acquired Josh Willingham from the Washington Nationals and can look to him for 20-25 home runs with a .350 OBP.
Their best move was to sign former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui to be their designated hitter. In Matsui they have a player that has had a consistent career and has proven he can get the clutch hit. He will look great in the heart of their line up and he will strike out a lot less than his predecessor Jack Cust. In addition they also signed Rich Harden, a low risk high reward pitcher whom they are familiar with. When healthy he has proven he is one of the best pitchers in the game. Relying on him to be healthy would be foolish, but he is a great depth signing to an already solid rotation.
In the Central Division last season you had a 3 team race for the division in the first half of the year until injuries caught up to the Detroit Tigers. It was obvious they would have an active off season considering they had so many players hit free agency. They quickly re-signed Brandon Inge and Jhonny Peralta for the left side of their infield and then got to work on filling some of their weaknesses. One was in the bullpen where they signed Joaquin Benoit to pitch in the 8th inning.
Last season Miguel Cabrera led the American League in intentional walks with 32. To cut this down the Tigers signed Victor Martinez to protect him in the line up. Martinez will bat 5th and split time between catcher and designated hitter. This should force pitchers to pitch to Cabrera. The Tigers also re-signed Magglio Ordonez to bat ahead of Cabrera and solidify the heart of their order. With a stronger line up, more bullpen depth and some health the Tigers have as good of a chance as any at winning the Central division.
The American League East is always the toughest division in baseball and this off season it got even tougher, especially on pitchers. The Boston Red Sox were the busiest team this off season and improved their team more than any other team in the Majors, let alone just their division. Looking at their bullpen first, they added two veteran arms with experience in the late innings. Former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks will be a set up man and Dan Wheeler was also added to the mix, giving their pen a ton of depth.
Within their line up they have signed Carl Crawford to play left field. Crawford brings a lot to the team, including strong defence and speed on the base paths. He has also shown power hitting 19 home runs last season and as a lefty in Fenway park the power numbers could easily increase. He was regarded as the prize of free agency fielders and coveted by several teams yet he might not even the best bat added to the team this off season. The Red Sox traded for the Padres 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez who has had 4 straight seasons with at least 30 home runs while winning the gold glove in 2 of those seasons.
All three of these teams can compete with the best teams in their divisions.