AL West hot-stove primer

Baseball's winter meetings are underway in Indianapolis. Yahoo! Sports will go division by division, providing a primer on each team's needs and ability to satisfy them. (Teams listed in order of 2009 divisional finish.)

American League West


Holes to fill: The Angels must replace three major pieces: A cleanup hitter, a top-of-the-rotation starter and a table-setter. Simply re-signing the players who left as free agents isn't viable because Vladimir Guerrero's(notes) days as a premier slugger are over, Chone Figgins(notes) appears headed to the Mariners and John Lackey(notes) could price himself out of a return. Lackey already turned down a four-year, $72 million extension offer. Shoring up a bullpen that wore thin in the playoffs is another priority. The Angels will make an offer to Jason Bay(notes) and sign a free-agent starting pitcher if they can't trade for Roy Halladay(notes).

Trade winds: The Angels could part with one of their three quality middle infielders: Maicer Izturis(notes), Howie Kendrick(notes) or Erick Aybar(notes). Brandon Wood(notes), a power-hitting infielder expected to compete for the third-base job, could be dangled, as could power-hitting left fielder Juan Rivera(notes). Packaging a middle infielder, a power hitter and a young starting pitcher might be enough to get Halladay. The Angels would love to rid themselves of reserve outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.(notes) but would have to eat nearly all of the $23 million owed him the next two years.

Cash considerations: The Angels have eight arbitration-eligible players due substantial raises and also owe released reliever Justin Speier(notes) $5.25 million, limiting the money GM Tony Reagins can spend on free agents to less than $14 million for 2010.

By spring training … Despite their desire to keep payroll at about $113 million, the Angels likely will acquire one marquee player because they know standing pat would result only in another playoff loss to the Red Sox or Yankees. The Angels gain two high draft picks with Figgins' departure and two more if Lackey leaves.


Holes to fill: For a team with uncertain ownership, a middling payroll and a tradition of mediocrity, the Rangers have a solid foundation. They can afford to wait, wait and wait some more, then sign a couple of free agents at bargain prices. Their needs aren't overwhelming: a right-handed bat, a utility infielder and relief pitching.

Trade winds: Michael Young(notes) is due $16 million each of the next four years and is the Rangers' only long-term salary commitment. Kevin Millwood(notes) is due $12 million in the last year of a five-year, $60 million deal and could be traded in July if the Rangers aren't in contention. Milton Bradley(notes) could return if the Cubs swallow his contract.

Cash considerations: With Tom Hicks selling the team, the payroll can't go up from the $68 million it has hovered at for four years. Young, Millwood and Ian Kinsler(notes) eat up $32.2 million. Josh Hamilton(notes) and Scott Feldman(notes) will command big raises in their first arbitration seasons.

By spring training … former agent Dennis Gilbert or Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg will be the owner. The Rangers will have added the least expensive slugger on the downside of his career from this list: Jermaine Dye(notes), Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Sheffield(notes), Carlos Delgado(notes) and Troy Glaus(notes).


Holes to fill: Adding accomplished hitters is difficult because most free-agent bats avoid expansive Safeco Field, but the Mariners have agreed to a deal with Figgins for four years and $36 million. Re-signing Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) and shortstop Jack Wilson(notes) wasn't going to cut it. Figgins can replace Adrian Beltre(notes). The Mariners also would like to add a starting pitcher, and Rich Harden(notes) is a strong possibility in part because he hails from British Columbia and pitched well in Seattle when he was with the Athletics.

Trade winds: The Mariners have already depleted their farm system in ill-advised deals. They might need to look to the trade market to add a reliable bat and a decent catcher (Chris Snyder(notes), anyone?).

Cash considerations: The Mariners spent a portion of their available funds on Figgins. Re-signing Russell Branyan(notes) might still be an option.

By spring training … the Mariners will have made every effort to sign ace Felix Hernandez(notes) to a four-year extension for as much as $75 million to avoid losing him to free agency after the 2011 season.


Holes to fill: The A's need stopgap hitters at the corner spots until top prospects Brett Wallace(notes) and Chris Carter(notes) prove they are ready for everyday duty. Shortstop, where Cliff Pennington(notes) is another unproven commodity, might also be a short-term need. Look for the A's to sign an aging slugger such as Delgado, Sheffield or Glaus to a one-year deal.

Trade winds: The A's picked up a potentially intriguing bat in corner infielder Jake Fox(notes) and a backup second baseman in Aaron Miles(notes) from the Cubs. Leave it to GM Billy Beane to come up with an even more creative deal, although he will be understandably loath to part with his top hitting prospects and doesn't have many veterans who would entice trade partners.

Cash considerations: The existing payroll isn't bad, with all commitments totaling less than $40 million. Beane could spend $20 million on free agents for 2010 and remain under last year's $62 million payroll. But A's sources say that kind of spending is highly unlikely.

By spring training … the A's will still be looking for a way around the territorial rights obstacle that has kept them from moving to San Jose.