What's the best headline here? Robby's revenge? Last laugh for Cano?
It's been more than a year since Robinson Cano was branded a sellout for turning his back on the Yankees and taking $240 million from the Mariners, a team that supposedly didn't have the resources to build around him.
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But not only is Cano extremely rich, he's probably headed back to the playoffs before his buddies in the Bronx. The Mariners already had the best 1-2 rotation combo in the division with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but it's filled out with up-and-comers James Paxton and Taijuan Walker rounding out the top four.
Cano also got some lineup help for spacious Safeco Park, with the Mariners spending $57 million for Nelson Cruz, whose power numbers last year were not simply a Camden creation. Cruz hit 25 of his 40 homers away from cozy Oriole Park, with a much-superior road slash line of .289/.346/.584. Given that the lefthanded-hitting Cano and Kyle Seager were Seattle's two best hitters last year, Cruz's righthanded pop should be the perfect complement.
But the AL West will be a dogfight to the end between the Mariners, Angels and A's. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a tiebreaking Game 163 to decide the crown.
Two big things the Angels have going for them: Mr. MVP Mike Trout and the return of Garrett Richards, who seems ready to be great again after a freakish knee injury ended his season in August. Albert Pujols hasn't put up Cardinals-type numbers, but at least he stayed healthy for an entire year. Huston Street, picked up last season, anchors the bullpen from Opening Day, which is a positive.
Just when it looked as if Billy Beane was switching to Rebuild Mode, and taking heat for it, the Moneyball GM pressed the reset button in trading for the versatile Ben Zobrist and signing DH Billy Butler. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir remain to anchor the rotation after Jon Lester left for free agency and Jeff Samardzija was traded to the White Sox.
Texas had a stunning 2,116 days lost to the DL last season, pretty much the reason for their 67 wins and last-place finish. But with Yu Darvish already felled by Tommy John surgery, that's not a good omen for '15.
The Astros aggressively pursued bullpen help during the offseason but were rebuffed by the two best free-agent relievers, Andrew Miller and David Robertson. It was a reminder that Houston remains pretty low on MLB's food chain, even if the not-too-distant future looks bright.
Best of the AL West
EVERYDAY PLAYER: Mike Trout, Angels
OVERALL HITTER: Jose Altuve, Astros
POWER HITTER: Chris Carter, Astros
IN THE CLUTCH: Mike Trout, Angels
INFIELD ARM: Elvis Andrus, Rangers
OUTFIELD ARM: Mike Trout, Angels
CATCHER: Steven Vogt, A's
STARTER: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
RELIEVER: Tyler Clippard, A's
CLOSER: Huston Street, Angels
GM: Billy Beane, A's
MANAGER: Mike Scioscia, Angels
STADIUM: Safeco Field
UNIFORMS: Mariners (Sunday home alternates)