2023-24 Offseason Preview: AL West

What will the champs do for an encore?

The World Series is over and the winter meetings are coming up, which means big trades and even bigger free-agent signings. Front offices have already been churning through the data and making plans that will impact the product each team puts on the field. Here at Pitcher List, we take a look at each division as teams get ready for the 2024 season.

The AL West is home to the past two World Champions – the Astros in 2022 and the Rangers in 2023. It also hosts the Seattle Mariners, who won 88 games last season and missed the playoffs by a single game. These three squads should all contend again next year and could bolster their records at the expense of the other two divisional rivals – the Angels and the Athletics.

The A’s are coming off a league-worst 50-win season and appear several years away from contending again. Likely, they won’t make a big push until 2028, when they are slated to move into their new home in Las Vegas. The Angels’ immediate future is tied to one of the most sought-after free agents in history – Shohei Ohtani. If the superstar walks, the Halos will have some tough decisions to make regarding their roster construction.

There ought to be plenty of intrigue surrounding the AL West this offseason. The Rangers will prepare a title defense while the Astros and Mariners look to beef up their rosters for a run. However, any moves these squads make will be overshadowed by the Ohtani pursuit, which has dominated the MLB headlines since the final out of the World Series.


Houston Astros


2023 record: 90-72 (first place, tied with Texas)

Overview: After an up-and-down regular season, the Astros finished 2023 strong, chasing down the Rangers on the season’s final weekend to secure a first-place tie with their in-state rivals and, with it, a first-round playoff bye via the tiebreaker. After dispatching the Twins in four ALDS games, the club appeared headed for another World Series appearance but fell to Texas in a thrilling, back-and-forth, seven-game series in the ALCS.

After the season, manager Dusty Baker announced his retirement, which may prove the most significant change for the 2024 squad. Bench coach Joe Espada replaces Baker, offering continuity. However, it won’t be easy for Espada, a first-time MLB manager, to take over a club built to contend for a championship. Expectations for an Astros club laden with veterans and a championship pedigree will be high.

Free agents: RP Hector Neris, RP Phil Maton, RP Ryne Stanek, C Martín Maldonado, OF Michael Brantley

Position player outlook: The Astros’ core of Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman will all return next year, barring an injury or unforeseen trade. Thus, their offense should again be among the best in MLB. Houston’s offense ranked third in the AL across a myriad of categories in 2022, including OBP, SLG, OPS, wRC+, wOBA, and runs, despite only 114 games from Alvarez and 90 from Altuve. Chas McCormick broke out, and Yainer Diaz established himself as their catcher of the future, meaning Maldonado could be on his way out of town unless he re-signs to be Diaz’s backup. He may also opt to retire, as might Brantley, who has played in only 79 games the past two seasons.

Jeremy Peña will again handle shortstop, where his glove makes up for his inconsistent offense. The Astros are likely stuck with José Abreu at first base again, who did not deliver as hoped and is still owed $38m for 2024 and 2025. Houston should add some depth, particularly in the outfield, this offseason. However, they will probably give a few youngsters, notably Joey Loperfido, Kenedy Corona, and possibly Colin Barber, a long look. Bigger decisions loom for next year when Altuve and Bregman will be unrestricted free agents, and Tucker will be approaching his walk year.

Starting rotation outlook: The rotation should again be a strength for Houston in 2024. All their starters are returning, including old friend Justin Verlander, who rejoined the club at the trade deadline. The Astros’ depth is enviable. In addition to Verlander, they have several high-end starters on their roster, including Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, José Urquidy, Hunter Brown, and J.P. France. Perhaps they’ll even get some innings out of Lance McCullers Jr. or Luis Garcia in the second half, both of whom are recovering from surgeries. In addition, a couple of rookies could crash the rotation next year, including Spencer Arrighetti and Colton Gordon. If Houston looks to the trade market to bolster their club, they have pitching depth to dangle.

Bullpen outlook: The pen is the one area that Houston will definitely need to address this winter. The unit was middle-of-the-pack in 2023, and three of its key arms, Neris, Maton, and Stanek, will hit the open market. The trio combined for 185 innings last season and won’t be easy to replace if they find homes elsewhere. Fortunately, closer Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, and Kendall Graveman will return, as will Rafael Montero and Seth Martinez, who will be looking to rebound after subpar seasons. Houston still has key pieces in place, but this is an area that they can’t ignore this offseason.


Los Angeles Angels


2023 record: 73-89 (fourth place, 15 games behind)

Overview: The season started promisingly for the Halos. Paced by two superstars, Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the club was firmly in contention as the calendar flipped to July. Then, on July 3, Trout broke his hand. The Angels rallied and stayed in the playoff hunt until the trade deadline, leaving management with a difficult decision. Should they go for it despite Trout’s injury or cut bait and trade Ohtani, whose free agency was looming?

It’s not easy to trade a player of Ohtani’s caliber; thus, the franchise went for it. At the end of July, they added several players, including Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Eduardo Escobar, Randal Grichuk, and C.J. Cron. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired as the team collapsed in August, winning only eight games. Ohtani tore a ligament in his elbow late in the month, which will keep him from pitching in 2024, and hung up his offensive cleats a few weeks later. Now all eyes are on Ohtani’s free agency, and the tea leaves suggest he won’t be back in Angels’ red. Shohei reportedly wants to win, and the club has made only one postseason appearance since 2009.

Free agents: DH-SP Shohei Ohtani, 1B C.J. Cron, OF Randal Grichuk, 3B Eduardo Escobar, RP Aaron Loup, 3B Mike Moustakas, IF Gio Urshela, RP José Marte

Position player outlook: The Angels’ offseason plan will hinge on Ohtani’s decision. Should the star return, the club will turn to the free agent and trade markets to bolster their offense. Even with Ohtani and Trout, there will be holes to fill. The club has promising youngsters Logan O’Hoppe at catcher and Zach Neto at shortstop, and the injury-plagued, highly-paid Anthony Rendon at third. The versatile Luis Rengifo and Brandon Drury will line up somewhere on the diamond, and Mickey Moniak and Taylor Ward have also earned playing time. Rookie Nolan Schanuel could get the nod at first base, but he’s still young, and the team could seek a short-term veteran replacement if Ohtani returns.

If Shohei walks, the Angels could pivot and break things down, including what was once unthinkable – trading Mike Trout. Trout is still among the best hitters in baseball when he’s on the field and would undoubtedly still generate much interest despite the string of injuries. The club could try to attach Rendon and his three more years at $38.5m per to clear up cash, but it’s hard to imagine too many teams with the money to absorb those two contracts. Plus, the prospects coming back in that scenario would be less impactful, given the price, and the Angels desperately need young talent as their farm system is lacking.

Starting rotation outlook: The Halos rotation is filled with solid but unspectacular pitchers. Reid Detmers, Patrick Sandoval, Chase Silseth, Griffin Canning, and Tyler Anderson will all return, barring a trade, and form a solid core. However, they lack an ace, and even if Ohtani returns, he won’t pitch in 2024, which could lead to them pursuing a top-of-the-rotation starter for at least the short term. However, how much they’d have to spend under those circumstances is questionable. If the club goes into rebuild mode, expect youngster Jack Kochanowicz to get an opportunity sooner rather than later.

Bullpen outlook: Los Angeles’s bullpen won’t intimidate many offenses. Carlos Estévez should get the first shot at closing again after a solid season in which he converted 31 of 35 save opportunities. After Estévez, there’s little to get excited about outside rookie Ben Joyce. Joyce has a 100 mph heater but walked nine batters over ten innings last season. He could make an impact if he can learn to control his stuff. José Soriano and Sam Bachman are two other young hurlers who debuted last year and figure to be counted on in 2024. However, Bachman is coming off shoulder surgery, which could jeopardize his Opening Day availability.


Oakland Athletics


2023 record: 50-112 (fifth place, 38 games behind)

Overview: 2023 was a rebuilding year for the Athletics, but even so, it’s hard to imagine anyone in the front office being pleased with the results. The A’s managed to win only 50 games, six less than the second-worst Kansas City Royals, and were outscored by 339 runs. The offense scored the fewest runs in the league and had the lowest batting average, SLG, and OPS in MLB. The pitching wasn’t much better. Only the Rockies had a higher team ERA, and Oakland led the league in walks.

Last season was about developing their young players, and a few showed some promise. But it will be a long road back for the Athletics unless they decide to buy their way back into contention, which is unlikely. The biggest news surrounding the A’s came recently when their long-rumored move to Las Vegas was approved. The team will play next season in Oakland and then will be vagabonds until 2028, when their new stadium opens. Perhaps at that time, they will become active in free agency. As for this offseason, A’s fans shouldn’t expect much.

Free agents: 2B Tony Kemp, SP-RP Drew Rucinski, IF Kevin Smith

Position player outlook: A few of the A’s young hitters showed some promise last season. Zack Gelof thrived after his call-up in July, slugging 14 HRs and stealing 14 bases in 69 games. Brent Rooker, who turned 29 this month, slugged 30 HRs, and Esteury Ruiz stole 67 bases. Ryan Noda and Shea Langeliers showed some pop and will get more time to develop. Not many veterans are left on the roster, as the D’Backs acquired Jace Peterson at the deadline, Ramón Laureano was DFA’d in August, and Tony Kemp is a free agent. Seth Brown and Aledmys Díaz will return, and the team recently acquired Abraham Toro and Miguel Andujar. However, they will probably pick up a couple more cheap veterans this winter who, at worst, will be trade bait next July.

We could see outfielder Denzel Clarke called up this year, though he’ll probably start the season in Triple-A. Third baseman Brett Harris also has a chance to crack the roster. However, most of their minor-league impact bats are still a year or more away. It could be another long year for Oakland’s offense.

Starting rotation outlook: The rotation wasn’t good last season but showed some promise. Paul Blackburn was solid after missing the first two months with a finger injury, and JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, and Luis Medina had their moments. The most exciting hurler on the roster is Mason Miller. Miller made only six MLB starts last season but made an impression, posting a 3.78 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Miller features a nearly 100 mph heater, which the opposition hit only .219 against. His control must improve, but he could be the club’s best starter in 2024.

Young pitchers who will get a chance next year include Freddy Tarnok, Joey Estes, Joe Boyle, and Royber Salinas. Tarnok, Estes, and Boyle debuted last season, and all four were acquired via trade in the previous few years. Oakland would also be wise to add a veteran or two to the mix, even if it’s only to help the youngsters acclimate.

Bullpen outlook: The A’s bullpen was a dumpster fire last year. Trevor May, who led the club in saves, was one of only two relievers who threw more than 25 innings to post an ERA below 4.00. The other was Austin Pruitt, who missed the last month of the season after straining his forearm and was outrighted to Triple-A after the season. May won’t return next season, as he recently announced his retirement. Thus, someone else will have to close for the club in 2024.

Lucas Erceg, Dany Jiménez, and Zach Jackson seem most likely to assume the closer mantle unless the organization adds an arm via trade or free agency. Erceg is wild but generates plenty of swings and misses. Jimenez saved 11 games in 2022, but injuries have limited him. The same goes for Jackson, who, after a solid 2022, managed only 18 innings last year and didn’t pitch after mid-May. Needless to say, the Athletics should look outside the organization for bullpen help if they want to improve their club. But will they?


Seattle Mariners


2023 record: 88-74 (third place, two games behind)

Overview: After charging to the playoffs in 2022, expectations were high for the Mariners going into last season. Unfortunately, the team started the year flat. Despite a pitching staff with the fifth-best ERA in MLB, they hovered around .500 for most of the first half. Their offense struggled to find consistency, and it appeared that 2022 may have been a mirage.

Then, after the All-Star break, everything changed. The offense woke up, the pitching stayed strong, and the M’s made another second-half surge. They went 21-6 in August and looked like a playoff lock. However, their bats cooled again in September, putting them into a pennant race that came down to the final weekend. Their last ten games were against division rivals Texas and Houston. Seattle won four and missed the playoffs by one game.

On the bright side, the Mariners are built around a young foundation that should keep them in contention for several years. Their pitching staff is young, deep, and under team control for years to come, and the offense revolves around 23-year-old budding superstar Julio Rodríguez. Team President Jerry DiPoto will look to add some offense this offseason, but wholesale changes won’t be necessary.

Free agents: OF Teoscar Hernández, RP Dominic Leone, C Tom Murphy, 1B/DH Mike Ford

Position player outlook: Teoscar Hernández didn’t give the Mariners what they hoped for in 2023, but they’ll need to replace his 26 HRs, 93 RBI, and 70 runs should he sign elsewhere. This scenario is likely as the club surprisingly didn’t extend a qualifying offer to him. Seattle should be on the lookout for OF help if Hernández walks, and there are a few free agents who could surely help. They could also give youngsters Cade Marlowe or Zach DeLoach a chance or maybe even speedster Jonatan Clase, who stole 79 bases last year between High and Double-A.

The club could also use help at DH. Last season, only four other teams had a lower OPS from their DHs than the Mariners. Shohei Ohtani would fit the bill but may not fit their budget. Other, perhaps more realistic, options include J.D. Martinez, Jorge Soler, and Justin Turner, all of whom would be good fits.

DiPoto may also continue to engage the trade market, as he did in November when he shipped Eugenio Suárez to the Diamondbacks for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala. The addition of Zavala covers the backup to Cal Raleigh and all but ensures Murphy won’t return. However, the loss of Suárez opens up a hole at third base. Unless Seattle is comfortable with a combination of Luis Urías, Josh Rojas, and Dylan Moore covering second and third, or they are ready to promote 1B/3B Tyler Locklear, more moves may be forthcoming.

Starting rotation outlook: The rotation should again be a strength for the Mariners in 2024. All their starters are slated to return, and Robbie Ray could rejoin the team in the second half following Tommy John surgery. The M’s are deep with starters, most of whom are on the right side of 30. Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Bryce Miller are locks, while Bryan Woo and Marco Gonzales will contend for the fifth spot.

The depth doesn’t stop there, though, as Seattle has several youngsters knocking on the door. Emerson Hancock already debuted in 2023, while Jimmy Joyce and Taylor Dollard could impact the club in 2024. Seattle doesn’t figure to look for rotation help this offseason. If anything, they may elect to trade from their depth to beef up the offense.

Bullpen outlook: Seattle’s bullpen posted a 3.48 ERA last season, second only to the Yankees in the AL. Like the rotation, the unit should return intact next season as the only free agent is Dominic Leone, who the club added off waivers in September. Andrés Muñoz will anchor the pen and be set up by righties Matt Brash and Justin Topa, and lefty Gabe Speier.

On the rookie front, Ty Adcock and Prelander Berroa debuted in 2023 and could make the team out of Spring Training. Adcock began his MLB career in June, tossing twelve scoreless innings before a few bad outings sent him back to Double-A. Berroa got into only two games but impressed, striking out three of the eight batters he faced.


Texas Rangers


2023 record: 92-70 (first place, tied with Houston)

Overview: The Rangers’ aggressive spending over the past two winters paid off in a big way as they celebrated their first World Series Championship on November 1. After adding Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Jon Gray after the 2021 season, Texas rebuilt their rotation last offseason, adding Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, and Andrew Heaney.

The club started strong but lost deGrom after only six starts. Then Eovaldi, who had been pitching like an ace, hit the IL with a forearm strain in late July, paving the way for an aggressive trade deadline. The Rangers added Jordan Montgomery and Max Scherzer to the rotation and Chris Stratton to the bullpen for the stretch run.

Despite the moves, the Rangers were up and down in the second half but rallied when they needed to and ended the year tied with Houston for the division lead. The Astros claimed the division and the first-round bye due to their head-to-head record, sending the Rangers into the Wild Card round against the powerful Tampa Bay Rays. Texas swept the Rays and followed with another sweep of the Orioles before dispatching the Astros in seven games. After five World Series games against the D’Backs, they hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Free agents: SP Jordan Montgomery, C-DH Mitch Garver, RP Aroldis Chapman, RP Will Smith, RP Chris Stratton, SP Martín Pérez, C Austin Hedges, OF Robbie Grossman, DH Brad Miller, SP Jake Odorizzi, RPMatt Bush, RPBrett Martin, OF Travis Jankowski

Position player outlook: Mitch Garver is the only free agent of note for the Rangers this offseason. The veteran had a productive 2023 for the club, amassing a .870 OPS as a backup catcher and DH. Should he sign elsewhere, it will affect Texas’ depth, but they still have plenty of horses on an offense that scored the third-most runs and had the third-highest OPS in MLB.

In addition to superstars Seager and Semien, Adolis García, Josh Jung, Nathaniel Lowe, and Jonah Heim carry potent bats. Plus, rookie Evan Carter was all the club could hope for after being called up in September. Young outfielders Wyatt Langford and infielder Justin Foscue may be ready for the Show and could challenge Leody Taveras and Ezequiel Duran for playing time. The Rangers could tinker around the edges this offseason but don’t need to change their offense significantly.

Starting rotation outlook: Montgomery and Martín Pérez could walk during free agency, but even if they do, the Rangers don’t have to add another starter. They probably will want to add some depth, but a rotation of Scherzer, Eovaldi, Gray, Heaney, and Dane Dunning isn’t terrible. In addition, two of the Rangers’ top prospects, Jack Leiter and Owen White, should get the call sometime during the season, and deGrom conceivably could return in August or September. The defending champs will likely want a little more in their arsenal, but they’re not in desperate need.

Bullpen outlook: The bullpen is an area Texas should look to add some pieces to this offseason. José Leclerc is the incumbent closer, thanks to his stellar second half of 2023, but the potential departures of Aroldis Chapman, Will Smith, and Chris Stratton could leave the unit thin. The relief corps was not a strength of the team in 2023 as it was. The unit posted a 4.77 ERA during the regular season, which was lower than only six other squads. Even during their postseason run, the ‘pen was a liability with an ERA over 4.00.

If the champs make a splash this offseason, this could be where they do it. Josh Hader makes a lot of sense for the club if they want to meet his price tag. If they opt for a less expensive option, the likes of Wandy Peralta or Jordan Hicks could fit. The trade route is also an option, and they could turn to younger players such as Marc Church, Antoine Kelly, or Justin Slaten. Whatever the case, look for the franchise to add depth to their bullpen this winter.

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

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