I know that the Angels may have improved more than any other team this offseason. I know that Albert Pujols may be the best hitter in the game today. I know that C.J. Wilson was a great pitcher for the Rangers last year, and now he’ll wear a halo on his cap. I know that the Angels rotation of Weaver, Haren, Santana, and Wilson is arguably the best in the game.
I know all of this. I am not scared.
The Rangers have won the AL West division the last two years, conquering the Angels by 10 games in 2010, and 10 games in 2011. This ended a dominant run for the Angels, who had won 5 of the last 6 AL West titles. Now, the Angels are desperately fighting to stake their claim to the pennant once again. In past years, the moves they have made this offseason would almost certainly guarantee the Rangers would not be able to compete in 2012. But, these are not the Rangers of old. There will be no lying down and giving up the crown; the Angels will have to come and take it.
No team spent more money than the Angels this offseason, after committing $240 million to Albert Pujols, and $77.5 million to Wilson. Those are a couple of big names, but they belong to players that are beginning to age, and Pujols has shown signs of that. They join an aging Angels roster, with players like Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter taking up the majority of their payroll without delivering the performance to justify their salaries. They do have a couple of youngsters with upside in Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos, and Mark Trumbo. The issue is that Trout is currently blocked by Hunter and Wells from a starting OF position, and Trumbo is a 1B – which is now occupied by Pujols. There is not much help left in their farm system, either, as Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said “The Angels were big players on the free-agent market this winter, and based on their system, they will need to continue that trend to compete.” It appears as though the Angels have created a team that can win, but their window of opportunity will be brief.
The Rangers are a relatively young team filled with talent, hunger for a title, unity, and now after two consecutive World Series appearances, experience. This is a team that has established its recent success is not a flash in the pan, but a true contender that is well equipped to win for several years. The roster has been created more organically, with its foundation relying less on free agent acquisitions and more on homegrown prospects and key trades. Additionally, the Rangers aren’t charging into battle having fired all their bullets; they still have plenty of ammunition in reserve, in terms of prospects as well as room in the budget to increase payroll.
We have seen the last two years that the team that wins the offseason does not necessarily translate to winning the regular season. In 2010, the heavy favorites were the Yankees and the Phillies. In 2011, the heavy favorites were the Red Sox and the Phillies. Even though most experts would suggest that the Angels have improved more than the Rangers this offseason, the games will still need to be played, and I am certain that this Texas ballclub knows how to win and get it done. The Rangers have not sat still this offseason either, despite their moves not being as noisy as the Angels’, I believe the Rangers are even more well equipped to win in 2012 than they have been in 2011 or 2010.
It is going to be a dogfight in the AL West this year, and likely the year after that as well. It is going to be a competitively exhilarating year, possibly unlike any we have seen in some time in this area. The 10 game division victories of the last two years will not be repeated. The Angels have improved on paper this offseason, but I don’t think they have improved 10 games worth on the Rangers. Nevertheless, this Rangers team will be ready to defend their crown again, and as its fans we need to prepare for the battle as well – with determination, passion, and no fear.