The answer? Oakland is close to contention, but isn't quite there.
A bullpen that ranks as one of the five best entering spring training will pair with a young, dynamic rotation and improved offense with the additions of David DeJesus and Josh Willingham -- even if the offense may still fall short of being taken seriously. Oakland is beginning to emerge as a popular sleeper pick and should be in the thick of the race, but how do the other teams in the division stack up?
The Mariners have been quiet this offseason with minimal money to spare. The only significant acquisition the club made was importing Miguel Olivo to catch, although Jack Cust was also added to the team and should get some at-bats at DH.
The Mariners will be banking on bounceback years from Milton Bradley (pictured) and Chone Figgins as well as Erik Bedard staying healthy for a full season out of the rotation. Seattle is in a retooling process with Justin Smoak at first and rookie Dustin Ackley eventually taking over second base. The only chance they have of being relevant in the division late in the year is playing a spoiler role.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels' offseason has been nothing short of awful, whiffing on every premier free agent after owner Arte Moreno declared they would be heavy players. Carl Crawford landed in Boston while the club dragged its feet on Adrian Beltre and saw him wind up in Texas. Now, the Angels have a roster eerily similar to the one that finished 80-82.
Oh, excuse me -- they signed lefties Scott Downs (pictured) and Hisanori Takahashi to pitch out of the bullpen. That's not nearly enough to change this team's prognosis as a .500 team. Kendry Morales returning to first base will do a lot, but this is a team on paper that will need a whole lot of luck to hang with Texas and Oakland.
The reigning AL champions may have lost Cliff Lee, but they made up for it by adding Adrian Beltre to man third. In one fell swoop, they significantly upgraded the infield defense (which the pitchers will certainly appreciate) and ensured their offense wouldn't take a hit with Vladimir Guerrero's foray into free agency. No, Cliff Lee is no longer a Ranger and the rotation looks a bit suspect, but they are still a cut above any other team.
What Texas needs to happen in the rotation is for C.J. Wilson to prove he wasn't a fluke in a successful conversion from reliever, for Tommy Hunter to emerge as an innings-eating stalwart in the middle of the rotation and for Colby Lewis to continue his successful return from Japan. The Rangers need Scott Feldman to bounce back from a 7-11, 5.48 ERA year and return to his 17-8, 4.08 mark from 2009 and for Brandon Webb to finally brush off the injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons in order to round out the rotation.
The Rangers should be able to win the division, but Oakland could push them especially if the Rangers' rotation falls apart. It's difficult to envision the Angels as a factor -- too much has to go right -- and the Mariners aren't close to contending.
-- Evan Brunell