Home of the last 4 AL pennant winners and 3 of the last 4 World Series champs, the AL West has long been the power division of the American League. Here is a quick preview of this year's edition of the division:
Iowa City Independence Owner carlspenard is trying to bring another World Series title to Iowa City, and with a devastating foursome of starting pitchers including Spike Chase, Luis Santos, Davey Torres, and Hipolito Padilla, plus an always-sharp defense, he's got a great shot. The Independence haven't shifted their strategy much this year, again spending heavily on coaching and training, and again $77M in salary. Iowa City did lose one key Type A free agent, Garrett Michaels, last year's AL Gold Glove CF. Iowa made no trades over the off-season and their free agent signings are mostly from the bargain bin: Kyle Hobbes and Glen Price.
Las Vegas Dealers The Dealers, who had the best regular season record in Jersey last year, appear to have upgraded their offense, but at the expense of a pitching staff that is now less deep. Like Iowa though, their core is still a quartet of home-grown starting pitchers, including Max White, Lance Ward, Luis Rincon, and Rigo Franco. The Dealers again stuck with their financial strategy, budgeting just $70M on salary, but $20M in training and $18M for prospects. The Dealers made some key moves over the off-season, as they were forced to cope with the loss of three free agents including Type A Darwin McBride, with 93 career Dealer wins, along with Type B Curtis Graham, a fast RF with power, and the injured but outstanding reliever Type A Javier Gardel. The Dealers also traded away long-time DH Bronson Irabu, packaging him with prospect Alex Bates in exchange for slugging corner OF Harry Suarez.
Salem Argonauts The Argonauts slipped to just 79 wins last year, but they seemed to underachieve and with a boost in salary they may be primed to make their first playoff appearance since season 6. Salem was active in the trade market this year mostly with right-fielders, bringing young RF Emil Rijo for a catcher and dealing away Skip Wright for two prospects. In the free agent market, Salem lost Type B CF Weldon Flores but brought in Type A free agent Bernie Izquierdo, a 5 time all-star, for a very reasonable $3.3 x 2 year contract. Salem also grabbed Denny Wood, with his infamous 16 durability off the waiver wire. Salem will be bringing back one of the AL West's most feared hitter, young Karl Shea.
Colorado Pee Wee's (First off, why is "Pee Wee's" possessive case? Just asking.) (Second off, do you think highandmighty is an alias? Seems to know what he's doing despite never having another team. Just asking). Last year's basket case franchise that everyone loved to hate seems to have gotten on some steadier footing in season 12, and even the minor leagues look well-stocked. The salary budget was brought down from $122M to $111M, allowing some money for prospects, although the $6M training budget is going to hurt. Colorado mostly stood pat, making no trades (even though numerous big contracts were put on the block), signing no big free agents, and losing just one key free agent, Type B and gold glove 3B Patrick Ford. But, by bringing back last year's team, perhaps with some more on-the-ball management, Colorado does have a chance to win some games. Colorado is still dominated by a couple big contracts, namely Perry Ruth and Chip Huson, who will be fun to watch at Coors Field.