2010 MLB Preview: AL West

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the AL West.

1. Los Angeles Angels (6)
When I started to do the prep work for the AL West preview, I filled the top slot with the Angels without even giving it much thought. And why should I have? They’ve won the division six of the last seven years and baseball fans have just grown accustomed to the Halos being in the playoff mix every season. But immediately after I slotted them in the top spot, my stomach started to hurt and no, it wasn’t from the fish I ate last night. (Although hey, fish is still good even when it turns green right?) There’s no doubt that the Angels took a hit this offseason. They lost their ace (John Lackey), their leadoff man (Chone Figgins) and their top power source (Vladimir Guerrero), and usually when a team parts with that much talent, it suffers a setback. But this is why I’m not overly concerned about this club: the additions of Joel Pineiro and Hideki Matsui should pay dividends and if Scott Kazmir could ever stay healthy, he would ease the loss of Lackey. Plus, in Erick Aybar (their new leadoff hitter), Kendry Morales and Torri Hunter, the Halos still have a solid offensive core and their starting pitching is still in good shape with vets like Kazmir, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders. Times are changing in L.A. and the Mariners and Rangers will push the Halos this season, but in the end they should be right back on top.

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2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

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Sometimes it’s difficult to evaluate what kind of production a player will have when he changes teams over the offseason. This is especially true when it comes to starting pitching, because not only can an unfamiliar ballpark play a role in how a starter fairs, but also what kind of offensive production he can expect from his new lineup and whether or not he’ll have a good spot in the rotation.

Below are eight starting pitchers that either changed teams at the tale end of the 2009 season or will be playing for a completely different club in 2010. We’ve outlined some factors that the pitchers will be facing in their new situation and try to project how they’ll fair in 2010. Some players (like Roy Halladay for example) can be counted on to be great no matter what team they wind up on. But what about guys like Jake Peavy (who will now have to pitch in the AL for a full season for the first time in his career) or Max Scherzer (a strikeout pitcher that is moving to a tougher AL after playing the past couple seasons in Arizona)?

Let’s take a look.

Roy Halladay, Phillies
You’re going to draft Halladay for the same reasons the Phillies parted with multiple players (including Cliff Lee and a couple of key prospects) in order to acquire him from the Blue Jays last winter: he’s outstanding. Halladay finished with 47 complete games last season and 14 shutouts, while also ranking 11th in innings pitched. Now that he’s playing in the NL on a team with a potent offense, he should have no problem winning 17-plus games and notching another 200 strikeouts. The only knock against Halladay’s new home is that the Phillies play in a hitter-friendly ballpark. But we’re thinking the veteran pitcher will adjust fine to his new digs.

Cliff Lee, Mariners
Lee felt he was shafted when the Phillies unloaded him in order to acquire Halladay last winter, but he should love his new surroundings. He’s walked fewer than two batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons and will now have the luxury of having a solid defensive outfield at his back. He’s used to pitching in the AL from his days in Cleveland, so the league change won’t hurt him one bit. Lee is a top-notch fantasy starter.

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Report: Rich Harden signs with Rangers

After posting a 4.38 team ERA in 2009, the Texas Rangers want pitching to become a focal point during the winter meetings and throughout the offseason. That’s why on Wednesday, the Rangers signed free agent right-hander Rich Harden, formerly of the Chicago Cubs.

According to Craig Calcaterra of NBCSports.com, the deal is for one year at $7.5 million and also comes with an $11.5 million option for 2011. The 28-year old posted a 4.06 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and an outstanding 10.9 K/9 in 26 starts in 2009.

The book on Harden is simple: He’s great when he’s healthy, but he his career has been sidetracked by various injuries. He has dominating stuff, but he’s almost always a candidate to be placed on the DL at some point during the season.

Still, the Rangers did to acquire Harden, especially considering that Kevin Millwood might soon be heading to the Baltimore Orioles. If (and this is a big if) Harden can stay healthy, he’ll provide a much-needed lift to Texas’ starting rotation next season.

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Hot Stove Rumors: Lackey, Guerrero & Doumit

The Red Sox are interested in John Lackey
According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, the Red Sox met with John Lackey’s agent at the GM meetings last week in Chicago. Lackey, 31, went 11-8 this season with a 3.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 139 strikeouts but he also battled elbow issues.

The Rangers are showing interest in Vladimir Guerrero
Already stacked with hitters, the Rangers have shown interest in free agent DH Vlad Guerrero according to FOXSports.com. If Texas can afford him, Vlad would be an ideal fit just based on his .394 batting average in 50 career games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Pirates may be open to trading Ryan Doumit
According to FOXSports.com, the Pirates are considering trading catcher Ryan Doumit, who hit .250 last season with 10 home runs and 38 RBI in 280 at-bats. He is set to earn $3.55 million in 2010 and $5.1 million in 2011 and could draw interest from several teams.

Mariners interested in Harden?
According to the Seattle Times, the Mariners have interest in Rich Harden, who went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.34 WHIP for the Cubs last season. Despite battling injuries, he was successful in five seasons in the AL with the A’s.

Thome returning to Chicago?
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jim Thome said that he would love to return to the White Sox, who traded him to the Dodgers at the deadline last season. Thome is a Peoria, Illinois native.

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Twins unlikely to land Rich Harden

Even though they officially put a waiver claim on him last week, the Twins are unlikely to land Cubs’ starter Rich Harden according to a report by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

As of late Sunday night, the Twins had yet to request Cubs pitcher Rich Harden’s medical records, a person close to Harden told the Star Tribune, adding that a deal by today’s noon deadline appeared unlikely.

Harden, 27, has been on the disabled list seven times since 2005, so it would be uncharacteristic for the Twins to trade for him without first examining those medical records.

Then again, in eight starts since July 16, Harden is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA, so it’s possible the Twins could roll the dice, giving the Cubs the prospects it would take to land Harden for the season’s final five weeks. Harden is a pending Type A free agent, so a team could offer him arbitration after the season and be compensated with two high picks in the 2010 draft if he signed with another team.

If the Cubs were to trade Harden, there’s no doubt that they would want a major package of prospects in return. Considering the Twins covet young prospects (all young prospects), a deal seems unlikely.

Still, if a trade were to go down, Minnesota would be adding a quality (albeit injury-prone) starter to their rotation. Chicago would lose Harden, who they acquired mid-season last year in hopes he would form a great 1-2 punch with Carlos Zambrano at the top of their rotation, but would go a long way in restocking their farm system.

The two sides have until 1:00 p.m. ET today to get a deal done.

Update: ESPN Chicago is reporting that Harden is staying in Chicago.

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