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The improving AL West should be a concern for the Yankees

The Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers have made impressive win-now moves, and the AL is getting better while the Yankees sit idly by.

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images

The New York Yankees haven’t had a good offseason so far. Yes, it’s still early, but the scenario is atypical: because of the looming lockout, teams moved quickly to sign their targets and the player pool is now drying up. There are still great players available, but many of them have already committed their future to new clubs.

The Yankees need a shortstop, can use an upgrade at first base, should bring at least a capable center fielder for depth purposes, and must bring at least two or three starters to shore up the rotation. Clearly, there is work to do, yet the organization has taken a passive approach to the market that may end up being detrimental to their chances.

Most of the teams that were aggressive have improved their roster, in some cases, considerably. And this should be on the Yankees’ minds when they are fighting for the AL East division or, if things don’t work out, for the Wild Card — no matter which format the league and the players agree upon.

In addition to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox, and the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees should be worried about an improving AL West. The Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers have invested time and resources in getting better. The evolution of the AL West, as well as the junior circuit as a whole, is very important for the Yankees because A) it would mean that they would have to fight with more foes for Wild Card spots, as previously stated, and B) if the Yankees have any hope of winning the pennant, they have to beat teams out of their division, too.

Here is what each AL West team has done so far:

  • Houston Astros: Even though they will probably lose shortstop Carlos Correa (a Yankees target) and have already lost relievers Kendall Graveman, Brooks Raley, and Yimi Garcia, they re-signed Justin Verlander and are adding Hector Neris.
  • Seattle Mariners: They signed the reigning AL Cy Young award winner Robbie Ray to a five-year deal worth $115 million, traded for All-Star infielder Adam Frazier, and are reportedly very interested in third baseman Kris Bryant. They declined their option on Yusei Kikuchi and Kyle Seager.
  • Oakland Athletics: The A’s looked doomed to last place. They implied a teardown is possible and failed to retain Starling Marte, Yan Gomes, and Mark Canha. Additionally, they reportedly could entertain trade offers for Frankie Montas, Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson, among others. They’re the only AL West team going backwards.
  • Los Angeles Angels: Brought in pitchers Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Loup, and Michael Lorenzen. They seem determined to surround Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon with some pitching (finally!). So far, they have only lost Alex Cobb, who will sign with San Francisco.
  • Texas Rangers: The 60-102 Rangers have spent the most money so far in the offseason, in a somewhat shocking development. They invested $500 million in their new middle infield combo, Corey Seager ($325 million over 10 years) and Marcus Semien ($175 million over seven years) and also signed outfielder Kole Calhoun and pitcher Jon Gray. They still need a lot of pitching to dream about the postseason, but that middle infield is a fantastic start.

So, what have the Yankees done so far? They removed Clint Frazier, Rougned Odor, and Tyler Wade from the roster to open up some roster spaces and protect some prospects, they inquired, asked, and kicked the tires on most free agents and/or trade targets, and they watched how other teams erased some of the names they had on their board. There are still players available in free agency who could improve the Yankees, but they are taking an extremely risky approach. The rest of the American League is making win-now moves while the Yankees wait to see if the price on Correa or Trevor Story goes down.

Down the stretch, the Yankees had to worry about the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, the Athletics, and the Mariners in the Wild Card race during the 2021 campaign. Depending on how the offseason ends (there is still way too much ground to cover), the A’s will likely be removed from that list, but the Angels and potentially the Rangers could join the party, not to mention the Cleveland Guardians with Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez leading the charge, the deep-pocketed Detroit Tigers, and the Minnesota Twins.

At some point, the Yankees will have to make moves. Will they have options at that point? Their place in the postseason could be in serious jeopardy if the season started tomorrow, because teams around them have gotten better.

Thankfully, the season doesn’t start tomorrow, and they still have time. But now, there is no Kevin Gausman, Max Scherzer, Javier Baez, Seager, Verlander, Ray, Gray, or Semien.