Up until now, pretty much everyone has been looking at the AL West as a three horse race. It was generally agreed on that it would be the Mariners, Angels, and Rangers fighting it out until the end – but now, it’s starting to look more and more like anyone’s game. The A’s landing Ben Sheets certainly doesn’t make them the division favorites, but with the upside that he has, it’s probably enough to push them into contention. I mean, even before today’s signing, they really weren’t as bad as a lot of people seemed to think. Just a couple of weeks ago, the division break down was looking something like this:
Clearly there’s a gap there, but even then it wasn’t a huge one, and since then the A’s have acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff and Ben Sheets. Obviously, with the risk Sheets carries, there’s a chance that he ends up on the DL and the A’s get washed out of the race early on. However, Sheets also brings enough upside to the table, that with a little luck, the A’s could end up being right in the thick of things all year. Based on my best guesses, the A’s look something like this now:
Since a replacement team sits somewhere around 45 wins, that puts the A’s at about 81 wins right now, and that’s with fairly conservative WAR projections. The A’s are a young, talented team, who not only have a chance to contend this year, but are also poised to be really, really good in 2011 and beyond. Now that Ben Sheets is ready to slide on that Oakland Athletics uni, don’t let anyone tell you that the AL West is a three team contest, because it really isn’t. The A’s still are the worst team in the division, however, so while it wouldn’t be wise to write them off, their recent improvements still aren’t anything to panic about from a Mariners standpoint. The fact is, Ben Sheets going to a team like the Rangers would have been significantly more devastating to the Mariners playoff hopes, so the fact that they couldn’t land him provides somewhat of a silver lining to this otherwise disappointing turn of events.
It’s sure going to be an exciting Summer.