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AL West Preview

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The Angels weren’t far away from being an elite team in 2011 – like, an Albert Pujols and a C.J. Wilson away. And darned if they didn’t go out and sign them both in one fell swoop. You can find weaknesses if you look hard enough (bullpen, bench), but with this rotation and this offense, it will hardly matter. This is a team built to win, both in April-September, and in October.

The Rangers swear they are over the 2011 World Series, when they twice came within one strike of the championship, only to lose. They certainly didn’t get worse — replacing ace C.J. Wilson with Yu Darvish and shifting Neftali Feliz to the rotation. But we suspect they’ll never truly get past last fall’s failure, and if Josh Hamilton and/or Nelson Cruz get hurt, watch out.

The Mariners sacrificed a talented young pitcher, Michael Pineda, to acquire one of the top young hitting prospects in the game, Jesus Montero, in a desperate attempt to upgrade an offense that ranked as the majors’ worst in both 2010 and 2011. Problem is, there’s still too much dead weight around him. And not even the continued presence of Felix Hernandez atop the rotation can push this team into contention.

It was a strange offseason for Billy Beane and the Athletics. First, he trades away three all-star pitchers (including Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals), claiming he couldn’t afford to keep them. Then, he tosses $36 million at Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and bottom-feeds for PED-suspended slugger Manny Ramirez. The net result? A warm, comfy spot in the cellar.

2012 MLB Preview Thomas Boswell: Nationals’ pitching rotation could change everything Interactive: What teams spend the most money on their pitchers? Interactive: Most successful pitching trios in baseball history For Nationals, high expectations bring added attention Photos: Analysis of the Nationals lineup and pitching rotation Phillies’ five-year hold on NL East crown about to be challenged Dave Sheinin’s 2012 predictions NL previews: East | Central | West AL previews: East | Central | West

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