With Spring Training just weeks away, the Oakland Athletics are beginning to look like a serious contender. The American League West is weak to begin with, so the A's come into 2009 with a serious shot at knocking off the Halos for the division crown.
General Manager, Billy Beane, known for his "penny-pinching" seemed like a big spender this offseason. Beane brought back the power that the A's have lacked for several years, by trading for NL Silver Slugger, Matt Holliday and bringing back former MVP, Jason Giambi.
The additions of the two sluggers upgrades a horrible offense that was one of the worst in 2008. The A's now have a dangerous middle-of-the lineup, with Holliday, Cust, Chavez and Giambi. The upgraded offense will help a young pitching staff mature, and hopefully take some of the pressure off of the younger guys in the lineup.
Daric Barton, who was regarded as one of the best minor-league hitters in the Oakland farm system, had a season to forget last year. Barton saw his batting average hover around the .230 mark, and struggled most of the year. However, with the addition of Jason Giambi, the former AL MVP, Beane expects less pressure to be on the younger guys.
The fact that the A's added two powerful, patient hitters should be reason enough to make Angel fans worry about a possible second place finish. The Angels are coming into Spring Training with a rather quiet offseason—they've lost more players this past offseason than they've signed. The losses of Garret Anderson, Mark Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez will hurt the Angels badly in 2009.
The Angels vulnerability gives the A's and the rest of the West a chance to dethrown the division champs. The AL West is a weak division, and the fight for the division will be very entertaining to watch. The A's and Rangers are two teams on the rise, and should be able to make a statement in 2009.
The A's are going into Spring Training with great players, and for once fans in Oakland can have something to look forward to—Oakland A's baseball.