Signed P's Roland Pedroia, Fautino Martin, and Zach Lennon; and defensive-specialist catchers Sam Lawrence and Rich Daniels.
After 3 straight 70-something win seasons, the Royals seem committed to a rebuild. There are still quite a few again vets on the roster - some, like Richard Mohr, JIn-Chi Donald and Rabbit Grilli, will probably just see their contracts run out over this year and next. Henry Mercedes and 1 or 2 others could get some interest at the trade deadline.
We'll probably see Season 31's #13 pick, Shunsuke Tamura, early this season - he looks like he has a bright future as a high-batting average leadoff hitter and + defender in LF. Down the road a couple of seasons, we'll see Jarrett Moses (Sea 35 #14), Bill Williams (Sea 34 #25) and others.
Meanwhile, expect the Royals to be competitive. Pitchers like Wladimir Diaz and Pedroia aren't flashy but are curiously effective. And there are frequently some pleasant surprises left in the bats of 34 yo (Mohr), 35 yo (Grilli) and 36 yo (Donald) hitters.
Look for another 70+ win season from KC, although I don't know if that will get 2nd in the Division again.
Tampa Bay RaysSeason 36: 91-71, won Division for 4th straight year and 11th time in 12 seasons. Lost in playoffs to Cleveland in 1st round.
The big news here, of course, was the re-signing of ace Max Mullens for another 5 years (and $100MM). The deal takes him through age 37, and assuming the team keeps up its coaching and training investment, he should suffer only minimal ratings losses over the contract.
The 2nd big story here is Chris Freel reaching the end of the line. Free-agent success stories about over-30 power hitters are about as frequent as triple plays, but Freel was certainly one. Over his age 32-36 seasons, he averaged 32 HR's and 98 RBI, for an average salary of just over $10million.
The Rays philosophy this offseason is try to squeeze a little more out of these guys before they die. 76% of the opening day roster will be over the age of 30 and 6 of those are 35+. The pitching staff returns with almost no changes and the changes on offense should improve the defense a little while not losing anything on offense besides maybe a little power. Billy George (Sea 33 #82 overall) will join the ML roster at some point, likely after an injury to an aging veteran. I expect this season to be similar to the past few. Good enough to compete for the division title and get in the playoffs, but needing quite a bit of luck to advance deep in the playoffs. Ultimately our hopes will ride on the backs of the duo Mullens and Hudson at SP
Texas RangersSeason 36: 51-111
Big offseason for the Rangers, trading for C/DH William Ryu, SS Duke Kulik, and P Dwight Becker; and signing Julio Montanez (RP), Harry Flores (2B), Marc James (P), Orval Wilkins (P), P.T Wong (Rule V pitcher), Herbert Coleridge (Rule V pitcher), Freddy Conner (P), Santos Gardel (P), Burt Garcia (P), Miguel Veras (SS), and Ron Easley (C).
Despite the flurry of activity, Texas didn't change up its offense dramatically. They added some pop by moving Glendon Logan (their best hitter) in to be the primary C, and then signing Ryu, but otherwise the lineup should be much the same as last year's 692 run edition.
Defense and pitching is where the changes really are. Veras and Kulik will be a vast improvement at SS over last year's Nicholas Turner fiasco (41 errors). Turner will share 2B with Flores, and they'll be a big upgrade over the trio of OF's who manned 2B last year (18 errors, 15 bad plays). Basile and Kohlmeier are still their 2 best pitchers; I'm not wildly enthusiastic about all the new P's, but they should be able to handily beat last year's 5.21 ERA.
Look for a nice improvement in Texas. 75 wins? I don't think they'll contend, but if Tampa Bay gets old this year who knows?
Nashville SoundsSeason 36: 68-94
Pretty quiet transaction season in Nashville - no ML free agent signings and just one trade (bringing in DH Graham Peters and P A.J. Post).
Nonetheless, there are still a lot of new (and almost-new) faces on the ML roster via promotion. The most notable os probably CF Ichiro Chong, the #7 pick of the Season 33 draft. The 22-year old switch-hitter will likely struggle against lefthanders, but has plus power, a very good eye, and blinding speed.
Their top 2 starters, Alex Mercado and Bernie Martinez, both pitched better than their career norms last year (way better in Martinez' case), so I worry a little about regression this year. The bullpen isn't star-studded by any stretch, but Palmerio has been very effective his first 2 seasons, and the group has generally been pretty good. They were just above the league-average ERA last year...I"d expect much the same.
The offense only managed 683 runs last year - tied for 14th in the AL. But the lineup is where their youth and upside resides. They could surprise us with 725 runs this year.
This is the only team in the division that has a youth movement arriving on its ML roster. Young teams have a way of jumping up and surprising you...so if there's any big surprises in the South this year, I think they will involve the Sounds.