Out: RF Cristobal Marquez
In: C Bob Riggs, OF Rex Yearwood, CF Scott Perry, RP Matthew Crosby, SP's Branch Vitiello and Kordell Becker
Impact Rookies: SP Fred Lewis (Sea 7 #1 overall)
Tampa Bay looks like a super-team on paper, but predictions like that have a way of not working out. Still, you have to think the lineup is better, and the Front 3 of Vitiello, Becker, Lorenzo rivals that of the Mets' Hernandez, Cedeno, Spooneybarger.
Out: RF Jason Walls, SP Davey Molina
In: 1B Vin Benitez, LR Mark Butler
Impact Rookies: none
In a bit of a surprise, Texas was a non-factor in free agency. There are many who believe Juan Marrero should've won the MVP last season; as long as he and Sherry Pierre are in Texas, they'll be a playoff contender.
Out: SP Haywood Charles and RP Bill Mouton
In: LF Harry Reid, RF Jason Walls and RP J.P. Morales
Impact Rookies: SP's Armando Taveras (Sea 7 #2 overall) and Sun Wanatabe (Sea 7 IFA - $15.2MM Bonus);
KC's offense was pretty good last year (6th with 803 runs); add 2 solid COF's and you've got a very dangerous lineup. If their 2 rookie SP's figure it out right away, this team could easily contend.
Out: LF Adam Martin
Impact Rookies: SS Earl Barclay
The offense is there (5th last season with 816 runs), but the pitching slipped badly last year (from 5th to 13th) and hasn't really been addressed. With their most valuable assets (2B Earl Jorgenson, RF Jose Mondesi, SP Warren Justice) now in their 30's and little help coming from the farm system, Charlotte management may be considering selling.
Sizing Up the Race:
I think this will be a surprisingly close 3-team race, with Tampa Bay, Texas and Kansas City all in playoff contention. Ultimately I think the Rays will win it, but don't be surprised if Texas tops 100 wins again and the Royals get to 95.