WEST DIVISION

1. ANGELS

Key arrivals: 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, RP Hector Carrasco, RP J.C. Romero, SP Jeff Weaver.

Key departures: OF Steve Finley, SP Jarrod Washburn, SP Paul Byrd, C Bengie Molina.

On the way up: The Angels believe enough in Casey Kotchman to move a Gold Glove first baseman (Darin Erstad) to center field. Kotchman hasn't shown much power yet in the big leagues, but he puts the ball in play and takes a walk, so he fits Mike Scioscia's contact philosophy on offense.

On the way out: Erstad and Adam Kennedy arrive at the ends of their contracts with prospects piling up behind them. All Erstad has ever done is push teammates and win baseball games. But compassion rarely guides GM Bill Stoneman's decisions, so he could decide to improve on Erstad's power and pay less. If Kennedy and the Angels lag offensively into August, prospect Howie Kendrick could take over at second.

Story lines: But can they score? By now we've all grown accustomed to the offense that does not strike out, does not walk, and does not hit home runs. The Angels do occasionally put up some runs, but are prone to long slumps. Stoneman took his shot at Paul Konerko, and lost out, so again will play for the AL West behind a strong starting rotation, a reliable bullpen and Vladimir Guerrero.

At Dodger Stadium: May 19-21.

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2. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Key arrivals: OF Milton Bradley, SP Esteban Loaiza, INF Antonio Perez, DH Frank Thomas.

Key departures: RP Octavio Dotel, 1B Erubiel Durazo, 1B Scott Hatteberg, RP Ricardo Rincon.

On the way up: In 2005, Joe Blanton, 25, won 12 games, Rich Harden, 24, won 10 and Dan Haren, 25, won 14. Short on service time, Blanton, Harden and Haren could do for the next generation of "Moneyball" -- make it -- what Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito did for the last one.

On the way out: The knee-jerk call is Bradley. So we'll go with him. The man has skills. Injuries and, let's say, outside circumstances have conspired to limit his playing time and present his, let's say, subsequent opportunities. If the A's don't look good a few weeks from the July 31 trading deadline, Zito goes to the highest bidder. Thomas is one and done in Oakland, if his body holds up through one.

Story lines: Beane picked up Loaiza this winter at last winter's prices. Assuming his 3.77 ERA wasn't completely RFK Stadium-driven (2.86 in D.C., 4.71 everywhere else), Loaiza will provide some decent back-end starts and protect the A's if one of their big guns grabs an elbow. The A's were 33-45 when shortstop Bobby Crosby was not in the lineup, 55-29 when he was.

At Angel Stadium: May 1-2, July 31-Aug. 2, Sept. 28-Oct. 1.

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3. TEXAS RANGERS

Key arrivals: OF Brad Wilkerson, RP Akinori Otsuka, 2B D'Angelo Jimenez, SP Kevin Millwood, SP Adam Eaton, SP Vicente Padilla.

Key departures: OF Richard Hidalgo, 2B Alfonso Soriano, SP Kenny Rogers, SP Chris Young.

On the way up: Second baseman Ian Kinsler had 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in triple A last season. He has made no secret of his hopes to become rookie of the year; he'd be the Rangers' first since Mike Hargrove in 1974.

On the way out: Phil Nevin is in his walk year and will start at DH and in the cleanup spot. But he's expensive, strikes out a lot, and has a habit of fouling the clubhouse, which Buck Showalter might not stand for. Then again, if the Rangers have another second-division finish, Showalter might not be around to pull the trigger on Nevin.

Story lines: The A's and Angels are rich in pitching, and the Rangers, as usual, are not, but they could be better. Millwood had a positive impact on the Indian staff. But Padilla is neither as effective nor as dependable as he once was, and Eaton could be sidelined for one to three months because of a finger injury. Atlanta's John Thomson is available, and the Rangers could be a bidder. Of course, they really want Roger Clemens.

At Angel Stadium: April 10-12, Aug. 3-6, Sept. 25-27.

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4. SEATTLE MARINERS

Key arrivals: OF Carl Everett, C Kenji Johjima, OF Matt Lawton, SP Jarrod Washburn.

Key departures: SP Ryan Franklin, RP Shigetoshi Hasegawa, C Miguel Olivo, SP Aaron Sele.

On the way up: Fly ball pitcher Washburn takes his act to Safeco, where his ERA in two starts last season was 1.93, and over the last three seasons is 2.91. Felix Hernandez will turn 20 next week. It took him 2 1/2 years to run through the minor leagues, striking out more than a batter an inning everywhere he went. If there's not much else to look at in Seattle, there's Hernandez, who shows as much promise at his age as any pitcher in any era.

On the way out: The Mariners spent $86 million on salaries last season, finished last, and took an expensive chance on Washburn. Another non-competitive season could arouse the curiosity of the famously hands-off ownership, putting GM Bill Bavasi and Manager Mike Hargrove in jeopardy.

Story lines: Lawton tested positive for steroids after last season and so will start the year on the suspended list. Someday, the velocity of Jamie Moyer's fastball will match his age -- he's 43 -- and he'll still be the opening-day starter. Johjima, a Japanese league All-Star, makes the jump.

At Angel Stadium: May 12-14, June 9-11, Aug. 17-20.

At Dodger Stadium: June 20-22.

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