After years of the Mike Scioscia Angels maintaining a stranglehold on the AL West, things finally came together for the Texas Rangers in 2010, as they overcame their rivals from California on their way to their very first American League pennant.

Looking to maintain their place atop the division, the Rangers were quite active this Winter. Though key midseason acquisition Cliff Lee departed for Philadelphia, Jon Daniels was able to bring in Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, Brandon Webb, and Arthur Rhodes.

Despite these moves, the Rangers are not the most improved team in the division. That distinction belongs to Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s. With a deep, young rotation in place, Beane fine-tuned the team’s lineup and bullpen, adding Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham, Grant Balfour, and Brian Fuentes in hopes of building on a second place finish in 2010.

Though many thought they’d be movers and shakers this Winter, the Angels swung and missed in all of their initial attempts to bolster their roster, spurring a desperate Tony Reagins to trade for the talented yet overpaid Vernon Wells. In light of an incredibly disappointing off season, the Angels will look to climb back to the top behind a healthy Kendrys Morales and a full season with Dan Haren.

Forced to watch their spending after a horrific 2010 season, Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners were limited to minor moves, Jack Cust and Miguel Olivo being their most noteworthy pickups. Better hitting and an infusion of youth will be key to the M’s recovering from their second 100 loss season in two years.

Despite being the only division in baseball without at least five teams, there’s no shortage of contenders in the AL West. Even with Lee gone, the Rangers have a very real shot at repeating as division champions. That said, there’s certainly a case to be made for the A’s and Angels. No one is giving them a chance, but the Mariners have surprised before.

Whereas there’s a clear cut favorite in most of the other divisions, that’s not the case in the AL West, and it should make for a captivating race in 2011.

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