Tigers still spending, Astros to rise


The time has almost come. Green outfields and freshly rolled infields are ready for MLB's opening day.

As we take a look at the American League in 2016, we will highlight five of the biggest moves made and how it can affect the teams.

The World Series champions, the Kansas City Royals, look like they will be contenders once again, but a host of other teams made improvements this off-season.

Here are the five things we learned this spring in the American League (AL):

The Tigers are still major spenders

It appeared Detroit were in the midst of a fundamental change in their identity when they traded away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria before the July 31 deadline for prospects in return. The Tigers were still in the play-off picture but chose to retool their dismal farm system, selling instead of buying in an effort to make a post-season run.

The Tigers went back to their familiar ways in the off-season of targeting high-priced free agents. Jordan Zimmermann - one of the best starting pitchers on the market - was the first addition, and he signed a five-year, $110million contract. The Tigers then made a few key trades, bringing in Cameron Maybin and closer Francisco Rodriguez. But it was the late addition of outfielder Justin Upton that proved this team are still among the game's top spenders.

There could be new heavyweights in the AL West

Over the last decade, the AL West has been dominated by the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics. But this year, a new team look like they might break through and rise to the top. The Houston Astros finished just two games behind the Rangers last season and have a number of young players still getting better.

Now, the Astros have been awful since the early to mid-1990s, so trusting them is hard. But we believe in second baseman Jose Altuve, super-shortstop Carlos Correa and 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel.

Behind the Blue Jays, anything could happen in the AL East

After making a spirited run to the AL Championship Series last year, Toronto will be the favourites to win this division again this year. The offense is incredible. Led by Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Troy Tulowitzki, the Blue Jays finished second in team hitting, first in home runs, first in RBIs and first in runs scored. They also finished seventh in team pitching.

The order of the other four teams is anyone's guess.

The Royals are still the favourites

Johnny Cueto may be gone, and the obvious threat of a World Series hangover lingers, but Kansas City still look like the best team in the American League. Eight of nine hitters in the line-up are back, including Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and fast-improving third baseman Mike Moustakas. 

Kansas City can no longer slip under the radar as teams know they win games with clutch hitting and a lockdown bullpen. But, like last year, there are questions regarding the starting rotation because Ian Kennedy is not a like-for-like replacement for Cueto.

There are going to be a lot of runs scored in the AL this year

This is not a knock on the pitching. It is more of a profound compliment to the outstanding hitting the AL boasts. The league had the top three offenses in MLB last season and four of the top six. Some of the top teams added even more good hitters, and teams like the Chicago White Sox and Athletics added more firepower as well.