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AL Central has improved a lot since the Winter Meetings

AL Central has improved a lot since the Winter Meetings
Jeff Samardzija (Photo: AP)
December 15, 2014
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The annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings took place this offseason in San Diego last week and most of the biggest moves just happened to be made inside the American League Central division.

In what was already a competitive division in 2014 in which three of the five teams finished eight games above .500 or better,  all five teams made moves to better themselves in 2015 and beyond.  Let’s take a look at each team and what they did in the past week…

Cleveland Indians

The Indians started off the Winter Meetings by trading second base prospect Joe Wendle to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for power hitting All-Star first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss.  Moss is coming off of a hip injury which cost him part of the second half of the 2014 season.  He had offseason hip surgery to correct the problem and should be ready for spring training.

Moss gives the Indians some much needed power for the middle of the lineup.  He hit a combined 55 home runs the past two seasons with Oakland and averaged one home run per 15 at bats which ranked 9th in the major leagues.  If healthy Moss should put up big power numbers at lefty hitter friendly Progressive Field.

That was the lone move by the Indians.  They have been linked to outfielder Alex Rios and left handed starterBrett Anderson but have yet to strike a free agent deal with either player.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers made a big splash by trading starting pitcher Rick Porcello to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and pitchers Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier.  Cespedes adds to an already dangerous Detroit lineup and will fill the outfield void left by departed free agent Tori Hunter.  He finished the season between Oakland and Boston hitting .260 with 22 home runs and 100 RBI.

To replace Porcello in the rotation the Tigers shipped pitcher Jonathan Crawford and infielder Eugenio Suarez to the Cincinnati Reds for starting pitcher Alfredo Simon.  Simon went 15-10 with a 3.44 ERA in 2014 for the Reds.  The big question mark for the Tigers is whether or not they will be able to afford to re-sign free agent pitcher Max Scherzer.  The rumor is Scherzer is looking for a $200 million dollar contract which may take Detroit out of the running.

Minnesota Twins

Perhaps the most head scratching move came from the rebuilding Minnesota Twins.  After bringing back Twin legend Tori Hunter on a one year $10.5 million dollar deal the Twins signed veteran starter Ervin Santana to a franchise record four year $55 million dollar contract.

Santana spent 2014 with the Atlanta Braves and posted a 14-10 record with a 3.95 ERA.  It is puzzling that a rebuilding team not expected to contend in 2015 would spend that kind of money on a 31-year old pitcher.  Twins GM Terry Ryan set out to improve Minnesota’s pitching staff and this move should do so; just don’t expect it to vault the Twins into contention for the AL Central crown.  That was the intent of Minnesota’s winter meeting activity.

Kansas City Royals

Like the Indians the Royals did not make a splash but made a significant signing to replace a player lost in free agency.  To replace the departed Billy Butler the Royals inked free agent Kendrys Morales to a two-year deal for $17 million.  With incentives the contract could reach $18.5 million.

Morales had a rough 2014 season that he split between Minnesota and Seattle only batting .218 with 8 home runs and 42 RBI.  He has been a solid hitter up until last season and should bounce back.  He will have big shoes to fill in replacing longtime Royal Billy Butler.  The Royals also re-signed right hander Luke Hochevar who missed the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Chicago White Sox

After signing first baseman Adam Laroche and left-hander Zach Duke before the winter meetings, Chicago continued to make moves in San Diego.  They first signed former Yankees closer David Robertson to a four-year $46 million dollar free agent deal.  The 29-year old saved 39 games in 2014 for the Yankees in his first season as a closer.

Then Chicago pulled off a six player trade with Oakland sending infielder Marcus Semien, first baseman Rangel Ravelo, catcher Josh Phegley and left hander Chris Bassitt to Oakland in exchange for starter Jeff Samardzijaand right hander Michael Ynoa.  A victim of low run support in 2014, Samardzija went a combined 7-13 with an impressive 2.99 ERA between the Chicago Cubs and the Athletics.  Samardzija will help anchor the White Sox rotation along with 2014 Cy Young finalist Chris Sale.  Chicago also signed outfielder Melky Cabrera to a three-year $42 million dollar deal after the winter meetings.

A week ago it appeared the AL Central would be a three team race in 2015 between Detroit, Cleveland and Kansas City.  Now, Chicago has closed the gap with their recent moves and should be a contender, and the Twins should be a lot more competitive.  I’m sure there will be more moves to be made but as it stands right now it should be a fun and wild ride to the American League Central Division title in 2015!

User Comments

December 15, 2014 - 9:01 PM EST
Crazy money for Anderson. I wonder what Morrow gets. I would actually prefer him to Anderson, but I don't see him as being realistic. I would like to know if the Indians have talked about Billingsly. Ohio native who I can't see signing for more than a couple million, if that. I could be wrong though.

In regards to the sands signing, I wonder if it had anything to do with Moss' health. Fangraphs just posted an Antonetti quote saying that Moss should be ready for opening day, or soon after. I think most of us had the impression he would no doubt be ready for the beginning of the season, but apparently not. Sands could end up opening the season with the Tribe like Morgan did last year.
Canadian Joe
December 15, 2014 - 8:50 PM EST
Holy cow. Some of these people have more money than brains. This is how salaries get out of whack. Big time. And the fans end up paying for it. Some of these contracts are absolutely ludicrous.
December 15, 2014 - 8:13 PM EST
Alex Rios to the Royals for a lot of money.

1 year 11 million. Wtf?
December 15, 2014 - 7:54 PM EST
Braves DFA'd RHRP Varvaro. Solid pen arm with 4y of control left. Should get plenty of looks
December 15, 2014 - 7:35 PM EST
Seems like the Giants might press for Kang. Who will be their 3b next yr? Kang has the arm and some exp. at the hot corner.

Headley is gone. Lowrie gone. Maybe ACab?

That price for Anderson is flat ridiculous. For that matter, no way I'd pay McCarthy 4/$48M. He's good, but not that good.
December 15, 2014 - 6:41 PM EST
That's crazy money for Anderson. It's only for one year and all.....but still. That deal was done simply because the Dodgers can. Pocket change for them.
December 15, 2014 - 6:34 PM EST
How much did the Dodgers overbid for Anderson? I thought he'd have been a low-cost pickup to take a flyer on. Dude has barely been worth $10 million in the past 4 years combined.
December 15, 2014 - 5:53 PM EST
I'm intrigued by Jung Ho Kang a lot. Worried about how crazy the bidding will get.

Wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers bid 2 billion though. Somebody gave Andrew Friedman a blank check. He's just mocking the rest of the league now.
December 15, 2014 - 5:50 PM EST
Kang and Billingsley...mark me down for that..
December 15, 2014 - 5:37 PM EST
No way I give Anderson that. Nope.

I've mentioned Morrow before, I like him better as a pen arm myself. Like me some Billingsley too.
December 15, 2014 - 5:35 PM EST
Must've been typing at the same time.
December 15, 2014 - 5:34 PM EST
Brett Anderson to the Dodgers for 1/$10M with another $4M in incentives. He's a talented but way too often injured arm for the Indians to do a similar deal. The Tribe reportedly had interest.

A cpl other names the Indians might kick around...Morrow and Billingsley.
December 15, 2014 - 5:33 PM EST
Speaking of LA, Dodgers signed Brett Anderson, who we were reportedly interested in last week.

Oh and they signed him for 10 million dollars.
December 15, 2014 - 5:09 PM EST
Sands was Van Slyke 2-3 years ago in LA, just saying. Good pickup
December 15, 2014 - 4:44 PM EST
Yeah, Hood and Sands are both guys that have been discussed on the boards in the past. Good to see the Tribe give these guys an opportunity. Really shows me CA is scouring all opportunities to add talent and power to the lineup.
December 15, 2014 - 4:12 PM EST
Sands just turned 27. Not expecting him to blossom suddenly but he's just a couple years removed from smacking 25 homers in AAA.

He's depth, with some power potential. I like it just fine.

Like Destin Hood's signing a lot too. Solid lottery tickets by the Indians.
December 15, 2014 - 4:05 PM EST
Have to think Tribe is up to something...maybe a trade brewing?

Indians have been pretty quiet, not really a lot of speculation surrounding them (didn't need to make moves) so it's hard to say much of anything outside of the Indians adding some depth, looking for some talent. Sands could be another sleeper type pickup.

Hayes and Moore make sense AAA depth. Not sure with Sands, makes me think an OF (Murphy! / $wisher) could be on the move. Then again, I guess they could always use a RH bat (Sands) that actually has some upside left on the cheap.
December 15, 2014 - 3:20 PM EST
Sands or Hood hopefully can take Raburn position on the team.
December 15, 2014 - 3:15 PM EST
OF/DH Jerry Sands and catcher Brett Hayes both signed to minors deals.

And the Tribe Twitterverse having a fit, comparing them to Cabrera & Cespedes deals.

Oh but only the Indians sign players to minors contracts. Lordy.

Sorry, rant over.
December 15, 2014 - 3:08 PM EST
Jerry Sands signs minor league deal with the Indians.
December 15, 2014 - 2:19 PM EST
With the addition of Moss, the Indians don't even neet both Kipnis and Swisher to return to normal, the just need one of them to return and have a good year. The goal remains a healthy Moss, though.
December 15, 2014 - 2:04 PM EST
Hard to say that KC has improved. Even if you consider Morales equal to Butler (questionable), their loss of Shields is going to kill them. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish 4th in the central, while a 3rd place finish seems likely.
December 15, 2014 - 1:54 PM EST
While comparisons are going to be made.. Swisher alone is one of the most important turnaround players on the Indians's be nice to see Moss tee off..but, put the Bash Brothers East (Bro-HI-O-Moss? all in one word) into the lineup.. The summer could be huge on the North Coast..

December 15, 2014 - 1:01 PM EST
I would put the odds of Morales bouncing back to be about the same as Swisher bouncing back. It's funny how identical those 2 were last year. Actually they've been identical for the past 2 years. So we now know how much the Indians are overpaying Swisher, roughly $12 million over the next 2 years. Not bad!
December 15, 2014 - 12:57 PM EST
I love that the Sox traded for Shark. A RH GB pitcher with HR problems, goes to a park that inflates HR's, and gets to face his former teamate who just loves to tee-off on guys like him. Just makes me love the Moss trade even more.

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