AL Central has improved a lot since the Winter Meetings
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
1 year 11 million. Wtf?
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.
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.
I've mentioned Morrow before, I like him better as a pen arm myself. Like me some Billingsley too.
A cpl other names the Indians might kick around...Morrow and Billingsley.
Oh and they signed him for 10 million dollars.
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.
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.
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.