AL Central offseason roundup
The Indians aren’t the only ones trying to get over the hump in the coming offseason to keep pace in an uber-competitive division. The Royals and Tigers have their share of work to do, and the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, will look to join the fray in 2015 with some substantial moves this offseason.
To put things in perspective, the Indians are given respectable MLB futures odds of +1,200 to win the American League Pennant in 2015, but that still ranks significantly behind the Royals and Tigers. Here’s a look at what we can expect around the division now that the 2014 season is fully in the books.
We begin with the defending division champions, who looked a lot sexier to win the World Series last season following Dave Dombrowski’s wheeling and dealing that brought ace pitcher David Price to the ball club. Price may help mitigate the big impact of a potential Max Scherzer departure as a free agent.
Scherzer situation aside though, the playoffs showed how badly the Tigers need to rework their bullpen. To put it into perspective, the Tigers’ relievers ranked fourth worst last season in ERA (4.29) and FIP (4.09). It’s fair to assume they will acquire an arm or two to try and improve their postseason relevance.
Before the bullpen though, the Tigers are keen to deal with Victor Martinez. The designated hitter was a vital piece in the Tigers’ lineup last season, and if Torii Hunter chooses to play for another team the more Detroit will want to keep Martinez all the more.
Kansas City has some free agent issues to tackle, too. James Shields is clearly the biggest name among Royals players who could test the market. Should Shields leave, though, the Royals’ rotation still looks solid with Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. There are quality free agent starters like Ervin Santana and Jake Peavy the Royals could sign at a price not as expensive as a Jon Lester or a Max Scherzer.
Offensively, the Royals are pressed to add some big bats to the lineup. Kansas City was the lone club last season that failed to hit at least 100 homers. After not picking up Billy Butler’s option, the Royals must have a backup plan if the righty designated hitter leaves. Nelson Cruz, Mike Morse, and Colby Rasmus are some of the free agents the Royals could target.
As for the White Sox, calling for a complete overhaul is not an overstatement. The talent in the starting rotation drops dramatically after Chris Sale. As a team, the White Sox were 27th in the majors with a 4.29 ERA last season. The relievers also struggled, finishing last season with 4.38 ERA and a bottom-scraping 0.7 WAR. Then there’s the defensive mess that has to be cleaned up in order to maximize any offseason moves the White Sox are going to make to improve their pitching. The team had a 27th-ranked .982 fielding percentage in 2014.
Lastly, the Twins. Minnesota already made headlines this offseason by naming Paul Molitor as the team’s new manager, taking the spot left by Ron Gardenhire. The Twins’ front office will now be focused on signing a dependable starter. The Twins had the worst starters’ ERA (5.06) again last season, but it was actually slightly improved: in 2013 they finished with a cumulative 5.26 ERA clip.
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