Around the American League Central: Johan Santana, Masahiro Tanaka, and Kendrys Morales

Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Twins

Last week in our look around the American League Central, we talked about the Minnesota Twins flirting with bringing back two-time Cy Young award winner Johan Santana.

A week later, nothing has been settled.

Monday’s report came from the New York Daily News and states that Santana has drawn interest from 12 teams and has not yet decided if he will pitch in a showcase for the interested teams. The Twins have continued to discuss Santana internally, remained in contact with his representatives, and still see a reunion as possible. – Collin Kottke, Puckett’s Pond

With pitchers and catchers reporting in 5 to 6 weeks, the time would be now for the lefty to sign. Either his asking price is too high for a player past his prime or the “12 teams” boast is just a smoke screen.

Either way, as we get further into January and Santana has not signed, it probably becomes more likely that he returns to the Twin Cities.

Chicago White Sox

At this point, the internet should just print stories about which baseball teams are NOT interested in signing Masahiro Tanaka. The latest suitor is none other than the Chicago White Sox. The Japanese export is expected to visit the Windy City in the coming days to meet not only with the south side inhabitants, but also their neighbors to the north.

That the Cubs and White Sox, two teams in the midst of rebuilding, are in on Tanaka tells you all you need to know about his value. Yes, he’s the best pitcher on the market in the here and now, but, at age 25, Tanaka also has a great deal of appeal for teams who aren’t yet ready to contend. Throw in the aforementioned cheap posting fee (cheap relative to the $50-million-plus posting fees of Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka, that is), and it’s going to be a crowded fray of suitors. For all those reasons, Tanaka is going to command a contract that’s well into nine figures. – Dayn Perry. CBSSports.com

Most reports have the Cubs, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners as the front-runners to land Tanaka. Many of those rumors also include a “mystery team,” which everyone, including us, believes is their team.

Kansas City Royals

The trading of Doug Fister for a talented bunch of baseballs (or three stellar young players depending on your view) was not a popular transaction in Tigertown this off-season. One move the Kansas City Royals may be considering might be just as unpopular.

The Kansas City Royals have emerged as a “sleeper” for free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales, according to Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio. Duquette, a former general manager with the Mets and Orioles, suggests that the team could sign Morales and trade current DH Billy Butler for pitching. – Tyler Drenon, MLB Daily Dish

Morales is three years older than Butler though they’ve both been in the major leagues for seven seasons. Butler has Morales beat on career average (.298 to .280) and homers (118 to 102), but by signing Morales and dealing Butler, the Royals can take a small downgrade at first base offensively in order to improve one of their few weaknesses: starting pitching.

Butler is a fan favorite in Kansas City and while Tigers’ fans and Justin Verlander would love to see him leave the division, this one seems unlikely.

Cleveland Indians

Ubaldo Jimenez‘s shaky stint in Cleveland may be costing him on the free agent market. The hurler, who threw a no-hitter with the Colorado Rockies in 2010, is seeking around $14 million per year on the open market, but has yet to find a suitor.

The Indians have moved on and have began looking toward a rotation without Jimenez and Scott Kazmir (who signed with the Oakland Athletics).

Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar will likely duel it out in spring training for the team’s two, three and four spots. The fifth spot will come down to the spring training results of three candidates: prospect Trevor Bauer, and free-agent additions Shaun Marcum and Tyler Cloyd. – Tyler Duma, Bleacher Report

One wonders, as with the Minnesota Twins and Johan Santana, if as time goes on and the Indians contemplate that shaky rotation, they consider paying Jimenez’s price. Despite his inconsistency, he was strong down the stretch for the Tribe who made the postseason for the first time in six seasons last year.

Topics: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins

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