A.L Central Being Aggressive In Off-Season
By John Verburg
With what has been somewhat of a slow off-season thus far, and the GM’s around the league digesting the new CBA whether they like the taste or not, one division has remained relatively aggressive in acquiring players. If you read the title of this article, you should gather that I am talking about the American League Central. With a division full of small to mid-sized markets, with the exception of Chicago and arguably Detroit. One wouldn’t expect that to be the case.
I can’t honestly say that any of the teams in the Central have made a major move. The two players on the market that have signed that were of significance were Jonathan Papelbon and C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia was no surprise, as most expected him to re-sign with the Yankees because of the astronomical amount of dollars involved. As for Papelbon, it was a little surprise that he went to the Phillies, but not much of one considering Ryan Madson spurned the Phils offers.
Though I expect it to change, with the Marlins trying to sign everyone, right now, it’s all about the A.L. Central being aggressive.
Three teams in the Central have already been making significant moves thus far. The Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins have all made multiple moves to improve their ball clubs at this point. The Tigers have made one, and so far, the only stagnant club is the Chicago White Sox. And they don’t look to stay that way for long as they are reportedly open to moving some of their current starting rotation.
Cleveland was the first club to make a move, acquiring Derek Lowe from the Atlanta Braves to add to their rotation, and most recently, they kept Grady Sizemore on their roster, who many thought would go elsewhere. Cleveland can’t get too crazy with their payroll, and have done a good job adding some veteran presence and talent the last year or so. They added Ubaldo Jimenez at the deadline this year, and it appears the Indians believe their window to win is now. I don’t think these two moves necessarily put the Indians over the top, but it does signal they are looking for ways to stay in the race a little bit longer in 2012.
Kansas City has also already made a trade, and might be in the market for more. The Royals moved OF Melky Cabrera, whose value was at a all time high, for up and down pitcher Jonathan Sanchez from the San Francisco Giants. This was pretty widely applauded by most as a solid move for the Royals whose weakness resides in their starting pitching. They strengthened that again when the Royals just re-signed starter Bruce Chen a couple of days ago. Chen had some value on the free agent market, but he was important to the Royals because he has been their best starter the past couple of years.
Minnesota has been the biggest surprise to me when it comes to off-season activity. They have a pretty bloated payroll, and coming off a bad season, there is numerous question marks on that ball club. Their rotation isn’t strong. Their bullpen is weakened by the loss of Joe Nathan, and they are more than likely going to lose Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to free agency. Despite this, Minnesota has gone out and signed two free agent players in 2B Jamey Carroll, and C/1B/OF Ryan Doumit. Now, these aren’t World Series making moves for the Twins, but they do solidify their team and fill some needs.
Detroit has only made on off-season move at this point, and that was to solidify their backup catching position, by signing the veteran Gerald Laird. It wasn’t a genius move or anything, but made some sense given that Laird has a history with Detroit and its pitching staff. Besides the proclamation from the Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, not a lot of people expect the Tigers to do anything eye-popping. After all, they won the division going away last year, and may not even need to do anything to win it again. It’s up to the other teams in the Central to make the improvements.
Chicago, as stated earlier, is the only team in the Central to remain stagnant at this point. Their payroll and veteran laden roster suggests that they might be looking to move some guys. Some guys mentioned to have been on the trading block have been; John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin. Chicago does need to get a little bit younger, and wouldn’t hurt to lose some payroll as well, especially considering if they are in it at the deadline in 2012, they will likely look to add to their roster. A little payroll flexibility could help.
I expect the A.L Central to continue to be aggressive on the market, but not necessarily for the big names. We could start to see even more player movement happening in the next couple weeks as teams are probably well versed in what they can or can’t do with the new CBA. If it is free agents, I expect some bargain shopping from the Royals, and potentially Indians. I can see the White Sox, Tigers and Royals active in the trade market.
Either way, it is clear that the other teams in the Central are looking to make up ground on the Tigers. The Tigers should make sure they take notice, because although winning the division is the first step, it’s not the ultimate one, and it’s never a given. The Tigers need to remain as aggressive as their Central division opponents. Not only to win the division, but to take it even a step further in the playoffs.