Detroit Tigers: Who to Watch in the AL Central


“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Whether the quote can be attributed to Sun Tzu, Niccolo Machiavelli, Petrarch, or Michael Corleone, fans of the Detroit Tigers need to keep this in mind each season. Of course, all Tigers fans would love to see their favorite team win the World Series year after year, but in order to do this, the team has to get past the four other teams trying to do the same in the American League Central. While we at the Motor City Bengals have been busy looking at the offseason activities of the Tigers, the other AL Central teams have been busy, too.

Let’s take a look at what’s been going on around the Midwest:

May 30, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Cleveland Indians left fielder Ryan Raburn (9) dives for a ball during the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians have not been very busy, at least in the major leagues. The organization has been busy signing minor leaguers, notably former Tiger Joba Chamberlain. They have also been busy with Rule 5 players. The Tribe has let a few free agents out into the market and one keeps getting mentioned with the Tigers; Ryan Raburn‘s $3 million contract was bought out by the Indians for $100,000 placing him on the free agent list. They have also placed James Ramsey on the 40-man roster, leaving fans wondering how big of a mess the Indians’ outfield will be, especially since Michael Brantley is out at least through late spring due to his shoulder surgery in early November.

The most interesting talks in Cleveland have revolved around Todd Frazier, Rajai Davis, and the Indians pitchers. The Indians have plenty of young pitchers including Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco that teams have been clamoring to get their hands on. So far, nothing has happened due to the high prices the Indians want for their strong, young pitching staff. The chats around Frazier most likely involve his ability to play in the outfield, rather than at third base. The Indians have also spoken with Rajai Davis about a spot in the outfield, but nothing has come of those talks yet.

The Kansas City Royals have been more active this offseason than the Indians.  The Royals have retained several of their World Series team members, but they have lost a few to free agency. Johnny Cueto is long gone having recently signed with the San Francisco Giants. Ben Zobrist is a member of the Chicago Cubs. Ryan Madsen signed with the Oakland A’s. While the baseball world is waiting to see what happens with Alex Gordon, the Royals have signed Joakim Soria and re-signed pitcher Chris Young to a salary that fits his ability. Free agents Alex Rios, Jeremy Guthrie, Jonny Gomes, and Greg Holland are still available on the market. 

Oct 27, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) reacts after hitting a double against the New York Mets in the 8th inning in game one of the 2015 World Series at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals have been also dabbling in the minor league market. They have signed Dillon Gee, who has had an up-and-down experience with the New York Mets and the disabled list. He was set to be the in the 2015 rotation with the Mets, but a stint on the DL allowed Noah Syndergaard to show what he had. Gee was DFA’d by the Mets in June. Rumors abound about the Royals talking to players like Todd Frazier and Yovani Gallardo

The most excitement with the Minnesota Twins has to do with the Tigers signing Mike Pelfrey. The other exciting moment was Torii Hunter playing his last game in the Major Leagues. Other than that, not much has happened. Shane Robinson went to Cleveland in a minor league deal. The Twins have signed a handful of other minor league players, notably Darin Mastroianni who has had Major League experience but spent 2015 in the minors. A few days ago the Twins were talking to Drew Storen as an addition to their bullpen.

The Chicago White Sox have had more activity than the Twins. One of their earliest moves was to sign former Detroit Tiger Alex Avila. This was an unexpected move, especially since the team seemed confident with their former catcher Tyler Flowers. Just a few short weeks after Avila was signed, Flowers moved on to the Atlanta Braves. Then, the Sox signed Dioner Navarro as their second catcher. Jeff Samardzija made a notable signing in San Francisco, adding to the impressive rotation of Madison Bumgarner and the newly signed Johnny Cueto.

Next: Unanswered Questions about the Detroit Tigers Roster

The White Sox have been in talks with Todd Frazier – does every team in the AL Central want him? As they continue to rebuild their infield, the White Sox added Brett Lawrie from the Oakland A’s. They traded a pair of pitchers for him. They also lost Gordon Beckham to the Atlanta Braves. Fan favorite Alexei Ramirez is a free agent this year, but it is unlikely that he will return to the White Sox now that young Tyler Saladino has had an acceptable performance at short. The team has also re-added pitcher Jacob Turner to the team. The retooled 2016 White Sox may not be contenders, but the team will certainly look different than it did in 2015.