Taking a Look at our AL Central foes

The White Sox aren’t the only American League Central team with a busy off-season, as all four of our foes in this division have some decisions to make moving forward. Some of these decisions already have been made, as some of our divisional rivals have already been wheeling and dealing. Let’s take a look at which moves have been made within the division and which ones could be on the horizon.

A large portion of my research done to write this article was via www.mlbtraderumors.com. If you haven’t been there, be sure to check it out, as it’s got everything you need to know and is the easiest place to track all of the off-season moves for all 30 clubs.

Kansas City Royals

Ervin Santana is taking his talents to Kansas City (photo via LA Times).

I decided to put them first because they’ve made maybe the biggest move out of the four teams, acquiring Angels pitcher Ervin Santana and cash for a minor league pitcher. While Santana has been as about as consistent as the stances of politicians during the past election period (yeah, I went there), it still worries me because it’s a pitcher the Sox haven’t been able to hit going to a team they haven’t been able to beat. Hopefully the two negatives make a positive, but the fact of the matter is that starting pitching really is the only thing keeping the Royals from being competitive. They have a nice offense and good back end of the bullpen, but the starting pitching has not been there. Santana combined with some of their younger guys improving (Hochevar, Mendoza, Danny Duffy who should return from surgery next year) makes them a little more formidable.

In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Royals went out and acquired another pitcher given the amount of young hitting they have on the roster. With such a vast core, sacrificing a little offense for some pitching may not be a bad idea, and when GM Dayton Moore says that he “isn’t done,” I’m guessing he’s thinking the same thing I am.

The team did not tender an offer to former closer Joakim Soria, who missed all of this past season, but he has said he would like to return. Also, the Royals have been viewed as a darkhorse candidate to land Justin Upton, but with the priority they have put on pitching, I don’t see that playing out.

Detroit Tigers

Taking a look at the American League Champions (man does that make me cringe), their biggest decision may have to do with whether to retain starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, whom the team acquired along with Omar Infante from the Marlins in July. Reports have had his stock rising in free agency, as he wants six or more years upwards of 90 million. While we have seen the Tigers open the checkbook a lot over the past five or so seasons, I’m not sure if GM Dave Dombrowski would pay that guy that much. I know I wouldn’t.

Everyone’s favorite closer will not be back with the Tigers in 2012 (photo via NY Daily News).

Aside from Sanchez, Detroit has been very busy in the short time since they got swept out of the Fall Classic. They have announced that they are bringing back shortstop Jhonny Peralta and former Sox reliever Octavio Dotel, who remarkably looks like he’s finally going to be on the same team for consecutive seasons for the first time in a while. Also, the team will not retian Delmon Young (with Victor Martinez expected to be the DH next season), and side-show/horrible closer better suited as a  Dancing With the Stars contestant Jose Valverde. The team also let go of utility-man Don Kelly after he refused a minor-league assignment, and are considered to be a team “in” on trading for Justin Upton.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians brought in a Sox killer, as they acquired infielder Mike Aviles from the Blue Jays (who acquired Aviles as a part of manager John Farrell going to Boston) in a three-player trade. Aviles is a solid player who can play all three infield positions and is probably replacing former White Sox fan-favorite Brent Lillibridge as the utility infielder.

Also, the team let go two mainstays in their organization: DH Travis Hafner and starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona, I wasn’t talking about the 90’s Sox closer). On the same day, the team announced they will bring back Ubaldo Jimenez.

Terry Francona is already in the fold in Cleveland, and Kevin Youkilis may join him (photo via ESPN).

Most importantly to us though is the idea that Cleveland looks to be a team that is “in” on Kevin Youkilis, as they view him as a guy who could potentially play a lot of first base and DH for them rather than an everyday third baseman. The interest could turn out to be mutual, as the Tribe also have named former Red Sox manager Terry Francona as their skipper, and of course, he and “Youk” are familiar with each other.

In trade talks, teams have apparently inquired about Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, but I doubt Cleveland trades any of those guys right now.

Minnesota Twins

There hasn’t been much news from the Twins so far, but the organization has apparently stated they look to acquire starting pitching this off-season. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as they finished 28th in baseball last season in team ERA (4.77). They have inquired the Rays about James Shields, but I think Tampa Bay ultimately will hang on to him. Reports also have said teams have talked to Minnesota about trading Ben Revere, Denard Span, or Josh Willingham (that’s their whole outfield right there) for pitching, as everyone seems to know the Twins are desperate.

Alexi Casilla is now a member of the Orioles (photo via 1390AM The Fan).

As far as actual moves go, infielder Alexi Casilla (who almost knocked us out of the 2008 season about 9,000 times) was let go and picked up by the Orioles, starting pitcher Scott Baker’s option was declined (although a deal could be re-worked), and reliever Matt Capps was let go.

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Posted by Luke Stanczyk, GSB! Editor

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