The American League Central is shaping up to be a surprisingly competitive division this season. The Indians have re-loaded, the White Sox are solid, the Tigers are stacked, and the Twins and Royals are rebuilding slowly but surely.
The American League Central became a division in 1994 after the introduction of the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins forced the league to adopt a new division alignment. Prior to 1994, the league was divided by the West and the East divisions. And even in its form then, the AL Central was different than it looks today. The Detroit Tigers played in the AL East and the Milwaukee Brewers were an American League team playing in the Central. Since the division's inception, only the Brewers and the Kansas City Royals have failed to capture a division crown at one point or another.
Here are your AL Central rumors and news:
The Minnesota Twins are trying to find the right combination to help build toward the future. They want to recapture their glory days of consistent success and multiple playoff appearances in a row. To do so, they must continue to move players, sign players, and discuss contract extensions.
- Freddy Sanchez, who missed the entire 2012 season, is still awaiting a new team to sign him for the 2013 season. The Twins had been linked to the veteran infielder, but they are not targeting Sanchez. Sanchez's injury history has resulted in hesitation over signing the 35-year old. So much hesitation, in fact, that plenty of teams have first asked for Sanchez's medical records.
- Minnesota made a Valentine's Day move and signed veteran reliever Rafael Perez to a minor league contract. Perez will join the Major League camp on Saturday and work towards a shot at making the 25-man roster. The interesting part of the signing is the potential for Perez to start during the spring. He has been a long-time reliever.
- Justin Morneau is an interesting case for the Twins. Three years ago he would have been a lock for a second huge contract extension. Now, the Twins may allow him to test free agency and possibly even walk completely. The club has not begun negotiations yet with Morneau. His injury history and up and down production over the last couple seasons likely has the Twins worried. Even if Morneau has some success this season, the Twins may look to trade him.
Rebuilding the Royals
- On the injury and WBC front, Bruce Chen and Danny Duffy were in the news today. Chen has officially withdrawn his consideration for playing for China in the World Baseball Classic. According to WBDJ in Kansas City, Chen has been able to prove his lineage enough to qualify for Team China, and he does not want to pursue it further. Duffy, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw a bullpen sessions today. He tossed a few change-ups and continued along his path to recovery. He is targeting a June return.
- Speaking of Chen, he and Luke Hochevar are battling for the fifth spot in the Royals' rotation. The rest of the pitching staff is pretty well set, but spring training will offer Chen and Hochevar the chance to battle it out for a starting pitcher gig. Whoever loses out will likely be relegated to the bullpen.
- The Royals took a big step toward completing their minor transactions today when they signed seven players. Some of these players will have a shot at the Majors, some have Major League experience, and other will provide depth in the minor league system. The signings today represent a big hurdle cleared for the Royals. While necessary, some of the minor contracts can hold up future moves.
The rest of the division has been active of late as well. The White Sox are looking to add additional players (or are they?), the Indians may still be getting better, and the Tigers are getting healthier.
- Chicago White Sox are not looking to add another catcher. After losing A.J. Pierzynski, it was thought that the White Sox would look for another catcher. However, that does not seem to be the case.
- Could Kyle Lohse be ready to sign with the Cleveland Indians? The team has already made some pretty surprising and impressive moves this season, and they have been linked to Lohse. Now with rumors that Lohse could sign "soon," the Indians may be on the verge of making another big splash.
- Victor Martinez is feeling 100 percent. That's right baseball fans, on top of how good the Detroit Tigers already were, and on top of the moves they've already made, they will be getting a healthy Martinez back. He should provide the Tigers with a big offensive boost this season.