Off-season in Review: AL Central

Several AL Central teams are ready to hunt down the Tigers in 2013 - Christian Petersen

As Opening Day draws near, we take a look back at the off-season, breaking down each team's biggest additions, losses and injury concerns, division by division.

Detroit is still the favorite in the AL Central but their grasp on the division may be weaker after so aggressive dealings from Cleveland and Kansas City. While the rebuilding Twins are extreme long shots to compete, the other four teams are all playing to win right now and the battle for the division is likely to go down to the wire once again.

Chicago White Sox

Major Additions: Jeff Keppinger, Matt Lindstrom

Key Departures: Kevin Youkilis, A.J. Pierzynski, Brett Myers, Francisco Liriano

Significant Injuries: John Danks

The White Sox surprised almost everyone as they fought the mighty Tigers for the AL Central title into the final weeks of the season, but the off-season brought little news and even less improvement for the South Side club. Keppinger replaces the departed Youkilis adequately enough, but the loss of Pierzynski may prove harder to handle, especially if Tyler Flowers continues to struggle at the plate. Chicago did mange to extend two of their top arms, with ace Jake Peavy signing a two year/$29M deal with an option for 2015 and 2012 breakout sensation Chris Sale inking a five year/$32.5M deal. Chicago has a habit of sneaking up on their AL Central rivals, but the core of their line up past its prime. GM Rick Hahn might regret not doing more to bolster his offense.

Cleveland Indians

Major Additions: Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, Mike Aviles, Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir, Matt Capps, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Key Departures: Shin-Soo Choo, Jack Hannahan, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore

Significant Injuries: Chris Perez

The Indians were surprisingly aggressive this off-season, signing two of the top free agents in Swisher and Bourn and making out well in the three team trade that sent Choo to the Reds by landing Stubbs and a top pitching prospect in Bauer. Their rotation needed work and GM Chris Antonetti adopted a quantity-over-quality approach in signing Matsuzaka and Kazmir to compete with Bauer and Carlos Carrasco for spots in the rotation. The gamble may have worked as Kazmir has looked impressive in spring training. Even with the vastly improved offense around them, the Indians will need starters Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez to be more effective this year. The Indians are easily the most improved team in the division, however, and they topple Detroit if their pitching comes together.

Detroit Tigers

Major Additions: Torii Hunter

Key Departures: Jose Valverde, Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch

Significant Injuries: None

The American League Champions might not have run away with the AL Central in 2012 the way that so many people thought they would, but they entered the off-season as one of the most talented clubs in the game and they had few obvious needs to address. They upgraded the outfield with the addition of Hunter and re-signed Anibal Sanchez to ensure that they would once again feature of the best rotations in the game, but they found few answers at closer in the wake of Jose Valverde’s decline and departure. Rookie Bruce Rondon was expected to take the job, but control issues landed him back in the minors. Manager Jim Leyland will be forced to cobble together a solution from by committee with Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel. Detroit also gave ace Justin Verlander a seven year $180M deal during the final week before the regular season, ensuring that the best pitcher in the game will stay in town through 2019. The Tigers are still favorites in the division, but the competition may have gained some ground.

Kansas City Royals

Major Additions: James Shields, Wade Davis, Ervin Santana

Key Departures: Joakim Soria, Kevin Kouzmanoff

Significant Injuries: none

Following the trade that sent top hitting prospect Wil Myers to the Rays along with pitching prospects Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery and 3B prospect Patrick Leonard, the Royals were once again the subject of ridicule in many corners of the baseball blogosphere. The reason is simple; Kansas City has some promising young players in Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain, but the 2012 team, which finished 72-90 was simply not an ace pitcher and a back-of-the-rotation arm away from contention. GM Dayton Moore made a desperate attempt to turn the team into a contender quickly and in the process gave up a potential star (who could have replaced Jeff Francoeur, the worst everyday RF in baseball) AND three other prospects. The Royals have certainly upgraded what was the forth worst rotation in the American League last season, but they did little to improve on last season's forth worst offense and even progress from their key position players and bounce back seasons from 2012 under-performers probably won’t help them keep pace with the Indians, White Sox and Tigers lineups.

Minnesota Twins

Major Additions: Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey, Rafael Perez, Alex Meyer, Trevor May

Key Departures: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Scott Baker, Matt Capps

Significant Injuries: Scott Diamond

The Twins traded away two players capable of producing plus defense and solid offense in center this off-season in an attempt to build a rotation for the future. Those deals netted them two top pitching prospect in Meyer and May and their Opening Day starter Vance Worley, a solid mid-rotation arm under team control through 2018. 2013 may not be pretty for the rebuilding Twins, but these additions should help them get back to winning as players like Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano come into their own. Twins GM Terry Ryan also signed a number of low cost arms to help bridge the gap to Meyer and May, picking up Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey to help improve on their woeful 2012 starting pitching.

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