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.
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
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.
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;
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.