Today’s look is at the AL Central, projected finish, and update on off-season moves.
1st – Chicago White Sox (B-) – The White Sox best move was picking up Jake Peavy last summer, which by himself will be worth enough wins to put the Sox back on top of the AL Central. This off-season, they made a couple decent moves, although I don’t believe, like some, that Juan Pierre is a viable replacement for veteran free agent slugger Jermaine Dye. Their one-year deals with Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay won’t have much impact. The trade for Mark Teahan will probably put Konerko in as the full-time DH. Reliever JJ Putz is a low-risk, high-reward sign. Gordon Beckham is an star in the making.
2nd – Detroit Tigers (B+) – Losing Curtis Granderson and RHP Edwin Jackson is an emotional blow to the Tigers and their fan base, but if you are being honest with yourself about the haul of OF Austin Jackson, RHP Max Scherzer, and LHPs Phil Coke and Daniel Schlereth, you know the Tigers came out on top. Signing RHP Jose Valverde is an upgrade over Fernando Rodney, who left via free agency and signed with the Angels. Even though Dombroski’s hands are tied with tons of terrible contracts including Willis, Bonderson, Inge, and Ordonez, just to name a few, the team is still good enough to finish second, but a long shot in the Wild Card to Texas & Boston. The loss of Polanco will hurt the worst, and when you are rushing development of prospects up the middle C/SS/2B/CF, it can’t be good.
3rd – Minnesota Twins (C) – The signing of LHH DH Jim Thome would have been great, if the Twins didn’t already have a pretty good LHH DH in Jason Kubel, which means one of these defensively handicapped players is going to have to take the field everyday, and it ain’t going to be Thome. Replacing Orlando Cabrera with JJ Hardy isn’t going to work and losing Carlos Gomez and reliable back-up catcher Mike Redmond will hurt more than people think. They always seem to over-achieve given what they have on paper, but David Blaine-like smoke and mirrors ends this year.
4th – Kansas City Royals (C+) – Garbage in and garbage out. Paying above market for guys like aging C Jason Kendall and similarly aging OF Scott Podsednik aren’t the answer. Trading for 2B Chris Getz and 3B Josh Fields is an equally curious move, since they already seem to be set at those positions. To top it off, they go out and get CF Rick Ankiel, who almost killed himself on the center field wall in St. Louis last year and didn’t prove he could be the same player after it. Watching the Orioles get Miguel Tejada for one-year $6 million must have put the Royals front office on suicide watch after signing Kendall for one-year, $5 million.
5th – Cleveland Indians (F) – They signed a bunch of fringe Major Leaguer to minor league contracts. For the Indians, it isn’t a cellar right now, it is a dungeon, where they will be locked for years until they make something happen in their farm system (or break open the checkbook AL East style).