MLB Winter Meetings: Breaking down the team needs for every AL Central team
What should each AL Central team be looking to accomplish next week at the winter meetings?
Major League Baseball's annual winter meetings are set for next week. Generally speaking, the winter meetings have long been a place for lots of offseason action, notably trades and free-agent signings. Activity has been ratcheted down in recent years because of the influx of technology and front office personnel being able to easily communicate all the time, not just when they are all in one building.
Leading up to the meetings, which begin Monday, we'll run through each division and take a look at the (remaining) offseason needs of each team.
This time it's the AL Central, where it looks possible to have two big sellers.
Chicago White Sox
We haven't heard any name more often this offseason in rumors than ace lefty Chris Sale and don't expect it to end until he's traded. That isn't to say he'll definitely be dealt this offseason, but it is to say the rumors won't subside.
If the White Sox do make the deal, it'll be for a franchise-altering package of prospects in return. And if they are going to do that, they might as well do the same with Jose Abreu , Todd Frazier , David Robertson and Jose Quintana , right? They've done a half-ass job of filling around Sale, Abreu and Quintana the past several years, so why do the same when they decide to remove one of those assets?
If it is decided they don't want to rebuild, why even entertain offers for Sale? He's an ace in his prime with a very affordable contract. So if there's no rebuild, quit screwing around and leaving holes on the roster.
At the bare minimum, a center fielder ( Dexter Fowler was a perfect fit last year and I even said so at the time), a catcher, probably another outfielder/DH ( Melky Cabrera and Avisail Garcia can platoon), middle infield depth, rotation depth and bullpen depth are needed.
That's a lot and the White Sox haven't been aggressive thus far. The hunch is the Sale trade is the top priority and I'll reiterate that if that happens they might as well go all out on the rebuild. Sure, the fans will be angry, but they're already pretty angry. Stock up for a huge turnaround in a few years and they'll forgive and come back to their poorly named stadium.
From the sounds of things, though, that won't happen. Most likely is the White Sox try to use a giant Sale trade return to build around the current roster.
The AL champs are in very good shape. They just went to the World Series without Michael Brantley , who had been their best player prior to 2016. Further, No. 2 and No. 3 starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar didn't make a start in the postseason.
Aside from depth signings, which every team needs and makes, the pitching staff is set and one of the best in baseball.
Among position players, the Indians definitely need a first baseman. Mike Napoli is a free agent. If they want to play Carlos Santana there, OK, then they need a DH.
There's also a question or two in the outfield. Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp are gone via free agency as well. That leaves Brantley in left, Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. That is good offensively but questionable on defense. Still, it's passable, especially with Abraham Almonte and Brandon Guyer as quality backup options.
I suppose we could say Brantley at DH protects against his shoulder and biceps issues, leaving Santana at first base and using Naquin, Chisenhall, Almonte and Guyer interchangeably.
An upgrade couldn't hurt, especially if it's a center fielder. Naquin faltered down the stretch and could be better suited in a corner outfield spot.
Overall, the Indians are set up for another deep postseason run in 2017. It's possible they are only looking at "depth" additions, which everyone has to do.
The Tigers are set to be one of the more fun teams to watch this offseason. General manager Al Avila has made no secret that the Tigers have been spending far too much money on payroll and need to get younger while shedding salary.
The players with the most value and highest remaining contracts are franchise icons Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera . Those names have popped up in the occasional rumor, but nothing has been concrete and it seems far-fetched to deal them, given that the Tigers seem more in retool than rebuild mode.
Instead, we've more often seen the names Ian Kinsler , J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez mentioned in trade rumors. Anibal Sanchez has even been said to be drawing some interest.
So whatever holes the Tigers need to fill will be based upon who they actually deal. They could elect to play Dixon Machado at a middle infield position if they deal Kinsler while giving Anthony Gose more time if/when J.D. Martinez is dealt, but it also seems like if the team is trying to retool that it would want MLB-ready talent in return -- just younger and cheaper.
There are lots of moving parts here. The basics: The Tigers want to stay competitive while getting younger and shedding salary.
Kansas City Royals
Few teams have been as quiet in rumors this offseason as the Royals and it makes sense. They are in a bit of a holding position regarding 2017 (here's why they have more variance than any other team). They have already gotten a quality backup catcher in Drew Butera to take some pressure off the overworked Salvador Perez .
Adding a relatively cheap DH-type to help fill the void left by Kendrys Morales would be advisable. Pedro Alvarez is a free agent who would work.
One thing that's interesting is stud closer Wade Davis ' name has come up in trade rumors at several points in this offseason.
Still, I'd be surprised. They have essentially the same nucleus as the 2015 World Series champs. A few minor additions that pay off could get them right back there.
So it's bargain shopping for depth at second base, an extra outfielder, a DH, in the rotation and -- because everyone has to do this -- in the bullpen.
Boring? Yeah, but that's due to the odd position the small-market Royals are in with the majority of their core coming up for free agency after 2017.
The Twins already checked off the top item of their to-do list in the offseason when they hired Derek Falvey as club president and Thad Levine as general manager. So there's a new regime at the helm looking to beef up the analytics department, which is long overdue.
Next up, the Twins got their catcher, in Jason Castro on a three-year deal.
Moving forward, the direction seems rather obvious. The Twins have several talented youngsters in place, such as Byron Buxton , Miguel Sano , Jorge Polanco , Max Kepler , Eddie Rosario and Jose Berrios . Joe Mauer 's gigantic contract is off the books after 2018 and new leadership is in place.
Given the state of the young position players, there's no need for a full rebuild here. The pitching staff does need one, though, so where do you start?
Brian Dozier . He's turning 30 next year, he's only signed through 2018 on a team-friendly deal and he's coming off a career year. That says he'll land a better package than Kinsler and he won't be around when the Twins turn this thing around behind something like a Buxton-Sano-Berrios nucleus.
The Twins could very well position themselves for a great 2018 or 2019 turnaround by dealing Dozier for pitching prospects and then stockpiling high-upside but low-cost pitching depth. That has to be the top priority.
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NEXT: We'll look at the NL East on Thursday