While the Indians haven't been very busy this off-season, losing more than they have gained to this point, it doesn't mean that their primary competition in the Central Division has been silent. That has been far from the case with the biggest trade so far this off-season involving the Tigers and quite a few free agent signings. Below we will cover the important moves by the other teams in the American League Central.
The Twins have been a very surprising player this off-season, considering they don't look anywhere near a play-off contending team with the Tigers, Indians and Royals far further along in their development. While they haven't lost many players (Justin Morneau was traded mid-season), they have signed the two most expensive free agents in team history, shoring up their rotation with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. While neither is quite an ace, they will both be large upgrades after a terrible 2013. Even with those two, the Twins are rumored to be looking for another starter. This could possibly be Mike Pelfrey (who was with the Twins last year but is currently a free agent), Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey or someone else.
The Twins haven't made any other major moves, they are looking to sign another catcher as it has been announced that Joe Mauer will be permanently moving to first base. There have been rumors in this vein surrounding former Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals were a surprise contender in 2013, but they will not be happy with a third place finish in 2014. They offered a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, who declined it and became a free agent. With one of their top starters leaving, the Royals gave a four year deal to former Mariner Jason Vargas. He is a huge downgrade from Santana, but likely cost about $60M less. With the rotation taken care of, the Royals have also signed Tony Pena's son, Francisco Pena to possibly be their back-up catcher and P.J. Walters as a relief pitcher.
Kansas City is far from done this off-season. They are among the top suitors to sign Carlos Beltran (although they will have to out-bid the Yankees) and are looking for a top level second baseman as well, having discussed Brandon Phillips as a possibility. Outside of the free agent market, the Royals are willing to deal from their strengths to improve elsewhere, including being open to trading relievers Aaron Crow or Tim Collins. If they do make a big free agent signing, there could be further moves including a possible trade of DH Billy Butler.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox appear to be the only Central Division team that is not going all out to win the division in 2014. They did sign Cuban defector, Jose Abreu with a six year, $68M deal, but are not expected to make much more noise. Abreu is a first baseman and excelled in the World Baseball Classic last season for the Cuban national team. They have a decent young pitching staff and are looking to keep them around long term, adding young offensive stars as they will set up for a run in the future. Because of this, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez have been made available on the trade market as the White Sox look to get even younger.
The biggest unimportant decision the White Sox have to make this off-season will be what to do with Paul Konerko. He is a free agent and unlikely to sign with any other team, but would like to play one more season for the South Siders. Since the White Sox are not looking to compete next year, this would just be a move made for the fans. If he does return, they will likely have to trade or release Adam Dunn as Abreu will be starting at first and Konerko would DH.
The Tigers had the least to do to improve their roster, but have made the biggest moves in the division. With the best offense and starting rotation in the league, they have the comfort of just filling a few holes, like the one left at second base with Omar Infante leaving for free agency and the glaring hole at the back of the bullpen. Rather than continue spending with the richest teams in the league by going after Robinson Cano or Phillips, the Tigers actually decreased their pay roll by trading first baseman and honorary Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This trade not only helped the Tigers defensively at second, but also at third, as Miguel Cabrera will be moved back to first. While this will leave a hole at third with Jhonny Peralta leaving for the Cardinals, the $76M the Tigers are saving will make it much easier for them to fill that and any other holes.
If that wasn't enough, on Monday the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Nationals for three replacement players. This, combined with the Fielder trade has allowed the Tigers a little more financial freedom to possibly resign Max Scherzer (free agent after 2014) or Miguel Cabrera (2015). Finally, Detroit used some of that cash they saved on Fielder to get a real closer in former Ranger, Joe Nathan.no comments