- Three teams are in the middle of rebuilding, which made for a quiet offseason in the AL Central.
The offseason is over, spring training is in full swing, and despite a few notable names still available on the market, most if not all teams have called it quits in terms of signings and trades. So it’s time to look back on just what every squad did this winter and hand out grades for the moves made—or, in some cases, for those they avoided making. First up: the American League East.
Players with an asterisk next to their name were re-signed as free agents.
2017 Record: 102–60, first place in AL Central
Key Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso
Key Departures: OF Jay Bruce, OF Austin Jackson, 1B Carlos Santana, RHP Bryan Shaw
When you win 102 games and have your division sewn up by early September, it’s tempting to sit tight in the offseason, trusting that the roster that carried you that far can simply do it again. That appears to have been the Indians’ plan, as Cleveland was almost entirely absent from the free-agent market and trade talks. Alonso was the lone notable addition, brought in to replace Santana; if that move feels underwhelming given what Santana brought to the table as a patient power hitter with sneaky good defense, you’re not alone. Alonso is a fine piece on a budget, but the Indians could have done better. As is, they’ll enter the season with first base weaker than last year and big questions in the corner outfield spots with Bruce gone, as well as down a valuable setup reliever in Shaw. A third straight AL Central crown is almost assured given how bad the rest of the division is, but the Indians missed a chance to add talent and keep pace with the Astros and Yankees.
2017 Record: 85–77, second place in AL Central; finished second in AL wild card
Key Additions: LHP Zach Duke, 1B Logan Morrison, RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Addison Reed, RHP Fernando Rodney
Key Departures: RHP Bartolo Colon, LHP Glen Perkins, LHP Hector Santiago
The moves that the Twins made were solid and sensible, befitting their bone-deep Midwestern aesthetic. Morrison and Reed came on the cheap in this depressed free-agent market, and both bolster areas of need—the former bringing power to a lackluster DH role, the latter acting as the new setup man for the volatile yet entertaining Rodney. Odorizzi was also landed for little, costing only a lower minors shortstop, and will bring needed depth. But while these additions all help, it’s hard not to feel disappointed by Minnesota’s offseason, lacking as it does the acquisition of a true No. 1 pitcher for a rotation that is thin and will be without Ervin Santana for the first month of the season. With Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn still available, there’s no real excuse, save financials, for the Twins to have to turn to Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia in the starting five. There’s still time to fix that, but it seems like Minnesota is reluctant to do so.
Kansas City Royals
2017 Record: 80–82, third place in AL Central
Key Additions: 1B Lucas Duda, SS Alcides Escobar*, RHP Jesse Hahn, OF Jon Jay, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Ricky Nolasco
Key Departures: LHP Scott Alexander, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Lorenzo Cain, 1B Eric Hosmer, LHP Mike Minor, 1B/DH Brandon Moss, 3B Mike Moustakas, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Jason Vargas
The bill finally came for the Royals’ 2014 and ’15 runs, and it wasn’t pretty. Gone are the major pieces of the latter year’s World Series title, with Hosmer and Cain having signed with the Padres and Brewers, respectively, and Moustakas still searching for a home. Perhaps he returns to Kansas City, which could desperately use a better third baseman than current incumbent Cheslor Cuthbert. But it’s astonishing how many holes the Royals left open this winter, choosing to patch them either with cheap and middling internal options like Cuthbert or passable bench players like Duda, Escobar and Peralta—no one’s idea of championship-caliber starters. This offseason was an ugly one for a team that’s seemingly embraced a rebuild, though there isn’t much to be enthusiastic about with regards to stage one of that teardown.
Chicago White Sox
2017 Record: 67–95, fourth place in AL Central
Key Additions: LHP Luis Avilan, C Welington Castillo, RHP Miguel Gonzalez, LHP Hector Santiago, RHP Joakim Soria
Key Departures: None
Entering year two of their complete overhaul, the White Sox opted to stick with what they had, having no veterans save Jose Abreu to dangle for prospects and losing no one of note from last year’s squad. Instead, Chicago brought a plethora of unexciting veterans to the South Side to help eat some innings or cover up some problem spots. If nothing else, Avilan, Castillo and Soria are better than the players they’re replacing and should bring some increased semblance of competitiveness to games. But the White Sox’ focus remains 2019 and beyond, and while they may surprise some people, their offseason moves were designed simply to keep the boat afloat, not propel it forward.
2017 Record: 64–98, fifth place in AL Central
Key Additions: RHP Mike Fiers, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Leonys Martin, C Derek Norris
Key Departures: 2B Ian Kinsler, RHP Bruce Rondon
Speaking of rebuilding teams that simply didn’t try this winter, here are the Tigers, fully committing themselves to 100 losses by not making any moves of note. The one headline they made was in shipping Kinsler to the Angels for a pair of minor prospects, ending his four-year stay in the Motor City. Otherwise, Detroit finally cut ties with the talented yet wildly inconsistent Rondon and decided to buy low on the talented yet wildly inconsistent arms of Fiers and Liriano. The one truly regrettable move is Norris, who was suspended last year for a domestic violence assault and has seemed quite far from contrite about it. Worse is the news that Detroit’s front office apparently didn’t consider his suspension to be something worth discussing before signing him. This game is a business, but that one rankles something fierce.