Houston got their offseason off to a cracking start by signing reliable OF option Josh Reddick, to a reasonable deal recently. They closely followed that with a trade acquisition of veteran slugging catcher Brian McCann, a huge coup, to replace the outgoing Jason Castro. Castro himself had a very brief experience in free-agency this time around, as he signed a 3-year deal with the re-building Twins organization, and is clearly a defensive upgrade on Kurt Suzuki.
The Cardinals made a major splash on Brett Cecil, signing him to a 4-year deal, beating off rivals such as the Cubs, Nationals for his services. The long-time Blue Jay will presumably serve in a set-up capacity, in the mid-late innings, and has a good chance of excelling in the role. Also, worth noting is the difficulties the player unions and agents are having in coming to terms with the league representatives, in regards to the CBA agreement which expires on December 1, with a lockout looming as a distinct possibility.
AL CENTRAL OFFSEASON OVERVIEW
After almost ending the 72-year title drought, Cleveland look as though they will be in a strong position, to make a similar run in 2017. This will be possible mainly due to the fantastic starting pitching staff they have in place, which remains controllable for the next few seasons. Headlined by Kluber, Santana and Carrasco were barely available in the post-season, while Bauer remains a very good 4th slot option. The bullpen looks very good too, with Miller slated for another season with Cleveland and Allen, Otero and Shaw all set to return. Depth pitching options may be a slight concern, leading the brass to sign a minor-league deal or 2, without any substantial fees.
Of more concern, will be the departures of Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli, although, a fit Brantley would more than fill the void of Davis. The 1B/DH role that Napoli filled exceptionally well, will be much more concerning, unless they can re-unite with the veteran. Other less costly options remain more likely, such as Pedro Alvarez or Mark Reynolds, with expensive options such as Trumbo and Encarnacion highly unlikely. Overall, the Indians will remain confident of winning the division, that looks to be remarkably changing, as the possibility of 4 teams rebuilding becomes more likely.
Detroit have changed tactics this offseason, with the stated intent of getting younger and streaming the costs, as they have several large contracts that are aging. Though it does not appear as though, trading multiple veterans is a realistic option, with high asking prices, across the boards early in the offseason. They did send Maybin to the Angels earlier in the year, for a minor-league arm, but really, 1 or 2 more trades, such as JD Martinez and Kinsler is about the most they could hope to achieve. They look set to keep K-Mart as their reliever and have a fairly decent bullpen, but it would not surprise if they added a veteran or 2.
Prospect Joe Jimenez is a clear contender to stick in the pen, if he has a strong spring training and compete for late inning gigs. A low-cost option may be sought after once the market shakes-out and players start to look for a team to latch onto. The rotation looks to be an area of strength again for the Tigers, particularly if they can remain healthy, though dealing someone like an Anibal makes plenty of sense. Detroit fans and staff should be confident of a successful 2017 campaign but a deep run to the post-season may require additions at the summer trade deadline.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Kansas will still hold some hopes of contending in 2017, before a host of their quality core staff become free-agents after the season, including Escobar, Hosmer and Moustakas. The difficulties remain in the rotation, as was the case this season, with Duffy and Ventura the only real locks, after the departure of Volquez and the injury difficulties suffered by Medlen and Young. Ian Kennedy will be looking to impress his new team more than he did this season too, while the bullpen has taken some hits with the most notable being the non-tendering of Hochevar.
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There is a host of young options coming through an underrated farm system, but whether they are seasoned enough to step into primary production roles, is the main issue for the Royals. Another big question of the offseason, is can they afford to pay Wade Davis in his final year of arbitration, as they would clearly receive a quality return for the elite closer. They certainly had Washington’s attention in summer, when dangling Davis and demanding Giolito a super young prospect starter. Overall, the lack of financial backing is likely to hinder the Royals chances of adding to their silverware in the short term, and a building process will be required once again.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Chicago has a very good core group of players, including pitchers, outfielders and infielders, a premium acquisition or 2, would probably bring them into contention. However, it appears as though a different course is more likely, as almost any of the stars are apparently available, for the right asking price. It may end up being just a staff tinkering, though it could also be a total rebuild, in drastic circumstances for them.
The short-term sales that could bring them into contention appear to be stocks such as Robertson, Frazier or Melky Cabrera who are all on short term deals. Long term pieces such as Jose Quintana, Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, will surely be much more costly, and totally restock the farm system, with a contention window within 2-3 years. If they did decide to stand pat, adding a pitcher to the rotation, a couple to the pen, a good catcher and an outfield bat all are pressing requirements. Thus, it appears as though, the brass are headed for the rebuild tactics and will look to find a strong array of near-ready prospects in return for the trade pieces.
The Twins had a woeful 2016, based primarily on atrocious pitching, and an all-round inexperienced group, who would have benefited from a veteran or 2 in key positions. As things stand, Santana remains as the clear staff ace on the pitching side of things, and he needs contemporaries, with potential bounce-back candidates such as Phil Hughes, rookie Jose Berrios and better performances from innings eaters such as Santiago and Gibson. After adding Jason Castro recently, the positional side of the roster looks fairly strong, despite the non-tendering of Trevor Plouffe. So much so, that one of the young prospects could be dealt, to bolster the rotation, as the need is glaring, and the free-agent market is desperately thin.
Having said that, an addition such as Hammel or De La Rosa would not be a poor decision, as they are veteran innings eaters, and clearly an upgrade on the backend of the Twins rotation. The pen looks ok, with Kintzler the closer, after Perkins broke down injured again in 2016, though he could return to his best and easily usurp the current closer. An addition or 2 of veterans, for the middle innings would be prudent, such as Casilla, Zeigler, Uehara, Tazawa or even a less costly option such as Henderson or other non-tendered, experienced relievers. Overall, the Twins must be confident of improving on the awful season they endured, and a season similar to 2015 is a realistic goal for the new front office staff.
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