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Winter Meetings Primer: The Amercian League Central

With the December Winter meetings starting today, let’s conclude our review of the goings on in Nashville, with the Tribe’s division, the AL Central.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Tribe make any significant moves while the division keeps looking to improve?

Kansas City Royals

And we start off with the defending World Champion Kansas City Royals. Not only were the Royals a good team last year, but by many measures discussed ad nausea on this site, they also sequenced much of those numbers to their advantage.

Also! As a defending champion, there are a lot of guys who want to get paid. As of right now, based on the free agents, there are some gaping holes on the team. However, I do expect a few of those free agents to re-sign.

Key Free Agents: SP Johnny Cueto, LF Alex Gordon, SP Jeremy Guthrie, RP Ryan Madson (signed with A's), RP franklin Morales, RF Alex Rios, SP Chris Young, UT Ben Zobrist, OF Jonny Gomes, SS Orlando Calixte (non-tender), CL Greg Holland (non-tender)

Moves: Traded a minor leaguer to the Cardinals for C Tony Cruz.

Needs:

OF, If Gordon does jump ship, the Royals will need to fill two spots. They already need to fill Rios' spot because of his poor hitting and if DGordon does in fact sign elsewhere, the outfield is Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando.

2B, Omar Infante significantly declined last season and the jury is still out on Christian Colon.

SP, Losing Guthrie won't hurt too much, but losing Cueto will sting. The back half of the rotation is average at best.

RP, The back end was fantastic two years running, but getting a third year like that will be hard. Holland was hurt late and the middle relief was spotty.

Outlook: Repeating is never easy and one would hope some of the sequencing regresses to the mean. General Manager Dayton Moore will need to tweak a bit more than expected for a World Champ. It will be interetign to see how the Holland situation is resolved. Will he be back?

Potential Tribe involvement: Intra-division deals rarely occur except for waiver claims. I would hope the Tribe at least talk to Guthrie and Zobrist.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins were in competition for the Wild Card very late in the season. And in a way appeared probably a year early. They have a fantastic minor league system with many pieces ready or near-ready prospects. The pitching staff needs the most help. But Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are owed about $35-38M in both of 2016 and 2017.

Key Free Agents: RP Blaine Boyer, RP Neal Cotts, RP Brian Duensing, SP Mike Pelfrey, OF Torii Hunter (retired)

Moves: Traded UT Chriss Herrmann to the Diamondbacks for a minor leaguer. Traded OF Aaron Hicks to the Yankees for C John Ryan Murphy.

Needs:

C, I think general manager Terry Ryan is regretting that deal he gave to Kurt Suzuki.

OF, right now 23-year-old Max Kepler is slated in Hunter's spot. Perhaps Oswaldo Arcia can step up, otherwise some depth could be needed.

SP, As noted above, upgrades are needed but I doubt they will allocate too many more funds in the rotation. Nolasco is hurt and right now the back end of the rotation is Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey and Tommy Milone.

Outlook: I doubt there will be too much activity with any of the core pieces. Plus I don't think Ryan wants to part with any of the highly touted young-uns.

Potential Tribe involvement: A peak at Duensing maybe? I mean he is left handed.

Cleveland Indians

Do I need to rehash all of the offseason discussions for our beloved Tribe? We all know where the issues are. A power bat, preferably right-handed. Outfield help and/or depth. Left-handed relievers.

Key Free Agents: UT Mike Aviles, SP Gavin Floyd, OF Ryan Raburn, RP Ryan Webb, RP Nick Hagadone.

Moves: Sold C.C. Lee to Japan. Purchase Kirby Yates from Tampa and Collin Cowgill from the Angels. Signed RP Joba Chamberlain.

Needs:

See above.

Outlook: I will be surprised a huge deal occurs even though personally I think one is needed. As I have stated many times before, if one of the Big 3 are not dealt for help, the most logical trade pieces are Trevor Bauer and Carlos Santana. (This does not mean I am advocating they get dealt, just that they might get the most return back). Also, per reports, Roberto Perez might be shopped as well.

Chicago White Sox

General Manager Rick Hahn was extremely active last offseason and cot major kudos at the time. But that didn't help Robin Ventura and the boys from their third straight losing season and modest three game improvement.

Key Free Agents: RP Matt Albers, 2B Gordon Beckham (signed with Braves), SS Alexei Ramirez, SP Jeff Samardzija (signed with Giants), C Geovany Soto (signed with Angels), C Tyler Flowers (non-tender), RP Jacob Turner (non-tender)

Moves: Traded a minor leaguer to the Rockies for RP Tommy Kahnle, Signed C Alex Avila, C Dioner Navarro and SP Jacob Turner.

Needs:

C, Even with the signing of Avila and Navarro, this position needs another upgrade.

2B, If they decide Carlos Sanchez needs more seasoning, a signing could happen here.

SS, Last season's 3B Tyler Saladino is slated to move over. He had a rough debut last year.

3B, Saladino's replacement is Mike Olt, at least for now.

RP, David Robertson was great last year, but the rest of the pen was mediocre.

Outlook: With the departure of Samardzija, the lone righty in the rotation defaults to Erik Johnson. But unless Hahn can improve the infield (I count four sub-par bats of five), this team will continue to struggle to score and must hope for the four lefties to win a lot of 3-2 and 2-1 games. And honestly, Zobrist makes the most sense here.

Potential Tribe involvement: Nada. But I am grateful (potentially) never to see Alexei Ramirez hit another home run off our staff.

Detroit Tigers

After four straight division titles, the fall to the basement in one season was pretty swift for the Ilitch clan. The offense struggled, but the main culprit was the pitching staff which allowed 100 more runs than the season previously. And honestly the Tiger were not really terrible last year, but their decline occurred at the exact same time as the other division rivals all improved.

Key Free Agents: C Alex Avila (signed with White Sox), CF Rajai Davis, RP Tom Gorzelanny, RP Joe Nathan. SP Alfredo Simon, SP Randy Wolf, RP Al Alburquerque (non-tender), RP Neftali Feliz (non-tender)

Moves: Traded a minor leaguer and a PTBNL to the Brewers for CL Francisco Rodriguez. Traded RP Ian Krol and a minor leaguer to the Braves for CF Cameron Maybin. Signed SP Jordan Zimmermann.

Needs:

C, James McCann takes over for Alex Avila. He had some hot stretches last year but is not likely the long term option here.

OF, The trade for Maybin moves Anthony Gose to left, but a backup is potentially needed.  And both Gose and Maybin have the potential for declining next season.

SP, Zimmermann will help, but the last two spots will be a combination of Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Shane Greene and Kyle Lobstein.

RP, They may finally have a decent closer in Rodriguez, but the rest of the pen last year was one gas can after another.

Outlook: Dave Dombrowski was let go in a bit of weird termination. Al Avila has assumed the role. I expect at least another starter to be traded for/signed and some depth in the bullpen should be addressed.

Potential Tribe involvement: I would hope they kick the tires on Davis, Alburquerque and Feliz.