As I wrote earlier this week, I think it's been a pretty underwhelming offseason for the Indians. They didn't lose anyone I consider significant, but I'm not sure Mike Napoli and Rajai Davis count as very significant additions either. For better or for worse, most of the rest of the AL Central was not nearly so quiet during the last three months. Here's a quick look at what's gone down for each of the other teams this winter...
Departures: Johnny Cueto (SP), Ben Zobrist (2B), Jeremy Guthrie (SP), Ryan Madson (RP), Franklin Morales (RP), Alex Rios (OF)
Additions: Ian Kennedy (SP), Joakim Soria (RP), Dillon Gee (SP)
Cueto and Zobrist were each added midseason last year, and while they each played an important role in the Royals winning the World Series, the Royals were a good team before acquiring either of them, and can be a good team after losing them as well. I think Ian Kennedy is being wildly overpaid by Kansas City, and isn't likely to be more than a solid #4 starter. The Royals have had a tremendous bullpen in recent years. Madson and Morales were two of the five bullpen arms they really leaned on last year, and while Soria can replace half those innings, some of them will have to go to smaller contributors from a year ago. Meanwhile, Greg Holland had a pretty down second half
Was that just a small-sample blip, or is he wearing down? and (as I was reminded of in the comments) is out for all of 2016 after having Tommy John surgery, leaving KC with a much less impressive looking bullpen.
The biggest transaction for Kansas City this offseason was re-signing Alex Gordon, something that wasn't expected to happen. Gordon becomes one of a small group of star free agents in baseball history who definitely could have gotten a lot more money somewhere else, but instead chose to do his team's rich owner a huge favor by signing for well below his market value.
If Kansas City enters 2016 as the division favorite, it's because Gordon didn't want to leave.
Are the Royals better or worse than they were last year? Worse, but still a good team, and while I know some of the projections won't have them in 1st place, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them finish there again.
Departures: Aaron Hicks (OF), Mike Pelfrey (SP)
Arrivals: Byung Ho Park (1B/DH) John Murphy (C)
Minnesota has had an even lower-key offseason than the Indians. Park comes over from South Korea and should split 1B and DH duties with Joe Mauer (whose career as a catcher is over), and should provide a boost to the lineup, but not a huge one.
Are the Twins better or worse than they were last year? Probably a little better, but that has more to do with key prospects like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano perhaps being in a position to provide more help. Despite perhaps having more talent on the roster though, I expect Minnesota to win fewer games.
Departures: Jeff Samardzija (SP), Alexei Ramirez (SS), Gordon Beckham (2B), Geovany Soto (C), Matt Albers (RP)
Arrivals: Todd Frazier (3B), Brett Lawrie (2B), Alex Avila (C), Dioner Navarro (C), Tommy Kahnle (RP)
Frazier is neither as good as his first half from last year, nor as bad as his second half. He'll add a lot of pop to the lineup. I'm not very high on Lawrie, but even average production would be an upgrade at the position for Chicago.
Are the White Sox better or worse than they were last year? For as long as I can remember, the White Sox have fought hard against letting themselves become a truly bad MLB team. That's led to a lot of 75 to 85-win seasons, but also only three postseason appearances in the last two decades. They've improved, but I'm not sure I see them getting above that 85-win mark, which means it should be a better season for them, but perhaps still not good enough.
Departures: Rajai Davis (OF), Alex Avila (C), Ian Krol (RP)
Arrivals: Justin Upton (OF), Jordan Zimmermann (SP), Cameron Maybin (OF), Justin Wilson (RP), Francisco Rodriguez (RP), Mark Lowe (RP), Mike Pelfrey (SP), Mike Aviles (UTL)
The Tigers are going to need to spend most of February just learning each other's names. The bullpen has been revamped and should be improved. Zimmermann basically replaces David Price from the rotation, though Price is not listed above because he was gone before the season ended. Same for Upton with Cespedes, though it should be noted that Cespedes was not as productive with Detroit as he was in New York. Upton was one of the three best position players available, and I'm annoyed that the Tigers were able to print more money and go out and get him when his market never quite developed as it had been expected to.
Are the Tigers better or worse than they were last year? Better, and maybe a lot better. It was fun seeing Detroit finish in last place, but it's not going to happen again this year. They look a little better than the beginning-of-2015 Tigers, who were troubled by some injuries and played .500 ball. They look worlds better than the end-of-2015 Tigers, who were a total mess.
The Royals shouldn't be quite as good, while the rest of the division should be improved, which ought to lead to a competitive race. The Indians can certainly be the team that finishes on top, but so could just about all of the others. (Not you, Minnesota.)