The off season is starting to wind down and with the exception of a few moves that other teams made, I’d say this off season has been rather dull. There were a couple of big free agent hitters that had to get new homes and a couple of pitchers needing new homes as well.
The places where those guys landed was rather meh to me. However, the amount of money those guys got to head to new places was ridonkulous. The money that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder got is . . . insane. The money C.J. Wilson got was also a bit out there. I should throw Mark Buehrle in that group as well, but given the hometown discounts he gave in the past as well my love for him, I kind of give him a pass.
Sure, the money is insane, those guys got, but the thing that concerns me the most about their deals is the number of years. None of those players is what you’d call a spring chicken. Long term deals always scare me because while a guy has held up well in the past, you just never know what will happen with his health. Not to mention, if that guy does break down fairly early, then you are stuck with a contract that you cannot move. For the team in general, this is one of the worst things that can happen. Especially if you are not very good at developing players from your farm system to use in the majors. CoughtheWhite SoxCough
In looking at the AL Central right now, there isn’t really much of a debate as to who will take the division. Or come in second place. The bottom three spots, well, that is up for debate. If we had to decide how the division would finish come October, this is the order I would put things in at this point.
Even before Detroit acquired Prince Fielder, they were the team to beat. They won the division last season and until they prove otherwise, they are the ones to beat. They still have Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. I am sure they are hoping some of their other starters can step it up so that the team isn’t relying solely on those two guys to take them to the promised land.
Cleveland to me looks the best of the remaining teams. They did suffer the blow of Fausto Carmona not really being who he said he was so that is a shock to their pitching staff. However, they will have Ubaldo Jimenez for a full season. They also have players who are a year older in their development. If they can pull off what they did last season, they have a pretty good shot at competing.
Kansas City. Ah my fail face PITAs. For the first time in forever, they won the season series against the Sox last year. And they can hit. And they would never go away quietly. They even made life difficult for Detroit toward the end of the season. So far, I would say they have marginally improved their pitching. They are probably still a year away from being a serious threat, but they will still be PITAs as they can hit.
Chicago I have in fourth place because I am just not convinced yet that this team is going to be much better than the display from last season. Sure, there is NO WAY (right?) that Dunn and Rios can have as awful of seasons as they did last year. And Jake Peavy has to be healthier than he has been in prior years. Yet there are still questions. Who is going to step up as closer? Who will step up to replace the lost run production of Juan Pierre and Carlos Quentin. (Before you think I am smoking something, please look it up. JP actually was quite the run producer last year.) Oh and the biggest thing, who will step up to take those innings that Mark gave? Yes, Chris Sale should be amazing in the rotation, but will Philip Humber repeat? Will we FINALLY get a full season of Jake? Will Gavin stop being spacey and actually live up to his potential? Will John Danks actually get run support? Questions a plenty with this team.
Minnesota was decimated by injuries last season. So much so that they basically fielded a AAA team. Baby Jesus aka Joe Mauer was hurt a lot of the season. Whether he is actually back for 2012 remains to be seen. Then of course, there is Justin Morneau. Reports are that he is feeling better and not experiencing the concussion symptoms as much. However, if you happen to watch hockey like I do, then you know Morneau’s status is still really up in the air. See Sidney Crosby for example.
Aside from the M&M combo not in the lineup, they really only have one pitcher who is really worth anything. And even I question how Carl Pavano is still managing to be someone who can stymie other teams. Yes, the team should be much healthier and if they have to rely on the AAA guys they did last season, they will have another year of experience. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough to be able to really seriously compete in the division.
What about you? At this point in time, how do you think the division will look at season’s end?