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Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 28, 2008
The balance of power has shifted; now the central division reigns supreme. The Cleveland Indians almost represented the AL in the World Series last year, while the Detroit Tigers did so in 2006. With a huge influx of talent into the division, the central should be at the center of everyone’s minds.
Detroit Tigers: For those living under a rock during the offseason, here’s something big: The Detroit Tigers pulled off the biggest move of the offseason, acquiring third baseman Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Dontrelle Willis for six players who made little or no impact on their 2007 squad.
That’s the good news. Here’s the better news.
The Tigers return a large portion of an offense that scored 887 runs last year, 20 more than the Boston Red Sox and finished third-best in the major leagues in terms of runs scored last season. Adding both Cabrera and Edgar Renteria to that lineup should make this offense a modern day Murderer’s Row.
The pitching staff is pretty strong, with all five projected starters having thrown at least 200 innings in either 2006 or 2007. If the starting five can stay healthy and pitch deep into games, the Tigers should be okay. They just should not trust the bullpen. It’s about as reliable as Eric Gagne during his Boston days.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians have an uphill battle in 2008, as opposed to 2007 in which the Tigers blew the division lead. The Tribe did not make any big moves this offseason -- in fact their only addition was Japanese relief pitcher Masahide Kobiyashi -- and that complacency might be their undoing.
CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona pitched unbelievably well last year, and to expect them to repeat would be not wise, at best. And Paul Byrd, Jake Westbrook, and Cliff Lee all don’t have the upside to really even out the different.
Offensively, the ballclub revolves around Travis Hafner. If Pronk is flexing his muscle in the middle of the lineup, this ballclub could compete with the Tigers. If not, the Tribe is going to have a very tough time matching up with the elite in the AL.
Chicago White Sox: Quick: What’s the best thing to do to a team in need of rebuilding? Add more veteran players by trading away your best prospects! At least that’s what you do if you’re Kenny Williams.
The White Sox added Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher to a lineup that should be relatively strong. The x-factor in the entire situation could be Alexei Ramirez, a Cuban immigrant and second baseman. He’s got enough talent to make the team forget about Tadahito Iguchi.
It’s all going to come down to their bullpen, however. The team slung $19 million at Scott Linebrink to setup for Bobby Jenks. It may not be enough for a group that poured gasoline on fire last year continually.
Minnesota Twins: They may have lost Johan Santana, but they gained Francisco Liriano. Combine the young phenom with talented pitchers like Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Boof Bonser, and the makings of a solid rotation are there. For 2010. It’s going to take a while for these kids in the rotation to develop, but at least they’ve got an amazing bullpen behind them to save their leads and their butts.
The defense should be improved with Adam Everett taking over at shortstop and Joe Mauer being healthy enough to play more often behind the plate. Justin Morneau is ready to add another 30/100 season to the back of his baseball card, while Michael Cuddyer needs to show he’s worth $24 million over three years. All in all, this is a good team, but not enough top-notch talent to drive it over the edge.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals are a team that can surprise quite a few folks this season. They brought in Jose Guillen, who should boost the team’s offensive production, especially when surrounded by David DeJesus, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler.
Where the surprise could come from is the starting rotation. Gil Meche proved he was worth that big contract with a good first year, and if Brian Bannister does in 2008 what he did in 2007, the team could have a very good 1-2 punch. Combine that with a mentally healthy Zach Greinke and more developed Luke Hochevar, and the Royals have the makings of a good rotation.