|American League Central - Offseason Grades||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 19, 2009
Well, there is plenty of time for more deals to change the landscape across the Majors including potential trades and free agent signings, but with Spring Training just a little over five weeks away, it’s time to offer some opinions on what teams did to prepare for the upcoming season.
Chicago White Sox: The Sox are looking to be competitive but with a greatly reduced payroll. To accomplish this they’ve parted ways with Nick Swisher (traded to the Yankees), Javier Vazquez (traded to the Braves), Ken Griffey, Joe Crede, Orlando Cabrera and Toby Hall, all of whom were making decent money.
GM Ken Williams insists the Sox will be able to fill these roles from within the farm system, but it seems doubtful that they’ll be as good.
The cost cutting moves here and the loss of Vazquez leads me to give the ChiSox a C- for offseason grade. I can’t see how what they are doing could be anything but a downgrade, especially with the dubious health of Jose Contreras.
Cleveland Indians: After a mediocre 2008, the Tribe has a lot of holes to fill, the most gaping of which was the void left by CC Sabathia who they parted with towards the end of last season. While bringing in an arm of that magnitude was just about impossible, the Tribe has attempted to patch things up as best they could. Free agent pitcher Carl Pavano will eat some of those innings, but it’s the late innings where the Indians really felt they gained some ground.
The addition of free agent closer Kerry Wood and the trade which netted them reliever Joe Smith should help stabilize what has been a glaring weakness for the team in recent years.
Offensively they’ll be counting on a return to form from Travis Hafner, but they’ve supplemented him by replacing the offensively challenged third baseman Andy Marte with ex-Cub Mark DeRosa, who is coming off a career season in the NL.
These moves should improve the Indians, and if Travis Hafner bounces back, the Tribe should be considerably better in 2009. Give them a B+ grade, for having addressed as many weaknesses as they could reasonably afford to.
Detroit Tigers: Anyone who didn’t classify 2008 as an absolute disaster for the team in Detroit wasn’t looking very hard. Sadly they haven’t really found much to address their needs, especially in the bullpen where they are unquestionably weak.
With the exception of still developing pitcher Edwin Jackson, not a single one of their additions will do more than shore up their defense, which, while atrocious, was hardly the Tigers Achilles heel in 2008. Grade C.
Kansas City Royals: The long suffering Royals still have plenty of questions, including just how they are going to fill out the rotation. But they’ve taken some steps to try to shore up the team and hope to improve on 2008. New faces include RHP Horacio Ramirez, veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth, power hitting first baseman (and strikeout machine) Mike Jacobs and the less-than-appreciated Coco Crisp who’ll be looking to redeem himself. RHP Doug Waechter could fit in as a potential starter or reliever going into spring training.
Considering that they made all these moves on the cheap, you’ve have to say the Royals’ moves are ones that will make them marginally better in 2009, but it might be enough to help them take another step forward, but .500 still seems highly improbable.
Crisp, Jacobs and Ramirez are far better than Joey Gathright and Ramon Ramirez who they replaced. Grade B-.
Minnesota Twins: The biggest change in Minnesota’s offseason was not planned by the team as owner Carl Pohlad, often cast as a baseball villain, passed away. That really shouldn’t change the way things are going in Minnesota which has been a virtual no show in the changes market thus far during the offseason. Losses have been minor and I wouldn’t be shocked to see them make a trade in the coming weeks, but to this point I’ll give them an incomplete on the grade, since they’ve neither added nor subtracted so far.
How have the teams in the AL Central done this offseason? Feel free to comment below.