The calendar has turned to December, meaning the top executives from each organization and the top agents from around the league gather for the winter meetings. These meetings could determine the shape of the league for years to come. At this year’s meetings in Nashville, teams will go in with a specific goal that they believe will make their team better in 2024 or the future.
Here is each AL Central team’s winter meetings goal with the AL East done and the other divisions to follow.
The Goal For Each AL Central Team at the Winter Meetings
Minnesota Twins: Find starting pitching while shedding payroll
The talk of the Minnesota Twins offseason so far has been the report that they are looking to shed payroll. Despite that though the AL Central champs are looking to remain competitive and with the loss of ace Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency the Twins will look to improve their rotation, likely doing so via trade. Potential targets could include Tyler Glasnow, Dylan Cease, Corbin Burnes, or any other starter on the trade block.
The Twins are not generally a big spending team but were middle of the pack in payroll in 2023 and have some big contracts on their books, namely Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. With a solid young core led by rookie Edouard Julien and former first-overall pick Royce Lewis, they will look to deal from the wealth of veterans on the roster to improve the pitching staff. Players like Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler for instance seem likely to be moved if the right offer comes along. This division is very winnable so the Twins can certainly shed payroll and remain the team to beat in the AL Central.
Detroit Tigers: Add some veteran pitching
While it has been a while since the Detroit Tigers were last competitive, they are still in the midst of a rebuild. That being said, with the young core starting to take shape and the team looking like they are about to go on the upswing the Tigers will look to bring in some veteran pitching depth to help the league’s fifth-youngest pitching staff develop. After signing Maeda earlier this offseason, the Tigers will use the winter meetings to find some more short-term deals on veteran pitchers.
The Tigers have learned from previous experience that it is too early to start signing massive contracts or trade young prospects for major league talent, but small adds on the peripheral could only help this young staff. Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning appear to be the three arms that will lead this Tigers team back into contention. Just bringing in some veteran arms to eat innings and take the pressure off of them while they develop can go a long way in ensuring they live up to their expectations as top-of-the-line starters.
Cleveland Guardians: Make trades to improve an already great farm system
The Cleveland Guardians already have one of the best farm systems in the league, ranking in the top five in almost every ranking but with these winter meetings, the Guardians have an opportunity to make it truly elite. Shane Bieber appears to be a strong candidate to be dealt. Additionally, rumors have circulated that elite closer Emmanuel Clase may also be available. Cleveland already has several young players who will help bring the team back to the postseason, but with a couple of deals, they could become formidable very soon.
Even without Bieber, the Guardians have one of the best young rotations in the league, between Rookie of the Year runner-up Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Logan Allen the Guardians will be preventing runs effectively for years to come. The issue though is scoring runs, and even with the anticipated arrival of some good young bats the team could still use more offensive firepower and there is no better way to improve an offense than by dealing a former Cy Young Award winner in his prime.
Chicago White Sox: Trade Dylan Cease
This may seem very specific, but the rumors surrounding the Chicago White Sox have been almost entirely about Cease. After the disaster that was 2023 in the south side, this offseason is an opportunity to reset the roster and while most of the core is either young and controllable or doesn’t have enough value to be traded, Cease is the perfect trade chip.
Cease, like Bieber, is one of the best pitchers in the league and he is in his prime, he has two more years of arbitration remaining and therefore is one of the most valuable trade pieces in the league. The prospect return he would garner could go a long way in turning this so far botched rebuild around. Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert could also be moved if the White Sox receive the right offer.
Kansas City Royals: Be patient
The Kansas City Royals pretty much bottomed out in 2023, losing 106 games in what was tied for the worst season in franchise history. With the entire roster consisting of young players primed to make an impact in the future, the Royals don’t have anything to do this offseason besides helping their future stars develop in-house.
The Royals are very fortunate to play in probably the most winnable division in the sport. No team here is a powerhouse and it won’t take much to win it in the next few years. The Royals are still at a point where they are trying to improve the farm system but without veterans to trade, all the Royals can do is wait for the players themselves to improve. If that happens it will be a successful 2024 season. Other than that maybe they can bring back Zack Greinke on another one-year deal.
The AL Central may be the most wide-open division in baseball this year, with all five teams in a sort of state of development and none of them establishing themselves as a clear-cut team to beat in the division. That means whatever team can manage their off-season the best can put themselves in a great spot to make noise in the division in the next few years, and that starts with the decisions they make this week.
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