Originally written on Baseball News Source  |  Last updated 11/16/14
Entering the 2013 season, the defending American League champion Tigers were on the short list of World Series contenders again. While the Angels added the big piece (Josh Hamilton) and the Blue Jays made the most noise, it’s the Detroit Tigers who entered the winter closest to World Championship caliber.Basically halfway through the season Detroit is doing exactly what it has the last couple of years; off to a slow start but staying at the top of an easily winnable division. The Tigers sit at 42-34, having a roster mastered for eight innings and leading the division by 2.5 games over the revived Cleveland Indians.These are the division needs heading into next month’s trade deadline. Buyers: Detroit TigersDetroit is stacked in the two most important areas to declare whether a team is championship caliber or not. The Tiger’s offense is second in the AL in runs aided by the highest batting average, on base percentage and second highest OPS despite playing in a pitcher’s park. Miguel Cabrera is the main culprit, as the reigning triple crown winner is hitting .370/.460 with 22HR, 78 RBI and just seven strikeouts more than walks on the season. He’s inhuman in a pitcher’s year.Suffice it to say the Tigers need no offensive help outside of potential luxuries. The lineup is already good enough, Victor Martinez is healthy again, Austin Jackson has returned to the lineup and Torii Hunter and Jhonny Peralta are having great seasons. Andy Dirks can be improved upon in left field (.254/.310, 6HR, 21 RBI) but the 27 year old is in his prime and can benefit from playing time. The Tigers are currently weak at catcher, starting Brayan Pena, but Alex Avila is currently hurt.The rotation has been brilliant even with the injury to Anibel Sanchez, with the Tigers featuring legitimate front-of-the-rotation arms from: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Sanchez and Doug Fister. Rick Porcello could be a trade chip if Sanchez can come back healthy (he is expected to) and any of their additional arms (presently Jose Alvarez) can fill in the stress-free fifth starter role.What the Tigers do need is a closer and they will most certainly be in the hunt for one over the next month or so. Bruce Rondon is apparently not quite major league ready yet and Jose Valverde failed for a second time. Detroit could try Joaquin Benoit there for the stretch run but then their setup roles are weakened. No matter how you slice it, the Tigers are one elite reliever away from being the hands on World Series favorite.Needs: CloserSellers: Cleveland IndiansAt least, that’s what should happen. The Indians are in a nice situation as a franchise. After years of futility they have a solid core from recent savvy trades, signings and prospects. The offense is on the upswing, aided by newly signed additions in: Michael Bourne and Nick Swisher (presently injured), a healthy Carlos Santana, a breakout year from Jason Kipnis and a hot start from Mark Reynolds. it’s not a dominant lineup (seventh in runs, sixth in home runs, fourth most strikeouts, third most stolen bases) but it is serviceable and getting towards a finished product.The pitching staff? A disaster.The Tribe are 11th in ERA, 14 of 26 in save situations, have given up the 5th most long balls and are 11th in team WHIP. Cleveland keeps trying to improve in this area and some of it has worked out while other aspects have blown up in their collective faces. It’s both easy to identify pitching as the team’s biggest need and also the reason they should sell in 2013.It’s nice the Indians are three games above .500 and with five playoff spots and a weak division, Cleveland is only 2.5 games out of the division and two games out of the wildcard. Still, there is no chance they catch Detroit, arguably the best team in the league despite their record and this team does not have the pitching to be taken seriously in the playoffs, even if they did trade for a starter.The Indians have become relevant again due to smart moves and a rebuilding process and it would be wise to continue that form this season. Scott Kazmir and Chris Perez are two logical pieces to trade. The former is finally healthy (has been mediocre but is still a lefty arm in its prime) and the latter should return in time to build up trade value as a late inning reliever.Reynolds and his 14 HR and 44 RBI may be a desirable bat for a playoff team in need of an impact bat and there are plenty of those suitors around this season.Needs: Pitching helpBuyers: Kansas City RoyalsCrazy, right? The Indians should be selling but the Royals should be buying despite the former being three games ahead of the latter?How can that be?The Royals’ pitchers have arrived and with James Shields only under contract one more season, the time to act is now. Kansas City made a bold move when it traded top minor league prospect Wil Myers in a deal for Rays’ ace, James Shields, and they should stick to the game plan. Perhaps the most underrated offseason belonged to Kansas City and it has completely transformed its pitching staff to the top ERA and second best bullpen ERA in the league. Shields, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and even Jeremy Guthrie have been just about as good as one can hope in the rotation.  Greg Holland is having an elite season as closer with a strong supporting cast.So what’s the issue in Kansas City? Why are they 36-39 with nine teams sporting a better record, including the entire AL East?The offense has underachieved.  The Royals have scored the 13th most runs, on pace for less than the New York Yankees’ B team. They are dead last in HR and SLG and 12 in OPS. There is a power outage in the entire city at this point. It’s taken a mini hot streak for Mike Moustakis to reach .214/.274 and Eric Hosmer has just four home runs this season. They were supposed to be the cornerstones of the franchise along with Billy Butler, who has had a decent season offensively but is on pace for 10 HR this season, about half of his preseason projections.The Royals could use help at second base badly (Elliott Johnson should not be a starter) and Jeff Francoeur continues to somehow survive the chopping block. If ever there was a team who can go on a Cinderella run after the trade deadline with the right moves, it’s this one.Needs: Impact bat, 2B.Sellers:  Minnesota TwinsMinnesota always seems to like to beat to their own drum around the trade deadline. Not in the playoff picture for a number of seasons by the end of July, the Twins aren’t usually particularly active as buyers or sellers. This season, it would benefit them to be sellers.Minnesota has a few notable pieces which could be useful, particularly in its own division (though unlikely they would deal within the Central). Currently 34-40 and showing no signs of being particularly good as any facet of the game, it would benefit Minnesota to keep building and headed in the right direction. The farm system is improving, lead by what is now considered the top prospect in the minors, Byron Buxton, and fellow high ceiling candidates, Miguel Sano and pitcher, Kyle Gibson.It’s evident the franchise could be competitive again soon, but for now, Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia and Glen Perkins should all be on the table. Perkins is already 30 years old and closers tend to fetch pretty good value at the deadline. As we know, plenty of teams could use a closer who is 19/21 with a 2.20 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 28.2 innings. Correia is arguably Minnesota’s best starter, but would appropriately fit in the middle to back end of any contender’s rotation.Willingham is in a down year, batting .218/.349, but he does have 10 HR and has 30HR potential most of the time. Willingham, at 34-years-old, is the oldest of the three, so all of them could be more than just rentals.With the 10th most runs, 14th most HRs and 12th best rotation ERA, there is a lot of room for improvement in the rotation and the lineup. Currently 1st in bullpen ERA, trading Perkins while his stock is high would be a good start.Needs: OF, Front-of-the-rotation arms.Sellers: Chicago White SoxVirtually nothing has gone right for the White Sox this season. At 32-43, in dead last in the division and just two games better than the Houston Astros (who are in full rebuilding mode), it’s really time for the White Sox to start over. Addison Reed and Chris Sale are the best reliever and best starter on the team and both are young and cost-effective. However, nobody else on the roster should be off the table, including Paul Konerko, even with his 10 and 5 rights.The Sox aren’t all doom and gloom. Their rotation has a strong core and the bullpen has been among the better relief systems in the league. On the other hand, the offense is dead last in runs, 13th in HR, 12th in BA, 14th in SLG and dead last in OPS. Talk about needing hitters.Tyler Flowers, deemed catcher of the future, has offered virtually nothing behind the plate.  The corner infielders, Paul Konerko and Jeff Keppinger, have both been disappointing. The middle infielders, with a slightly higher upside going forward, have performed decently this season along with the outfield, but Chicago has a lot of work to do.Adam Dunn‘s trade value has been handicapped due to another historically bad season after a rebound in 2012. Anyone looking for a quick bat at DH (AL East) may be able to take a flyer on him if Chicago eats most of his salary, but that won’t help the White Sox much.Still, Chicago has a lot of value they can deal, starting with outfielders,  Alex Rios and Alejandro De Aza. These two could be difference makers but are not good enough to carry a team. Matt Thornton provides a lefty arm out of the bullpen for any team and Jesse Crain, nearly unhittable this season, should be dealt with his value sky high. Jake Peavy offers value as a starter rounding out the White Sox as potential all-purpose sellers. It would be senseless not to strike and help rebuild the core of the team.Needs: Hitting, hitting, hitting (Corner IF, CF, DH)
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