The Detroit Tigers took the crown for the second season in a row and they advanced one step further in 2012 than they did in 2011. Unfortunately, that is not enough for an owner that is approaching his 90s. They made the decision to bring Jim Leyland back, but that is only the beginning in a division that could become more competitive in 2013. The White Sox came close last season. Let’s see if anyone else can surprise in 2013.
The coaching staff will return in 2013 and it appears as if some major decisions have already been made. Jose Valverde and Delmon Young will not be returning in 2013. That cuts somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million dollars from the payroll. Additionally. they will have Victor Martinez returning to the lineup as the primary designated hitter. If he produces as he has done in the past then this will be one of the top five offenses in baseball. If the Tigers can manage to re-sign Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez they will return one of the deeper lineups and rotations in the American League.
Unfortunately, their bullpen is another story. Octavio Dotel will return and Phil Coke did a good job in the playoffs subbing for the ineffective Valverde, but a collection of relievers that includes Joaquin Benoit and Al Alburquerque is not enough to get through a post season. The Tigers might have to let either Sanchez or Infante go in favor of a proven closer. The question is where that closer is going to come from since there are few on the free agent market.
Chicago White Sox
The Sox decided to bring most of their rotation back as they re-signed Jake Peavy and picked up Gavin Floyd’s option. They will pair with Chris Sale and John Danks to give the White Sox four solid starters in their rotation. Francisco Liriano is a free agent and he was shaky down the stretch for the White Sox. Of course, he has been shaky for most of the past three seasons. Jose Quintana made a solid debut and Phillip Humber is still hanging around as well. I would expect Liriano to sign elsewhere. Additionally, the club declined the option on Kevin Youkilis’s contract, so he will test the free agent market as well.
The problem for the White Sox has been that while they have several good players, they have some key positions that are manned by woefully inadequate players. A.J. Pierzynski had a banner season, but he was one of those players as recently as 2011. Will they give into his demands or will they allow someone else to bite on his amazing 2012 campaign? That leaves catcher, second base, and third base as significant question marks coming into the offseason. Add in the back end of the bullpen and you have a busy offseason for Kenny Williams.
Kansas City Royals
This is as high as the Royals have finished in over a decade. They are a tale of two teams. The lineup side of the equation is on the rise. If they can swallow Jeff Francouer’s contract they can let Wil Myers take over in right field and perhaps contribute the last piece to an already impressive puzzle. Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas took steps forward this season and Alcides Escobar played out of his mind offensively. Add in Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez and you already have the makings of a very good offense. If Eric Hosmer lives up to his potential then this team will be the next powerhouse in the AL Central.
Then, there is the pitching staff. Jonathan Sanchez was a flop. So, the Royals doubled down yesterday by picking up Erwin Santana from the Angels yesterday. He was virtually in the same situation as Sanchez. If he pitches well and if they bring back Jeremy Guthrie they could become the Baltimore Orioles of 2013.
They used to be a model franchise, but they’ve become a mess almost overnight. Their starting rotation became a joke in the second half, but the pieces are there for them to compete again. They have to get Ubaldo Jimenez to live up to his massive potential. If Justin Masterson can pitch like he did in 2011 rather than last season then they could compete again. Plus, they have the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona.
Still, some or all of those guys may not be around once the dust settles. They must find four or five productive starting pitchers somewhere. Getting another decent bullpen piece wouldn’t hurt either, but they may use closer Chris Perez as a bargaining chip to bring in some of that starting pitching they most desperately need.
Terry Ryan has done some good things with this team. Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll were all solid additions. The problem is that there is nothing on the pitching side of the equation. They have gotten two top five draft picks in a row and organizations can build themselves up with a couple of solid drafts, but they need to start competing before they lose all of that momentum from Target Field.
So, Ryan must add at least two or three credible starting pitchers before this thing starts to slide away from him. Late inning relief help wouldn’t hurt either, but the question is where the budget is there for him to add all of these things. If it isn’t then he is going to have to be creative and deal guys like Denard Span.
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