Must Add: AL Central

The offseason is officially upon us, and now a whole new level of excitement can kick in for every team and fanbase who has grown weary of the Washington Nationals victory parade already.

This Winter is sure to be an interesting one, with an upper echelon of talent that includes a man who is bound to set records as baseball’s highest paid pitcher…ever. Throw in the fact that pretty much every big name on the open market this offseason is represented by Scott Boras, and it becomes obvious that we’re also going to be in for a ton of painstakingly delayed signings (a la the Harper/Machado fiasco from a year ago).

Every team has needs this Winter though, and at least for the time being we can evaluate those needs and fantasy pair players with the teams we see as a good fit. That’s exactly what I tried to do here.

The rules of this piece are simple, only one player can be deemed the “must add” piece, regardless of how many pieces the team needs. This player can come via free agency, perceived trade options, or simply by re-signing an integral part of your current roster. Now since obviously all 30 teams in baseball have a need for a guy like Gerrit Cole, I went with the same rules that apply to real life: only one team can actually sign him. So for players who will draw big interest from several different organizations, I selected the team with the greatest need for them and who is most willingly to pay/trade the price.

So without further ado:

Minnesota Twins –

There are a lot of places you could look for additions to the Minnesota Twins that’ll take them over the hump in the Postseason in 2020. Most glaring is their need for better pitching, both in the rotation and in their bullpen. Unfortunately I can’t see them being major players for a big name starter either via free agency or trade, and once you get passed the Cole and Strasburg tier, you’ll see a pretty big dip in talent. So for the sake of this offseason, I think the most important move for Minnesota will be re-upping the contract of Jake Odorizzi. An argument can be made that if Strasburg didn’t opt out of his deal, then Odorizzi becomes the third best available starter on the market. He’ll see a lot of interest from loads of other contenders, but he just posted his best career season with the Twins to the tune of an All-Star appearance and his first taste of postseason baseball. He was a model of consistency for Minnesota and if it isn’t for the sake of bringing in an obvious upgrade, they can’t afford to part ways with the 29 year old. I can’t imagine anyone would offer him a massive deal, so the Twins can likely get something worked out for the righty in the 4 year, $48 million range.

Alternatives: Dallas Keuchel (LHP), Madison Bumgarner (RHP), Gio Gonzalez (LHP)

Important Re-Signings: Sergio Romo (RHP), Jason Castro (C), Jonathan Schoop (2B)

Cleveland Indians –

There’s few harder teams to predict the moves of at this point, than the Cleveland Indians. The 2016 AL Pennant winners have had a progressive fall from grace in the years since, which have included a slew of rumors that the team was intending to blow up their current core for the sake of budgetary concerns. It is quite possible that after losing the divisional crown to the Twins, the Indians are set to go full rebuild and start selling off assets like Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor this Winter. But considering that this is still a relatively weak division, and they nearly grabbed a Wild Card berth in September, I think that the Indians give it one last go this offseason, with the understanding that if they find their 2020 postseason odds looking bleak by midseason, they can just quick sell their soon-to-be departing talent at the deadline for massive prospect returns. Their biggest hole to address this offseason has to be the outfield. While he is only an average defensive player at his best, Nicholas Castellanos provides the kind of offensive fire power the Indians had hoped Yasiel Puig would’ve allotted them when they traded for him in July. Castellanos is a sabermetric junkie’s dream, with OPS+ and launch angle galore. He can split time in Right Field because of his plus arm, and in the DH role to keep him in the lineup often. And if he’s backing up Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers in the order; the Indians will have as formidable a 1-4 as anyone in baseball.

Alternatives: Yasiel Puig (OF), Marcell Ozuna (OF), Kole Calhoun (OF)

Important Re-Signings: Jason Kipnis (UTL), Tyler Clippard (RHP)

Chicago White Sox –

The Chicago White Sox have done everything right in their rebuild efforts thus far. They traded their top tier talent for the right prospects, given those prospects the time to learn and grow away from expectations, surrounded them with the right veteran leadership, and only tried to pursue a superstar free agent in the off chance that his youth and contract length would align perfectly with their own talent’s trajectory. For that reason, expect them to pursue Gerrit Cole heavily, and Anthony Rendon to a slightly lesser degree. The chances are slim that either wants to be in Chicago right now, likely wanting to join a team that will return them to the World Series immediately. So it will be imperative that the Chi-Sox look to add to their roster through trade, particularly to get a right fielder who (I can’t emphasize this enough) FITS THEIR TIMELINE. Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners should be the ideal target. The 2018 All-Star was so good in that sophomore season that he took home a 4% stake in the MVP voting, but an injury-riddled 2019 has caused a lot of teams to cool on the 28 year old. Should Chicago pounce early, they can broker a deal centered around their sweet swinging first base prospect, Andrew Vaughn; top farm system names Luis Robert & Michael Kopech should be untouchable, as should Nick Madrigal who’s their likely second baseman this year. Haniger gives the White Sox an immediate middle of the order presence and above average defense at either corner outfield spot, plus he’ll be under team control for another three seasons.

Alternatives: Yasel Puig (OF), Kyle Schwarber (OF/DH), Khris Davis (OF/DH)

Important Re-Signings: Jose Abreu (1B/DH), Juan Minaya (RHP)

Kansas City Royals –

The Kansas City Royals will probably see the last of their 2015 World Series team leave in the next half-year or so. Longtime franchise cornerstone, Alex Gordon, will contemplate retirement this Winter, and if he doesn’t go for that then he’ll likely look to join a contender as a viable fourth outfielder. Salvador Perez is nearly recovered from his early season injury, and will undoubtedly be viewed as a major trade piece by the deadline since he’s set to resume being one of baseball’s premier two-way catchers, and he’s on a very team-friendly deal all things considered. The Royals have some good young talent to build around and a decent farm system, sure to be padded when Salvy finds a new home, but they’re still a ways away from contention. Still a few steps behind the White Sox’s rebuild efforts, this is the time for the Royals to invest in a veteran looking to turn things around, and flip him for more prospects if/when he does. My choice here is Rick Porcello. After a Cy Young campaign in 2016, Porcello saw his numbers deteriorate every year since, his ERA ballooning in 2019 to 5.52. He’s only 30 years old, and probably still has some good years ahead of himself. With better talent on the market set to draw so much more interest, the Royals could get a steal here by signing Porcello to a two-year contract worth nothing. Porcello is bound to want a fresh start after falling completely out of Boston’s rotation by season’s end.

Alternatives: Gio Gonzalez (LHP), Kyle Gibson (RHP), Michael Pineda (RHP)

Important Re-Signings: Brian Flynn (RHP)

Detroit Tigers –

Wow these standings certainly were telling this year. In the AL Central you see the Twins, Indians, White Sox, Royals and then the Tigers. Respectively, the dominant powerhouse, the possible contender, the transitional stage between rebuild and mid-tier, the early stages of a rebuild, and then the Tigers. That in and of itself should be a description of where Detroit has found themselves. The losing-est franchise in the history of professional sports is back to doing what they do best, after a brief stint of contention at the start of this decade. They owe tons of money to post-prime stars, some of whom no longer play for them (i.e. Justin Verlander). They have no big league standouts to champion, nor a top prospect ready to take hold of the reigns. This team is about as barebones as it gets and at this point just need something to kickstart them in any direction. I say go as big as you can, sign Jonathan Schoop to a multi-year deal and let him pace your offense while playing some mediocre second base for you. He’ll probably be your obligatory All-Star for the next couple of seasons. But more importantly, having he and a hopefully healthy Miguel Cabrera in your order will at least provide some protection for young breakout candidates, Jeimer Candelario, Victor Reyes, and Christin Stewart. Then when the contract dwindles down to a year or two you can flip him for some more minor league options. It’s an uninspiring pickup, befitting of an uninspiring team.

Alternatives: Didi Gregorius (SS), Starlin Castro (INF), Billy Hamilton (OF)

Important Re-Signings: Daniel Stumpf (RHP), Matt Moore (LHP)

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