All-decade teams: Picking the ultimate roster for each AL Central franchise
Over the next week, theScore's MLB editors will roll out a series that assembles the best roster for every franchise during the 2010s.
These rosters include nine position players, five starters, two relievers, and a closer. All WAR statistics in tables are only for the player with that franchise since the 2010 campaign, and only performances since that year were considered when building rosters. Players must have spent a minimum of one full season with their club.
We continue with the American League Central:
Chicago White Sox
|OF||Alejandro De Aza||7.7|
The White Sox are one of only four MLB franchises that failed to make the playoffs this decade, and their roster reflects this in a big way. Abreu, the longest-tenured White Sox player by a wide margin, was the only lock on the position-player side. Shortstop was one of two positions that required a difficult choice, as Ramirez edged out 2019 batting champion Tim Anderson based on tenure. The other tough decision was at DH, where tenure and legacy won out for White Sox icon and 2005 world champion Konerko, who did enough down the stretch of his career to secure the spot over Avisail Garcia. It was slim pickings everywhere else - including at second base, where the recently non-tendered Sanchez topped notable draft bust Gordon Beckham.
Starting pitching was one area in which the White Sox excelled this decade. Sale, of course, became one of the premier pitchers of the era on the South Side, but he and Quintana could never get any help around them before being traded. Peavy, a former Cy Young winner, enjoyed a fine run with the White Sox during the middle of his career. Buehrle - another White Sox World Series hero from the previous decade - only spent two years with the team in the 2010s, but he beat out Gavin Floyd (9.4 WAR in parts of four seasons) for the final rotation spot based on superior non-WAR numbers across his shorter time frame. Jones and Thornton were the only White Sox relievers worth more than four wins during the past 10 years.
The Indians have been the class of the division for the decade's latter half, and their all-decade team is quite strong as a result. Santana was Cleveland's WAR leader at both catcher - where he played over 300 games - and first base. But with virtually no competition at first (by FanGraphs' WAR, Russell Branyan was the next-closest Indians first baseman with 1.4 in 52 games) putting him there was an easy call. Cabrera, who had a solid run with Cleveland in the early part of the decade, slides to DH due to a crowded and talented infield. Though not a traditional DH, Cabrera's a better choice for this spot than full-time DHs Travis Hafner (3.7 WAR in three partial, injury-plagued years) and Edwin Encarnacion, who barely cracked the three-win mark in just two years with the club.
Recently traded two-time Cy Young winner Kluber leads the Indians' all-decade staff, and multiple All-Star arms follow him. A surprise addition to the rotation is Masterson, a one-time All-Star and the ace of Cleveland's weaker teams from 2010 to 2014. His inclusion as a starter pushes the emerging Clevinger into the bullpen, a move that speaks to the strength of the Indians' rotations during this decade. Joining Clevinger in the 'pen are Miller, who morphed into a nearly unhittable "super-reliever" during Cleveland's run to the World Series in 2016, and former lights-out closer Allen.
The majority of this Tigers team unsurprisingly consists of stars from the first half of the decade, when Detroit was a postseason regular. Cabrera - who starred at both first and third base - gets the hot corner here by virtue of winning two MVPs and a triple crown while playing the position. That also makes room for Fielder, who gave the Tigers two solid seasons at first base before they dealt him for all-decade second baseman Kinsler. Another tough choice was Peralta at shortstop over defensive star Jose Iglesias, who was one of the few reliable members of the Tigers' mediocre late-decade clubs.
Detroit's position players might have made for some tough choices, but this rotation is as easy as it gets. It's led by Verlander - who won both MVP and a Cy Young with the Tigers and will almost certainly wear their hat into the Hall of Fame - and another Cy Young winner likely headed to Cooperstown in Scherzer. The entire quintet pitched Detroit to its most recent pennant in 2012 and another ALCS appearance in 2013. In true Tigers fashion, the bullpen here is weak and contains some of the only semi-reliable arms from those playoff teams; Valverde earned closing honors based on saves, beating out recent redemption project Shane Greene.
Kansas City Royals
With the exception of Merrifield, every player on this Royals team helped the club win one or both of the 2014 AL pennant and 2015 World Series. That Merrifield cracked this roster without winning either is a testament to his great play on some truly bad teams. The only real question mark from a position-player standpoint was the third outfield spot: The speedy Dyson - one of just four Royals outfielders, including Merrifield, with at least 10 WAR this decade - won out over Jorge Soler and Melky Cabrera.
Herrera, Davis, and Holland are reunited in the Royals' all-decade bullpen. This three-headed monster was a force for Kansas City's mid-decade playoff teams, essentially locking down most games it entered after the sixth inning. The rotation isn't the division's strongest, but it still contains champions and important postseason players - including Ventura, who was on track for stardom before his tragic death in 2017. Also of note is former first overall pick Hochevar, who didn't reach his potential as a starter but morphed into a vital cog of the Royals' championship bullpen late in his career.
Mauer played far more games at first base during this decade, but he still faced relatively little competition at catcher, with only Mitch Garver, across a much smaller sample size, coming close. Add in the legacy factor - Mauer is one of the greatest catchers in history - and putting him behind the plate is a no-brainer. That also opens first base for Morneau, another easy call due to a lack of competition at his position (save for Mauer). Morneau won the AL MVP in 2006 and suffered a career-altering concussion during the 2010 season, but he still gave the Twins a couple of solid years at the start of this decade. Escobar led the Twins in WAR as both a shortstop and third baseman in this decade and gets the call at third to make room for Polanco. Sano's prowess as a slugger and lack of a natural home in the field make him a perfect fit at DH.
The post-Johan Santana era hasn't been kind to Twins starters. Hughes gave Minnesota one fantastic campaign in 2014, setting the all-time single-season record for strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ervin Santana's Twins tenure was disappointing after he was suspended for steroid use mere months after signing a $54-million deal in 2015, but he did rebound to make an All-Star team later. Choosing Odorizzi and his recent two-year run over Francisco Liriano - who posted similar numbers across a similar time frame - was the hardest call. Perkins, one of two Minnesota natives on the Twins' all-decade squad, was quietly one of baseball's best relievers during the middle of the decade before injuries took their toll.