Offseason team needs: AL Central
Welcome to theScore's MLB offseason team needs, where we'll break down every club's roster and key free agents, along with how holes could be filled in free agency. Up next is the American League Central.
*Player ages for 2021 season
Chicago White Sox
2020 Record: 35-25 (Tied for 2nd in AL Central)
Projected 2021 payroll: $137.78M
Key free agents: Alex Colome, Jarrod Dyson, Edwin Encarnacion, Gio Gonzalez, James McCann
Needs: Corner outfield, bullpen
The White Sox fielded a lethal lineup in 2020. Led by electric shortstop Anderson, AL MVP Abreu, and star-in-the-making Robert, this is a unit that's young, deep, and hasn't even reached its ceiling. There are some weaknesses at the bottom of the order and the corner outfield spots, which general manager Rick Hahn should be working hard to improve. Small tweaks aside, this is a lineup that can already carry the White Sox deep into October.
Giolito and Keuchel headline a solid rotation, and Dunning should only grow as the team's No. 3 starter after his solid debut this past summer. It's the back end of the rotation that appears troubling. Reynaldo Lopez took a major step back in 2020, and the Gonzalez experiment didn't work out. Rotation depth should be a priority this winter, and the bullpen could also use some additions.
2020 Record: 35-25 (Tied for 2nd in AL Central)
Projected 2021 payroll: $84.725M
Key free agents: Brad Hand, Cesar Hernandez, Sandy Leon, Oliver Perez, Carlos Santana
Needs: Bullpen, first base, middle infield, outfield
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The Indians still have Lindor ... for now. It's a near foregone conclusion that he'll be traded before Opening Day, and his departure will hamper Cleveland's chances considerably and leave a massive hole to fill. As a result, it appears the 2021 Indians will field a younger lineup with several new faces. Cleveland can improve at first base and corner outfield, and there are opportunities to do that if the team opens up its wallet.
Starting pitching will make or break Cleveland's chances in 2021. Bieber is a certified ace following a brilliant Cy Young-winning season; he's followed by Carrasco and two excellent young pitchers in Plesac and McKenzie. If the staff performs to its potential, it could cover up some offensive deficiencies. However, adding some relievers is a must after Cleveland lost All-Star closer Hand in a cost-cutting move.
2020 Record: 23-35 (5th in AL Central)
Projected 2021 payroll: $81.65M
Key free agents: C.J. Cron, Ivan Nova, Austin Romine, Jonathan Schoop, Jordan Zimmermann
Needs: Third base, catcher, pitching
Don't look now, but the makings of a solid offensive core may be in place. Candelario and Castro are coming off excellent seasons and should only build on that. Improvements can still be made, particularly at third base and catcher. The Tigers aren't ready to start buying at the top of the free-agent pool just yet, but a veteran backstop like James McCann would be a good addition to this growing club. Another outfielder wouldn't hurt, either.
The future has clearly arrived on the pitching side of things, with 2018 first overall pick Mize and fellow top prospect Skubal opening the season in the rotation. It's also a case of addition by subtraction, as Zimmermann's contract is finally off the books. This would be a good winter for the Tigers to add at least one solid mid-rotation arm such as Taijuan Walker - who they've been reportedly linked to - on a reasonable contract.
Kansas City Royals
2020 Record: 26-34 (4th in AL Central)
Projected 2021 payroll: $80.2M
Key free agents: Alex Gordon, Matt Harvey, Greg Holland, Ian Kennedy, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Montgomery
Needs: Outfield, first base, second base, pitching
There are many holes to fill on this rebuilding club, and there's room for improvement at a variety of positions. Former AL home run champ Soler could be a non-tender candidate, and it might be time for Dayton Moore to at least listen to offers on Merrifield, one of the few real trade assets. The most glaring of all the holes is likely at first base, as even a marginal upgrade on O'Hearn would do wonders next year.
Duffy is the one veteran in this young rotation, and his continued presence provides some leadership. Singer showed flashes of brilliance in 2020, and Keller has gone from a Rule 5 pick to solid member of this staff. But that's not nearly enough, even when considering the rebuilding Royals' low bar. More arms in both the rotation and bullpen are needed. Even if they're just veterans who are flipped at the deadline, the depth itself would be a win.
2020 Record: 36-24 (1st in AL Central)
Projected 2021 payroll: $116.87M
Key free agents: Ehire Adrianza, Alex Avila, Tyler Clippard, Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Rich Hill, Trevor May, Jake Odorizzi, Sergio Romo
Needs: Left field, DH, rotation depth, bullpen
Even at the age of 40, Cruz's power will be sorely missed if another team nabs him. One possible option for the Twins could be to add a first baseman and shift Sano to DH full time. Adding another corner outfielder would be nice, along with some infield depth behind Donaldson and his creaky calf. If Mitch Garver can return to form, the Twins' potent lineup will be that much more lethal.
Maeda was everything the Twins hoped he'd be, and he's now firmly entrenched as the staff ace. Some additional depth would be welcomed, especially with Odorizzi likely headed elsewhere in free agency. In the bullpen, Minnesota could use some upgrades to help closer Taylor Rogers, who struggled a bit last year. Re-signing Romo or finding some more veteran relief arms should be a priority for the front office.