Offseason team needs: AL Central

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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.

AL EAST I NL EAST I AL CENTRAL I NL CENTRAL I AL WEST I NL WEST

*Player ages for 2021 season

Chicago White Sox

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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

Projected Lineup

Order Player Pos Age
1 Tim Anderson SS 27
2 Nick Madrigal 2B 24
3 Yasmani Grandal C 32
4 Jose Abreu 1B 34
5 Eloy Jimenez DH 24
6 Yoan Moncada 3B 26
7 Luis Robert CF 23
8 Nomar Mazara RF 26
9 Adam Engel LF 29

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.

Projected Rotation

ROLE PITCHER THROWS AGE
1 Lucas Giolito R 26
2 Dallas Keuchel L 33
3 Dane Dunning R 26
4 Dylan Cease R 25
5 Carlos Rodon L 28

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.

Cleveland Indians

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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

Projected Lineup

Order Player Pos Age
1 Francisco Lindor SS 27
2 Josh Naylor LF 23
3 Jose Ramirez 3B 28
4 Franmil Reyes DH 25
5 Tyler Naquin RF 30
6 Roberto Perez C 32
7 Jake Bauers 1B 25
8 Yu Chang 2B 25
9 Delino DeShields Jr. CF 28

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.

Projected Rotation

ROLE PITCHER THROWS AGE
1 Shane Bieber R 26
2 Carlos Carrasco R 34
3 Zach Plesac R 26
4 Aaron Civale R 26
5 Triston McKenzie R 23

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.

Detroit Tigers

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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

Projected Lineup

Order Player Pos Age
1 Victor Reyes RF 26
2 Willi Castro 2B 24
3 Miguel Cabrera DH 38
4 Jeimer Candelario 1B 27
5 JaCoby Jones CF 29
6 Niko Goodrum 2B 29
7 Christin Stewart LF 27
8 Grayson Greiner C 28
9 Harold Castro 3B 27

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.

Projected Rotation

ROLE PITCHER THROWS AGE
1 Matthew Boyd L 30
2 Spencer Turnbull R 28
3 Michael Fulmer R 28
4 Terik Skubal L 24
5 Casey Mize R 24

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

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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

Projected Lineup

Order Player Pos Age
1 Whit Merrifield RF 32
2 Adalberto Mondesi SS 25
3 Salvador Perez C 31
4 Jorge Soler DH 29
5 Maikel Franco 3B 28
6 Franchy Cordero CF 26
7 Hunter Dozier LF 29
8 Ryan O'Hearn 1B 27
9 Nicky Lopez 2B 26

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.

Projected Rotation

ROLE PITCHER THROWS AGE
1 Danny Duffy L 32
2 Brad Keller R 25
3 Kris Bubic L 23
4 Brady Singer R 24
5 Jake Junis R 28

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.

Minnesota Twins

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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

Projected Lineup

Order Player Pos Age
1 Max Kepler RF 28
2 Luis Arraez 2B 24
3 Josh Donaldson 3B 35
4 Eddie Rosario LF 29
5 Miguel Sano 1B 28
6 Byron Buxton CF 27
7 Jorge Polanco SS 27
8 Alex Kirilloff DH 23
9 Ryan Jeffers C 24

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.

Projected Rotation

ROLE PITCHER THROWS AGE
1 Kenta Maeda R 33
2 Jose Berrios R 24
3 Michael Pineda R 32
4 Randy Dobnak R 26
5 Devin Smeltzer L 25

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.

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Offseason team needs: AL Central
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