The White Sox aren't really allowed to have much of an off-season this year.
Presumably the 2011 off-season was traded in return for a veteran rebound candidate at an earlier date, and presumably Gio Gonzalez was thrown in to sweeten the pot a bit. So instead, we're left to observe the activities of AL Central rivals and contemplate how much doom they portend for our beloved franchise, which may or may not be on the verge of a name change to "Brent Superstar & Lillibretts." (I'm very sleepy)
The four other AL Central clubs (Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit) are well-known, because they are all that stands between the White Sox and annual playoff appearances. And those interfering jerks have been busy.
After getting surprisingly effective years from veteran cast-off outfielders Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera in 2011, the Royals leaped out to re-sign Francouer, but not the Melk Man.
Well, Monday they traded him to San Francisco for starter Jonathan Sanchez and minor-league pitcher Ryan Verdugo. So that explains that.
Cabrera is coming off a career-season (.349 wOBA), while Sanchez boasts a gaudy strikeout rate (9.36 K/9 for his career), but both of them have assembled otherwise thoroughly middling careers in 5+ years of service time.
Still, it's hard to see this move as anything but smart for KC. Cabrera wasn't particularly vital to the Royals, as they can immediately slide Lorenzo Cain into center and get guaranteed better defense even if his contact-oriented offense doesn't translate. Their minor league system remains strong in outfielders while their rotation is still a dollop of vanilla ice cream that's been dropped on the floor.
Sanchez is a league-averagish starter, and not even durable league-averagish, but he's being bought low while Cabrera is being sold high, and there's a minor-leaguer thrown in to boot.
If Royals GM Dayton Moore is going to start being competent at major league roster-building too, that could be a problem.
Speaking of GM competence, the Twins fired Bill Smith in the wake of their worst season in 20 years that could be directly tied to a lot of injuries, and few really, really shaky deals Smith made.
Smith was the steward to multiple division-winning teams since taking over in '07, but his larger moves (Garza for Young, Ramos for Capps) embraced immediate need over proper foresight of future value.
This is not the Theo Epstein deal, or any kind of referendum on the way the Twins' organization does business at all. They even brought back former GM Terry Ryan to serve on an interim basis and keep the ship afloat while a non-slapdash and awful candidate search is launched.
In his press conference, Ryan set the 2012 payroll as likely around $100 million. That makes it considerably less likely they stretch out to re-sign Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, or Matt Capps. That's just as well, seeing as they shouldn't do that.
There goes that 'competent GM' theme cropping up again. It's not like Kenny Williams needs to battle against morons to be successful, but...every bit helps, you know? Every bit helps.
The Indians are similar to the White Sox in that their off-season figures to be limited to small moves. Their dis-similar in a bunch of other ways, but those aren't the focus right now.
First, they acquired starter Derek Lowe for practically nothing. Lowe is 38 years old and posted a 5.05 ERA, which is partly why he was available for a single-A reliever. However, he did throw 187 innings with that crummy ERA with solid peripherals. The Indians have some rotation spots to eat up and Derek looks hungry.
Second, they picked up Fausto Carmona's $7 million option for 2012. Fausto is also not particularly great, but is durably not-great (learn a thing or two, Sanchez!). He's thrown 399 innings in the past two seasons, and his predilection for eating things is widely trumpeted.
Third, they declined the $9 million option for Grady Sizemore, deciding that if their local nightmare of his rapidly fallen star is going to continue, it needs to be cheaper. Of course, he's probably a more attractive buy-low candidate to other teams that haven't been watching him fall to pieces the last three years.
The Tigers won the division last season walking away, and still have Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, so maybe they don't need to do anything.
How appropriate! They haven't done much!
Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen have both pledged to return to baseball after disappointing, injury-filled seasons in their late 30's, but the Tigers are unlikely to bring either back because they're both in their late 30's and had disappointing, injury-filled seasons in 2011.
Detroit did however pick up Jose Valverde's $9 million option. That's kind of a heinous overpay for a reliever, and is more than a kinda heinous overpay for a reliever with a 4.01 xFIP.
When you convert 49 of 49 save chances, headline of bullpen that probably still needs to be rebuilt as is, and charm the region with your spastic dancing, you get rewarded. I guess.
I suppose I don't take FIP as gospel enough to deride a closer that pretty much every team in the league would retain in the same scenario.
In none of these instances could one argue that these teams made themselves actively worse, which is disappointing for now.
But the Royals mortgaging their future inexplicably, the Twins trading their Triple-A roster for a pitch-to-contact reliever, Detroit giving a 7-year extension to Brandon Inge, or something horrifically tragic happening to the city of Cleveland, it's all just a breath away.
Tags: AL Central, baseball, bill smith, Brent Lillibridge, carlos guillen, Cleveland Indians, dayton moore, Delmon Young, derek lowe, Detroit Tigers, fausto carmona, grady sizemore, jason kubel, jeff francouer, jonathan sanchez, jose valverde, Justin Verlander, Kansas City Royals, Kenny Williams, lorenzo cain, magglio ordonez, matt capps, matt garza, Melky Cabrera, michael cuddyer, miguel cabrera, Minnesota Twins, ryan verdugo, terry ryan, White Sox, wilson ramos