Baseball

Tigers (AL Central) Spotlight: Into The Swirling Mists of the Future

Seeing as this is my last spotlight of the season, and it happens to be a meaningless series for both teams (with the notable exception of Tim Anderson) and most likely for both fan bases I thought I’d eschew the normal spotlight (and honestly, who am I gonna spotlight for the Tigers? The bullpen catcher?) and instead peer into the murky future of the American League central division for the year 2020.

Granted this is only a quick glance, as this season is not complete yet and there’s still free agency to go, but we can get a blurry picture of what will stand in between the last year (hopefully) of the White Sox rebuild and the promised land of MLB post season play. I’ll also leave the Sox out of this as I still want to have something to write about later on other than how amazing Jimmy Garoppolo and the undefeated 49ers are playing (I kid) (sort of).

 

DETROIT TIGERS:

How’d They Do This Season?

Not wanting to keep anyone in suspense, the Tigers decided it would be best if they locked up the first overall pick in next June’s entry draft a full week before the season ended. In addition, they’re almost a lock to win less than 50 games for the second time in team history since the league expanded the schedule to 162 games back in 1961. The team run differential is currently a hilarious -320, with the next closest team being Baltimore at a sparkling -259. Essentially if tanking a baseball season were an art the Tigers would be Picasso, Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gough rolled into one.

What’s Their Shopping List?

Much as the night is darkest just before the dawn (thanks, Harvey Dent), the Tigers just need to push through this rebuild to the other side. Seeing as though GM Al Avila has already traded away anything that wasn’t nailed down, their shopping list should just read as “parts.” They should be looking to sign the type of players the Sox have the past few seasons. Reclamation projects on 1 year deals that can be flipped at the deadline for anything of value. Aging veterans on the downside of their career looking for bounce back deals. If the Tigers could find 3 or 4 guys like Nick Markakis or Charlie Morton they’d be good to go.

What’s Their Prognosis?

DOA.

Unless the Tigers completely abandon their current rebuild and throw all the money at free agents in the off-season this team is destined to lose another 100 games next year. Some help may be on the way from AAA as the Tigers are pretty loaded with pitching prospects, but offensively they are going to continue to be offensive.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS:

How’d They Do This Season?

The Royals are about a year ahead of the Tigers in their rebuild, as they’re gonna end up in almost the exact same place they were this time last year. 2018 saw them winning 58 games total, and that’s where they sit right now as of this article being penned. So what do they get for losing 100+ games back to back years? Odds are it’s the #4 overall pick in the draft, as they just aren’t as shitty as the Tigers, Orioles or the Marlins. They just don’t have the tank game down pat like Detroit does, as they’ve actually managed to win double digit games in September. In happier news, manager Ned Yost decided he was going to hang up his clown shoes and head off into the sunset as he announced his retirement a few days ago. Good riddance, asshat. You won’t be missed.

What’s Their Shopping List?

The Royals are an interesting case here, and kind of a wild card. With the team about to be sold by penny-pinching skinflint David Glass it’s not totally clear what path the new ownership wants to chart through the muddy waters of their rebuild. The Royals have some good pieces on this team offensively, with Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier all above 2 WAR in production. The pitching staff is a wasteland of guys like Danny Duffy, and the team overall is 24th in the league in pitching. So unless the new ownership wants to go and sign both Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler odds are the Royals should probably do what Rick Hahn did this season and look to guys like Ivan Nova to fill out the holes.

What’s Their Prognosis?

On life support.

If the new ownership goes bananas and buys up all the shiny new pitchers in sight and nobody regresses on the offense and you squint really hard then potentially this team could compete in 2020 for maybe a wild card? Odds are they take a step forward and only lose about 95 games next year. Their window is 2021 more likely.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

How’d They Do This Season?

Good, but just maybe (hopefully) not good enough. As of writing this, the Indians are a game and a half back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the 2nd wild card spot in the American League. As usual, the Tribe sit in the top 5 of the league in pitching thanks to lusciously locked Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber and a solid bullpen. Offensively the team is a solid +135 in run differential despite the year long struggles of Jose Ramirez.  They swung an interesting deal at the deadline, sending Twitter Edgelord Trevor Bauer to the Reds and recieving Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes in return to shore up a barren outfield. Was it enough? Doesn’t look like it.

What’s Their Shopping List?

A lot of what Cleveland does this off-season depends on what they think of Francisco Lindor and his contract. If they want to extend him this, this is the off-season where it will happen. If he’s not amenable to a new deal, then I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Tribe shopping him and Cory Kluber at the winter meetings in December. Those two could bring the type of MLB ready pieces that could keep this team at or near the top of the AL Central division for a few years to come. If they don’t shop either of those two, they’re still one bat short in the outfield, but as they’re a fairly thrifty team don’t expect them to be in on anything above the Adam Eaton level.

What’s Their Prognosis?

Stable

The Indians have been a model franchise along with the Oakland A’s for keeping payroll down and competitiveness up. They aren’t afraid to move players who are going to price themselves out of the Indian’s budget and GM Mike Chernoff has done a pretty solid job of getting a good return on those pieces. I would expect the Tribe to compete for the AL Central crown next season, especially if the horseshoe that currently resides in the ass of the Twins offense falls back to earth. Can they compete with the likes of the Astros and Yankees? No, but for a team like Cleveland that’s not the goal.

MINNESOTA TWINS

How’d They Do This Season?

God I hate this fucking team. Somehow they managed to lead the league in slugging for about 95% of the season before a late tear by the juggernaut offense of the Astros went by them. They still ended up 4th in the league for hitting, 3rd in the AL. They also won the AL central by a fair margin, and will most likely be facing the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs before being dusted like half the planet when Thanos snapped his fingers.

What’s Their Shopping List?

The same thing it is for the Twins every off-season, pitching. Not since the days of Johan Santana and Joe Nathan have the Twins been able to produce pitchers worth 4+ WAR. This season looks to be the one when Jose Berrios finally took that step forward and became the ace they were hoping him to be, even though he’s been beaten like a drum since the calendar flipped to August. Jake Odorizzi will probably end up a 4 WAR pitcher, but as he’s a free agent he’s likely gone. Brusdar Graterol might be the next one to grab the reigns but he’s only started 3 games so far and is largely untested. Michael Pineda was solid most of the year until he got busted for a banned substance. So while the Twins should probably be throwing bags of money at Garret Cole, they’ll most likely end up with someone like Brett Anderson or Tanner Roark.

What’s Their Prognosis?

Good (sadly)

Despite half their rotation most likely gone via free agency next season (Odorizzi, Gibson) or suspended (Pineda), the Twins are set to be annoyingly good for years to come. Their offense is young and powerful, and most importantly for them, under team control for the foreseeable future. Perhaps this is the off-season where the Twins spend the money to buy themselves another ace, or the perhaps swing a deal for one involving their 2 prized offensive prospects Alex Kirillof or Royce Lewis. If that were to happen this team could become a monster with legitimate world series aspirations. Either way they have enough offense to keep them involved in the playoff picture for the time being, making the Twins the most likely challenger for the White Sox if they want to own the AL Central from 2020 on out.

 

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