Royals And Tigers Give Twins, AL Central A Gift
The Minnesota Twins are coming off of a fourth straight season in which they found themselves losers of more than 90 games. After four years of futility, it finally appears that the Twins have in fact positioned themselves to turn things around. The best part of the equation may be the fact that the division appears to be helping them out as well. This offseason, both the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers have provided the Twins and AL Central nothing short of a gift.
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After coming up just short in the World Series a season ago, the Kansas City Royals headed into the offseason looking to make a run back to the playoffs in 2015. To do so, they were going to need to key on many of the same principles that got them there: timely hitting, solid pitching, defense, and speed. To say that the Royals missed the mark in the offseason may not be fair, but they certainly didn’t go down swinging.
Kansas City lost Nori Aoki, James Shields, and Billy Butler this offseason. In response, they went out and added Alex Rios, Edinson Volquez, and Kendrys Morales. Aoki was a key defender for the Royals a year ago, and while Rios may provide more offensive upside, he’s an aging commodity that may throw off what was one of the best outfields in baseball. After being a Royal for his entire career, Butler stepped away in what was one of his worst seasons as a pro. Kansas City responded by adding Morales, who was an absolute train wreck in 2014 (something they witnessed first hand while he *played for the Twins). The biggest miss however, comes on the mound.
All indications appear that Shields is heading for warmer weather in San Diego. Whether he signs there or not is yet to be made official, but it is certain that the Royals have no desire to bring the man they called “Big Game” back to The K. In the playoffs last season, James was anything but big. That being said, without him the Royals don’t get to that point. After making a surprise run to baseball’s biggest spectacle, Kansas City sat on its laurels and acted as everything was all good. Now turning the rotation over to Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, while hoping the bullpen is just as elite, the Royals could be looking at the demise of their own doing.
On a similar note, the Detroit Tigers found themselves wondering what happened this offseason. Sure, they were the best in the AL Central in 2014, and they should still be near the top this season, but the expectations admittedly must be lower. After watching Anibal Sanchez struggle with injury, and Justin Verlander look like a shell of himself, the Tigers believed that Max Scherzer was expendable. Without a doubt Detroit shouldn’t have paid Scherzer what he got (enjoy that terrible contract Washington), but to act as if he was unnecessary was a fool’s tale.
In 2015, Detroit with be relying on a rotation that lost both Scherzer and Rick Porcello, two of their best assets of a season ago. Pitching wins games, and for a team that has none of it on the back-end (Twins fans are still enjoying Joe Nathan as the Tigers closer), the Tigers now have even less on the front end. Looking to build a team that would finally meet expectations, the Tigers plan appears to just be lowering their own goals.
The Minnesota Twins and AL Central (well, the White Sox and Indians), have to be drooling at the opportunity to avenge their positioning in the standings of a year ago. There is no doubt that the teams at the top took a step back, and now it’s time to shake things up. With the Twins having the benefit of the lowest expectations of the group, a run for relevance should be low pressure, and something that would appear immediately achievable.
Time to sort it out on the diamond in 2015…
Next: 2015 AL Central Standings Predictions
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