Minnesota Twins AL Central Competitor No.1: Cleveland
This is the team whose needle has moved the most over the last week, but unfortunately for them, it’s heading in the wrong direction. Four-time All-Star and Franchise Cornerstone Francisco Lindor was traded to the New York Mets as Cleveland tries to recoup some value with only one year left on his contract.
It’s clear that Cleveland is trying to save money, especially when you compare the 2021 team to the Cleveland teams that ran the AL Central from 2016-18. In just the last year, they have traded star pitchers Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger, and now Carlos Carrasco, along with Lindor). All-Star hitters like Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana have been cap-based casualties too.
While it’s true that they have still been competitive over the last few years, losing a guy like Lindor is a huge blow to a team looking to still win a lot of baseball games. They are still a pitching factory and will be just fine from the mound, it’s their lineup will suffer.
In 2020, FanGraphs ranked the Cleveland offense at 17th. Even though it wasn’t a career year for Lindor, who had a WAR of 1.9 in 2020, he was still one of their top hitters and leaders of an offense that struggled, especially when he was out of the lineup. In his six year career, Lindor racked up 896 hits, 138 home runs, and has a career OPS of .833, so his presence is huge.
Cleveland isn’t a bad team, but they are a team whose championship window was just slammed shut by the franchise’s ownership. Maybe they still find a way to be competitive in 2021. With the Twins’ window still wide open and the window for the White Sox just opening up though, they find their place as the third best team in the division.
To catch the Twins, they need to pitch lights-out. So lights-out that it can lift up an offense that is really thin outside of Jose Ramirez. Since trading for expensive offense seems unlikely, their only path to competition is Shane Bieber and the rotation carrying this team.