Thursday, December 23, 2010

BD Hot Stove: AL Central Dunn? | Baseball Digest

BD Hot Stove: AL Central Dunn? | Baseball Digest

The AL Central is often overlooked when discussing pennant contenders. They don’t have the powerhouse teams of the AL East or the standout LA Angels in the AL West. But they do have teams that are well structured and don’t usually have a runaway winner. Such was the case last year when the Chicago White Sox spent 27 days in first place and stayed on the Minnesota Twins’ heels for most of the season. Ultimately the Twins, the most consistent of all the central teams, won out. It should be a competitive division again based on the moves made so far in this off-season.

The name’s Williams. Kenny Williams: The White Sox GM is one smooth cat. Never afraid to make a bold move, to spend some money, or to ring up another GM on his Walther PPK, er Blackberry. When the White Sox started to fade last season, Williams swung a deal to bring in starter Edwin Jackson from Arizona, obstensibly to use him as bait to land Adam Dunn in a three team trade. The deal didn’t work out, but now Chicago has Jackson for the 2011 season and signed Dunn to a four year free agent contracT. Williams also brought back free agents/fan favorites Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynksi, and signed reliever Jesse Crain away from the Twins. Crain is part of a bullpen re-tooling that Williams undertook as soon as he cut ties with closer Bobby Jenks. Set up man J.J. Putz signed with Arizona and Williams dealt Scott Linebrink to Atlanta.

They Talk Alike, They Walk Alike: Speaking of the aforementioned Twins, they’ve done what they do best. Make quite moves with an occassional splash. Carl Pavano regained his manhood in the Twin Cities and Minny would like to have him back. But the former “American Idle” is playing the free agent game and anything can happen. Minnesota has high hopes for Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka to be their every day shortstop for the next three years. To make room for him, the Twins spun J.J. Hardy and utility man Brendan Harris to the Orioles for hard throwing reliever Jim Hoey as well as another bullpen prospect in Brett Jacobson. Alexi Casilla will likely take over 2nd base with Orlando Hudson departing for San Diego. The Twins suffered blows to the bullpen when Crain left for Chi-town and their best set up man, Matt Guerrier, departed for a three year deal with the Dodgers. Set up man/part-time closer Jon Rauch will also leave via free agency.

Tiger Town: The Tigers have had some interesting decisions to make as they blend veterans like Magglio Ordonez and youngsters such as Austin Jackson together. Many people were surprised when GM Dave Dombrowski brought the soon to be 34-yr old Ordonez back. He did sever ties with Johnny Damon however, and made two big free agent splashes. One of the first signings of the winter was the solid bat of catcher Victor Martinez, who’ll primarily serve as DH. Dombrowski also inked standout reliever Joaquin Benoit to set up for Jose Valverde. The Tigers retained the left side of their infield in 3rd baseman Brandon Inge and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, while catcher Gerald Laird left for St. Louis.

Cleveland Rocks?: Not so much, at least not this winter. The biggest name the Tribe have brought in this off-season is Austin Kearns, who they dealt to the Yankees at the trade deadline. Signing infielders Adam Everett and Drew Sutton doesn’t make fans run to the box office or feel the urge to buy season tickets. The Indians have also been fielding calls on their best starter, Fausto Carmona.

Royals Blue: The fans in KC haven’t had much to cheer about for quite some time, but KC does have a lot of good young players Unfortunately, one of them was dealt away. KC took Zack Greinke up on his request for a trade and sent him to Milwaukee for four prospects. On paper, the deal doesn’t look great for KC, but outfielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar will get a chance to make an immediate impact. The Royals also signed veteran outfielders Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera to help fill the void left when David DeJesus was traded to Oakland. Vin Mazzaro, acquired in that deal, will get a chance to compete for a spot in the lackluster rotation.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Brian Cashman downplayed reports that the Yankees were taking a look at their former left fielder Johnny Damon, calling it nothing more than normal free agent exploration.

The Pirates signed Garrett Atkins, who flopped the with the Orioles in ’10, to a minor league deal.

The Padres are turning some attention to free agent Brad Hawpe, who split last season with Colorada and Tampa Bay. The Pads are also reportedly interested in lefty slugger Russell Branyan.

The Angels and Reds are both eyeing speedy Scott Podsednik as part of an outfield platoon.

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