This is the third in an 8-part series on the offseason options of the Atlanta Braves. The schedule will be as follows (after some issues getting posted last week – sorry on that!):
Monday, November 4: Free Agents
Tuesday, November 5: AL East trade options
Monday, November 11 PM: AL Central trade options
Tuesday, November 12 AM: AL West trade options
Tuesday, November 12 PM: NL East trade options
Wednesday, November 13 AM: NL Central trade options
Wednesday, November 13 PM: NL West trade options
Thursday, November 14: “Best” options for the Braves in the 2013-2014 offseason
Today, we will explore the teams in the AL Central and how they fit with the Braves as trade partners this offseason:
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox had a huge drop off from 2012 to 2013 as their lineup of “three true outcome” type of hitters all seemed to hit their age point at the same time. The toughest part is that the White Sox hit a time of rebuilding with what was rated the worst farm system in the game. They are still cleaning house and working toward a rebuild that could be quick, or with the money saved, they could rebuild through free agency quite quickly. The White Sox were taking offers for Alexei Ramirez midseason and likely will listen again to anyone who will make a competitive offer, and they’re likely to sell off much of their major contracts.
What can they trade with the Braves: The White Sox have stated that they’re listening on everyone, which could possibly include their young ace starter Chris Sale. He would be a great get for the Braves, but the major issue would be the price. If the White Sox are truly listening on Sale, it will likely take a major offer to move them to the point of making the deal. Something along the lines of Julio Teheran/Mike Minor, Evan Gattis, Lucas Sims, and Jose Peraza would likely be required just to get to the table, and that price is just way too much for one pitcher.
Cleveland surprised many who weren’t paying attention with their rise last year, and they did it with a number of wise moves (and even with one that didn’t quite pan out as hoped). The Indians ended up in the play-in game of the playoffs, which is a tremendous improvement for a team that lost 94 games in 2012. Some of those offseason moves weren’t very “under the radar”, like signing Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn or trading away Shin-Soo Choo in a blockbuster trade that landed prized young pitcher Trevor Bauer in the Indians system. The big offseason move that did catch headlines and proved to be well-earned attention was the hiring of Terry Francona as the manager of the team. In his first season at the helm, he led the Indians to the playoffs and is up for the manager of the year award to be announced this week.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Indians have done an excellent job of building a system akin to the Braves where their minor leaguers aren’t exactly headline-grabbing guys, but they fit into the system in their organization very well. That said, the Indians are losing a significant amount of their rotation with Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir free agents this offseason. They may have some interest in the Braves depth of pitching, but their team doesn’t seem to present a lot of options for the Braves. Their middle infielders have both been rumored as available this offseason in the right deal, and if the Braves could acquire either Asdrubal Cabrera or Jason Kipnis to man second base, they could be looking at a tremendous improvement offensively and defensively, however, the price is likely to be very, very high to acquire Kipnis and Cabrera is only signed for one more year before he is a free agent.
The Tigers seemingly cruised to yet another AL Central divisional title (even though they beat out Cleveland by a mere one game), and while their studs in the middle of the lineup produced plenty fine, their horse in the rotation stumbled. With excellent finances comes the ability to have backup plans, however, as the Tigers going into the season had one of the deepest rotations in baseball, and Max Scherzer will likely walk away with the AL Cy Young for his 2013 efforts while teammate Anibal Sanchez won the ERA title this year. The Tigers will be a team in transition somewhat next season as manager Jim Leyland, a player favorite, retired after the 2013 season, and first-time manager Brad Ausmus will take over for the Tigers. Ausmus has a great reputation in the game, and many have compared his likely impact as a manager to fellow 90s-era catcher Mike Matheny. One of the first items on the Tigers’ plate this offseason is ensuring the health of superstar Miguel Cabrera. The team got nearly perfect pitching from their rotation, but with Cabrera hobbled, the lineup simply couldn’t score enough to push the team forward.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Tigers could be one team that would line up to give the Braves the ace they want, but it would be at a high cost. After two seasons of struggles with their bullpen in the postseason, Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski has stated that a shutdown guy at the back of the bullpen is a priority. The Braves have the best one in the game with a number of arms available who could fill in (nowhere near as well, mind you), and the Tigers are reportedly shopping Scherzer after a great season as he enters his last arbitration season. There would most likely be pieces added to each side, but a deal centered around Scherzer and Craig Kimbrel could be one that we hear rumored at some point this offseason.
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City made arguably the biggest trade of the offseason in order to compete in 2013, and it worked – to some degree. The Royals finished with 86 wins and were in the hunt for a playoff spot into the end of the season, which is better than the Royals could say since 1989. The team traded away high-end prospect Wil Myers, regarded in the top 5 prospects in all of baseball, among many other young pieces for the ace they needed at the top of their rotation in James Shields. They also traded a low-level prospect for Ervin Santana, who had a tremendous season behind Shields in the rotation. Jeremy Guthrie, acquired in a midseason 2012 deal, provided the Royals with 211 innings. The Royals also possess one of the most electric bullpens in all of baseball, headlined by closer Greg Holland. That said, the Royals hitting prospects, which were the key to them being rated as one of the best farm systems in baseball for a number of seasons running, haven’t produced quite as expected at the major leagues yet. Eric Hosmer took a big step forward in the second half of 2013, but Mike Moustakas has yet to take that similar step. Alex Gordon required a number of seasons and a position change before he also took that step forward, so it could just be a matter of time, or it may be a sign that the Royals need to simply do an Astros-style blow up of the team and start over. Seeing as the team has many of their current pieces for only one more season, indicates that they will likely hold things together for 2014 and then we may see a fire sale after then, possibly with a new GM.
What can they trade with the Braves: The Royals have been very good trade partners over the years, and with that, they could be a huge asset come July. At that point, if the Braves do not make a run at an “ace” this season and the Royals are out of the playoff picture, James Shields very well could be put on the market, and the Braves have the young arms the Royals would want in return. Until midseason, however, it is unlikely the Royals will move any assets of interest to the Braves.
291. The Twins have lost 291 games in the last three years. That is three out of the first four seasons in their new stadium, Target Field. The Twins will likely lose another 90+ again in 2014 as the All-Star game makes an appearance in the ballpark. Their major league roster is simply bad. Their roster, talent-wise, is comparable to the Marlins, who lost 100 games. The Twins are Joe Mauer, who is moving to 1B in 2014, a broken-down Josh Willingham, and a lot of young, inconsistent bats on offense. I love their minor league system (who wouldn’t?!), but even the closest bats in the system are likely 2014 September call-ups at the soonest.
What can they trade with the Braves: So this could be an intriguing trade match up. The Twins have Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario, who both provide above-average offense at 2B. Rosario may be a mid-2014 call-up, but he’ll provide plus power for the position once he arrives. The other big name to consider in Minnesota is Glen Perkins. It would take a tremendous amount to trade for him, but if the Braves decide not to compete with the free agent market to get lefty arms, Perkins is an amazing value, with a contract that pays him $7.5M over the next two seasons with a $4.5M 2016 option. That’s incredible value for a pitcher who has shown to be a tremendous reliever in the last couple of seasons. He would also allow the Braves to possibly consider a move of Kimbrel for an ace pitcher or high-end 2B hitter if that move was out there.
Unlike the AL East, the AL Central does present some very intriguing trade options to consider. Comment with any other trade ideas from the division that you see!