AL Central Hot Stove forecast: Tigers have cash to catch Twins
The Minnesota Twins would be wise to re-sign second baseman Orlando Hudson
Detroit Tigers have roughly $60 million coming off their books this offseason
The Indians are trying to avoid falling into the same hole the Royals have been in
This week, SI.com will analyze the offseason plans for the teams in each of MLB's six divisions. Teams are listed by 2010 order of finish.
2010 Results: 94-68, first place in AL Central, lost ALDS to Yankees
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed: 781/671
Pythagorean Record: 92-70
Free Agents: 2B Orlando Hudson, DH Jim Thome, IF Nick Punto (option declined), SP Carl Pavano, RP Brian Fuentes, RP Jon Rauch, RP Matt Guerrier, RP Jesse Crain, RP Ron Mahay, RP Randy Flores
Prospects on the Verge: RP Anthony Slama, RP Rob Delaney, SP Kyle Gibson, SP David Bromberg, RP Carlos Gutierrez
Building For: A postseason series win
Strengths: Mauer, Morneau, and Francisco Liriano
Biggest Holes: Second base, bullpen
Targets: Hudson, Rauch, Pavano, SP Vicente Padilla
Assuming Justin Morneau is fully recovered from his post-concussion symptoms, and he believed he was close during the playoffs, the Twins can push Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, whose options they picked up, back to right field and designated hitter, respectively. That would leave second base, vacated by free agent Orlando Hudson, as the only significant hole in their lineup given the emergence of rookie Danny Valencia at third base in the second half of 2010. The best player to fill that second base hole is, of course, Orlando Hudson, who even if he had an off year at the plate, was still the best fielder at the position this season and should have plenty of suitors gambling on a rebound at the plate.
Pavano, who accepted arbitration last year but will likely seek a multi-year deal this winter, is a free agent who could return. But while the Twins have organizational depth in their rotation, most of it is headed for the back end of the rotation, so they could use another solid, established starter. Padilla's home run tendencies would be a good match for homer-killing Target Field. The same is true of Rauch, who excelled as the teams' closer for the first four months of 2010 and didn't really need to be replaced, though he was, when the Twins landed Matt Capps in a trade with the Nationals. Speaking of closers, the one-year anniversary of Joe Nathan's Tommy John surgery is March 10, so he should be back in action early in the year, if not quite on Opening Day. Four men from the Twins' 2010 bullpen are free agents right now, but they have a lot of in-house solutions, including getting Nathan back, a full season from Capps, Anthony Slama being ready to try his stuff in the majors, and perhaps Pat Neshek being more effective another year removed from his own Tommy John surgery. They should still re-sign at least one of their departing relievers, and given the way they were collecting closers down the stretch -- they also acquired Angels closer Brian Fuentes -- it wouldn't be a surprise to see them spend even more on the bullpen.
The real key for the Twins this winter, however, is to let . . . Nick . . . Punto . . . go. In his seven-year reign of terror, Punto hit .248/.323/.324 while averaging more than 100 games a year, practically defining replacement-level. The Twins have declined his option, suggesting that his time in the Twin Cities is finally over, but I'll believe it when I see Ron Gardenhire's favorite toy in another uniform.
2010 Results: 88-74, second place
Runs Scored/Runs Allowed: 752/704
Pythagorean Record: 86-76
Free Agents: 1B Paul Konerko, C A.J. Pierzynski, LF Manny Ramirez, OF Andruw Jones, 1B/OF Mark Kotsay, SP Freddy Garcia, RP J.J. Putz
Prospects on the Verge: SP Chris Sale, 3B Brent Morel, 3B Dayan Viciedo, RF Stefan Gartrell, C Tyler Flowers, CF Jordan Danks
Building For: A return to the playoffs
Biggest Holes: First base, designated hitter, third base, catcher
Targets: C Victor Martinez, 1B Adam Dunn, 3B Adrian Beltre, Konerko
The White Sox don't need to worry about pitching. Their bullpen is deep, and their rotation is four-strong with lefty Chris Sale, the 13th pick in this year's draft, the favorite to win the fifth spot, and Jake Peavy due back early in the season after rehabbing his reattached shoulder muscle. Their lineup, however, is a mess. It doesn't help that general manager Kenny Williams spent last winter filling holes with unproductive bats such as Mark Teahen, Juan Pierre and Omar Vizquel, the last of whom just had his option picked up despite the rapid approach of his 44th birthday. It also doesn't help that their best hitter from the just-completed season, Konerko, is a free agent.
The White Sox have significant holes at four positions and if they are serious about contending, they need to be aggressive in filling them. That means Victor Martinez, not more A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, and a run at Adam Dunn for first base, with popular incumbent Paul Konerko as either the fallback or the right-handed companion in a powerful 1B/DH combo. If they do that, they can roll the dice on Brent Morel at third base given the dearth of free agent options. If they don't, they should make a run at Adrian Beltre, because, for the long run, Morel is nothing special, and the closest Dayan Viciedo got to ball four last year was when he was facing the Rays' bullpen.
The problem, of course, is that the ChiSox already have about $80 million committed for next year, because Williams also likes to collect big contracts ($12.5 million to Alex Rios, $16 million to Peavy, more than $8 million each to Pierre and Edwin Jackson). Arbitration-eligible closer Bobby Jenks, who earned $7.5 million last year, is likely to be non-tendered, but arbitration raises to John Danks and Carlos Quentin will eat up that savings. The White Sox are going to be expensive next year no matter what they do this winter. The question Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf need to answer this offseason is whether or not they'll be an expensive mediocrity or a very expensive success.