The Detroit Tigers have dominated the AL Central in recent years. They have a nearly dominant rotation and a perennial MVP in their lineup. While they have made several changes this off-season, other teams have had major additions to help them move closer to the Tigers. Here is a look at each team’s biggest off-season addition.
Chicago White Sox
When a team signs a player to a $68 million contract, they expect an instant impact. The White Sox put that money towards Jose Dariel Abreu this off-season and he should start at first base from day one. Some feel that he was the biggest bat available on the market this winter, and have even compared the 26 year old to a young Miguel Cabrera. Other scouts are have mixed feelings about his talent. He has shown extreme power in Cuba having seasons of 30 plus homeruns and he even dominated while playing in the World Baseball Classic, where he hit three homeruns and batted .360. Abreu should be the featured bat in the Sox lineup for years to come.
John Axford signed a one year contract in Cleveland. In Milwaukee he was once a dominant closer, who set a club record for saves and even won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 2011. But, Axford lost control of his breaking pitches, lost velocity, and lost the closer role. While pitching for St. Louis at the end of the season he appeared to find his form by striking out eleven in ten innings and only allowing two earned runs. He pitched even stronger in the playoffs. If he is anywhere near his former self, Cleveland will have a lock down closer to finish games.
As strange as it might sound, when the Tigers traded Prince Fielder their offense may have gotten stronger with the addition of Ian Kinsler. While Fielder put up solid numbers as a Tiger, his power numbers dropped, as most lefty hitters’ do at Comerica Park. By adding Kinsler, the team is helped in many ways. First, Kinsler fills the need at second base and adds a plus bat at the position. He is a run producing second baseman who has pounded 156 career homeruns and showed speed by swiping 172 bases. The addition of Kinsler (and also the departure of Fielder) allows Miguel Cabrera to move back to first base, a position that he is much better suited for. This addition allows Tigers lineup to have even more roar.
Kansas City Royals
Good leadoff hitters can bunt, run, hit the ball where it is pitched, and find any way to get on base. Nori Aoki does all of those things well. In his two seasons in Milwaukee, Aoki batted .287 and even showed occasional power hitting 18 long balls. As a right fielder, Aoki has a strong arm and takes good routes to the ball. Many other outfielders come with a giant price tag, but Aoki will only cost the team 1.95 million dollars this season. His addition gives the Royals a pesky bat to insert at the top of the lineup each night.
While he had a brutal contract year last season, former Yankee Phil Hughes signed a multi-year contract with the Twins and is expected to fill into the middle of the Twins rotation. Hughes went 4-14 last season, but he has two season of 16 plus wins in his career. The former first round draft pick has a career ERA of 4.54 and has struggled to keep the ball in the park recently. Getting out of the New York environment and into a more pitcher friendly Target Field should help Hughes to get on track.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference