Look for these moves from AL Central

Detroit Tigers

In typical 2020 fashion, the Winter Meetings look a little bit different this year. Front office executives, media members and college students searching for job opportunities aren’t packed into a hotel this week. Instead, everything is virtual.
Even if clubs are limited to communicating through texting, phone calls or Zoom

In typical 2020 fashion, the Winter Meetings look a little bit different this year. Front office executives, media members and college students searching for job opportunities aren’t packed into a hotel this week. Instead, everything is virtual.

Even if clubs are limited to communicating through texting, phone calls or Zoom calls, that hasn’t slowed the pace of Winter Meetings transactions. The White Sox have been active this week, adding outfielder Adam Eaton and starter Lance Lynn, while the Royals inked a familiar foe in Carlos Santana on Tuesday. But the rest of the American League Central has remained quiet thus far.

Hot Stove Tracker

But the moves won’t stop at the end of the week. Negotiations will be continuous between teams until the offseason is over. So in this week’s AL Central notebook, we pinpoint one move to watch for from each team before the end of the year.

Let’s take a look:

Indians: Trading Lindor
The pace at which this offseason has moved doesn’t indicate that this will likely be done before the end of the year, but if the Indians can strike the perfect return package for All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, that move could happen at any time.

The club has not confirmed that it’s looking to shop Lindor this offseason, but all signs are pointing toward him being moved before Opening Day. And with the Tribe needing help in the outfield, at second base and possibly in the bullpen, the best way for the team to address those needs without taking a financial hit would be via a blockbuster trade. Lindor is set to make at least $20 million through arbitration next season before he hits free agency and Cleveland is looking to keep its 2021 payroll as tight as possible (not to mention that an extension does not appear to be in the cards).

— Mandy Bell

Royals: Ink Mondesi and Keller
The Royals made a flurry of moves prior to last week’s deadline to set their 40-man reserve lists, including locking up players such as Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler to one-year deals, thus avoiding arbitration. That still left shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and staff ace Brad Keller as the two remaining arbitration-eligible players. Sources indicate the Royals are exploring multiyear deals with both in an effort to buy out some, if not all, of their remaining arbitration years. Mondesi and Keller are in their first years of arbitration. The Royals view both as key components of their core moving forward. Keller is just 25 and went 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 2020, and he could be a fixture in a young rotation that now includes rookies Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, and likely will include prospects Jackson Kowar and Daniel Lynch in the near future. Mondesi also is just 25 and hit .376 with an 1.130 OPS over the final 22 games of 2020.

— Jeffrey Flanagan

Tigers: Add a catcher
The Tigers signed free agent Austin Romine around this point last year as the catching market began to move. This year’s market has many of the same names, plus top free agents J.T. Realmuto and James McCann. Detroit isn’t expected to compete with win-now clubs at that end of the market unless one of those free agents slips through the cracks like Ivan Rodriguez did years ago. Regardless, with Jake Rogers no closer to taking over the top job than he was a year ago, and Dillon Dingler at least a couple of years away, general manager Al Avila needs to make another move to provide an experienced option behind the plate. Romine could be up for a return, as could former Tigers All-Star Alex Avila and former Tigers Draft pick Curt Casali. Detroit has had interest in Jason Castro in the past, and Tony Wolters could be an intriguing option.

— Jason Beck

Twins: Re-sign Cruz
Barely a day had passed since the Twins’ elimination from the postseason when both Nelson Cruz and the Twins professed their mutual interest in a reunion following two outstanding offensive seasons in Minnesota by the veteran slugger. In 2019, Cruz became the third player in Twins history to eclipse 40 homers in a season as he paced the club with 41 big flies and a 1.031 OPS. In a shortened ’20, Cruz again led the team in both categories as he won a second straight Silver Slugger Award and rose to sixth in AL MVP Award voting.

Though our colleague, Jon Paul Morosi, reported earlier this offseason that Cruz was likely to wait for clarity on the universal DH situation to make a decision, a reunion would make sense for both sides. Cruz has repeatedly said that he likes his situation in Minnesota, he’s always hit well at Target Field (where he owns a career 1.000 OPS), and he could remain the focal point of a contending team with which he has familiarity. The Twins, meanwhile, have already lost Eddie Rosario from an offense that underperformed in 2020. Losing Cruz as well could remove two of their most reliable sources of power from the heart of a lineup that will face a challenge in holding off the surging White Sox.

Cruz’s leadership ability is also important to the Twins’ clubhouse — not only to Miguel Sanó, but also to the flood of prospects on the cusp of the Majors. The Cruz question is important for the Twins to resolve sooner rather than later as a major move that would give the team clarity on how many offensive openings it needs to fill and how much financial flexibility it’ll have to do so.

— Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: Add a closer
Even in the world of virtual Winter Meetings, the White Sox are quickly checking the boxes on their offseason needs list. They acquired right-handed starter Lynn from the Rangers in a Monday night trade for right-hander Dane Dunning and Minor League hurler Avery Weems and brought back right fielder Eaton via a free-agent deal on Tuesday.

So, what’s left for the talented White Sox squad? They still should add a bat to help at designated hitter and potentially a second starter, but the back end of their bullpen now becomes the focus. The White Sox could bring back right-hander Alex Colomé, who has posted 42 saves over the last two years as the team’s closer, or they could make a slightly more dynamic splash in free agent Liam Hendriks among options in that area. The White Sox have left-hander Aaron Bummer in place to close but definitely need high leverage help for a team with a championship goal.

— Scott Merkin

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