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Rival Roundup: Offseason Edition

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Technically it’s the Postseason edition. Please complain in the comments below.

MLB: MAY 31 Tigers at Braves Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier this year, I put together a series of articles outlining the major additions and subtractions from each of the four rival teams around the division — a way to keep a finger on the pulse of the ever-changing landscape of the American League Central. Of course, the pulse of said landscape promptly flatlined this March, as preseason coverage and regular season predictions were thrown headlong into a brick wall with the postponement of Opening Day.

But the world keeps turning, and the game eventually resumed, which means we’re playing October baseball as per usual, and the early offseason machinations are already in full swing. What those machinations look like is a little less clear (although, try to picture ‘machinations’ in your head for just a moment. It’s probably more of a feeling than a distinct image, anyway.)

With revenue projections for 2021 still wildly uncertain given the state of attendance feasibility, and major financial discussions on deck when the CBA re-negotiation hits, this could wind up being one of the most unpredictable winters in recent baseball history. With so many variables, which teams will carry on their business as usual, and which will switch into a more risk-averse mode?

While long-term planning may be a bit foggy, at least you’ll be in the know each week as far as beat-by-beat updates are concerned.

Roundup Record

I’m still not over this round of postseason depression, so this roundup’s record is a dreary tune from a man with a dreary life story that seems fitting for another year of could-a-beens.

Cleveland Spiders

  • The second-place Spiders enter another offseason mired in trade rumors concerning their all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor. Lindor seems to be getting the Mookie Betts treatment by the only team he’s ever known; while the Dolans cry “small market,” Lindor thinks they can afford to extend him, thanks in large part to that whole “having a billion dollars” thing.

While we’ve criticized the Cleveland lineup for a few years now, their homegrown pitching is their clear trademark, and it’s consistently impressive how far their young starters can take them each summer. But an outright trade of their best position player may finally render the offense too anemic to be propped up by their elite pitching.

  • Managerial rumblings have been particularly rife around the Central within the last few weeks. As far as Cleveland is concerned, Terry Francona will be back next year. While other teams have are looking to move on due to underperformance or a desire for culture change, Francona’s future with the club was uncertain due to health issues that kept his hands off the ship’s wheel for 48 of the 2020 season’s 60 games.

Chicago White Sox

  • On the South Side of Chicago, however, things are different. Rick Renteria has been at the helm for the last few years, before meeting the same fate he was introduced to at Wrigley Field. After being installed as a temporary tank commander, Renteria has been handed back-to-back dismissals from Chicago based teams who are turning the corner into a window of contention, and want to establish a new identity as the franchise turns a page. Loooooongtime pitching coach Don Cooper is out, as well.
  • General manager Rick Hahn had to go so far as to directly cross Ozzie Guillen off the list of potential replacements. However, one of the names on the list has been a bit surprising: Tony La Russa, who managed the White Sox from 1979-1986. Can you imagine returning to a job after 40 years?
  • La Russa is in his later 70s now, having retired from managing in 2011, after going out with a bang and securing a championship for the St. Louis Cardinals (their second of his tenure.) It would be a bit of a surprise to see him get the nod over someone younger and Spanish-speaking, two qualities that would be more in line with Chicago’s current roster make-up. Still, it’s hard to deny that La Russa has a strong reputation behind him.
  • If you needed another reason to hate the White Sox, then you’ll take comfort in knowing that A.J. Hinch is probably the leading candidate. (“A.J.” actually stands for Asterisked Jagweed.)

Kansas City Royals

  • Perhaps the quietest team since the season ended, the Royals are settling into the Mike Matheny era while working on a farm that features a handful of top-100 guys, but none of whom are really expected to bust out dramatically in the big leagues next season. As such, they seem to me to be a bit of a limbo team; it’s been a few years now since they’ve been truly competitive, but will they really want to line up their window with ours and Chicago’s? Can they work their way toward .500 next season, supplanting Cleveland on their way?
  • Some exceptions to that busting out may be found in the rotation. Brady Singer and Kris Bubic were guys to watch during the 60-game stretch, and prospects Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar may play similar roles in 2021.
  • We’re moving into the realm of projection now, which just goes to show how slow Royals news has been since Alex Gordon announced his retirement. Perhaps the team will perk up once the World Series is finished.

Detroit Tigers

  • The Tigers are the other team in the division for whom the managerial role is directly in question. With Ron Gardenhire having retired late in September, the Motor City Kitties will be on the prowl for a replacement, which could mean some direct offseason competition between Detroit and Chicago. In fact, they may both have the same first target.
  • Other candidates on that list may include Lloyd McClendon, who has managerial experience and stepped in for Gardy at season’s end. Piranha-era opponent Marcus Thames is also interviewing.
  • From a financial standpoint, the Tigers will be shedding somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million in albatross contracts coming off the books. One of them is Jordan Zimmerman. The other one? Prince Fielder.

All for now!