This is the last in a four-part series checking up on the Twins’ AL Central competition. You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here.
2019 Record: 93-69
2019 Outcome: 2nd Place, AL Central
Going into 2019, Cleveland was content to rest on their laurels, thinking they could win the AL Central while also cutting payroll. The Bomba Squad burst onto the scene and proved them wrong. Despite missing the playoffs for the first time since 2015, they did not do much to improve in 2020.
This past off season, Cleveland signed no remotely important free agents. They let a few impact members of last year’s squad walk (including Tyler Clippard). The one thing Cleveland did do was trade away ace Corey Kluber to Texas, for a return of outfielder Delino DeShields and reliever Emmanuel Clase.
While DeShields is a decent outfielder and Kluber was dealt from a position of depth for the squad, this was another move that signaled they are more concerned with saving money than with winning this year. Trade rumors swirled around all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor all off season as well, although it now appears he won’t be dealt before the season starts.
Cleveland will be no pushover this season, however. They still have perhaps the best infield duo in the game in Lindor and Jose Ramirez. Even having dealt Kluber (and Trevor Bauer last season), the starting rotation may be the best in a division. Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, and stud youngster Shane Bieber are no joke at the top of the rotation, and youngsters like Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac will anchor the back end. If Cleveland does one thing right, it’s develop starting pitchers.
While I don’t expect Cleveland to be any better this season than they were last season, they are not to be taken lightly. It will definitely be worth keeping an eye on the Lindor trade situation, as well as how their young pitching develops. The Twins shouldn’t have too much trouble beating them out for the division, but Cleveland may be the stiffest competition they have.