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Rival Roundup, Vol. 40: Rounding Third

Once more around the division — then it’s go time.

Tampa Bay Rays v Minnesota Twins Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Moments ago, Joe Davis and John Smoltz were calling the Houston Astros’ world championship victory over the Philadelphia Phillies. We all blinked, and suddenly, Opening Day was less than a week away, as the sun rises on another regular season. With all the major moves in the books, and spring storylines having slowed to a relative crawl, we’ll do something a little different this week, and make sure you’re primed and familiar with how the winter unfolded for each of Minnesota’s four divisional rivals.

More a Rival Recap than anything else, the name on the tin is still:

RIVAL ROUNDUP, BABY!

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CHICAGO WHITE SOX

The Big Additions

  • The White Sox front office dished out the largest guaranteed contract in franchise history, doling a five-year-deal out to Andrew Benintendi — their biggest off-season signing.
  • Mike Clevinger will be on the roster, his one-year contract representing the big pitching acquisition of the winter for the Sox.
  • They also reunited with Elvis Andrus on a big-league deal, and a smattering of Guaranteed Rate alum on minor-league contracts.

Notable Subtractions

  • The big blow here is losing Jose Abreu, who will spend his waning 30s on the best team in the American League. It’s both a statistical and clubhouse-cultural blow for Chicago, who also parted ways with names like Johnny Cueto, Adam Engel, Vince Velasquez, and Danny Mendick.

Fangraphs Says: Everyone’s favorite green-tinted sabermetric publication gives the White Sox a 27.9% playoff shot while projecting them to finish just shy of an even record. Their less-than-1% World Series odds are 5th-lowest in the American League within the bounds of this projection.

CLEVELAND GUARDIANS

The Big Additions

  • The Guardians sat on their heels a bit more than a reigning division champion might do, but when your Central-winning roster is as young as Cleveland’s was in 2022, you can afford a little bit of patience. Added to the fold are slugger Josh Bell and veteran catcher Mike Zunino, alongside a litany of minor-league contracts.

Notable Subtractions

  • The other side of that coin is that Cleveland didn’t undergo major turnover this winter. They’re largely running it back, losing only Austin Hedges to free agency, and sending guys like Owen Miller off to the Brewers. They non-tendered Anthony Gose and Luke Maile, but all of these are “trimming-the-fat” moves more than major deductions.

Fangraphs Says: The Guards are still the division favorite, with odds over 53% to make the playoffs (a few ticks above the next-closest contender, your Minnesota Twins.) Anything can happen, and the AL Central is perhaps baseball’s shakiest division, but Cleveland continues to come out on top even as a full decade of sustained success under Terry Francona seems to go underappreciated.

DETROIT TIGERS

The Big Additions

  • Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen were the only major-league free agency additions for a new front office that is largely tasked with a complete overhaul after a failed rebuild has left something of a barren organization in terms of direction and talent. Boyd was with the organization previously, of course, and Lorenzen is an interesting arm if nothing else, though hasn’t submitted a sub-4.00 ERA since 2019. Former Phils Matt Vierling, Donny Sands, and Nick Maton come over in a trade “haul.”

Notable Subtractions

  • Andrew Chafin opted out of the Tiger bullpen, and that corps was dealt another blow when Detroit shipped Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens off to the Phillies in their biggest move of the winter. Familar (if not formidable) names off the roster include Joe Jimenez, Daniel Norris, Tucker Barnhart, Jeimer Candelario, and super-utility man Willi Castro — who stands a chance to make Minnesota’s Opening Day roster.

Fangraphs Says: The Tigers are tied with only the Oakland Athletics for the worst odds in the American League to win the World Series — when rounded down, both teams are given a 0.0% chance of success. Detroit also clocks in at a 3.3% chance to make the playoffs at all — that’s still only ahead of the A’s. In today’s climate, if you’re only ahead of the A’s in any category, you have a lot to worry about.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

The Big Additions

  • Zack Greinke is back, Jordan Lyles joins the fold, and Aroldis Chapman tries to get his mojo rising in a lower-key environment. The only other major-league deals went to Jake Brentz, and Ryan Yarbrough — some familiar names on minor-league contracts are Franmil Reyes, Matt Duffy, and Jackie Bradley Jr.

Notable Subtractions

  • The front office was busy, shipping out Ryan O’Hearn, Michael A. Taylor, and Adalberto Mondesi on separate trade deals around the American League. Beyond that, they lost names like Brent Rooker, Gabe Speier, and Luke Weaver on waivers.

Fangraphs Says: The Royals, like the White Sox and half of the Tigers, refreshed their management/front office this winter. The Kansas City rebuild has been marginally more successful than Detroit’s in terms of grabbing blue-chippers and establishing a small stockpile of pitching depth. But their 2023 incarnation is still given just a 4.4% chance of making the playoffs, and some of the worst odds in baseball at winning the whole thing.

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Well, that’s this winter’s roundup...hope you’ve all had a good solid time rivaling around. Take one last look over the state of the Central, and let us know how you’re feeling about the competition in 2023. It’s shaping up to be another entertaining season!

Poll

Who are you most worried about heading into 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Chicago White Sox
    (5 votes)
  • 47%
    Cleveland Guardians
    (41 votes)
  • 0%
    Detroit Tigers
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Kansas City Royals
    (1 vote)
  • 45%
    Emilio Pagan
    (40 votes)
87 votes total Vote Now