AL Central hot-stove primer

Baseball's winter meetings begin Monday in Indianapolis. Yahoo! Sports will go division by division, providing a primer on each team's needs and ability to satisfy them.

American League Central


Holes to fill: The Twins entered the offseason needing a complete infield overhaul besides first baseman Justin Morneau(notes). They quickly acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy(notes) in a trade but shouldn't be content. No combination of Nick Punto(notes), Alexei Casilla, Matt Tolbert(notes) and Brendan Harris(notes) brings enough offense at second and third.

Trade winds: The acquisition of Hardy was a pre-emptive and sound move. Moving underachieving left fielder Delmon Young(notes) has been discussed, but he's relatively cheap and could become a .300 hitter, albeit without much power.

Cash considerations: With arbitration raises, the payroll already will be higher than last year's $65 million. Moving to a new stadium could translate into a bump in payroll, although the Twins must squirrel away every dime to make a legitimate effort to offer Joe Mauer(notes) a contract extension that would be at least $150 million.

By spring training … Mauer will not have signed an extension and by opening day he will call off negotiations and set his sights on free agency.


Holes to fill: The middle infield and bullpen are thin because of the departures of Placido Polanco(notes), Adam Everett(notes), Fernando Rodney(notes) and Brandon Lyon(notes). The rotation could use bolstering. And a consistent bat behind Miguel Cabrera(notes) would be nice, too.

Trade winds: The Tigers have had discussions with several teams about moving center fielder Curtis Granderson(notes) and/or starter Edwin Jackson(notes). It's no coincidence that both are due sizeable raises.

Cash considerations: Few teams, if any, have thrown as much money at free agents and gotten so little in return in recent years. Several bad contracts remain on the books, and payroll could top $125 million before GM Dave Dombrowski spends another dime. Translation: The Tigers will look for late offseason bargains in the middle infield or fill the holes by unloading Granderson and Jackson.

By spring training … manager Jim Leyland will be faced with the prospect of chain-smoking his way through the late innings without a reliable setup man or closer.


Holes to fill: GM Kenny Williams is building from the bottom up, having signed bench players Omar Vizquel(notes) and Andruw Jones(notes), re-signed Mark Kotsay(notes) and traded for Mark Teahen(notes) early in the offseason. Another strong outfield bat would be the final piece. Remember, the White Sox made two late-season acquisitions in 2009 that could dramatically improve their fortunes – starter Jake Peavy(notes) and outfielder Alex Rios(notes).

Trade winds: Closer Bobby Jenks(notes) is looking at a big raise via arbitration and it's conceivable he could be non-tendered. But pitching is the strength of the White Sox, from a solid rotation through a deep bullpen, and leaving a hole in the ninth inning doesn't thrill Williams.

Cash considerations: The payroll was under $100 million last year for first time since 2005 and with arbitration raises it is already at the $95 million mark for 2010. It's possible the White Sox could move to the sidelines the rest of the offseason now that Chone Figgins(notes) has agreed to a deal with Seattle.

By spring training … . . . manager Ozzie Guillen will be taking ground balls with his longtime pal Vizquel and dreaming of a comeback at 46.


Holes to fill: Presumably over the depressing sight of former Indians pitchers CC Sabathia(notes) and Cliff Lee(notes) dominating the World Series, Cleveland will attempt to become competitive again, although 2010 appears to be little more than a rebuilding year. Wildly overestimating the abilities of relief pitchers in particular has hurt the Indians, and an overhaul of nearly the entire staff is in order.

Trade winds: Jake Westbrook(notes) could be next season’s Sabathia or Lee, dumped at the trading deadline to a contender.

Cash considerations: The $37.5 million the Indians must pay DH Travis Hafner(notes) the next three years is an albatross. The only other players making $10 million or more are Westbrook and Kerry Wood(notes), and both contracts expire after next season. Otherwise, payroll is reasonably under control and could drop by as much as 20 percent from last season's $82 million. This is no time to splurge on a veteran free agent because the next time the Indians can contend is 2011, when some of the prospects they acquired via trades develop into major leaguers.

By spring training … manager Manny Acta will be happy to see that his new team isn't nearly as bad as the one he left in Washington.


Holes to fill: Oddly, the Royals don't have many gaping holes. They have underperforming players at several positions, but that doesn't mean they will aggressively seek to replace them this offseason. Signing a catcher and a left-handed starter are the top priorities.

Trade winds: Starter Gil Meche(notes), who has two years at $12 million each on his contract, is more likely to be dealt at the July deadline to a contender than during the offseason. Left fielder David DeJesus(notes) and second baseman Alberto Callaspo(notes) – young players with reasonable contracts – are constantly the topics of trade rumors. Callaspo and third baseman Alex Gordon(notes) are expendable because the Royals acquired second baseman Chris Getz(notes) and third baseman Josh Fields(notes) in a trade with the White Sox for Teahen.

Cash considerations: Dayton Moore takes heat in hindsight for signing Jose Guillen(notes) and Meche to deals that devour nearly 30 percent of the Royals' payroll. But overpaying is the only way to get a decent free agent to play in Kansas City.

By spring training … the Royals will be counting the days until Guillen's contract expires and they can regain a measure of payroll flexibility and clubhouse harmony.