A few of the SB Nation bloggers in the AL Central, chatted over email with Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore, who served as moderator.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which teams, under which circumstances, will be buyers over the next three weeks? How about sellers? If there are any undecideds, what will be the tipping point?
Jay S. Levin (LetsGoTribe): At the risk of stating the obvious, I think the Twins, White Sox and Tigers all will be and should be buyers. They seem to be very, very evenly matched, even to the point where their positions are flipped in the third-order standings. All interesting teams but all vulnerable as well. Obviously the Royals should be sellers, but that baffling Mariners trade calls into question whether their GM is aware of that fact. (As I noted for the Indians, it isn't just that the Royals are 11 games out, it's the fact that three teams are all seven-plus games ahead of them.) The Indians of course should be and will be sellers. Not that I'm predicting it, but I won't be surprised if Cliff Lee is traded, and I'll be surprised but not shocked if Victor Martinez is. Those who don't follow the club closely don't realize, the Indians were over-budget on salary this season, and the ticket sales shortfall that comes along with losing 55 before the break almost has to have an impact on the 2010 payroll.
Will McDonald (Royals Review): The Royals will be buyers! Though according to local beat writer Sam Mellinger, they also desperately want to shed salary. I'm curious to see what Kenny Williams does. I think it has been a year since he's acquired Roberto Alomar.
Ian Casselberry (Bless You Boys): The Tigers should be buyers, but I don't think they'll get the type of impact player a lot of their fans would like to see. Mostly because I don't think they have the pieces in their farm system to get one of the presumably available big names. I'd also expect the Twins to do something. But I think the White Sox are the team that could make the big, Roy Halladay-type move. That seems like Kenny Williams's style, especially when they're in the race. (Plus, don't they feel more pressure, now that everybody knows they're President Obama's favorite team?)
Jesse Lund (Twinkie Town): The Twins would do well to simply get league-average production from second base. Brendan Harris has been the only consistent middle infielder, even considering his less than stellar track record at the dish and in the field, so I'm content to let him stick it out. But second base needs to be addressed. If the Twins want to be buyers (and they should be), then they need to find a way to make a trade. Freddy Sanchez is the popular choice. The Twins have some money to spend, definitely enough for Sanchez, but I'm hoping they just find a way to bring in somebody. Some consistency from the bullpen would help, too. They're dilemma is that they're on the edge of contention, and if they hit a skid after the All-Star break then there's no reason to make a deal. Being a buyer is a position teams take to put themselves over the top, not to stave off elimination for a few more weeks.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): What holes will teams be looking to fill? What are the biggest holes they *SHOULD* be looking to fill but don't seem to be concerned about? Which holes from the first half can be plugged internally, perhaps by improvement the same player?
Will McDonald (Royals Review): I don't know how the White Sox are still around. Don't they need at least two bats?
Ian Casselberry (Bless You Boys): Many people seem to think the Tigers need a closer because Fernando Rodney hasn't been lights-out, but they have such a gaping hole in their lineup that I can't imagine they'll focus on anything but getting a bat. An upgrade would be great, but they already spent their money on the bullpen during the winter, with Brandon Lyon. Rodney can actually get better if he gets better control of his fastball, but if he falters, they could also try someone from the minors like Ryan Perry or Casey Fien. Detroit could also look at a middle-tier starting pitcher, if one becomes available. They really could use a back-of-the-rotation starter as insurance, in case Armando Galarraga can't pull himself together.
Jesse Lund (Twinkie Town): Delmon Young isn't hitting or fielding well, while Carlos Gomez can at least play center field at a high level. This means the Twins need to continue playing Denard Span in left, keeping him for his range and his abilities as a lead-off hitter, while also gambling on Gomez at the dish. He's worth the risk in the field, but if either of Young or Gomez are ever going to get better at the plate they need regular time seeing major league pitching. Considering the options, Gomez is the winner. An outfield of Span-Gomez-Cuddyer isn't quite the offensive force you'd like from a contending team, but the defense is good and there is talent there. If Carlos can post a .320 OBP the rest of the season, I'd be happy.
Then there's second base. They need to find a good hitter like Sanchez to hit second, ahead of Mauer, or at least a league-average one to hit at the bottom of the order.
Finally, the bullpen. Joe Nathan is great, Matt Guerrier is fine, Jose Mijares has been a nice surprise and R.A. Dickey has done well in long relief, but there is no true set-up man. There's no reliable bridge to Nathan if Guerrier pitched yesterday. There are some arms in Rochester that could help, but a proven commodity is preferrable.
In general it can appear like the Twins organization is never as concerned as the fanbase about acquiring external help. Hell, the last time they made a deal of note mid-summer was in 2003 for Shannon Stewart. I think everyone wants the Minnesota front office to be a bit more aggressive, and deal from a position of strength in their farm system. There are always options for this team to try and plug holes internally, and in most circumstances that can work, but the holes this year are a bit bigger than in years past, and the sure-fire prospects aren't available.
Will McDonald (Royals Review): You would think that the Twins would be more apt to make more Shannon Stewart-esque moves, considering that he somehow became a bizarro MVP candidate.
Jesse Lund (Twinkie Town): Looking beyond this year, guys like Mauer and Morneau are already curious to see how this franchise handles itself over the next year and a half. If the team doesn't go out and land some talent to put around them, what's to convince them to stay past their contracts? Reading further into that, what free agents (and what current players) would want to play for this team if the organization doesn't do what's necessary to make them stay? This organization has pledged to commit to its core talent, and it's done a fine job of that over this decade, but they need to take the next step. With Target Field opening next spring, this is the ideal opportunit to step it up.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Who are the most popular trade targets for those holes? Any targets flying under the radar? Any targets your team is especially intrigued in? Any popular names they're backing away from? Any rumors you'd like to start?
Jesse Lund (Twinkie Town): If the Pirates want a shortstop and a southpaw for Freddy Sanchez, I'd give them Glen Perkins, Alexi Casilla, Trevor Plouffe/Steve Tolleson and Tyler Robertson. Specifically with names it's hard to get a read on who (if anyone) this team is interested in, because they play everything so close to the vest. And right now, Sanchez is the only name Minnesota has been linked to.
Ian Casselberry (Bless You Boys): We haven't heard the Tigers attached to anyone yet. Before the Rockies started winning like mad, some people thought Huston Street or Brad Hawpe could be trade targets. Maybe they still could be, but that seems highly unlikely now. (Although Ryan Spilborghs still seems to pop up.) Adam Dunn is a popular name among Tigers fans, but I don't see any way Detroit picks up that contract. I'm guessing a lower-cost option like a Russell Branyan, Luke Scott, or David DeJesus (if the Royals are willing to trade within the division) is the way they go.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which prospects and young major leaguers are most likely to change hands? Any that teams have deemed off-limits?
Will McDonald (Royals Review): I think the Royals will trade David DeJesus, who is kinda young, and a nice underrated player. Of course, he's actually not that expensive, and the Royals would be selling low AND they have no replacement for him waiting in the system.
Jesse Lund (Twinkie Town): The Twins haven't deemed anyone "off-limits", but I don't think you need an imagination to figure out who those players or prospects are. There are a couple of guys in the lower echelons of the minor leagues that won't be changing teams, as well as the core of the MLB roster. Everyone else in between should be fair game. Minnesota still has a lot of pitching depth in the upper levels, even if Robertson is the only one with a chance at being a top-tier guy.
Also, I like DeJesus. But Minnesota already has enough outfield issues without complicating them.
Ian Casselberry (Bless You Boys): Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry are perceived as untouchable, but if the right deal came along (Roy Halladay), and that's what it took to get it done, I think Dave Dombrowski would go for it. Wilkin Ramirez would probably draw some interest, but the Tigers are going to need him in their outfield within the next season or two. They probably wouldn't trade catcher Alex Avila for much the same reason.
If Detroit trades for an outfielder, I have to think Clete Thomas would be part of the exchange. I imagine one or two of their young relievers - Fien, Cody Satterwhite, Zach Simons - would be included in any deal. Luis Marte is probably the most major league ready starting pitching prospect. Casey Crosby is another arm that might interest some teams, though he's only pitched in A-ball.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Without any trade-deadline moves, what has to happen for your team to win the division? How much more likely is your team to make the playoffs by plugging its holes or adding an impact player?
Will McDonald (Royals Review): My team has no shot of winning the division, but it's gonna be a great battle between KC and Cleveland for fourth.
Jay S. Levin (LetsGoTribe): I see it as more of a battle for fifth, and for a better draft position. We'll be looking for the next Jeremy Sowers.
Ian Casselberry (Bless You Boys): Carlos Guillen has to come back healthy and give them the bat in left field and designated hitter that they've lacked for most of the season. (No offense, Marcus Thames.) If he can be anywhere near the player he's been for the past three years, the need to trade for an outfielder is lessened, and maybe the Tigers can look more for pitching help. But they might not know if Guillen will be healthy before the trade deadline, and could face having to make a deal anyway. Either way, a dependable bat or starting pitcher would significantly boost Detroit's playoff chances.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): For the teams probably out of the running, what acquisitions and decisions based on the 2010 and future seasons would you consider a "win"?
Will McDonald (Royals Review): After the Betancourt trade, I don't trust Dayton Moore to make a competent trade anymore. I fully expect the Royals to make a bad trade involving either DeJesus or Teahen.
Jay S. Levin (LetsGoTribe): We kind of have the opposite problem. Shapiro will make a couple of widely praised moves, and we may well suck anyway. There are two kinds of wins I would define. One would be getting any significant prospect for someone who is essentially a role player, as we did with Casey Blake last year. The main guys on that list are Jamey Carroll, Rafael Betancourt and Carl Pavano. A second kind of win would be making a bold move on Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee or (gulp!) Victor Martinez -- something to reshape the roster dramatically for 2010.