The Royals have had a very quiet off-season so far, but the rest of the division hasn't been waiting around for the Royals to make their move. Kansas City has the benefit of being the champs while everyone else is chasing their ring. Have other teams made enough progress to overtake the Royals for the division? Let's take a look at the division thus far.
New in town: Alex Avila, Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Dioner Navarro
Departing: Gordon Beckham, Tyler Flowers, Micah Johnson, Frankie Montas, Jeff Samardzija, Geovany Soto, Trayce Thompson, Dayan Viciedo
Remaining free agents: Matt Albers, Alexei Ramirez
The White Sox made a big splash for the second year in a row by acquiring reigning Home Run Derby champion Todd Frazier in a three-team deal from the Reds. Frazier and his 35 home runs and 114 wRC+ should not only upgrade the team offensively, but he is a very good defender at third, a position in which Chicago struggled mightily on the field last year. The White Sox were the worst defensive team in baseball last year, and the team is taking a gamble newly acquired infielder Brett Lawrie can play second base full-time after playing just 74 games there the last two seasons combined. The team will also move third baseman Tyler Saladino over to shortstop.
Chicago is still seeking an outfield upgrade over Avisail Garcia to join Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera. They would like to move disappointing designated hitter Adam LaRoche, but are finding few takers. Jeff Samardzija was a disappointment for them last season making it easy to let him go to San Francisco, but the club will either have to go outside the organization to replace him or rely on 26-year old rookie Erik Johnson. The White Sox also revamped their catching situation by jettisoning Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto in favor Dioner Navarro and Alex Avila, two of the worst catchers in baseball at framing last year.
New in town: Colin Cowgill, Rajai Davis, Mike Napoli
Departing: Mike Aviles, Nick Hagadone, Chris Johnson
Remaining free agents: Gavin Floyd, Ryan Raburn, Ryan Webb
The Indians barely finished above .500 last year, a far cry from the World Series predictions and Sports Illustrated covers from the pre-season. Despite a disappointing season, the Tribe have been quiet this winter, making small moves such as signing veterans Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli to one-year deals. The 35-year old Davis will start in place of All-Star Michael Brantley, who could miss the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury. The signing of 34-year old Mike Napoli probably means Carlos Santana will stick to designated hitting duties full-time, which will help the Indians defense. Also helping will be having Rookie of the Year runner-up Francisco Lindor at shortstop all season. Despite playing in just 99 games, Lindor was fifth among all shortstops in Defensive Runs Above Average.
Despite a quiet winter, the Indians are not expected to make any big moves. They have tried to move a starting pitcher to obtain an outfield bat, but failed in their attempts to land Todd Frazier. They still have a big hole in center field, and Giovanny Urshela may not be up to handling third base duties full-time. The team also lost a lot of its bench depth with the loss of Mike Aviles and potential loss of Ryan Raburn. The Indians are not expected to raise payroll much, so don't expect them to make a splash in free agency.
New in town: Mike Aviles, Mark Lowe, Cameron Maybin, Mike Peflrey, Francisco Rodriguez, Jarrod Saltalamaccia, Justin Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann
Departing: Alex Avila, Rajai Davis, Tom Gorzelanny
Remaining free agents: Al Albuquerque, Neftali Feliz, Joe Nathan, Alfredo Simon, Randy Wolf
Detroit not only failed to win the division for the first time since 2010, they finished in dead last for the first time since 2008. That led to a departure by General Manager Dave Dombrowski, with former Assistant General Manager Al Avila assuming his role. Avila made a splash this winter when he signed starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann to a five year, $110 million deal. That adds to an already exorbitant payroll that will commit nearly $120 million to six players in each of the next two seasons - Zimmermann, Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler.
Avila has revamped the bullpen, getting veterans like Mark Lowe and Francisco Rodriguez, who will likely close games, as well as young lefty Justin Wilson from the Yankees. The team signed former Twins starter Mike Pelfrey to a two-year deal, despite the right-hander putting up the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball. Cameron Maybin rejoins the Tigers from a trade with Atlanta to take over left-field, joining Anthony Gose and J.D. Martinez in the outfield. The Tigers should have much better depth this year with veterans Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles, as well as promising youngsters like Tyler Collins. Their success will probably depend a lot on how their expensive veterans bounce back, like Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, and Victor Martinez.
Kansas City Royals
New in town: Tony Cruz, Joakim Soria
Departing: Johnny Cueto, Ryan Madson, Ben Zobrist
Remaining free agents: Jonny Gomes, Alex Gordon, Jeremy Guthrie, Greg Holland, Franklin Morales, Alex Rios
The Royals have already suffered two major losses from their championship team, but both Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto were rentals that were obtained for the post-season. The major piece to the off-season puzzle is Alex Gordon, and whether or not the Royals re-sign him affects what other moves they can make. The team needs to replace Gordon in left-field, should he depart, and needs to find a solution to right-field as well. The club could also use a starting pitcher, although financial restraints may prevent them from going after the top-tier pitchers remaining like Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo, and Scott Kazmir.
The Royals did double down on their dominant bullpen, re-uniting with All-Star reliever Joakim Soria, and bringing back versatile swing-man Chris Young. Greg Holland is expected to miss all of the 2016 season, but the club has some desire to bring him back on a two-year deal. The Royals have a lot of work to do if they want to get back to the post-season, but the dominos should start falling once a decision has been made on Alex Gordon.
New in town: Fernando Abad, John Ryan Murphy, Byung-Ho Park
Departing: Chris Hermann, Aaron Hicks, Mike Pelfrey
Remaining free agents: Blaine Boyer, Neal Cotts, Brian Duensing, Torii Hunter (retired)
The Twins surprised the division with a nice run last season and a second-place finish under rookie manager Paul Molitor. The Twins have a young, solid offense that should only improve with more playing time for phenom prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. The arrival of Buxton enabled the team to move center fielder Aaron Hicks to the Yankees in return for catcher John Ryan Murphy, who should start over veteran Kurt Suzuki. The Twins went to the Far East to add a right-handed bat, winning the bidding for Korean first baseman Byung-Ho Park. The acquisition gives Minnesota a bit of a log-jam however, with Joe Mauer already at first base, forcing the team to play the defensively-challenged Sano in the outfield.
The Twins lose Mike Pelfrey, but will be counting on some past free agent starting pitchers - Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes - to come through in 2016. The Twins had some bullpen issues last year, and have looked into adding some low-cost arms, particularly left-handed relievers. The would also like to add a veteran reserve outfielder in case Buxton is overwhelmed, Miguel Sano's glove isn't ready, or Eddie Rosario regresses.