What should you do after you’ve won three straight American League Central titles?
If you are the Cleveland Indians, you cut payroll by shedding stars via free agency and the trade marketplace. Factor in Francisco Lindor’s strained calf, and the ice under Cleveland’s feet is the thinnest it has been in years.
Nevertheless it could be worse. The turning remains led by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger, that became the primary 200-strikeout foursome ever final season. Lindor will gradually reteam with Jose Ramirez to form arguably the best celebrity offensive duo in MLB.
Besides that, the Indians only have one challenger for superiority within the branch.
Playoff opportunities: 70 percent
Following a disappointing 78-win season, the Minnesota Twins have treated Cleveland’s cost-cutting as a window of opportunity.
An offense that scored a strong 4.6 runs per game last year is deeper now thanks to the additions of Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron. The pitching team, meanwhile, should gain from Martin Perez along with Blake Parker and a healthful Michael Pineda.
However the major question is whether Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano could push the Twins over the top by getting themselves back on their respective paths to stardom. How this will go is really anyone’s guess.
If all goes well, the Twins will challenge the Indians for the AL Central title. If not, they’re likely a .500-ish team that will have trouble surviving a tough race to the second wild-card spot.
Playoff opportunities: 40 percent
Chicago White Sox
There is a parallel universe somewhere in which the Chicago White Sox are a significant contender in 2019 despite their 100 losses in 2018.
In that universe, the White Sox have signed Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. To boot, flame-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech includes a wholesome elbow.
Within this universe, however, the White Sox have already lost out on Machado, and they seem to be out on Harper too. What’s more, Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
South Siders can nevertheless look forward to the coming of top prospect Eloy Jimenez plus the additional maturation of this White Sox’s additional youngsters. But hopes for a playoff berth are reserved for 2020.
Playoff opportunities: 5 percent
Kansas City Royals
Despite dropping 104 games last season, the Kansas City Royals do not look interested at a top-to-bottom rebuild.
For what it’s worth, there are a number of fantastic pieces in the lineup (Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi) and pitching staff (Danny Duffy and Brad Keller). These can make sure that the Royals are watchable in 2019.
However good? Nah. And whether they like it or not, they might have to contemplate employing the trade market to build their own No. 24 farm strategy.
Playoff chances: 5 percent
The Detroit Tigers lost”only” 98 matches in 2018, but they don’t look any better equipped to carry on 2019 compared to White Sox or Royals.
In concept, a healthful Miguel Cabrera and new faces such as Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer and Christin Stewart should improve an offense that scored 3.9 runs per game in 2018. Yet the crime will suffer from the inevitable departure of Nicholas Castellanos. There is not much hope for the club’s pitching staff either.
Detroit does have a great farm system, but it’s more quantity than quality. Until this changes, it is hard to apply the power of positive thinking into the Tigers’ playoff chances.
Playoff opportunities: 5 percent
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