Hot Stove Thoughts

The Twins traded for Luis Castillo today in a deal that I like. I think this is a nice move for the Twins and a good start to their off-season. One that sort of had me worried as a White Sox fan, and then I started looking at their line up...

They've got a TON of work to do. Wow... they aren't that good still. Letting Jones go won't be the end of the world, but you figure they'd rather have him than Stewart at this point. And the left side of their infield still stinks.

And that's not to say the left side of White Sox infield, statically, is any better because it's not really. But the Sox still have a leg up on the Twins at first, right, left, and now DH to go along with the washes at second, third, and short. The only advantages the Twins have over the Sox 1-9 is behind the plate and in center, but even behind the plate it’s a tad miss leading since Pierzynski is a hell of a ball player, the kind whose statistics need to be measured outside of the numbers.

But unlike the Indians (more on them in a second), the Twins realize they need to make improvements to their team. Letting Jones walk, as I said, isn’t the end of the world since they’ve got prospects coming out of the waz-zoo in the outfield. And sure one of these years Morneau might actually out hit Konerko, but I don’t think it’s happening in 2006. Or 2007. And probably not 2008 while we’re at it. But they’re stuck with Stewart in left, Hunter isn’t *that* great of a hitter in center, and infield that can’t hit. Castillo will help them and bat second, but they still could use a lead off hitter and someone who can play third or short better than what they’ve got.

Sure the Twins have decent pitching, but they’re going to have to score some more runs if they want to be in the AL Central race. And the AL Central is fast becoming the weirdest and most interesting division in baseball. You’ve got the World Series Champions, a young Indian team that played lights out for all but ten games in the second half, the Twins, a Tiger team that really could content one of these days (err years?), and then of course the Royals who can’t be that much worse.

If you ask me, the White Sox still have to be the favorites. Going out and getting Thome (and resigning Konerko) is by far the biggest move in the AL so far this winter and should improve the Sox offense immensely. And the best part of the Thome deal was that the White Sox stepped up to the plate and didn’t allow the Indians to get him. It was a very Yankee like move on the White Sox part, the Indians playing the Red Sox in that deal.

Winning 93 games last year might actually be a bad thing for the Indians. When you have a young team that wins 93 games, you try not to tinker with them too much. So you sit tight and the next year you only win 86 and you’re left wondering what happened (see 2001 and 2002 White Sox). But here’s the dirty secreate about the Tribe: They aren’t that young. Yes Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta are babies and future All-Stars, but after that? Sure Martinez is still a pretty young 26 and Coco Crisp is only 25 but who gets excited about 25 year old left fielders who can’t really and don’t hit for much power? Now look at this… Travis Hafner and Ben Broussard are going to be 29 next year, Casey Blake and Ronny Belliard are already over 30, as is Aaron Boone. Hafner is not a young hitter no matter what Pete Gammons says. Belliard only has one way to go… down. Broussard is already a black hole at first base.

Are the building blocks there? For sure; Sizemore, Peralta, and Martinez are guys to start with and they make you strong up the middle to boot. But the rest of the Tribe is vastly overrated. I know Hafner played like Babe Ruth from the middle of August to the middle of September, but I just can’t see him being any better than last year.

As for their pitching… yes they’ve got Cliff Lee and CC. But they got career years from Milwood (who’s also a free agent), Jake Westbrook, and Scott Elarton. They’re outstanding bullpen is already falling apart with Howry moving on and Wickman a free agent also. And who knows if they’ll be able to get great years out of both Betancourt and Sauerbeck again.

The Tribe should be aggressive this off-season trying to add a first baseman and a sure up their pitching staff. But it’s likely they’ll stand pat with what they have (though they were offering Crisp for Thome so who knows) and resign Wickman hoping that he has another outstanding season, a big if for someone who will be 37.

At this point, you’ve got to like the White Sox still in the division. But if the Twins or Indians make a few moves… not only will they give the White Sox a run for their money, but the Red Sox and Yankees again too.

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