Predicting the Biggest Signing From Each American League Central Team

Predicting a big signing for each AL Central team

The off-season is just beginning. It’s about to be kicked into high gear with the winter meetings right around the corner. Even with no baseball being played, this is an exciting time of year for baseball fans. Every fanbase wants their team to get upgrades through free agency for Christmas, but not all teams will be able to do that. There will be plenty of off-season coverage from Inside The Diamonds. Still, this article focuses on one of the most intriguing divisions in baseball heading into 2024: the American League Central. It is wide open for the taking. Do the Minnesota Twins defend their AL Central title? Does the young, up-and-coming Detroit Tigers add enough pieces to return to the postseason? Or will the Cleveland Guardians be busy trying to build a roster surpassing the two teams that finished ahead of them in 2023? What are the next steps in the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals rebuild?…

Let’s dive in. Here are my predictions for the most significant signings from each AL Central team this off-season.

Minnesota Twins: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

If Detroit Tigers fans weren’t annoyed enough by Eduardo Rodriguez, they wouldn’t like him going to a division rival. It doesn’t sound like Sonny Gray will return to Minnesota, leaving the Twins with a huge void to fill at the top of their rotation. Minnesota will have to fill multiple holes in their roster, but they need to be willing to pay big bucks on starting pitching. The pitching market is interesting. It’s underwhelming, but there are still plenty of solid options. I don’t see Minnesota for Blake Snell or Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the market. The next best options are Jordan Montgomery and Sonny Gray. They will be a strong contender for Montgomery, but I see another team winning the bidding war. After Montgomery and Gray, Rodriguez is the best available. If they can’t land either Montgomery or Gray, the Twins should aggressively pursue Rodriguez.

E-Rod had a 13-9 record this season with the Tigers. He posted a 3.30 ERA, 134 ERA+, 3.66 FIP, and 1.153 WHIP. In 26 games and 152.2 innings pitched, Rodriguez struck out 143 batters and walked 48.

Keep a close eye on Minnesota to be a sneaky landing spot for Cody Bellinger if they land their new starter quickly and can shift focus on strengthening their lineup.

Detroit Tigers: LHP Jordan Montgomery

Could the Detroit Tigers land one of the best free-agent pitchers on the market? Welcome to a new era of Tigers baseball. As bad as the Tigers’ offense was last season, they have a solid young core of players who will help complete that lineup, likely as soon as 2025. Their infield should be set for years to come once Jace Jung makes his way to the big leagues. Colt Keith should be on the opening day roster in 2024, Javier Baez still has a lot of time left on his contract, and Spencer Torkelson shouldn’t be going anywhere; he is a centerpiece for this team. For years to come, it should be Keith at third base, Javy at shortstop, Jung at second base, and Tork at first base. They have decent outfield depth as well. With Rodriguez opting out, it’s clear that the Tigers’ big-ticket signing will be a starting pitcher, and with money to spend freed up by Miguel Cabrera’s retirement and Rodriguez’s opt-out, Montgomery makes a ton of sense. He will give the Tigers a top-of-the-rotation starter and a veteran presence for guys like Skubal, Mize, Olsen, and Gipson-Long. Montgomery could push them to make the postseason by overtaking the Twins if there is continued growth from the Tigers’ offense.

Montgomery pitched for the Cardinals and the World Series champion Texas Rangers in 2023. He finished with an 11-10 record, a 3.20 ERA, 138 ERA+, 3.56 FIP, and a 1.193 WHIP. In 32 games and 188.2 innings pitched, Montgomery struck out 166 batters and walked 48.

Seam Manaea could also make sense for Detroit. He struggled a bit in 2023, but Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter is like a magician in turning a pitcher’s career around. Manaea could return to his former form with Detroit if they can’t land one of the top pitchers in free agency.

Cleveland Guardians: OF Lourdes Gurriel Jr

The Arizona Diamondbacks made a trade to acquire Gurriel from the Blue Jays before the start of the 2023 season. He was able to help the D-Backs capture a National League pennant by putting up some good numbers and being one of the strong parts of their lineup. His market is fascinating. There are many, many landing spots for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. The Seattle Mariners certainly make sense. He could land on a few teams in the NL West, including a return to Arizona, and the Marlins could use him. There’s not a prominent landing spot for him yet, and he could end up anywhere. I like the Cleveland Guardians as a great fit. Undoubtedly, they will heavily pursue an outfielder this off-season as they desperately need to bulk up offensively from the outfield. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had better numbers than the entire Cleveland outfield combined in 2023. The Guardians only got 18 home runs from all their outfielders combined in the 2023 season. He would be a huge spark on offense, and with a couple more pieces, he can help them keep up with the Twins and Tigers.

Gurriel was an all-star in 2023. He slashed .261/.309/.463 with a .772 OPS and 3.0 WAR. He collected 61 extra-base hits, homered 24 times, had 82 RBIs, and in 551 at-bats, he struck out 103 times and walked 33 times.

Teoscar Hernãndez also fits like a glove and could help Cleveland find a spark offensively. The Guardians could even possibly take a big shot and pursue Jorge Soler.

Chicago White Sox: RHP Lucas Giolito

Not many people will see this coming, but I think Lucas Giolito will return to the White Sox in an off-season reunion. As they are rebuilding, Chicago traded their efficient right-hander to the Angels at the deadline this past season. After the trade, Giolito struggled with his new team, and so did the Angels, who realized they made a mistake by buying at the trade deadline. The Angels let go of Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez before the season ended. They both got picked up by the Cleveland Guardians before the conclusion of the 2023 season. Giolito struggled with the Guardians as well. Because of his struggles, Giolito should be affordable for many teams in 2024. The White Sox certainly should be within striking distance, and they have to get starting pitching. They lost Giolito and Lopez, and it looks like Dylan Cease will be traded sooner rather than later. They must get some pieces in the rotation even though they won’t be contenders. Because of multiple factors, I see a reunion coming.

Giolito was solid with the White Sox for the first half of the season, finishing his time there with a 6-6 record and a 3.79 ERA. With the Angels, he was 1-5 with a 6.89 ERA. With the Guardians, he was 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA. Overall, Giolito finished 2023 with an 8-15 record, a 4.88 ERA, 91 ERA+, 5.27 FIP, and a 1.313 WHIP. In 33 games and 184.1 innings pitched, Giolito struck out 204 batters and walked 74.

Jack Flaherty and Michael Lorenzen also could make sense for Chicago.

Kansas City Royals: RHP Frankie Montas

It seems like the Yankees will likely bring back Frankie Montas, but nothing is guaranteed. It’s been a while since Montas has pitched due to injury, and because of that, a deal to acquire the former A’s ace could be a cheap one. In their end-of-season press conference, the Royals hinted at signing some pitchers to compete in the rotation. Montas seems like a good fit. He is looking to get his career back on track after the injuries and would likely be at the top of Kanas City’s rotation. If he can play like his former self, the Royals may find themselves an ace at a reasonable price. They are a long way from being competitive again, but with some of the pieces they have, if they get Montas playing well, there will be a few more wins in 2024, and Royals fans will have a reason to tune in.

Montas pitched in only one game for the Yankees before his injury this season. New York acquired him from the Oakland Athletics at the 2022 MLB Trade deadline. That season for two ball clubs, Montas had a 5-12 record, a 4.05 ERA, 93 ERA+, 3.78 FIP, and a 1.247 WHIP. In 27 games and 144.1 innings pitched, Montas struck out 142 batters and walked 43.

Kansas City may also re-sign Zack Greinke if he doesn’t retire or go after another cheap veteran arm on the market.

Gage O'Leary

I'm one of the writers for ITD Baseball, I cover the Detroit Tigers and I hope to have a career in sports some day.

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