The Kansas City Royals were the surprise story of the 2014 season. Quite simply, every other team could look at them and think, ‘well if the Royals can finally turn things around, there’s a chance for us all’.
Repeating the feat will not be so easy though and if Royals fans thought that their World Series run would herald a new era of success, after so many years of hard times, they haven’t exactly been bowled over by the moves their Front Office has made to make that dream become a reality.
Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios have been added to the offence, signings that may have been more exciting four or five years ago, whilst Edinson Volquez has recently joined a pitching staff with a James Shields-shaped hole in it. Shields is still out there on the free agent market so a return isn’t completely out of the question; however it seems unlikely and Kansas will be looking to their younger players to replicate their late season form.
Shields is the number two starting pitcher on the market behind Max Scherzer. At some point over the next few weeks we will find out if the Detroit Tigers’ owner Mike Ilitch does delve into his sizeable coffers once again, this time to bring Scherzer back.
That seems unlikely considering the annual salaries they are already committed to with Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and the re-signed Victor Martinez over the next four years (see the payroll commitment spreadsheet on the Tigers’ page at Cot’s Baseball Contracts), but if they don’t feel they can keep hold of David Price before he reaches free agency at the end of 2015, maybe they will stretch to a fourth big contract. The Tigers have added Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene to the rotation already, whilst trading away Rick Porcello to acquire outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Boston.
The Cleveland Indians have been quiet so far this off-season, just adding Brandon Moss and Gavin Floyd, and are banking on their good core of young(ish) players to be backed by returns to form by 2012/13 offseason free agent signings Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher.
Meanwhile in Minnesota, there is a new manager at the helm in Paul Molitor after Ron Gardenhire’s 13-year spell with the team was brought to an end. The Twins were not expected to be too active this off-season, biding their time as young players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (both hampered by lengthy injuries in 2014) make their way through the Minor Leagues. They have brought back veteran outfielder Torii Hunter, signed Ervin Santana as a free agent and agreed a contract extension with Phil Hughes, who was a terrific signing for the team last winter.
All of which leaves us with by far the busiest team in the division and one of the most active across the Majors. The Chicago White Sox have added players to the batting lineup, starting rotation and bullpen (as noted recently) and how well they mesh together in 2015 will be one of the factors in determining if the Royals’ World Series appearance was the start of a play-off run or just a one-and-done affair.