The 2019 AL Central just got a lot more interesting. The Cleveland Indians have dominated this division for the past three years. There have been no suitable contenders outside of the Indians since the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015. This all might come to an end as the Indians are interested in selling key pieces that brought them three straight post-season appearances including a trip to the World Series. Could a White Sox run for the division come as early as this upcoming season?
Faced with market constraints, the Indians will listen to trade offers for some of their veteran players this winter, according to sources. Kluber, Carrasco, Encarnacion, Gomes, etc. Lindor, Ramirez will definitely be held.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 2, 2018
Being a team in a small market comes with tough payroll decisions. The Indians are on the books with Kluber for $17 million, Encarnacion for a litter over $21 million, and Jason Kipnis for just over $14 million.
Nobody else on the roster is owed over $10 million dollars next season. Trading away these pieces would help sustain a financial sustainability a small market team needs to maintain. The Indians have also started slashing cap space by deciding not to extend a qualifying offer of $17.9 million to outfielder Michael Brantley. Other notable names the Indians aren’t are extending offers to are relief pitchers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen making all three of them unrestricted free agents.
You might be asking yourself why are the Indians in the thought of a possible rebuild? Why not keep all your core pieces one last year when you know you could take another division title? They believe this division is still winnable if they trade away these key players for the right price. Cleveland might be scared of what is building on the South Side in the years to come. Their roster as we speak is built to win now. So why not win now?
With a 91-71 record last year the Indians ran away with the division. Getting rid of these big names would more than likely mean a decline in wins in the 2019 season. This would open up the doors for our Chicago White Sox. A 91 win team could become an 83-86 win team with losses of key pieces and that is a record that is achievable for another suitor in the AL Central.
By no means with the news of Cleveland looking to sell should Rick Hahn and the White Sox blow off the rebuild to shoot their shot at a division title this year? They must attain focus and prepare for the long-term future as they have been doing for years now.
However, this is the year they should spend money. As the White Sox are second to last in payroll, and this being a loaded free agent class they have more than enough of money to spend on one of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, or A.J. Pollock.
If the White Sox to take the next step in the rebuild this offseason (as they should) and make a big splash in free agency with one of the names listed above, the sky would be the limit for this White Sox team and this division would get real interesting real fast. Yes, the sox would still be missing a front-line starter in Michael Kopech but sometime during next year top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease will be up in the big leagues to help contribute to this team.
Not anymore will this division be a cakewalk for the Indians if they do end up selling. The American League Central still might be the worst division in baseball but it may finally start to become competitive again.
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