As the 2017 season winds down, AL Central teams face some big challenges in building toward 2018. A look:
Cleveland: The Indians’ AL-record 22-game winning streak is incredible, and if they win the World Series, their decisions might become easier. But Carlos Santana, a cornerstone of their lineup, is a free agent, and stretch-drive acquisition Jay Bruce is, too. Both will seek close to $20 million a season, making it much less likely that both will be here in 2018.
• • •
Kansas City: The era that produced back-to-back AL titles and a World Series crown for the Royals is probably over. Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar and Jason Vargas are free agents (as is Melky Cabrera), and Kansas City, with a $143 million payroll, figures to let many of them leave. Which ones, and how to replace them, will be difficult calls.
• • •
Detroit: The Tigers’ problem isn’t the players who might leave, it’s those who might stay. Ian Kinsler (35), Victor Martinez (38), and Miguel Cabrera (34) all showed signs of aging and are owed a combined $59 million next year (and Cabrera $192 million through 2024). If they can’t be moved, those are big obstacles to a roster overhaul.
• • •
Chicago: The White Sox rebuild looks a lot like the Twins’ from a couple of years ago, with huge talents in development. Another similarity: finding veteran pitching to keep the team respectable in the meantime. That’s not easy, as a year with Derek Holland (6.20 ERA), Mike Pelfrey (5.51) and James Shields (5.43) reminded them.