Trade Deadline needs for AL Central clubs

August 13th, 2020

Life comes at you fast … and so does the 2020 Trade Deadline.

We’re only three weeks into the season, but the Aug. 31 Deadline is a little more than two weeks away. That’s an expedited evaluation period, complicated all the more by the postseason expansion that puts eight teams from each league into October.

The American League Central standings are testament to how tricky this can be, what with the Tigers having surprisingly leaped into the race alongside the Twins, Indians and White Sox.

Here’s a look at the key question all five AL Central clubs are facing as the Deadline draws near.

Indians: Is the offense just rusty or not up to par?
When the Indians plugged at the top of the lineup, freeing up to move to the three spot, the team expected its offense to have much more depth than it had in 2019. But the bats have gotten off to a brutally slow start, owning MLB’s worst batting average (.192) and OPS (.597) heading into play on Wednesday.

Though the players and manager Terry Francona have attributed that to early season struggles, the Indians will need to quickly learn whether the offense has the capability of providing more run support for one of the best rotations in the league or whether they need to acquire an impact bat to help give them a much-needed spark. -- Indians beat reporter Mandy Bell

Royals: Will the rotation keep them in it?
If the Royals are to become buyers instead of sellers at the Trade Deadline, it may be a decision based on how their rotation holds together. After an early season slump, Kansas City’s offense has picked up the pace. And the Royals’ bullpen -- thanks to the resurgence of and and the emergence of -- suddenly has become the strength of the team with a 3.00 ERA, third-best in the AL.

But the rotation only recently got and back from the injured list, and Kansas City also is counting on rookies and to hold their own. If the rotation (5.09 ERA) falters, the Royals may look to add a starter at the Deadline. -- Royals beat reporter Jeffrey Flanagan

Tigers: Do they have enough to compete?
As a team, the Tigers have preached that anything can happen in a 60-game season, even a playoff berth. Their fast start, combined with the expanded playoff pool, reinforces that. But Detroit’s front office has to decide whether the Tigers have enough talent and depth to make a run to the postseason with the team it has, and how it fits within the long-term buildup plan.

The Tigers’ schedule is tougher in September. Don’t expect them to be buyers under any scenario, but the decision whether to keep this team together or trade away some guys could be huge, because the potential ratio of buyers to sellers could be better than it has been since the Tigers began rebuilding three years ago. And if several potential contenders find themselves short on pitching, the Tigers can help. -- Tigers beat reporter Jason Beck

Twins: Is there enough rotation depth?
The starting rotation seemed like the deepest part of the Twins' largely complete roster on Opening Day, but things have somehow become much more of a question mark over the first three weeks of the season. and have both missed time with arm issues, and there's no guarantee they'll come back fully effective. was rusty in his first outing back from a right intercostal strain, and has yet to find his best command.

Meanwhile, , and have had decidedly mixed results, somehow leaving and as the only beacons of stability in a starting group that looked improbably deep entering the season. Another complicating factor is that the Twins won't have any time before the Trade Deadline to evaluate , who will be eligible to return from suspension at the end of August. The Twins have the prospect talent in their 60-man player pool to deal, as the Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 prospects in the organization are all at the club's alternate training site and therefore eligible to be traded. But would the Twins be willing to part with any of that top talent when they already have so many arms in the organization? -- Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox: Is the rotation strong enough?
For a group taking that next step from three years of rebuilding, the obvious question is whether the White Sox can reach the postseason. But with the talent across their roster and an expanded postseason field, the White Sox definitely are contenders. They have the offensive depth from one through nine, but the real issue stems from how much they can rely upon their starting five.

and form a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation, and certainly has the ability of a top-tier starter. But the White Sox already have dealt with injuries to and , moving from the long relief/spot-starter role into the rotation. General manager Rick Hahn believes López and Rodón will be back before the end of August, so don’t look for the White Sox to go outside of the organization to fill the spot, especially if it would require moving any of their core players to acquire a hurler. Dane Dunning, the team’s No. 8 prospect, could factor into this mix eventually. -- White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin