Is It Enough to Repeat as AL Central Champions?
So the question remains: Does adding Bell and Zunino, and making other minor roster tweaks, do enough for the Guardians to maintain their hold on top of the AL Central division? While a lot can happen over the course of a long MLB season, the Guardians should enter 2023 in a three-team race with the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins.
The Kansas City Royals finished last season at 65-97, and while they have some intriguing young stars, they are likely at least two years away from seriously competing. The Detroit Tigers, meanwhile, took a big shot, spending a ton of money last offseason, adding Javier Báez in a deal that seems to have blown up in their face. While the Tigers will be interesting as Miguel Cabrera makes his farewell tour, they have too many holes, and too few pitching options to seriously compete this season.
The Twins seem primed to improve significantly from their 78-84 finish from 2022. They pulled off the surprise of the offseason by bringing back Carlos Correa after trading for Pablo Lopez, who joins an already improving Twins starting rotation that also hopes to add Kenta Maeda back into their mix, after he missed all of last season due to injury. Like the Guardians, they have a young core that has shown flashes of potential. If they can put together a full season, the Twins could compete for a playoff spot in 2023.
As for the Chicago White Sox, they are an interesting team with some good young players who may present Cleveland with their biggest challenge for the division title. In order to contend, they will need starters Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito to bounce back behind ace Dylan Cease. Both Lynn and Giolito have a track record of MLB success, so it is not unreasonable to expect better performances after down 2022 seasons from both of them. The White Sox also have rotational depth in Michael Kopech and Mike Clevinger. With an above-average bullpen and solid offense, they will look to improve on their 81-81 finish from a year ago.
Overall, the Guardians should enter the season as the favorites to repeat as AL Central champions. With a young roster, more prospects on the way, and new ownership money that could allow them to make additions throughout the season, they are well-positioned for another exciting postseason run in 2023.