Buy or Sell - AL CENTRAL
This is an interesting division with, debatably, the two tops teams: The White Sox and the Tigers. Beyond that, Cleveland and Minnesota have solid cores of young, homegrown players, with little need to pare payroll and hope for contention in the near future. Then, well, Kansas City shouldn't even count at this point; with ownership pocketing all revenue-sharing money and refusing to put anything back into the team.
Needs: Since a hot start, Shelton has cooled down substantially, so the Tigers could use some help at 1st. They also could use an upgrade to the OF, preferably a LHH, making the DRays' Huff an ideal solution to fill both roles, as well as providing further depth on the bench. Detroit is one of the few teams with an entire pitching corps in little need of upgrading.
Chips: Detroit could trade some of its role players who provide depth in the middle infield or outfield, but this core should stay the same. Detroit could be willing to take on a salary for the right talent. Kyle Sleeth (P) is coming off of a major injury, but was a top Detroit prospect as recently as last year. Humberto Sanchez (P) and Tony Giarratano (SS) could also be used to acquire talent.
Chicago: Buy or hold
Needs: Alex Cintron has a decent average at SS, but I would be surprised to see the Pale Hose to look for a little more power available from the SS slot (Lugo? Tejeda?). Brian Anderson has struggled at the MLB level, so they could stand to upgrade their CF if possible. The Sox have one of the best-rounded squads in the league right now and need little or no help in the BP, rotation, IF or OF.
Chips: The White Sox have some available OF depth at the minor league level (R. Sweeney, J. Owens) that could be moved if need be. With the return of some BP arms, the Sox could move an extra arm in the right deal.
Needs: The Twins are unlikely to catch either the White Sox or the Tigers for the division, nor are they likely to be able to compete with the AL East (Toronto, Boston, and New York) or AL West (Texas, Anaheim) runners-up. However, in the event that they continue their current tear and want to keep fans coming to the park, the Twins could use some help in the rotation, as well as an upgrade at one of 3rd or 2nd. The bullpen could use some help behind the stellar Joe Nathan and Juan Rincon.
Chips: Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, Santana, Liriano and Nathan are safe. Beyond that, nothing would surprise me. It's in their best interest to move some parts and retool for '07 and '08. Lohse has been on the market, and as the deadline approaches, somebody will quite probably bite. Radke could be moved to pare payroll, as well as any number of bullpen arms. The Twins have a crew of OFers that could provide additional depth or outright improvement for several contenders weak at the position (Yankees!), so I would expect two or more of their OFers (Hunter, Ford, White, Sierra, and Cuddyer) to relocate - if not by the trading deadline, then by spring training of '07.
Needs: Cleveland is a team built for the future and probably outperformed expectations last year, causing premature playoff hopes for this year. Because the Indians are out of it, they don't have many needs currently for their squad, especially with the young core of players they have assembled. The Indians could use some long-term help in the bullpen and will be looking for young arms in any trade. They certainly could stand to improve their OF depth.
Chips: With prospect Andy Marte waiting in the wings, the Indians will probably move Aaron Boone before the trading deadline. There is some interest in Westbrook, but the Indians will want pitching in return for the effective pitcher. There may also be interest in Byrd. If the Indians are wise, they will move Wickman before the deadline, as closers tend to have exaggerated value for contending teams in dire need of bullpen help. Broussard should generate interest, and the Indians should sell high, especially with Garko stashed away and a catcher who may be a better fit at 1st (Martinez). The Indians have a chance this trading season to fix some impending holes for the 2007 season, so I would be surprised to see them stand pat.
Kansas City: Sell (not much to sell, though)
Needs: Is it fair to say they need everything? Kansas City needs to put a ton of revenue sharing money into their farm system, because they can't compete by going after free agents. Kansas City needs to trade for minor leaguers, and may need to take some chances on fringe prospects for any serviceable MLBers they can move. KC has swung and missed on some trades capable of bringing substantial talent into the system - maybe new GM Moore will be able to use his Braves' experience to build from the bottom up.
Chips: KC needs to move former ROY Angel Berroa, especially with German doing well in limited innings at short (and 2nd). Grudzielanek could help a contender; Graffanino, Mienkiewicz, Sanders, could solidify someone's bench. Sweeney is the biggest chip that could be moved to someone in need of a bat. The Royals better get something back for him if they ever want to be out of the basement.