Two Indians updates that could impact AL Central race

The Minnesota Twins have some ground to make up in the American League Central after last season. The division winning Cleveland Indians won 91 games last season and coasted to the division crown.

This year, the Twins hope the story will be different. Minnesota added Nelson Cruz and made a few value bets on players like Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron and Martin Perez. That plus some positive regressions for Minnesota’s roster and you can start to see Cleveland’s command of the division starting to slip, at least a little bit.

And the Indians lost Michael Brantley this winter and hardly reacted with roster additions. At least not the type that you’d expect from a club ostensibly hopeful of reaching the World Series this year.

But even a Twins optimist would need to acknowledge that the Indians probably have the two best players in the division in Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and one of the best starting rotations in the game, too.

So with that as a backdrop, two things happened in recent days that could impact the race in the A.L. Central.

1. Cleveland reportedly agreed to a deal with former Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. 

CarGo didn’t catch a hot market last year in free agency, either. And this winter he chose to sit around until mid-March when it was time to strike a minor league deal with a club that appeared to have a need in the outfield. It’d be a little surprising if Gonzalez made the opening day roster, given the extremely confined timeline. But with a projected outfield from of Leonys Martin, Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow and Tyler Naquin, it’s not terribly difficult to imagine Gonzalez making an impact.

If the Indians can shore up an area of weakness with a minor league deal for a hitter who still looks relevant, that’s a win for that club and a hurdle for the Twins. Still, the 33-year-old had a good-not-great season offensively last year, and this doesn’t appear to be a star-level addition to make up for losing Brantley in free agency.

2. The Indians reportedly are still discussing trades for an ace. 

To be clear: Shedding an ace; not acquiring another top-line starter.

According to a report from The Athletic, the Padres and Indians have continued to discuss a possible deal involving a veteran starter such as Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer.

There were reports and rumors about such a deal earlier in the winter. But once spring games commenced, you didn’t read much about that possibility.

The fact that it’s an ongoing discussion — even if no deal will get done in the immediate future — is at least noteworthy to the Twins.

Cleveland’s motivation in trading a great starter from what might be baseball’s best rotation is not quite clear. Although if they’re looking for a trading partner with good prospects, the Padres are a good place to start. San Diego is believed to be loaded in stud prospects, and their rotation is really inexperienced in its current form.