2011 AL Central Preview: Can Twins Hold off Re-Tooled White Sox, Tigers?

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2011 AL Central Preview: Can Twins Hold off Re-Tooled White Sox, Tigers?

Despite Joe Nathan missing the entire season and Justin Morneau having to sit out the last three months, the Minnesota Twins won their second straight division title in 2010.

As defending champs with an already lofty payroll by their own standards, the Twins didn't feel compelled to make any major additions this off season, instead focusing on re-signing their own free agents.

The same cannot be said for the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, who seized the opportunity to close the gap.

Kenny Williams added the premier power hitter on the market in Adam Dunn to an already powerful lineup, and Dave Dombrowski got Miguel Cabrera some much-needed protection by signing Victor Martinez.

Whereas the Twins watched several pieces of their 2010 bullpen depart, the White Sox and Tigers strengthened their pens with the additions of Jesse Crain and Joaquin Benoit, respectively. Additionally, both teams retained key players from their 2010 squads, including Paul Konerko and Magglio Ordonez.

The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals brought up the rear in 2010, and they took very different approaches to their rebuilding processes this Winter.

Whereas the Indians lacked the flexibility and trading chips to do much of anything, the Royals were able to parlay some established players into young talent.

Consider the improvements made by the White Sox and Tigers, the uncertain status of Jake Peavy and Justin Morneau, and Miguel Cabrera's latest off-field issues, and picking a winner is no easy task. In fact, with all due respect to the AL West and NL Central, this is easily the hardest division in baseball to predict.

While teams on the coasts will continue to hog the publicity, no division in baseball is more primed to offer high drama and good theater this season than the AL Central.

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