Winter meetings preview: AL teams

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bay fielding.jpgJust a couple of quick sentences on what each team may be looking to do this week.
Baltimore – The Orioles are on the lookout for a couple of corner infielders, a starting pitcher and a closer, but with youngsters on the way, they’re more after veteran stopgaps than building blocks. Felix Pie is on the block and could bring bullpen help.
Boston – Upgrading from Jason Bay to Matt Holliday makes even more sense now that the Red Sox have surrendered their first-round pick with the Marco Scutaro signing*. Roy Halladay’s name will also come up frequently, and the Red Sox will explore a Mike Lowell trade. If Lowell goes, it’d open the door for an Adrian Beltre signing.
*The Cards would still get Boston’s first-round pick in such a scenario, but for the Red Sox, the draft-pick cost for Holliday is merely a second-round pick.
Chicago – Ken Williams is full of surprises, but the White Sox don’t have a lot to work with after doing their shopping during the season and landing Jake Peavy and Alex Rios. A Bobby Jenks deal doesn’t appear to be on the agenda, but it can’t be ruled out. The White Sox still need an outfielder and a designated hitter, but they could wait and bargain hunt to fill both spots.
Cleveland – The Indians will be thrifty this winter, so while they need some veteran bats to provide protection at first base, second base and in left field, they’ll probably wait for price tags to fall. If they can find a way to turn some of their exceptional minor league depth into a young starting pitcher, they could pull the trigger.
Detroit – Likely to be one of the most active teams at the meetings, the Tigers still have Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson up for grabs. They’ll also be talking to relievers and shortstops, though it looks like they hope to re-sign Fernando Rodney and Adam Everett. Don’t expect to see anything happen with Miguel Cabrera.
Kansas City – Excepting Zack Greinke, the Royals’ most expensive players –Jose Guillen, Gil Meche, David DeJesus and Kyle Farnsworth — are all available. So are Mike Jacobs and John Buck, though they’re expected to be non-tendered. Cheaper options like Alberto Callaspo and Brian Bannister are out there as well. The Royals are going to need a starter, an outfielder or two and maybe a DH.
Los Angeles – Having lost Chone Figgins, the Angels might now make a push to get a John Lackey deal done. Halladay and Bay are other potential targets with the team having room for one big contract. GM Tony Reagins will also continue his attempts to find a new home for Gary Matthews Jr., though it’s proving to be an extremely difficult task.
Minnesota – The Twins still have a need at second or third or both, and there simply isn’t a better fit for Beltre if Minnesota could just come up with the money. GM Bill Smith will also likely be charged with getting rid of Glen Perkins, who is at odds with management.
New York – GM Brian Cashman is playing things close to the vest so far. The Yankees are in on Halladay, but perhaps not on any of the big three free agents: Holliday, Lackey and Bay. The Yankees will be in touch with their own top three free agents: Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. They may be the top candidates to ink Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, but there’s nothing to indicate he’s close to signing.
Oakland – The A’s are going to be in on some free agents after all, as they made clear with their bid for Scutaro. Troy Glaus is one who makes sense for their lineup. They have a bigger need when it comes to starting pitching, though. To free up some cash, they may trade or later non-tender Jack Cust. They also have relief depth to use in the hunt for help.
Seattle – The first order of business will be to announce the Figgins signing, but the Mariners won’t stop there. They’re still capable of putting together strong bids for Lackey and Bay, and they’ll be on the lookout for a first baseman, perhaps Nick Johnson.
Tampa Bay – The Rays remain at the center of the Milton Bradley talks, with Pat Burrell likely to move on if a deal is struck. They could also trade Dioner Navarro, who is a non-tender candidate following the Kelly Shoppach acquisition. Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton do not appear to be available.
Texas – It remains unclear just how much financial flexibility the Rangers possess. They’re reportedly discussed Kevin Millwood with the Orioles, and if they could dump his salary, they’d have a better chance of upgrading their lineup. Jermaine Dye is believed to be a top target. However, with ownership still up in the air, they may be forced to remain quiet.
Toronto – A Halladay deal is very unlikely to get done at the meetings, but there will surely be talks. The Jays also have other business to worry about. They’re looking to move Lyle Overbay (to Seattle?) and pick up a catcher and an outfielder. They can afford to part with a reliever or two to fill one of the holes.

Video: Jonathan Lucroy who? Roberto Perez homers twice in World Series opener for the Indians

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Back in July, then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Indians, helping the club make a significant upgrade behind the plate after losing Yan Gomes to an injury. At the time, Roberto Perez had only played in 11 games, batting .043. Gomes had hit .165 before his injury, and Chris Gimenez batted .202 over 42 games. It was not much of a logical leap to think the Indians would eventually falter due to a lack of production at the catching position.

But here the Indians are in the World Series facing the Cubs. In Game 1 on Tuesday night, Perez — who finished the season with a .183 average and three home runs in 184 plate appearances — drilled a pair of home runs, accounting for four of the six runs the Indians would score in a shutout win over the Cubs.

Perez’s first blast was a solo that that just cleared the left field fence at Progressive Field, coming on an 0-1 fastball from starter Jon Lester. That padded the Indians’ lead to 3-0.

The second homer put the game away, as he punished reliever Hector Rondon for hanging a 2-2 slider with two runners on base, slugging this one enough to clear the left field fence by plenty. That doubled the Indians’ lead to 6-0, the score by which they would eventually win.

Perez is the first catcher to homer twice in a World Series game since Gary Carter did it for the Mets against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Perez is the first Indian to homer twice in the same playoff game since Jim Thome in the 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox.

Corey Kluber dazzles as Indians blank Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

From the moment Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the first inning in Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs knew Indians starter Corey Kluber brought his A-game and that they were in for a long night. Bryant was Kluber’s second strikeout victim in as many batters and he would go on to strike out eight batters through the first three innings, setting a World Series record.

The Indians, meanwhile, gave Kluber an early cushion, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Francisco Lindor hit a two-out single, then stole second base against starter Jon Lester. Lester proceeded to walk Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Jose Ramirez brought one run home with an infield single to the left of the pitcher’s mound. The lefty then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to force in another run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.

The Indians scored one more run in the fourth inning when catcher Roberto Perez snuck a solo home run over the fence in left field, victimizing Lester yet again.

The Cubs struggled to get any kind of momentum going, wasting a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist in the second inning and a two-out double by Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Through six innings, Kluber yielded only three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. He took the mound to start the seventh but departed after Zobrist led off with a single to left field.

Reliever and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller entered the game, but the Cubs seemed to have a better time against him. Schwarber drew a walk and Javier Baez singled to left, loading the bases. At the very least, it seemed, Miller would give up at least one run, if not two. The average team scored two runs with the bases loaded and no outs, according to Baseball Prospectus. But Miller showed why he was named the MVP of the ALCS, getting Willson Contreras to fly out to shallow center. Schwarber thought the ball would drop, so he was way off the second base bag, but center fielder Rajai Davis didn’t notice and fired home to ensure a run didn’t score. Despite the mistake, Miller rebounded by striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the inning with no damage done

Miller returned to the mound for the eighth inning for his second inning of work. After getting Dexter Fowler to fly out, he walked Bryant. Miller got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to shallow center, but Zobrist singled to center to put runners on first and third with two outs. On his 46th pitch of the night, Miller struck out Schwarber to escape the inning.

Perez decided to double the Indians’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm walked Guyer and allowed a single to Lonnie Chisenhall, forcing manager Joe Maddon to replace him with Hector Rondon. Rondon hung a 2-2 slider and Perez crushed it, this time clearing the fence by plenty for a three-run homer. He’s the first catcher with two homers in a World Series game since Gary Carter in 1986.

Closer Cody Allen, who thought he was going to be used in a save situation, took over in the top of the ninth. After striking out Baez, Contreras doubled to right field. Allen then struck out Russell as well as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to end the game in a 6-0 victory for the Indians.

Game 2 of the World Series will start an hour earlier than usual on Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather late at night. Jake Arrieta will make the start for the Cubs opposite the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.