The early projections from Clay Davenport provided a vote of confidence for the White Sox's offseason plan -- a 16-win improvement and a move to the middle of the American League Central standings:
There are a couple reasons to not get carried away. For one, the Davenport Translations have endorsed Jose Abreu's defection from Day One, and anybody would take his line (.279/.368/.524) and home run total (32) without asking for anything more.
Beyond specific projections, though, we're still at least a couple weeks from knowing which White Sox will need projecting. There's some roster clutter in the outfield and infield, and Rick Hahn would probably like Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley to suffer consequences from their awful 2013 seasons, so it's hard to call the 25-man roster set yet.
The White Sox aren't alone. The top three finishers in the Central last year haven't quite separated themselves from each other with this winter's actions, at least on paper. The Tigers are shooting for different means to the same run differential, and they can win the division comfortably if it works out. The teams chasing them have reasons to believe they're vulnerable, and it looks like they might have to consider one more major move to close the gap.
Since baseball is a zero-sum game, those wins will have to come from somewhere. Should the Sox stand pat or continuing bolstering for 2015 and/or beyond, 79 wins could be the high-water mark for preseason win projections.
Here's what the rest of the division has to consider before pitchers and catchers report.
Dave Dombrowski -- or Mike Ilitch -- took his foot off the gas pedal with a couple trades that certain knock down the proven production. The Tigers swapped out Prince Fielder and Omar Infante for Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos in the infield, and Doug Fister for Drew Smyly in the rotation. They did add Joe Nathan to address their closer issues, but in terms of reliable relievers, that only covers for the promotion of Smyly.
They'll also open the seson with Jose Iglesias at short instead of Jhonny Peralta, and that move symbolizes what Detroit's trying to do -- build a more cohesive defense and hope it offsets any offensive losses.
The Tigers are closing out January with no strong rumors associated with them, unless you count extension discussions for Max Scherzer and/or Miguel Cabrera. Still, they're no strangers to February surprises. They signed Fielder to his megadeal right before spring training, and Johnny Damon before that. The left field platoon of Andy Dirks and Rajai Davis looks like the only position that didn't end up the way they intended it.
The Indians don't have many scary names in their lineup, but they didn't need them last year thanks to tremendous balance. Terry Francona's club had the platoon advantage 75 percent of the time, and with only one right-handed hitting everyday starter (Yan Gomes), the Tribe can again be greater than the sum of its parts as long as individuals aren't overextended.
That said, if regression is to be expected after a big jump in runs scored last season (from 13th in the AL to fourth), they haven't really insured themselves against it. Chris Antonetti limited the offensive reinforcements to guys named David (Murphy, Cooper and Adams).
On the pitching side, they lost Scott Kazmir and haven't acted on Ubaldo Jimenez, which leaves them with 340 innings to be picked up by Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco.
If they're in a position to make one big deal, it could be as easy as re-signing Jimenez. Either that, or they'll revisit the Suk-Min Yoon idea. He's a Scott Boras client, but so is Michael Bourn, who signed on Feb. 15.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals did address their two biggest offensive gaps -- right field (Norichika Aoki) and second base (signing Omar Infante). Dayton Moore didn't solve all his problems around the diamond, but he's pretty much at the mercy of regression and/or development for several key in-house players, namely Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas.
Unlike the Indians, they've signed a proven starting pitcher, even if Jason Vargas doesn't seem like a needle-mover. Like the Indians, it seems like they can do more there. They have Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, but if the Royals need this year to count, I wouldn't assume Plan A calls for both of them in the rotation on Opening Day.
Also like the Indians, it seems like it might be as simple as signing their own free agent. Just put Ervin Santana in the same place as Jimenez, and the Royals enter 2014 as they left 2013. Well, assuming Santana is more 2013 than 2012.