This division has been turned on its head this year, and while the base players are the same, the standings are much different.
Chicago White Sox
42-37, first place
Chicago has been a pleasant surprise this year at the top of the AL Central, and their team this year has been a balanced attack. They already made a nice move, picking up Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox to play third base, which has been a massive hole on offense for them this season. They've struggled up the middle with Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, but the only one I can see them punting on is the second baseman Beckham, who has struggled for the past couple of seasons. Chicago has a weak bench after the trade of Brent Lillibridge in the Youkilis deal and the release of Kosuke Fukudome, and picking up a fourth outfielder would be a good move for them. Chicago's pitching staff has been led by the fantastic Jake Peavy/Chris Sale duo, and Jose Quintana has been a pleasant surprise. But Gavin Floyd has struggled, and Philip Humber and John Danks have both been awful and hurt. They could be in play for a starter, but who will they trade? This is not a good farm system, and they don't have much to give up to acquire a big name. Chicago might need to settle for a lower-end starter.
40-39, second place, two games out in division, two games out in wild card
Ah yes, the Indians….they've had three above average regulars (Kipnis, Cabrera, Choo), and a whole lot of slop on offense. They've gotten bupkis out Travis Hafner at DH (who by the way, is hurt again), bupkis from free agent signee at first base Casey Kotchman (bet you didn't see that one coming), and bupkis from early season signee Johnny Damon. They could use a hitter wherever they can take one, but third base and DH look like their primary holes…someone like Chase Headley would look great with Cleveland, but after blowing up their farm system for Ubaldo Jimenez last July, I don't think they have enough to get him without involving top prospect Francisco Lindor. They also need starting pitching, because Derek Lowe and Justin Masterson are their only full-time starters who have not flat-out stunk this year. Zach McAllister has been good in five starts, though. I think Cleveland has too many holes to fill to make a run this year, given the current state of their farm system.
39-41, third place, 3.5 games out in division, 3.5 games out in wild card
For everything that has gone wrong for the Tigers this season, they're still in the hunt. With an offense that has Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera eating up the middle of the order, and a pitching staff led by Justin Verlander, it's hard to believe that the Tigers aren't going to make a run in the second half. The funny thing though is that neither Fielder nor Cabrera has been Detroit's most valuable position player this year…it's been Austin Jackson, who's missed 22 games, yet has a .928 OPS and 3.5 fWAR on the season. The Tigers offense has been really good this year, and they've seemingly all clicked, especially with the emergence of Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks. The Tigers have gotten nothing at second base from Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn though, and could desperately use an upgrade there. The Tigers' pitching staff largely looks fine though, now that the worst members of the bullpen have been excised. This is a huge year for Detroit though, and they absolutely need to win the division to save some jobs.
Kansas City Royals
36-42, fourth place, 5.5 games out in division, 5.5 games out in wild card
The Royals are in an interesting place. They're not in SELL OFF ALL ASSETS mode, because their young stars are going to be the face of their franchise. At the same time, they have enough holes where the team won't exactly be in the market for any huge upgrades. The Royals will probably look to deal off their veterans, and the one in particular I'm looking at is right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who has fallen flat on his face and regressed to his pre-2011 form. Some desperate team also might be interested in Yuniesky Betancourt, which would be something that Dayton Moore should jump all over if someone gives him a call. The rest of Kansas City's offense should not be moved, though. Kansas City's pitching staff is a disaster, but some team might like Bruce Chen as a veteran innings eater, or Jonathan Broxton as a veteran closer (who doesn't throw hard anymore). You can't blow it up in Kansas City…but at the same time, they don't have much that should be dealt. It's a process (TM Dayton Moore).
34-45, fifth place, eight games out in division, eight games out in wild card
The Twins…what a mess. They have no pitching at all, but their offense isn't actually half bad. But….I don't think they're going to move anyone. Josh Willingham is having an awesome year, and was a coveted piece for many teams last winter. He's under contract for the next two years though, and I don't think the Twins would have signed him if they didn't intend on keeping him. I mean, GM Terry Ryan knew they weren't going to be a good team this year. Trading Willingham so soon would just be bizarre. While the Twins are struggling on the mound, some team could have interest in Francisco Liriano, a highly-paid, supremely talented pitcher who just can't put it together on the mound anymore. Reliever Glen Perkins has been awesome, and they could probably get a good return for him if they threw him on the market. There's also closer Matt Capps, who stinks, but…veteran closer. Yup. The Twins are in a really rough position. They're having an awful year, but don't have a lot to deal for a variety of reasons.