The AL Central was the most active division at the trade deadline, with all five teams teams making a deal that concerned everyday players or starting pitchers. Four of these teams made deals on the deadline day. What is questionable after these deals is whether the division has improved as a result.
In terms of whether the division's top teams improved, the answer is undoubtedly yes. The Tigers and Twins both made moves that certainly upgraded their rotation and lineup respectively, while the White Sox probably improved, assuming that Peavy actually plays this year (mind you, if the Sox were going to gut their farm system and trade Richard, they probably should have gone after Halladay first, but I'm not complaining because that would have sucked to epic proportions). However, I feel that this criteria is generally irrelevant because no team improved enough to take a run at the Wild Card should they fail to win the division, and the playoffs are a whole new season where the most talented team often doesn't win.
Another criteria that can be used is whether the overall level of talent in the division improved. To evaluate this, I'll look at all Major Leaguers acquired and lost by teams in the division:
Chicago White Sox
Gained: Jake Peavy, Mark Kotsay
Lost: Clayton RichardCleveland Indians
Gained: Justin Masterson
Lost: Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Ryan Garko, Rafael Betancourt, Ben FranciscoDetroit Tigers
Gained: Jarrod Washburn
Lost: Luke FrenchKansas City Royals
Gained: Yuniesky Betancourt, Ryan Freel, Josh Anderson*
Lost: NothingMinnesota Twins
Gained: Orlando Cabrera
*Josh Anderson is not being listed as being lost by the Tigers because he had been designated for assignment before being traded. However, the Royals have stated that when he reports, he will be called up, so he is in the Majors for the Royals, but the Minors for the Tigers. Brian Anderson is not being listed as lost by the White Sox for the same reason.
Overall, the division appears to have actually lost talent (courtesy of the Cleveland Indians). I will argue that the quality of pitching in the division remained at approximately the same level, counting Cliff Lee as equal to Jake Peavy (as Peavy won't start for awhile) and Clayton Richard, Luke French, and Rafael Betancourt as equal in value to Jarrod Washburn. However, the hitting has definitely gotten worse, with Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko being the players of note leaving and Orlando Cabrera the only player of note gained.
Now, while the level of talent in the division may have actually been reduced, it does not mean that the division will necessarily perform worse against other divisions. To evaluate this, I will take a look at every individual team and evaluate what effect their moves is likely to have on their record:Chicago White Sox
Chicago definitely improved their rotation with Jake Peavy, but his impact will be limited as he won't be in the rotation until late this month at the earliest. He should be good for a couple extra wins.Cleveland Indians
The Indians have definitely gotten worse by trading away almost every good player on their team. However, the impact of these moves could be mitigated in terms of wins if they play at their talent level. Statistically, before their deadline moves, the Indians were under-performing by five games according to Bill James' Pythagoream Theorem of Baseball (expected winning %=RS2
). If the Indians play at the level projected by this for the rest of the year, they probably still will lose games at a greater rate than they are now, but the effect on their record will be strongly mitigated.Detroit Tigers
Washburn solidifies the rotation, but this will only transfer into a couple more wins unless the Tigers offense reawakens. Hopefully, they can pick up a bat off of waivers.Kansas City Royals
The Royals managed to pick up three players that other teams were just trying to unload. Unless Betancourt manages to figure out how to hit, the impact of their moves will likely be negligible.Minnesota Twins
The Twins managed to pick up a quality bat to hit in front of Mauer and Morneau, something that may provide a big boost to their offense, which is currently sixth in runs scored in the AL (currently, they're behind Cleveland, which will probably change soon). However, they have a mediocre pitching staff, so while improved, their team still has holes. That said, with Peavy out until late this month and Detroit still unable to hit (although Guillen has been highly impressive since returning and may be the boost the team needs), the trade for Cabrera may produce more wins than any other trade in the division.
Overall, it appears that the division will perform slightly better against the rest of the league thanks to moves by the Tigers, Twins, and White Sox. That said, the division really is not that much better than it was before the deadline, with Cleveland surrendering any prospect of winning for this year, next year, and probably the year after that.