Next up on the division-by-division preview is the NL Central. The order in which the teams are addressed is the order in which I expect them to finish.
- St Louis Cardinals. On paper they were the strongest team in the division last year. They didn’t win the division, but they’ve come back stronger. At the top of their list is acquiring Nolan Arenado in a steal of a trade. The Rockies loss is their gain, and now the Cards are set at 3B for years. They also got a bonus when Yadier Molina decided to put off retirement for a season. In addition they resigned Adam Wainwright, and they got Jordan Hicks back after he opted out of last season. (Based on his being diabetic and the Cards COVID outbreak during the season, it was a good decision.) Gone are Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler. Most Cardinals fans are probably happy about that last one.
- Milwaukee Brewers. Their big acquisitions are Jackie Bradley, Jr and Kolten Wong. They also get Lorenzo Cain back from opting out of last season. Adding Cain and Bradley to Avisail Garcia and Christian Yelich gives them 4 starting outfielders. Two are righties and two are lefties, so they could do a platoon. Otherwise, one is likely to see less playing time than he is used to. I guess I should include they no longer have Ryan Braun due to retirement, but that probably makes things a bit easier for the Brew Crew.
- Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are maybe the most interesting team to me. They won the division last year but meekly bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. That made them in a way both over- and under-achievers. After the season Theo Epstein left with a year still on his contract…knowing a rebuild was coming and not wanting to start but not finish it. It has already begun: they’ve traded or let walk Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, and Albert Almora, Jr. Several key players are in their walk years too: Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Craig Kimbrel, Austin Romine, and Pedro Strop. If the Cubs fall out of contention, watch for them to be big time sellers at the trade deadline. Even if not, the Cubs are unlikely to resign all of them after the season. Their new additions are Jake Arrieta and Joc Peterson. I’m seeing a .500-ish club here.
- Cincinnati Reds. They of course lost Trevor Bauer. Their biggest signing was Sean Doolittle. That’s clearly a net minus. Don’t expect them to be as competitive as they were in last year’s short season.
- Pittsburgh Pirates. Yeesh. Their total tank and rebuild continues in the tank phase. They waved goodbye to Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer (not that he did much for the Pirates) and Josh Bell. They signed nobody of note. They will compete only for worst team in MLB.