MLB Offseason Recap: NL Central

This is the fourth installment of the 2021 MLB Offseason Recap. I will be going over each team’s additions and subtractions during the winter and determine if they’ve improveddeclined, or stayed the same in terms of talent and competitiveness. At the time of writing this (Feb 11th), there are still some notable free agents that haven’t found a team yet (Justin Turner, Jackie Bradley Jr, Kevin Pillar, Trevor Rosenthal, James Paxton, Brett Gardner, etc.) so stick with me if this becomes immediately outdated. Enough wasting time, let’s dive in.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs had an overall successful 2020 season. They made it to the playoffs and were knocked out in the first round by a sweep from the Miami Marlins. That was by far the most unusual baseball happening in an unusual year. What was even more unusual about a successful Chicago cubs team was their highest batting average of a player that played in 50 or more baseball games was Jason Heyward with a .265 batting average. Other than that, Yu Darvish had the best year of his career by far registering an ERA of 2.01 that also saw him place second behind Trevor Bauer in the NL Cy Young Voting. So what did the Chicago Cubs do about that magical season? They traded away Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini (his personal catcher) to the now power house Padres. They also had another huge loss that isn’t of the player variety; former President Theo Epstein. It seems Epstein saw the writing on the wall of the Cubs missing their window and he high tailed it out of there. This new Cubs team seems to be more geared towards a rebuild than a contention in the near future. In return for Darvish, the Cubs ended up receiving four prospects from the Padres and Zach Davies. In addition to Zach Davies, the Cubs also signed Joc Pederson to be, hopefully, in a full time role instead of a platoon role. This Cubs team can still make some signings before the start of the season but right now there bullpen seems a little depleted. If the Cubs commit to a rebuild, it is going to be a rough couple years regaining relevancy in the NL Central. 

Verdict: Declined

Cincinnati Reds

Last year was supposed to have a different turn out than it did. Trevor Bauer showed up along with their whole rotation and it seems the only aspect of the team that didn’t show up was the offense. So what did the Reds do to make up for their lack of offense? They signed Dee Gordon. Clearly, they have the fire power to compete with the best of them with their current lineup but they just couldn’t get things going in 2020. Along with losing Bauer, the Reds lost Archie Bradley, traded Rasiel Iglesias to the Angels as well as losing Anthony DeSclafani, and  Robert Stephenson. This team seems to want to compete, but they might need an extra starter or reliever for the late season grind. Either way, they could make some noise if everything falls into place. 

Verdict: Declined

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers fell short last season. Things just didn’t work out, plain and simple. Things aren’t all terrible in Milwaukee as it seems. Yelich had his worst “season” as a big leaguer, BY FAR, and will almost surely won’t do that again. Corbin Burns seems to be coming into his own and if he can repeat or come close to what he did in the condensed 2020, look out MLB. He is nasty. Even though the Brewers didn’t have too many additions other than Kolten Wong, Jordan Zimmerman, and Dylan Cozens, they still have a very solid lineup and could maybe use a little help in the bullpen. This Brewers team can compete if Yelich and company shows up. Once again, another team that could make noise this year. 

Verdict: Stayed the same

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates. Talk about a team in rebuild mode. This off-season was the last of the fire sale it seems as they let go Jameson Taillon to the Yankees for four rookies that are few years away from contributing. This off-season, the Pirates have let go Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Keone Kela, Josh Bell, and Joe Musgrove. The Pirates have some core pieces to build around in the future and hopefully the draft works out in their favor to try and get this team back on track. 

Verdict: Declined

St. Louis Cardinals

Talk about a team making a splash. The St. Louis Cardinals won the Nolan Arenado sweepstakes and it was like stealing candy from a baby. Just giving up Austin Gomber and a few other prospects in return got baseball’s best third baseman. As weird as it is, the Cardinals really haven’t made much noise other than that. Former 2nd baseman and centerfielder, Kolten Wong, also found a new home as the Cardinals are going to go with Tommy Edman and Harrison Bader, as it seems, at second base and centerfield. With this new addition, it seems the Cardinals are in win now mode and have the offense to do it as well. This will be an exciting team to watch this year as we see of the Arenado trade will pay the dividends they expect it to. 

Verdict: Improved

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