While the St. Louis Cardinals have been sitting on their hands, the Reds have come out swinging this winter. There’s another fighter for the Central.
In case you have forgotten, the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central in 2019 for the first time in since 2015. Back in that wonderful spot, the Cardinals once again have a target on their back.
While the Cardinals and Cubs stand pat and the Brewers overhaul, the Cincinnati Reds are coming in hot.
Looking at the Brewers first, non-tendering or trading about half of their regular 25-man roster from last season has left them with a payroll of under $60M and a ton of flexibility to go out and sign some big free agents if they want to.
The Cardinals haven’t done anything and despite the Cubs being “desperate” to make trades, they haven’t either.
The Reds though, they have been making moves. This past week, they came to terms with free agent, Mike Moustakas. Moustakas, who I liked as a fit with the Cardinals, finally got his big paycheck after a couple of years under $10M. Signing a four-year deal, Moustakas is going to make $64M as the Reds regular second baseman.
With this move as well as a couple of other minor moves, the Reds projected lineup is now as follows:
Last year, the Reds may have finished in fourth place this year with a 75-87 record, but there were reasons to believe they are on the cusp of being relevant for the first time in a while.
First off, their Pythagorean W-L was 80-82, meaning they probably should’ve won more games in 2019. It may not have seemed like it, but the Reds also had (by multiple statistics) the fourth-best pitching staff in the league in 2019. If the MLB showed anything in 2019, it’s that pitching is king, and the Reds have a lot of it. The rotation is led by Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo who do a fine job in Great American Ballpark.
Another big player for them in 2019 was the emergence of Aristides Aquino. Playing just 56 games in 2019, Aquino hit 19 homers and had an .891 OPS. Whether or not he’ll be able to repeat is a question but even if he’s close to the slugger he showed he could be in 2019, Aquino will be an issue.
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Eugenio Suarez was a sneaky good player in 2019 as many fans probably don’t know the name. If you didn’t know, Suarez hit 49 homers in 2019. Before you claim that it was only because he was playing in Cincinnati, he actually hit one more homer on the road than at home in 2019. His .930 OPS also shows the slugger he is.
Of course, you can’t forget about Jessie Winker (.830 OPS) and the aging superstar Joey Votto. Votto is an interesting player now because at the age of 35, his OPS was under .800 in 2019 but he still had his signature .350+ OBP.
I don’t need to go through anyone else, you get the point. The Reds lineup is dangerous and adding Mike Moustakas’ 35 homers and .845 OPS to the lineup only makes them more dangerous.
The Cardinals have the player capital to do something to improve for 2020, but with the Brewers charging up to make a free-agent splash or two, the Cubs trying to make moves, and the Reds bolstering a growing team, the Cardinals are going to have some difficulty keeping their NL Central crown in 2020.