The rest of the NL Central seems to be helping the St. Louis Cardinals’ chances to win the division next year. What is one more present from each team?
This winter, the NL Central is falling from grace among the rest of the MLB divisions. We all know that the St. Louis Cardinals are cutting back payroll, but the rest of the division seems to be doing the same.
Although the Cardinals may end up without Kolten Wong, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright, other teams are going through more catastrophic changes.
As these other teams tear their roster down, the Cardinals’ chances to win the NL Central go up by the day. Because it is Christmas time, each player that leaves the NL Central seems like a present given to the Cardinals for 2021. What is one more present each team could give the Cardinals this winter?
Milwaukee Brewers: Stay away from the bats of free agency
2020 was the first year that the Brewers have had their pitching staff be a strength in quite some time. The group finished fourth in the MLB in fWAR from starting pitchers, normally suggesting the team would have a good year. While they did make the playoffs, they did it with a losing record mostly thanks to a horrid offense.
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Some of the lack of success has to be due to small sample sizes, as Christian Yelich’s .205 batting average was definitely an outlier. However, their strategy of acquiring all the utility infielders they could before the 2020 season didn’t end up working well in the end. They are probably going to be in the same market as the Cardinals for hitters, so them deciding the market is too rich would be a great thing for the Cards.
Cincinnati Reds: Trade away Sonny Gray
Four spots ahead of the Pirates (and in first place in the MLB) in fWAR from starting pitchers in 2020 were the Cincinnati Reds. A large portion of that success came from Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray at the top of their rotation.
The Reds already traded away Rasiel Iglesias from the back of their bullpen, and now both Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo are being mentioned in trade rumors. The Reds still have bats, but their best strength was their pitching. If they trade away Sonny Gray, that strength gets a whole lot weaker as chances aren’t great that they can afford to resign Bauer.
Chicago Cubs: Trade away Yu Darvish
This rumor was one that surfaced on Monday morning as the Cubs and the depths of their financial crisis just keep getting deeper.
After the team tendered Kris Bryant but let go of Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora, it doesn’t seem like the salary cutting is done. Yu Darvish had a fantastic year in 2020, finishing second in Cy Young voting. However, like much of the rest of the team, he is owed a lot of money.
It may be difficult for new team president Jed Hoyer to find a taker for the three years and $59M left on Darvish’s contract, but whatever team does take that on is getting a high-end arm. In two starts against the Cardinals in 2020, Darvish struck out 18 while giving up just two runs. It would be just fine if the Cardinals didn’t have to face Darvish much for the next three seasons.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Don’t change a thing
The Pirates and their fans live a sad existence. It’s been a bad few years of losing (19-41 in 2020) and there isn’t hope on the horizon just yet. Ke’Bryan Hayes looks really good, but one man can’t make up an entire team.
In the Pittsburgh market, it doesn’t look like the Pirates are going to be able to spend this winter, nor should they. They lost Chris Archer and despite having a payroll of just over $45M, there are rumors that they might try and drop payroll even lower. This feels like kicking a guy when they’re down, but now is not the time for the Pirates to spend. If they stay the same in 2020 (even if they add a piece or two) it looks like another cellar year for the poor Bucs.
If the Cardinals can repeat their performance from 2020, there is a good chance they can finish near the top of the division. While it may be frustrating to see the Cardinals cutting back, looking around the NL Central should show that it could get a lot worse.