St. Louis Cardinals projected to finish third in NL Central
The Cardinals landed Nolan Arenado … and are still projected to finish third in the division?
On Tuesday, Baseball Prospectus released their annual PECOTA story – a projection of where each team will finish in their respective divisions. There were some surprises, including the Atlanta Braves finishing in fourth place in the National League East, but there was perhaps nothing more eye catching than their projection of the St. Louis Cardinals finishing in third place in the NL Central.
Specifically, they have the Milwaukee Brewers winning the division with 88 wins and the Chicago Cubs finishing in second with 85 wins. They had the Cardinals winning 80 games, finishing eight games behind the Brewers, while giving St. Louis a 9.3 percent chance at winning the division.
It is borderline stunning that the Cardinals are not considered the favorites to win the division. After all, they have just acquired All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado and re-signed key figures such as pitcher Adam Wainwright and catcher Yadier Molina. The rest of the division, meanwhile, has hardly gotten better.
Of course, the Brewers signed free-agent second baseman Kolten Wong, weakening the Cardinals at second base, and are expecting more production from Christian Yelich while adding Lorenzo Cain to the lineup. But their current payroll sits in the low-to-mid $80 million range, a far cry to what it has been the last few seasons. And while the Cubs insist that they will increase payroll, they have already traded Yu Darvish this winter and are still listening to inquiries on All-Star catcher Willson Contreras.
It should, at least theoretically, put the Cardinals in prime position to win the NL Central. I predicted to the Redbird Rants staff that the Cardinals should win the division by at least 10 games, and it is a prediction that I stand by unless something drastic happens with the Brewers or Cubs – and the odds of that are slim considering neither team is in position to spend on a significant contract.
The PECOTA exercise, however, is fun and creates a buzz each year when it is released. But it would be a stunner if the Cardinals did not win the Central – especially after acquiring one of, if not the best, third basemen in baseball.