The National League Central fully embraces the bare minimum, Cardinals included

Teams across MLB are evolving with the game to find new ways to win. But the NL Central is contemptuous of their old ways of doing business.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages
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The landscape of Major League Baseball has changed drastically over time and as recently as the latest CBA agreement. Teams are adjusting to rising salaries and costs within the game and finding new ways to build a foundational core. New rules and policies are generating enough buzz for fans to find a new love for the game and come back to America’s pastime. Teams are using the new rules and policies to find creative ways to build dynasties. We are seeing historic figures in ticket sales, ad revenues, merchandise sales, and social media interactions. The league is more profitable than ever and several teams are taking action because of it.

The Atlanta Braves have signed most of their young talent to long-term contracts to provide players with life-changing money that is still within the team's operating payroll for AAV and also buys out players' arbitration years (more on that later).

The Texas Rangers realized they had a very short window to jump the Houston Astros and truly compete for a World Series. They acted by signing Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to mega deals that purchased their new core going forward which quickly led to a World Series championship.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are…..well they are in their own league at this point. If teams are operating under the old norm, they will be left in the dust. Unless teams are changing how they operate within the new game, they do not stand a chance to compete going forward. The entire National League Central division is stuck in the old norm.

The reigning NL Central champions Milwaukee Brewers have been in the same rut dating back to 2018. They rely on the most dominant pitching staff in baseball to hold the score close while they rely on their mediocre offense to produce the minimum possible to win. Christian Yelich is still around, but he is not the superstar player he once was. The lineup needs more reliable options to get on base and drive in runs. The only potential fit to provide this is Willy Adames who is reportedly on the trade block this winter. Instead of extending a surefire talent to play shortstop for years to come, they would rather trade and collect unproven cost-controlled prospects.

This model leads to you relying on 37-year-old Josh Donaldson to provide any sort of pop to the lineup. Is the future core of Garrett Mitchell, William Contreras, Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, and phenom Jackson Chourio very exciting? Absolutely. But it is not the best young core coming up in their division and it will not matter once the team trades Corbin Burnes. Instead of being creative and extending Burnes years ago, they decided to take one of the best aces in baseball to arbitration and fully offended him as a professional. Penny pinching for no necessary reason. I also haven't mentioned Brandon Woodruff was non-tendered this off-season. 

The shocking and unexpected 2023 Chicago Cubs have rejuvenated the fanbase after years of letdown following the historic 2016 World Series championship. The organization was being hyped as the next dynasty in baseball with a strong core leading the way for years to come. Instead, we saw year after year of letdown, and eventually, the entire core was traded away. With the only thing left from the 2016 era being manager David Ross, the identity of the organization was non-existent. Cubs GM Jed Hoyer decided to act like a big market organization and signed Dansby Swanson to a multi-year deal and rolled the dice on the reclamation project Cody Bellinger. Both gambles paid off tremendously, as the Cubs almost clinched a postseason berth in a season where they were not expected to make any noise.

With the positive momentum in their favor, the organization made a bombshell announcement by firing David Ross and signing Craig Counsell to the richest contract in MLB history for a manager. This showed the Cubs were not messing around and were ready to build onto the new core. So far though, their only offseason acquisition has been Shota Imanaga. The idea to keep cheap and unproven talent but to simply manage them better to sustain a winning team is not a great look. This sounds like lost momentum from the outside perspective. 

Oh, and we haven't even gotten to the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Pittsburgh Pirates yet.