The NL Central is making some noise. The Cardinals however remain silent after an awful season. I never thought we would have to ask if the Cardinals would catch up to the rest of the division. The question is usually about whether or not they can stay on top.
The Cubs just announced that they are serious about 2024. They just fired a manager who had a chance to make the playoffs right up until the last weekend of the season. They were able to do that after getting one of the best managers in baseball and making him the highest paid. What players will he be managing?
Well for a start three Gold Glove winners. And after that, anyone they want. They have the deepest pockets in the division and have shown they have no fear when it comes to spending. It is no secret the Cubs will be spending a ton for free agents this year. There are even rumors that they could be in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. That is on top of having six of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. It’s just my guess but when everything settles and the season starts they will be the front runners to win the division.
The Brewers will be in a bit of transition but they finished the season winning 92 games, winning the division, and making the playoffs. They had the eighth-best pitching staff in all of MLB and that was with Brandon Woodruff only pitching 11 games. They too have already started making moves. They traded Mark Canha to the Tigers for a minor-league pitcher who projects to be a good bullpen arm. The more important piece of that puzzle is they unloaded him before invoking the club option for 11 million, which they weren’t going to do. They saved money and got something in return. They also have the second-best prospect in the league just behind Jackson Holiday. He should be ready to go this year. If there is one thing the Cardinals should have learned over the last few years, it is that they should never underestimate the Brewers.
The Reds finished the season with a surprising 82 wins. They have one of, if not the most exciting teams in baseball. The Reds were actually way ahead of schedule with their kids coming up. At the halfway point of the season, the Reds were tied with the Brewers for first place. With another year of seasoning, they should only get better. Not picking up the option for Joey Votto gives them some payroll flexibility and with just a move or two could be fighting for a playoff spot.
The Pirates have a gold glover at third in Hayes, Bryan Reynolds, and one of the better shortstops in Oneil Cruz. They just drafted Paul Skenes who should fly through the minors and be ready as soon as this year. Add in the all-star closer David Bednar and you have a team that with a few off-season signings could be very competitive. The Pirates last year had a payroll that was 85 million dollars less than the Cardinals and still somehow was able to finish five games ahead of the Cardinals in 2023.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have some nice pieces. They have a star in the making with Jordan Walker. Masyn Winn got some valuable playing time and should only get better. They still have the cornerstones of Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. I am excited to see if Victor Scott II can be the next Vince Coleman. They also have a ton of money to spend if they want to.
There was some excitement when the Cardinals said they were getting three pitchers. There was a lot of buzz with dreams of Nola, Gray, and Snell being part of this team. They were going to greatly expand payroll and be able to leapfrog back into the playoff picture. In the last couple of days, it sounds like John Mozeliak has started to tap the breaks a bit.
Is this just part of a negotiating strategy or is the Cardinals really going to get back to last year’s payroll level and stop? That level left St. Louis in last place.
If most of the division is getting better and the Cardinals stay the same, they are only going backward.