Here is the 2nd Divisional overview of the offseason which is officially underway, with a closer look at the NL Central, starting with the World Champion Cubs franchise.
Most of their core staff are locked in to pre-free agency arrangements, as they are in the developmental stages of their careers, most notably, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, who all are multiple seasons away from hitting the open market. The same is true for veterans, Heyward and Zobrist, while Javier Baez too looks to be a key piece for several seasons to come.
The most notably subtractions from the Cubs roster, looks to be CF Dexter Fowler, unless he is kept on following a testing of the market and, David Ross who is retiring. Although, a combination of Montero and Contreras may lead the Cubs to look just at a depth piece Catching addition. The same may be true in trying to replace Fowler, with some combination of Schwarber, Jorge Soler, Heyward, Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr manning the OF, though a free-agency addition would not surprise.
On the pitching staff side of it, certainly a closer will be added, as Chapman is sure to attract a record deal, with the Cubs sure to be interested in a reunion, but others like Jansen, Melancon or Holland are feasible. Finally, a 4th or 5th starter pitching staff member may be added, as a security blanket, unless Mike Montgomery is going to return to the rotation.
ST LOUIS CARDINALS
The Cardinals are largely set following a fairly good winning season, as the 2nd best team in the division, just a mile behind the phenomenal Cubs. Though the management has talked about getting better defensively up the middle, which seems like they may be on the lookout for a CF whether it be someone like Fowler on the open market or a trade, as oft speculated for someone like Blackmon from the Rockies or Pollock from Arizona.
To be sure, the Cardinals will be in on the relief pitching market, which in bloated full of veterans, and perhaps a platoon style glove-first bat, to put on the bench. Their rotation looks quite good again, but this is dependent on healthier seasons from TJ returnee Lancy Lynn, and Michael Wacha who was riddled by injuries in 2016.
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Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake will all be expected to significantly contribute to the 2017 inning eating, as will exciting young prospect Alex Reyes. Overall, the Cardinals will be expecting to be consistently good again, in 2017, but are set to lose some veterans such as Moss and Carpenter, and surely Molina’s age is catching up with him.
Pittsburgh will look to return to competing in this tough division, in 2017 after taking a backward step this year, the first in which they could not reach the postseason, since 2013. McCutchen particularly had his worst season ever, but will surely bounce back, as he is an elite talent, but could find himself traded in the summer if he does not improve.
His OF companions Polanco and Marte are both locked into long-term deals and are not going anywhere, while prospect Austin Meadows is nearing readiness to take the MLB step into his career. The in-field to is looking pretty healthy, with Bell seemingly settled into a 1B job, and Mercer, Freese and Kang all getting plenty of playing time.
Perhaps a capable 2B glove will be sought after to aid Adam Frazier as he gets his first full season of big league action, though Harrison can probably handle this when he returns to health. The rotation is full of question marks with youngsters, looking to establish themselves, and a minor veteran addition is always possible and almost a given again this offseason. Not many additions ought to be expected in the bullpen with plenty of experience, but depth always a concern.
The Brewers are closer to contending, but in all likelihood still a season or 2 away, following this large rebuilding project undertaken by David Stearns. Perhaps, the final part of the rebuild is to trade Ryan Braun this winter, with many suitors willing to get the deal done, most notably the Dodgers, who were close to parting with Puig/McCarthy to get Braun on their books.
Surely, Chris Carter will be kept on after a superb 40+ HR season and no clear need to give any youngster a job at 1B. There is a bevy of young pitchers, vying for both relief and rotation jobs, with probably 4 rotation jobs already stitched up, with a host of bullpen positions to be sorted in spring training.
Other additions are certainly plausible for the Brewers, depending on who is dealt, and or received in deal, in what is sure to be another busy offseason for the Front Office. A horde of prospects are near MLB readiness and can impact in 2017, particularly Lewis Brinson who was acquired in the Lucroy trade from the Rangers and fellow OF Brett Phillips picked up in the Gomez swap last summer with the Astros as well as Isan Diaz a young IF who they acquired last offseason from Arizona.
The Reds too are closer to contending, in what could become a very competitive division, after this seasons’ blowout by the World Champion Cubs. They have break-out players such as Duvall, Suarez and Hamilton, but there is plenty of questions still to be figured in this rebuild also.
Particularly, Cozart and Phillips could still be dealt, although Brandon wants no part of it, Cozart was very close to going to Seattle, this summer, before the teams ran out of time. The rotation looks quite good, with an equally strong bullpen, neither of which would suffer from a few additional depth pieces, although it may be too soon, to add veterans on premium prices.
Votto was again awesome offensively this season, while recently added Dilson Herrera and Jose Peraza will look to cement significant playing time in 2017. There is no shortage of pitching staff prospects, while Winker and Alfredo Rodriguez must also be close to call-ups, particularly if they have strong spring trainings.
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