How have the classic NL Central clubs done so far this MLB offseason? Meh.
With the MLB offseason around its midway point, it's a good time to see where teams are at heading into 2023. Here are my thoughts on each team in the NL Central.
Chicago Cubs PG Score: 8/10
The Cubs are a team in a weird spot. I debated grading them a 7 because it seemed like they were in on every marquee shortstop on the market and landed on arguably the worst one in Dansby Swanson. However, I decided otherwise because it had always felt like this was where Dansby was going to land. My real disappointment comes with the way they dealt with the Willson Contreras situation, ultimately letting him go to their rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, who seem to have this weak division on lock. It is hard to look at the moves the Cubs have made and think they are competing. I do not believe their front office thinks the window is quite open yet, and for that reason, they've landed with a solid offseason thus far.
What move would l like to see them make? The Cubs really lack in starting rotation when it comes to age. In my own opinion, a deGrom or a Rodon would not have made sense for them in this free agent class, so I'm thinking more of the route of trade. I think an Ian Happ trade after adding Cody Bellinger for some outfield depth would be a really smart move, and the earlier it is done, the more control a team is going to get, meaning a higher prospect haul.
Trading Ian Happ could buy this team a solid 2 or 3 in the rotation when their window does open up, and depending on when they expect that window to open, maybe get a few more pieces in the deal too. The best fit to me would be to send him to the Guardians for Gavin Morris. Although Morris is a highly-touted prospect, the consensus seems to be that he is not very close to getting to the Big Leagues, and Ian Happ’s bat would do wonders for a weak Guardians offense.
The Cubs are making moves. Even though their team’s age and some of the contracts, such as the Cody Bellinger 1-year deal, seem to blur the lines of when the North Side expects to contend, it was an overall good offseason.
Cincinnati Reds PG Score: 7/10
The Reds made a lot of good moves at the 2022 trade deadline. So good, in fact, I considered giving them a 8 or better while grading their offseason. However, the Reds are currently a young, fun team that did not need to make many moves going into 2023. They get a neutral 7, which you may see a couple more times throughout this list. Although it's hardly a top-notch score, they get a 10/10 for the trade deadline. For that, we will call this offseason a 7.
Milwaukee Brewers PG Score: 7/10
The Brewers kind of went quietly about their business this offseason, as the only news they seemed to appear in was rumors pertaining to Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff. But they actually made it out with multiple upgrades to their depth and starting lineup in the three-team trade which headlined Sean Murphy. They received William Contreras in the Sean Murphy deal from the Atlanta Braves, who had a breakout season with Atlanta in 2022. They also moved Kolton Wong to the Mariners for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro, which adds solid depth to some needs in the outfield and infield.
What move should they make next? I think the Brewers could strike gold by trading Burnes or Woodruff to a team that has the ability to trade an MLB talent bat before the 2023 season. I would like a landing spot, such as Arizona, to send one of these top end starting pitchers and make an upgrade to this lineup in order to compete heavily with St. Louis in 2023.
It almost feels like the window is slowly closing for Milwaukee. It will be a crucial 2023 in order for this team to continue competing in the coming seasons. A major splash in the free agent market for the 2023-’24 offseason will only occur if they compete with St. Louis for the division till the end, and in order to do that, this lineup needs one or two more tweaks.
Pittsburgh Pirates PG Score: 8/10
The Pirates have done virtually nothing this offseason except add a piece or two that they acquired at a low-price, such as Rich Hill, who could perform and flip into a solid prospect at the trade deadline like with LHP Jose Quintana in 2022. Hill is a veteran presence who can mentor a clubhouse on what it takes to be a Big Leaguer.
Can they really do anything else this offseason? Why, yes they can! Bryan Reynolds requested a trade at the beginning of the offseason, and although he is slightly overvalued, he could become a key piece to a contending team over the next few years. Now is the peak time to flip him for prospects. If they do not, they are sure to regret it as the Royals now do with Whit Merrifield, who should have been gone before the 2021 season.
St. Louis Cardinals PG Score: 8/10
The Cardinals addressed a big positional need at catcher, stealing from their division rival no less, but they really need to give attention to their starting rotation. At the moment, their rotation guarantees are an aging Adam Wainwright, a solid lefty in Jordan Montgomery, who is realistically a 3 or a 4 in a good rotation, Miles Mikolas, who has the potential of a 2 or a 3, and Jack Flaherty, who could be an ace, but has struggled staying on the field.
This rotation lacks a true 25+ ace, which is why I wish the Cardinals truly targeted Carlos Rodon. He has shown that his injury-riddled past is behind him and that he has top-of-the-rotation stuff. Now that he signed with the Yankees and a lot of the top starting pitchers are gone, I would really like to see a reunion with RHP Michael Wacha, who had a solid 2022 with the Boston Red Sox.
The Cardinals seem to be forgotten about a lot, but I think this team has strong World Series potential in 2023, especially now that they have offensive production behind the plate for the first time in a while.