Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 MLB Preview: NL Central


CENTRAL DIVISION

1. Chicago Cubs



Key Acquisitions: CL Wade DavisRP Koji UeharaOF Jon Jay

Key Losses: CL Aroldis ChapmanSP Jason HammelOF Dexter Fowler

Outlook: After breaking a 108-year World Series drought, the Cubs are the favorites to do it again this season. Theo Epstein was named the world's greatest leader by Fortune magazine; not just in baseball, but the greatest leader in the world at anything. And after bringing a championship to both Boston and Chicago, it's hard to argue. With an amazing group of young superstars and veteran standouts, the Cubs should be playing deep into October again. Acquiring Wade Davis for the yet-to-breakout Jorge Soler looks like a coup at this point, and gives them a capable replacement for the loss of Aroldis Chapman.



Key Acquisitions: RP Brett CecilOF Dexter Fowler

Key Losses: SP Jaime GarciaOF Matt HollidayOF Brandon Moss

Outlook: The Cardinals weren't expected to be very active in free agency as they didn't have a lot of needs or financial flexibility. However, they were able to sign a very good left handed reliever in Brett Cecil to strengthen their bullpen, and stealing Dexter Fowler from the division rival Chicago Cubs is going to pay huge dividends over a full season. Losing long-time Cardinal Matt Holliday is tough, but he's mostly a DH at this point and belonged in the American League. The team should compete with the Cubs for the division title.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates



Key Acquisitions: None

Key Losses: INF Sean Rodriguez

Outlook: Despite an offseason filled with trade rumors, the Pirates did very little this winter. The team had entertained the idea of trading franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen, but his declining play in 2016 scared teams off and kept them from paying the ransom Pittsburgh was demanding. Despite the bland offseason, the Pirates could again field offers for McCutchen prior to the trading deadline. The Pirates have some good young talent, and with or without McCutchen they should be in contention for a wild card birth.


4. Cincinnati Reds



Key Acquisitions: RP Drew Storen

Key Losses: None

Outlook: The Reds had maybe the league's most boring off-season, replacing declining unproductive veterans with other declining, unproductive veterans. Saying Drew Storen was a "key acquisition" is a bit of a stretch, but if he can somehow return to the reliever he was just a few seasons ago, he'll have plenty of value. The Reds remain years from contention, but some growth from some of their younger players could go a long way toward an improved future.




Key Acquisitions: RP Neftali Feliz1B Eric Thames

Key Losses: RP Tyler Thornburg1B Chris Carter

Outlook: The Brewers elected to replace 1B Chris Carter and his 41 home runs with former big leaguer Eric Thames, who had excelled playing in Korea over the last few years. Retaining Carter through arbitration would've cost the team considerably more than the $5.5 million Thames is making, and the overall production should be similar. Thornburg had a very good season for Milwaukee in 2016, and while Feliz isn't quite the same talent he should provide similar production if he can stay healthy. Ultimately, the team is unlikely to contend this season which should make Ryan Braun the center of July trade rumors yet again.