The National League Central is unarguably always the closest division in Major League Baseball. Each season, only a handful of games separate the top two or three teams in the division. With everything going on, which NL Central team has the most to lose with baseball delayed?
This unexpected break from baseball seems to be wearing on everybody. Fans are impatient, players are without income and owners are losing money. Teams did their best to restock their rosters this season, however, now is all seems to be in vain.
Each of the teams have plenty at stake, above and beyond all, their quest for a championship. However, even beyond the mission to earn a World Series ring, nearly all of the NL Central teams have a separate agenda. I couldn’t even rank this list, as each team’s primary and secondary agendas were important on different levels.
St. Louis Cardinals
For the Cards, the mission is simple: Stay at the top of the NL Central standings. St. Louis did very little to improve this winter, but the truth is, they didn’t have to.
Losing Marcell Ozuna to free agency was a little bit of a hit, but the Cards have other options for their outfield. The team has re-signed Adam Wainwright, and in a surprising deal, traded Jose Martinez (and prospects), to the Tampa Bay Rays for LHP Matthew Liberatore (and prospects). The team also picked up veteran catcher, Matt Wieters.
St . Louis is poised to defend their division championship, though some of the competition may be stiff.
Nobody expects much from Chicago this year. The team was decimated with the loss off free agents, most notably Nicholas Castellanos and Brandon Kintzler. Even worse, ownership failed to sign free agents or trade for suitable replacements to cover those who left.
Chicago is working on a shoestring budget and with a skeleton crew this year. They’re trying to reestablish their place at the top of the standings before it’s too late, but time is slipping away.
Rookie manager, David Ross, is trying to establish himself as a worthy manager. Spring training games were likely important to him for the sake of gaining experience, but now he’ll have to start the season cold.
Ross is also tasked with producing a winner, or ownership may dissolve the Cubs’ once golden core.
For the Brewers, this season needs to be about staying atop the division. A small market team, Milwaukee has managed to make the playoff scene in each of the last two seasons. ending a six-year playoff drought.
The Brew Crew will be working with a fair amount of new faces this season, as players flew from the roster in the early stages of the winter.
Also of importance, Christian Yelich will attempt another MVP bid. Yelich looked to be a lock for the award in 2019, until a foul ball from his own bat broke his kneecap, ending his season.
For the Pirates, any positive thing is a plus. They’ll be led by a new manager (Derek Shelton), who’ll be tasked first with regaining control of the clubhouse. Externally, Shelton will need to reshape Pittsburgh’s image in the wake of the Felipe Vazquez arrest.
Pittsburgh doesn’t generally spend a ton of money on players, so much like the Cubs of 2020, they’ll need to get the most from the least. Starling Marte‘s departure will hurt, but should serve as a sign regarding the level of morale.
While I couldn’t really rank the other four teams in the NL Central, most baseball fans would agree that the Reds may become the big losers from the coronavirus outbreak. Cincinnati hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2013 and prior to a short run of success, they didn’t see the playoffs at all from 1996 to 2009.
The team went ballistic this winter, signing quality free agents on a scale which almost ensured a winner. The team looked to have promise in 2019, but their newly acquired players just never melded. I don’t see that being the case this season.
Between Nicholas Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Trevor Bauer and a plethora of others, the team has added substantial offense, defense and pitching.
As usual, the NL Central will be a dogfight this season, that is, if the season ever comes.
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