Revisiting the NL Central – How the Pirates Competition is Progressing

Weeks back I dove into some of the questions the NL Central foes of the Pittsburgh Pirates faced this offseason. Let’s check back in and see how some of them are answering them.

The Pirates have been relatively quiet thus far as they’ve focused on systematically replacing and upgrading their entire management team. As we brace ourselves for the upcoming Winter GM meetings, Ben Cherington and crew already have some catching up to do.

Chicago Cubs

Pretty quiet on the North end of the Windy City. The Cubbies have parted ways with Addison Russell and have added another option to the rotation by trading with the A’s for pitcher Jharel Cotton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s a low risk move for them as they are okay at the position and, worst case, he is another capable reliever. I stress okay, because an aging Jon Lester is still the best starter they have and that probably doesn’t spell success.

There has been no change in the Kris Bryant situation, but the Cubs have made it clear they are open to moving him as well as catcher Wilson Contreras. The likelihood of retaining Nick Castellanos is looking less likely as well.

This appears to be more of a retool season than many assumed would be the case in Chicago.

St. Louis Cardinals

In a word, nothing. The Cards have made no changes as of yet. They still want to sign Marcel Ozuna, but he seems intent on testing the market first. They’ve decided to let Michael Wacha leave and retain the services of the ageless wonder, Adam Wainwright.

The Cardinals still possess the most complete starting rotation in the division and absolutely must be in the market for another option. 

If they swing and miss on Ozuna, they might be a player for Castellanos or, and I hate the thought of this, Starling Marte. Although there is still a stigma about trading within the division and I, for one, hope that’s enough to prevent such a move. The Cards are traditionally patient and won’t get panicked into signing a lesser talent as long as Ozuna is a reasonable expectation.

Milwaukee Brewers

Well, as I predicted the Brewers have faced a ton of changes already including the loss of both Yasmani Grandall and Mike Moustakas to free agency. Eric Thames is still out there as well. Additionally, the team cut ties with Travis Shaw, Jimmy Nelson, Junior Guerra and Alex Claudio during the non-tender deadline.

They also consummated a trade with San Diego, sending Trent Grisham and Zack Davies for Eric Lauer, Luis Urias, and everyone’s favorite PTBNL.

In short, the Brewers have opened a giant bowl of WTF for their fans to chew on so far this offseason. Add into that the back problems that plagued Christian Yelich last season, and a major backslide is on the table unless they make a big splash in free agency or trade. Rumors have surfaced that Josh Hader might be available and he could net a nice return, but one wonders if it will even touch the amassed departures.

Cincinnati Reds 

The Reds jumped into free agency with both feet, signing Mike Moustakas for four seasons. Now, where the hell they want to play him is anyone’s guess. I’d assume they don’t move Eugenio Suarez from the hot corner but one of them will most likely play second base. No matter where he puts the glove on, he will absolutely feast in the band box that is Great American Ballpark. That’s a solid young rotation, at least one through three, and an absolutely frightening lineup to face for anyone’s pitching staff. The Reds are keeping the promise the ownership put forward and spending far more than they have traditionally. It could be argued they have more important needs than a second baseman playing out of position but its still a bold move and gives them a bit of insurance should Votto continue to slip offensively.

It’s early but the Reds have probably had the best offseason thus far. However, to be fair, part of that feeling is coming from the Trevor Bauer deadline deal last season.

There are a ton of moves left before pitchers and catchers show up in the warmth of southern spring, but its important to always keep an eye on your neighbors. After all, if you can’t keep up with them, what right do you have to expect to compete with the rest of the National League.

In comparison the Pirates have only subtracted from their roster, cutting ties with Elias Diaz and creating a gaping question they must answer. Rebuilding or not they need to find a catcher if for no other reason than to help bring along their young pitching staff.

Every move  these five clubs make both answers and asks questions for the other four. The Winter meetings should be very, very interesting this season.

Follow Gary on Twitter: @garymo2007