With the Cubs and Cardinals due in the UK for the 2023 London Series, the NL Central will be of more interest than usual to most baseball fans on this side of the Atlantic.
Here is your five-minute rundown of the offseason moves so far.
Good news: Cubs fans will get to see All-Star catcher Willson Contreras in London in 2023. Bad news: He will be wearing Cardinals colours after leaving Chicago at the end of the season.
The Cubs replaced the void behind the plate with two-time Gold Glove winner, Tucker Barnhart, after a disappointing year in Detroit.
The 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger joined the Cubs on a one-year deal, and the rotation was strengthened by the additions of former Pirates and Yankees ace, Jameson Taillon, who penned a five-year contract, and the re-signing of Drew Smyly on a two-deal contract.
However, the biggest splash came when former Braves shortstop, Dansby Swanson, agreed to a $177 million, seven-year contract. The Cubs have their shortstop of the future and we (British baseball fans) get another stellar infielder to watch next summer.
Having given away anything that wasn’t chained down last year, and with the clear intention of not competing again in 2023, offseason transactions in Cincinnati were never going to be exciting.
Despite his multi-position versatility and the second-highest batting average on the roster last year, Donovan Solano was allowed to walk, along with pitchers Chase Anderson, Mike Minor, and Hunter Strickland.
To make room for the new duo, the Reds dumped Mike Moustakas whose career in Cincinnati was an utter disappointment. He missed 200 games in three years and posted just .682 OPS. However, his signing ahead of the 2020 season was a time when the Reds had ambition and cared about the product on the field.
According to OPS+, the Brewers’ best two hitters last season were Kolten Wong and Hunter Renfroe. Both will be on other teams in 2023 with Wong in Seattle for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro, and Renfroe flipped to the Angels for three pitching prospects.
Another two pitching prospects plus William Contreras, a young catcher with five years of control, arrived in a bizarre deal when the Brewers inserted themselves into the Sean Murphy discussions with Oakland and Atlanta. The Brewers gave up dynamic outfield prospect, Esteury Ruiz.
Also joining Milwaukee is one of sports greatest unsung heroes. Despite a .524 OPS with the Marlins and Dodgers, Eddy Alvarez has the unique accolade among MLB players of medalling in both the Summer Olympics (baseball) and Winter Olympics (speed skating).
Multi-position minor leaguer, Diego Castillo was the best player for the Pirates during spring training. His six homers in 14 games doubled the total of the next highest and he finished with 1.281 OPS. The 24-year-old’s career then went from an April MLB debut to a November DFA. Life is tough.
A quartet of fresh faces joined the Pirates with switch-hitting Carlos Santana, Ji-man Choi, and former Rockies OF/1B Connor Joe adding extra power to the division dwellers. With a career .331 SLG, Austin Hedges offers the opposite of power but his elite skills behind the plater will help the struggling rotation.
Joining said rotation, his fourth team in three years, is Vince Velasquez in another attempt to rebuild his career and decide whether he is a starter or reliever.
St Louis Cardinals
Two of the veteran trio are gone with Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina retiring from the game. Adam Wainwright is sticking around and signed a new one-year deal. Let’s hope he comes on the podcast ahead of the London Series.
Replacing Molina is almost impossible, but the Cardinals did not lack ambition when they swooped to sign former Cubs catcher, Willson Contreras to an $88 million, five-year deal.
Featured image of Willson Contreras courtesy of News-Democrat
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