Division doings: Cubs looking to get back up to speed in NL Central
A powerhouse team in the NL Central from 2015 to 2020, the Cubs took a serious tumble last season.
Not only did they finish fourth with a 71-91 record, the Cubs traded fixtures Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez in July after dealing Yu Darvish and cutting ties with Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester last winter.
Jed Hoyer inherited a colossal mess when he took over for Theo Epstein shortly after the 2020 season. Just about all of the dirty work is done, and multiple roster holes need to be addressed.
"We're going to be active," Hoyer said. "We have a lot of areas we need to improve so I think we'll certainly be active. But I think we need to be active in a way that we feel we're getting the right value for the dollars we're spending and we're also making sure that we're not hindering ourselves going forward with expenditures for right now."
Here's a look at the early moves in the NL Central this offseason:
There's not much left to dump, so it makes sense the Cubs have made two additions so far.
One of them is notable, starting pitcher Wade Miley was claimed off waivers from the Reds and the veteran left-hander is set to make $10 million next year after going 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA and throwing a no-hitter for Cincinnati last season.
Harold Ramirez is the other newcomer. Most likely in the mix for a reserve outfield job, Ramirez was acquired from Cleveland Monday for cash considerations.
The Cubs still need more pitching help and, as Hoyer mentioned, they have to shore up a lot of other areas.
Saddled with a 71-69 record in early September, St. Louis caught fire, rattled off 17 wins in a row and made the playoffs as the National League's second wild-card team.
After losing to the Dodgers and going home, the front office still felt a change was needed. Mike Shildt wound up taking the fall and 35-year-old bench coach Oliver Marmol takes over as manager.
That's been the Cardinals' biggest offseason transaction. Adding another starting pitcher was the logical first roster move and St. Louis landed free-agent lefty Steven Matz on a four-year deal.
David Stearns is staying in Milwaukee, and that's an early offseason win for the Brewers.
The Mets' request to interview Stearns for their president of baseball operations job was turned down, so the 36-year-old wunderkind is returning for his seventh season with Milwaukee.
The Brewers are stacked with pitching and that's going to help them make a run at a fifth straight trip to the playoffs.
Milwaukee needs offensive help after likely losing Avisail Garcia and Eduardo Escobar to free agency.
Cincinnati GM Nick Krall describes it as "aligning our payroll with our resources."
Reds fans describe it as dumping salary and beginning another rebuild.
Star right fielder Nick Castellanos opted out of his contract, catcher Tucker Barnhart was traded to the Tigers and Miley wound up being claimed by the Cubs after being placed on waivers.
After making the playoffs in 2020 and staying in contention until the final week last season, Cincinnati looks to be regressing back to the team that finished last in the NL Central from 2015 to 2018.
Thanks to years of poor showings that resulted in high draft picks, the Pirates are loaded with minor league talent.
Starting pitcher Quinn Priester, a Cary-Grove High School product, is a high-end prospect that should be on Pittsburgh's roster in 2023.
In the meantime, the Pirates are destined for another last-place finish in the NL Central. They did sign Jose Quintana, a washed-up starter who has pitched for the White Sox and Cubs, to a one-year, $2 million deal.