If, and when, the Boys of Summer return is unknown but eventually there will be ballgames, and below is our preview of the National League Central.
(World Series Odds: +3000)
The Reds are in it to win it this year and if we check out the MLB odds over at BetOnline we see that Cincinnati is only +3000 to win the World Series this year. While they may not be one of the favorites, those relatively short odds belie the fact that the Reds were a dismal 75-87 last season and 16 games out of first place in the NL Central.
Much of this bullish behavior can be attributed to the Reds’ management finally opening up their wallets as they spent more in free agency during this offseason than they did in the previous decade combined. The additions of two big sticks in their lineups, Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, will undoubtedly make watching baseball at the Great American Ballpark much more fun this season, assuming, of course, fans are actually allowed inside to watch them play. But wait there’s more!
The Reds also wooed Japanese import, Shogo Akiyama, by giving him 21 million reasons to ply his trade in the Queen City. Wade Miley was signed as an end of the rotation guy as well as Pedro Strop as a late-inning reliever. The cherry on top is the thunderous bat of one of the most feared power hitters in the game, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who delivered 49 dingers last season. This year he will have more help and the Reds could be this season’s Cinderella story so consider including them in your MLB picks at +3000 to win it all.
St. Louis Cardinals
(World Series Odds: +2500)
I’m not sure why the Cardinals are considered the class of the NL Central. They watched Marcell Ozuna take his talents, and his 29 home runs in 131 games last year, to Atlanta. In his stead at left field will be 21-year-old prospect, Dylan Carlson. The only move St. Louis made in the offseason of any consequence was signing 32-year-old Korean pitcher Kwang Hyun Kim but whether or not he proves to be able to pitch at the major league level is unknown at this time.
Sure, Paul Goldschmidt is a stud at first base, while the ace of the pitching staff, Jack Flaherty is one of the best in the business but this team did not get better with Carlson instead of Ozuna in the lineup. I see the Redbirds as just a click above average which is not good enough to win the division or even cop a wild card berth.
(World Series Odds: +3300)
The Cubs finished third in their division last season and are poised to do it all over again this year. However, Joe Maddon will no longer be calling the shots, replaced by David Ross, while Cole Hamels drifted out of the Windy City and into Atlanta for the 2020 campaign. The Cubs starting four in their rotation consisting of Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana would have been tremendous about five years ago but all of them are over 30 years-old with their best days behind them.
Any one of these pitchers would make a solid No.3 or No. 4 guy with a bona fide stud at the top of the rotation coupled with some live young arms in front but this rotation does nothing to excite after coming off a pedestrian 2019 season. This group is just another year older and they don’t strike me as being much more than an average ballclub.
(World Series Odds: +5000)
If you’re getting the feeling I’m not impressed with the NL Central then you are picking up what I’m putting down. The Brewers will be much like the Cardinals and the Cubs, all slightly decent teams splitting series after series against each other with the only team putting any distance between them and the rest of the division will be the Reds.
The Milwaukee Brewers inked Christian Yelich to a nine-year, $215 million deal but the cost of the richest contract in franchise history came at the expense of being unable to re-sign one of the slickest catchers on the planet in Yasmani Grandal and then allowing power hitter Mike Moustakas to take his big bat to a divisional rival. However, letting two offensive starters to walk was not enough as they dealt their best pitcher not named Brandon Woodruff, Zach Davies, to the Padres for a pair of prospects. This smells like a rebuild masked around the long-term extension of Yelich.
(World Series Odds: +30,000)
If you’re a Pirates fan then you have my condolences but at least the oddsmakers are viewing the Bucs as having a better chance to win the World Series than the Tigers, Orioles, or Marlins! Trying my best here to give you folks in the Steel City a nugget of optimism – if you’re dying of thirst in the desert, don’t ask if the water is Evian. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Pirates really shook the NL Central landscape with the signings of outfielders Guillermo Heredia and Jarrod Dyson. Check, please!