Baseball labor negotiations have entered Hoth’s realm, and the hope is that there will be enough warm teasing for messages and proposals to flow between owners and players.
But just because it will take a while for the two sides to come to some kind of resolution, that doesn’t mean we have to stop arguing about what could / should happen when the sport finally resumes.
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Because when you do, and teams can sign free agents and trade again, you’ll see a flurry of activity. It’s probably going to be a lot of fun, honestly, to watch free agents sign contracts and watch teams trade one after another. After all, what else are the main office guys going to do during the lockout besides planning their reassembly strategy?
So we’re looking at division by division what’s on the record for all 30 teams. Today is the NL Central.
Summary prior to blocking: They lost their most productive hitter when Avisail Garcia, who had 28 homers and 86 RBIs, signed with the Marlins but replaced him with Hunter Renfroe in a trade with the Red Sox that sent Jackie Bradley Jr. and his 34 OPS +. back to the east coast. The loss of Manny Pina, who had basically been the club’s backup catcher for six years, is going to hurt.
The first thing to do: The NL almost certainly will add the nominee for the 2023 season. Are the Brewers prepared to give up most of those ABs to Rowdy Tellez or Keston Hiura? Tellez was shot in the arm last year, but Hiura has only 70 OPS + in 120 games since the start of the 2020 season. Basically, the Brewers need to find a way to bring in another big hitter – the designated hitter would allow the flexibility of put someone in third, first, or outfield – and a guy like Kyle Schwarber makes sense.
Also on the list: There were rumors about the possibility of trading closer Josh Hader, the locked-in southpaw who has two more years of control of the club and who will bring back a significant amount of talent. It is a discussion worth having.
St. Louis Cardinals
Summary prior to blocking: The Cardinals signed Steven Matz with what could end up being a very favorable four-year contract for the club. In the worst case, if everything goes wrong, those $ 44 million spread over the four years will not be an impediment to other updates. The club busied itself with two matters, re-signing Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, before the World Series ended.
The first thing to do: What they should probably do, improve at shortstop, and what they probably will do, not improve at shortstop, are two different things. Paul DeJong has a contract that’s team-friendly if he produces like he did as a rookie in 2017 (.857 OPS) or even in 2019, when he hit 30 home runs. But in 158 games in the past two years, he only has a .673 OPS, including a .295 on-base percentage. Carlos Correa is out of the picture and Trevor Story could be too; It’s a bit riskier for a longer-term deal anyway, but finding more than a .673 OPS shouldn’t be too difficult.
Also on the list: The bullpen could use a few more arms, although it will be interesting to see how spring training goes, whatever form it takes, depending on how long the lockout lasts, because the plan is for both Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks to be stretched. as possible starters. Joe Kelly is a name that has been exchanged, though perhaps only because of his ties to the club.
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Summary prior to blocking: Look away, Reds fans. The white flag was raised in Cincinnati moments after the Braves lifted the World Series trophy in Houston. The club traded longtime fan favorite and clubhouse favorite Tucker Barnhardt to Detroit and then let dependable veteran starter Wade Miley walk on waivers. Nick Castellanos chose not to fulfill his contract, but that was not a reflection of the club; is willing to get a good deal before the start of the season.
The first thing to do: At this point, spend the lockout talking to teams about Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, then make a deal that brings back MLB-ready talent to avoid fans having to watch a team with 100 losses in 2023.
Also on the list: There aren’t many pitchers whose first option to restore value will be to pitch into Cincy’s band box, but finding low-buy and high-sell players after the lockout could be good for both the players and the Reds.
Summary prior to blocking: Marcus Stroman is an outstanding pitcher and will make the Cubs a better club, but his signing was a bit unexpected. The Cubs traded most of the remaining 2016 World Series team icons Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kris Bryant during the season, after letting Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester leave last season. At least Stroman improves the Cubs every five days. Wade Miley was a good signing, and the addition of Yan Gomes gives them the flexibility to trade Willson Contreras. And yes, Clint Frazier seems like the perfect candidate for a change of scenery.
The first thing to do: Find out the capture situation. If they’re happy with Gomes and want to negotiate with Contreras, make that happen immediately after the lockout ends. Bring MLB ready talent and maybe a prospect or two. Or perhaps definitively assert that Contreras, who is a free agent after the 2023 season, is the starter and Gomes the backup. Either way, the Cubs can’t let that problem get worse.
Also on the list: If the Cubs really believe they can compete again in the NL Central, and maybe an expanded playoff field? – They did a solid job before the lockout. They have a payroll and were linked to Carlos Correa; Could you surprise everyone and sign him?
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Summary prior to blocking: The biggest move was trading Golden Glove catcher Jacob Stallings; Impossible to know definitively about the return, but the Pirates got good initial marks. They added veterans José Quintana and Roberto Pérez and brought back Yoshi Tsutsugo, who hit eight home runs and a 136 OPS + in his 43 games with the club last year.
The first thing to do: Bryan Reynolds hit 24 home runs last year; That’s more than the combined total of the next three returning players: Tsutsugo (eight), Ben Gamel (eight) and Ke’Bryan Hayes (six). So yes. Adding a bat would be necessary even if the National League doesn’t add the DH. But when that happens, and it will, the Pirates will really need another potential puncher in the lineup.
Also on the list: Launch, of course. It would be worth the risk of adding a veteran candidate to the recovery. Same with the bullpen.