Labor baseball negotiations have entered the world of Hoth, and the hope is that there will be enough heated sarcasm to keep messages and suggestions flowing between owners and players.
But just because it will take a while for the two sides to come to some sort of resolution, that doesn’t mean we have to stop discussing what can/should happen when the sport finally resumes.
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Because when that happens, and teams are allowed to sign up for free agents and do deals again, you’ll see a flurry of activity. It’s probably fun, frankly, to see free agents sign contracts and see teams trade after trade. After all, what else will front office types be doing during lockdown other than planning a strategy to get back in the saddle?
So we’re taking a look at each section separately on the agenda for all 30 teams. Today, it’s NL Central.
Pre-closing summary: They lost their most productive hit when Avisail Garcia – who had the team’s highest of 28 homers and 86 RBI – signed Marlins, but replaced him with Hunter Renfroe in a deal with the Red Sox that sent Jackie Bradley Jr. and 34 OPS+ back to the East Coast . Losing Mane Pena, who was essentially the club’s reserve holder for six years, would be heart-wrenching.
First thing to do: NL will almost certainly add DH for the 2022 season. Are the brewers ready to give most of that AB to Rowdy Tellez or Keston Hiura? Tellez was fired in the arm last year, but Hiura has only 70 OPS+ in 120 games since the start of the 2020 season. Basically, brewers need to figure out a way to bring in another big racket – DH will allow flexibility to put someone third, first, or in The outside – and a guy like Kyle Schwarber makes sense.
Also on the list: There have been whispers about the possibility of a close trade with Josh Hader, the left-wing man with two more years in control of the club and would bring back a significant amount of talent. It’s a discussion worth getting into.
St. Louis Cardinals
Pre-closing summary: The Cardinals signed Steven Matz on a potentially very friendly four-year deal. At worst, if all goes well, the distribution of the $44 million over the four years will not be a barrier to further promotions. The club took care of two pieces of work – re-signing Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright – before the World Championships ended.
First thing to do: What they should probably do – upgrade at shortstop – and what they will likely do – not upgrade at shortstop – are two different things. Paul DeJong is a contract friend of the team if he produces as he did as a rookie in 2017 (.857 OPS) or even in 2019, when he hit 30 Homers. But in 158 games over the past two years, he’s only had 0.673 OPS, including 0.295 on a percentage basis. Carlos Correa is out of the picture and Trevor’s story might be too – he’s a bit more risky for a long-term deal anyway – but finding more than 673 OPS shouldn’t be too difficult.
Also on the list: Bulls can use quite a few arms, although it will be interesting to see how spring training continues – whatever form it takes, depending on how long the shutdown lasts – because the plan is for Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks to be extended As beginners possible. Joe Kelly is a name that has been abandoned, although perhaps only because of his ties to the club.
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Pre-closing summary: Avert your eyes, Reds fans. The white flag was raised in Cincinnati just moments after the Braves lifted the World Championships trophy in Houston. He traded longtime fan favorite – and club favourite – Tucker Barnhardt to Detroit, then allowed reliable veteran debutante Wade Miley to walk the concessions. Nick Castellanos withdrew from his contract, but that was no reflection on the club; He stands to get a fairly big deal before the start of the season.
First thing to do: At this point, spend your downtime talking to the teams about Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, then strike a deal that brings back MLB-ready talent to prevent fans from having to watch a team that lost 100 in 2022.
Also on the list: There aren’t many bowlers whose first choice to reclaim value would be to promote into the Cincy chest, but finding players at a low price and selling high after closing could be good for both players and the Reds.
Pre-closing summary: Marcus Strowman is a great player and would make the Cubs a better team, but his signing was a bit unexpected. Cubs replaced most of the remaining icons from the 2016 World Series team — Anthony Rizzo, Javier Pez and Chris Bryant — during the season, after letting Kyle Schwarber and John Lester leave last season. At the very least, Strowman makes the Cubs better every fifth day. Wade Miley was a great signing, and the addition of Yan Gomes gives them flexibility in trading Willson Contreras. And yes, Clint Fraser seems to be the perfect candidate for a change of scenery.
First thing to do: Discover the remarkable position. If they are happy with the Gomes and want to deal with the Contreras, do so immediately after the lockdown is over. Bring in MLB-ready talent and maybe a prospect or two. Or I might categorically state that Contreras – who became a free agent after the 2022 season – was the initiator and Gomez the replacement. Either way, the cubs can’t allow this problem to fester.
Also on the list: If the Cubs really believe they can compete again at NL Central – and perhaps an expanded stadium? – They did a serious job before closing. They had a payroll and were related to Carlos Correa; Do they shock everyone and sign it?
MORE: MLB Lockdown Explained: What You Need to Know
Pre-closing summary: The biggest move was trading gold glove holder Jacob Stallings. It’s impossible to know definitively about the comeback, but the pirates had good first grades. They added veterans Jose Quintana and Roberto Perez and brought back Yoshi Tsutsugo, who had eight players and 136 OPS+ in 43 games for the club last year.
First thing to do: Brian Reynolds hit 24 last year. That’s more than the sum of the next three returning players – Tsutsugo (eight), Ben Jamil (eight) and Kipriann Hayes (six). So yeah. It would be necessary to add a bat even if the NL did not add DH. But when that happens – and it will – the Buccaneers will really need another potential hitter in the lineup.
Also on the list: pitching, of course. Adding a seasoned renegade candidate to the course is worth the risk. Same with Bullpen.