The NL Central division is up for grabs heading into 2023. The Cubs finished in 3rd place by a wide margin but weren’t close to finishing in first; however, big free agency moves and teams not making moves has made the division very winnable for the Cubs if things go right.
Last year the Cardinals finished in first place. Once again, they are the favorite to win the division. They played really well after the All-Star break. They went on an eight game win streak and a seven game win streak during August. This helped jumpstart a push that would eventually pull them away from the Brewers to take first place. In the updated Wild Card Round, they got swept by Philly, who would go on to win the NL pennant.
This offseason for the Cardinals has so far been highlighted by the signing of former Cub Wilson Contreras. Contreras is set to take the place of long-time Cardinal who just retired Yadier Molina. Side Note- I don’t see Cub fans applauding him in his first game back at Wrigley as they did for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
St Louis also kept a lot of returning players through arbitration. The Cardinals will no doubt be in the race for the division when September comes around.
The Brewers finished seven games behind St Louis last year. They barely missed the playoffs as well. It stung for them because they possessed the final wild card spot until the last weeks of the season.
You can expect similar results for this ball club this year. Since they are a smaller market, they don’t have the money to sign big-name players like the Cubs and Cardinals. So far, they have spent almost no money this offseason. Wade Miley is the only big-name player they signed. Milwaukee traded for C William Contreras, RHP Joel Payamps, and RHP Justin Yeager. However, they let go of the following players: RHP Brad Boxberger, LHP Taylor Rogers, RHP Trevor Gott, OF Andrew McCutchen, C Omar Narvaez, and 3B Jace Peterson.
The Pirates and Reds
The Pirates finished in last, last year, and the Reds finished in 4th. They both had the same record of 62-100. This year, these two will likely stay at the bottom of the division. The Reds are quite obviously tanking. The Pirates are the Pirates. They have been at the bottom of the division for years. Both these teams have spent next to no money and made hardly any signings this offseason.
So, Where Does That Leave the Cubs?
Last year the Cubs finished in 3rd last year, as said above. The Cubs are in an interesting situation. They have made a lot of moves this offseason, but there are still a few glaring holes. The Cubs have a high ceiling but a low floor. They have the potential to finish first, but that would require the Cardinals to flop and the Cubs to have a lot go their way.
I expect the Cubs to finish in 2nd or 3rd, missing the playoffs.