The Cincinnati Reds haven’t made a ton of roster moves that have brought talent in since the season ended. They have made a few that saw talent leave the organization, though. Trading away closer Raisel Iglesias and non-tendering reliever Archie Bradley certainly moves the needle in the wrong direction as far as projecting wins for the 2021 season goes had they opted to simply keep those players – something that was within their right to do, unlike losing players to free agency where the players can leave if they so choose.
But looking around the National League Central division, no one is doing much of anything when it comes to adding talent at the big league level. As I am typing this story, the largest free agent signing among all five teams in the division, and we’re nearly two whole months into free agency, has been for a large sum of $750,000. Yep. Two months of free agency and the five teams in the National League Central have combined for ZERO contracts handed out to free agents that have been worth a total of one million dollars over their lifespan.
The Reds did trade Iglesias, and the Chicago Cubs just moved their ace Yu Darvish, as well as catcher Victor Caratini to San Diego for Zach Davies and four prospects that rated outside of the Padres Top 10 list. The division is actively getting worse, and it doesn’t feel like anyone in the division is trying to win by improving, but more so hoping they get less bad than the other four teams during the offseason of cutting payroll.
There are still plenty of moves that will be made within the division. There might even be some big moves that push the projections for one team up quite a bit from where they are now. But as things sit right now, without many moves being made, things look similar to what they looked like heading into the 2020 season: Four teams being very close to the top, and then the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com wrote about the Padres and just how good they project to be after the signing of Ha-seong Kim and the trades to acquire Cy Young winner Blake Snell and 2-time Cy Young runner up Yu Darvish (2013 and 2020). Within that article he charted out the projected ZiPS WAR total for each team in Major League Baseball. The Dodgers and Padres are neck-and-neck at the top. The National League Central division is jumbled together in the middle of the league, with the Milwaukee Brewers leading the way. They, however, are following by the Cardinals and Cubs, who look to be 2 WAR lower, and then the Reds who are 3 WAR behind Milwaukee. When it comes to WAR, there are plenty of rounding errors along the way.
Essentially, the division is up for grabs if a team wants to go out and try. Does Cincinnati landing a shortstop make them the favorites? As we discussed earlier this week, that may depend on which shortstop they get. Marcus Semien, for example, projects for more than 4 WAR next season. He would put the Reds on top with no other moves made. Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons are both in the 2.5 WAR range and would put them right on par with the Brewers.
Is anyone in the division going to try and take advantage of no one else trying to improve? I guess we’re all going to find out together. But what seems clear is that if someone does go out and try to improve, they would be the clear favorites heading into the season among the teams in the National League Central.