Ok, ok, the headline may be a bit much. Every single player in the division absolutely wants to win the division. Despite what you may read online or hear your crazy uncle tell you, the players are out there giving it all they’ve got to try and win baseball games. But it does seem like the front offices around the division are either hamstrung by ownership saying to cut payroll, or simply aren’t trying to win in 2021 in favor or “building for the future”, which in Pittsburgh seems to never come.

Earlier this afternoon the New York Yankees acquired pitcher Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was another move by a team in the National League Central that actively makes the team worse. This offseason the division has watched teams trade away quality players left and right. And they’ve also signed next to no one. There have been five whole free agent signings in the entire NL Central this offseason – six if you choose to count re-signing Kyle Farmer to a split contract. Every single one of those contracts is for one year, and only Austin Romine’s deal, worth $1.5M, is a 7-figure deal. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates have not made a single free agent signing of a MLB contract this offseason. It’s January 24th.

Cincinnati has signed the previously mentioned Kyle Farmer, who was a free agent for about 15 seconds after he was non-tendered before the paperwork was completed in what was a pre-arranged deal. And the team also signed pitcher Édgar García just before Christmas.

The Cubs and the Brewers have each signed two players. If we allow the idea that Kyle Farmer’s split contract will indeed pay him out league minimum, that means that the entirety of MLB contracts signed by players in the division so far, nearly three months into the offseason, total $5.2M. It would be something if only one team did that, but the fact that a division where the top four teams in it are seemingly neck-and-neck to win the division and that’s the total spending for the five teams combined is truly something else.

That doesn’t necessarily mean teams haven’t been active. The Reds have added a handful of players via waiver wire pickups and trades, but all of the acquisitions have been considered minor ones rather than any difference making ones. Perhaps it’s the sum of the parts that will add up here in the long run, but when things seem to be there for the taking if anyone wants to go take it, the entire division seems content to look at everyone else and wonder why those teams aren’t trying to get something done.

27 Responses

  1. centerfield

    National League Central Division collusion? I do think there will be some signings when the owners feel like they beaten the prices down as far as possible. Right now it is just a waiting game.

    • LivingEinstein'sInsanityDefinitionEverySummer

      The concept: Mutually Assured (Salary) Reduction
      For fans it means: Mutually Assured (Quality of Play) Reduction

  2. TR

    Can you really blame the owners for not wanting to spend before season starts? Not like any of these NL Central teams are going to see much revenue from gate in the first part of year. Being competitive usually increases attendance. If attendance not really impacted by winning/losing this year and media income fixed, then save the money. If things open up later in year, then you can spend money to go for it. I’d trade Suarez now to LA and throw in whatever else to get Lux.

    • Sandman

      Hypothetical question: IF no other central division team makes any major FA signings and IF the Reds do indeed win the Division…do you think other media people will try to put an asterisk next to the Reds?

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      Yes I can and yes I do blame the owners for not trying to wins baseball games. If they wanted money over everything then get out of the sports business and go into the something else business. Entire populations of people don’t root for, allow their entire moods and mental well beings be shaped by the success of Burger King over McDonalds. Sports are different or at least they should be. It stinks to high heaven that they aren’t.

  3. JayTheRed

    It’s so frustrating… I can’t imagine why we haven’t signed a shortstop yet. I also don’t know why we haven’t signed any type of legit type of starting pitcher or relief pitcher.

    I know they are running on a tighter budget and all but seriously there are some decent pitchers out there that I can’t imagine are going to cost more than say 5 to 8 million a year for starter or 2 to 4 million a year for reliver. The SS is probably going to cost some bigger money unless they plan to find someone on the scrap heap.

    Here is hoping something happens sometime soon.

    • Doc

      Which of the projected 5-6 SP is your higher priced acquisition going to replace?

      • Jon

        Am I missing someone here? Currently the Reds have Gray, Castillo, Mahle, and Miley (ugh…) pegged for their rotation. Lorenzen is currently seen as the fifth option. Outside of that, the Reds have no proven rotation options for depth. Miley shouldn’t even be guaranteed a rotation spot.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I agree Jon. Outside of Castillo, Gray, and Mahle the rotation seems far from set. I know they’ll pencil in Miley, but even internally there may be better options and I wouldn’t guarantee him a spot unless he bounces back in a big way.

    • Andy

      I can imagine pretty easy… they haven’t freed up enough payroll yet. This is my guess.. Reds will sign a high end SS if they can unload one big salary… we’ve heard trade rumors about everyone that makes $$$… they aren’t trading all of them, they just want to trade one corner IF/OF, or Sonny, to free up the cash to sign a SS. The Castillo rumor would have brought the SS in cost-neutral trade. Bob won’t let GM add any more payroll, and they feel they can provide MLB quality player to replace a corner OF/IF, or SP, but not shortstop. This is all me guessing, but it feels right. I think we’ll see both transactions come really close together, maybe same day… possibly already have a pending deal for SS, waiting for the trade.

      If they can’t find a trade to unload $$, my guess is we sign Freddie Galvis again.

    • sixpack

      With three + SS available and next year some top ones no team want to lock in to a multi year contract that hamstrings them. When the price drops the Reds will get one.

  4. HoF13

    Given all that has happened this offseason with the Reds, it’s possible that the Reds will have to over pay to get one of the major shortstops to bite. Also, it’s possible the major shortstops could be have an internal agreement not to take less than a certain amount — a game of chicken – who blinks first.

  5. Stock

    Two trades completed in the last week. The simulator used by Doofus blew up both times. But more important these two trades dramatically increase the chances of Castillo staying with the Reds.

    With the exception of losing Bauer, I think the moves the Reds have made this offseason allow them to get better. I know Iglesias will be missed but his salary helps sign a SS. If the Reds sign one of the 3 SS their offense and defense will be better than last year. I am getting comfortable that the Reds acquired these pitchers because Johnson/Boddy see something in these pitchers.

  6. Mark Moore

    Similar thoughts when the Pie-Rats made the trade. The WLB’s have a tailor-made FA to sign, but it appears they aren’t as nostalgic as The Neck Tattoo is.

    I still think we’ll get one of the SS guys signed. I also think we’re looking at delays to starting Spring Training and the regular season given the SNAFU’s in vaccine logistics to date. May not be a big delay, but I don’t see it starting on time and running a full 162. But that’s just me.

  7. Sliotar

    Lots of good comments above.


    -Buyer’s market for teams this winter
    -Setting up players for tough negotiations as CBA expires at end of season
    -Murky at the moment regarding fans in stands in 2021

    The reality is …
    -the Brewers are cheap (which is sad, Miller Park prints money)
    -the Cardinals are cautious ATM
    -the Cubs holding owner company allegedly has $1 billion in real estate/Wrigley renovation debt
    -the Pirates … are a mess

    How many wins to take the NL Central right now? 85? 87? Doesn’t feel like 90 is needed.

    Reds figure out SS … IMO, they are (remain) the favorites.

  8. Hotto4Votto

    It is frustrating as a fan to see the lack of desire to win. Especially after all the lip service of bringing championship baseball back and enduring losing seasons of a rebuild just to stall out as soon as they took one step forward. If you truly have a desire to win, then strike while the iron’s hot. The division is there for the taking, but all the moves made and free agents lost to this point have decreased the team’s overall talent. Everything that the Reds have been building towards is right there to take for a team willing to stake their claim. The Reds seem content to try and back in to winning despite their roster moves.

    There does appear to be some collusion on the owners part with the 3 available SS’s. I read that teams don’t see much separation in value between the three and therefore no one wants to set the market. So everyone is in a holding pattern until someone caves. The Reds absolutely have to have a SS, so go get the one you want and who cares what the other owner’s feel about the market.

  9. Kim Henry

    COVID gentlemen: COVID. The entire country still under the COVID mystique. I’m in manufacturing and companies still have people laid off and not making capital investments. These are businesses and without fans (which is very possible), millions of revenue not realized. Yes, to a large degree, it plays into the hands of owners as they attempt to lower salaries, but the almighty dollar speaks louder than any of our hopes and wishes that baseball would be somewhat normal.

    • Sliotar

      Great comment … and I agree 100%.

      I own a small, private delivery business and consult all over Ohio, north of Columbus.

      No company I deal with is planning on 2021 being “return to normalcy.”

      Maybe the last 3 months there is some optimism for 2022, but no one I see is risking investment/capital right now on that possibility. MLB likely reflecting that, in part.

  10. Rednat

    i actually think the reds are in really good position for the next few years in the central. i have friends in Chicago and i mean there, people are afraid even to go outside, let alone go to a ball game. i think it will take years, psychologically for fans there to recover enough to pack wrigley field. and in Milwaukee you of course have an indoor stadium where it could be years before they are at full capacity.

    Cincinnati has been much more liberal about opening things up and i think that could be an advantage. i went to the Tulsa VS UC game at nippert stadium in a cold driving rain storm and there were 20k people easily so i think people will show up to go gabp and fill to the capacity allowed easily.

    it is a risk but i hope ownership opens up there wallet this year even if it means raising ticket prices this year. i think the reds can draw 1.5 million this year easily. if you raise prices of tickets then you can easily break even this season

    • Frankie Tomatoes

      1.5 million is over 18000 a game. There is no chance that is happening this year.

      For the record there were under 6000 people at that Cincinnati and Tulsa game unless you meant a different one than the one played last month.

      • Rednat

        if there were only 6k in the stadium that night i have some beach front property in Nebraska to sell you. that place was packed. Cincinnatians are dying to get back to the stadium and watch live sports I am telling you

      • Frankie Tomatoes

        Announced attendance for that game was 5831 people. That was the maximum allowed by the state of Ohio.


        That people are dying, and that’s certainly a tough word to use right now given that people are actually dying, to get back to watch live sports doesn’t matter if teams can’t allow that many people into the stadium.

        Now about that property you want to sell me. Is there a listing I can look at?

    • John

      Yeah man, I know they have to break even and if you have to stay safe and close the stadium then ok, but to be truthful it is very possible to open up to full capacity if vaccines are out, which I think will be a few weeks into the season, so I see the transition period. If there is another LOCKDOWN OR WHATEVER then you have to let at least a couple thousand in and just jack the prices up, the rich will pay to watch. If the season goes back to normal the REDS will be in good shape, I still was hoping for a world series with Votto he really deserves it, but he remindes me of McCutchen or whatever both were good, but never really had a taste of glory. I really am exited for baseball and the TRADE RUMORS OF LATE have been awful. Talking about sheding payroll of NICK or MIKE. They had down years, but they are point had bad years. People don’t realize that the season was all skill and very easy to be intellectual, that is why Baur did so well, and that is why if the season opens back up as normal Baur will NOT be as good, I could see him be slightly above average. He really isn’t worth the money anyways. Most of the players who had bad years will have better years. Honestly unless you get a very benifical trade like Sonny Gray to Mets, Yankees, Jays or whatever you get some value and if you want the only value you would get would be from Surez so it could be a low Blockbuster trade or whatever. Mike to third, sign a SS with the free money, Honest people would say WHAT THE HELL ABOUT THE PITCHER SPOT AND 2B. Well the rotation would be 1. Luis 2. Mahle 3. Lorenzen 4. and 5. TJ antone, Nick Lodolo, Wade Miley, OR a FA signing, that looks bad but Luis is an ACE, Mahle looks to me like he will be a star, he has a lot of potential, Lorenzen short sample was amazing and I could very well see him be a well SP, and 4.5 are shaky, but like nothing to bad and possible good, maybe even could keep gray and just do SUREZ IDK. ethier way after a still decent rotation, the relief isn’t terriable to me, it could be good I mean I really like Garret and Sims, 2 really good pitchers and the rest we will see kind of risky at this point. Lineup 1. Akiyama (he is just an AMAZING PICKUP, smart, above average speed, gold glove defender, hits for contact, on base machine, so yeah your LF is going to have a good year) 2. Nick Senzel if healthy (Lots of Upside and potential) 3-5. Mike, Nick, Joey, Surez or so add it to 6 if they are there. 7.8.9 you will have SS, Pitcher and catcher, and Tyler looks like he has upside, if not Tucker is fine. SS FA signing hopefully and if not I really wouldn’t mine Kyle farmer he seems like a ballplayer that deserves time. I don’t know what I am missing im sorry its late. Anyways I see a lot of potential and it is depressing to know the padres just traded their farm, for a blistering rotation and they are all in, but the reds can win the central and with a little luck they could get farther, to me I see it like a challange, like the browns vs. the Chiefs, it was a close game that the Browns honestly could of won, even though they are worse on paper. The reds need good years out of the whole team. Jessie Winker I mentioned I like, but if there is no DH I really wouldn’t mind him being traded TBH. He was the best hitter, but really their isn’t much room unless you move akiyama to CF and winker to LF. BOY OH BOY I WISH BRANDON FINGINE WOULDN”T HAVE BEEN HURT I WISHED THAT JOHNNY deal wasn’t a waste.

  11. Matt WI

    I wish I knew where it was, but my brother sent me an article about two weeks ago, wanna say from a yahoo.com writer, in which the following point was made:

    Trying has become a market inefficiency. Seems all to true.