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.