Chicago Cubs: Previewing the ever dangerous 2016 National League Central
During the 2015 season, the National League Central was by far the toughest and best division in Major League Baseball. Three teams won 90+ games, the St. Louis Cardinals sat with 100, the Pittsburgh Pirates came in second with 98, and the Chicago Cubs improved after a sub-par 2014 campaign with 97 wins.
All three, as you might expect, appeared in the postseason, with the Cubs advancing the furthest, making an appearance in the National League Championship Series before being swept by second baseman Daniel Murphy the National League East-winning New York Mets.
In 2016, the division looks to be stronger than ever once again. Each team in the division made several key moves via free agency or trades during the offseason.
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2015 record: 97-65
Key additions: John Lackey, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist
Key losses: Starlin Castro, Jason Motte, Dexter Fowler
Already with a young, great core of players, the Cubs added veterans in Ben Zobrist and John Lackey. Lackey will add to an already solid pitching rotation while Zobrist will add in some much-needed contact at the top of the lineup.
Heyward, on the other hand, will help the defense in an offense first outfield as he shifts full-time to center field for the first time in his career.
2015 record: 98-64
Key additions: Kyle Lobstein, Jon Niese, Ryan Vogelsong, John Jaso
Key losses: Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez
The Pirates were once again paced by their pitching in 2015, and they took some chances this offseason with some pitchers, as Lobstein and Vogelsong should compete for a rotation spot in the spring, with top prospect Tyler Glasnow waiting in the wings.
The biggest question for the Pirates in 2016 will be first base. Who knows about Michael Morse, and John Jaso has never been the best fielder or the prototypical first baseman.
St. Louis Cardinals:
2015 record: 100-62
Key additions: Jedd Gyorko, Mike Leake, Brayan Pena, Seung-Hwan Oh
Key losses: Jon Jay, John Lackey, Jason Heyward
The Cardinals were once again at the top of the standings, having baseball’s best record, only to be ousted in the Division Series by the Cubs. The Cubs would then pour salt on the wound by taking away the Cards’ best pitcher in Lackey and then signing Jason Heyward.
The Cards could take a step back, but if we know one thing, it’s that they always find a way to win.
2015 record: 68-94
Key additions: Chris Carter, Chase Anderson, Aaron Hill
Key losses: Jean Segura, Adam Lind
The Brewers are in full on rebuild mode, and Segura was the first of many moves. The biggest storyline for the Brewers this season will be the status of Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Braun.
Next: Once again, the Cubs are my Valentine
They have been in talks with teams for Lucroy, but nothing appears imminent at this time. Taylor Jungmann and Orlando Arcia are nice pieces, look for them to just keep acquiring talent in the minor leagues.
2015 record: 64-98
Key additions: Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler
Key losses: Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier
Frazier and Chapman were just the first two moves in what should cause a domino effect of more moves. Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, and maybe Joey Votto could be on the move, too.
The biggest question for them is what to do with Jose Peraza, Zack Cozart is stuck at short, Phillips is at second, and Eugenio Suarez, who performed very well last year filling for Cozart, is also in the mix. The logical thing to do would be to trade Brandon Phillips, who already vetoed one trade to the Nationals this offseason.