Addition by addition?
As expected, the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, and Boston Red Sox are the top three teams in the win projection released by Caesars Entertainment. It is no surprise considering the Red Sox won the World Series and the Astros and Yankees continue to be among top teams in baseball.
Looking specifically at the Central because that is what matters, the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers are separated by just 5.5 total wins. The Cubs come in at 89 wins, Cardinals at 88.5 wins and the Brewers at a surprising 83.5 wins.
(It is worth nothing – these projections came out before Milwaukee shelled out $18.25 million next season for catcher Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday night – a move that no doubt strengthens their chances at retaining the division crown).
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Respectfully, these numbers all feel low. Moreover, for a good reason too. Starting with the Cubs, they will be getting back Yu Darvish, who recently just received the clearance for Spring Training. It remains to be seen how effective Darvish will be, but Fangraphs projects him at a healthy 2.6 WAR.
To add to it, coming off a down year with injury troubles, All-Star slugger Kris Bryant is expected to return to form, with a 5.7 WAR which is a +3.5 increase. Together it equals nearly six wins, which would put the Cubs back at a 95-win total.
Moving ahead, the Cardinals have taken the hot stove to a grand level, adding both All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt via trade and signing big left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, with whom the Cubs are very familiar. Assuming the Cardinals play up to par with their newest treasures, they could realistically be between a 90 and 93 win club.
Lastly, the Brewers broke onto the scene in a significant way last season, upsetting the Cubs and taking the division crown. The team was without both Jimmy Nelson through all of last year and Brent Suter for part of the year.
If Nelson can return to form by Opening Day and stay healthy, he would help them immensely. For a franchise who won 96 games last year, 83.5 wins feel relatively cavalier. If they stay healthy, this team can win 90 games again.