Chicago Cubs: Change is coming – and the NL Central is ready to battle

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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Cardinals need core and young arms to take next step

For the first time since 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals won the division. After a sluggish first half, the team bounced back after the All-Star Break riding the performances of the pitching staff. The two most important guys during that run were Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty who enter 2020 as pre-arbitration players. This means they both are under contract and the Cardinals have the free reign to pay the player whatever they see as fair.

As young arms bursting on the scene, Flaherty and Hudson could be the first steps in filtering out older talent and bringing in new blood. These two arms are the most intriguing players in my eyes and can take this ball club places if they keep performing as they did down the stretch.

Some question marks for the Redbirds come in with Marcell Ozuna entering free agency. Ozuna is an offensive weapon that will likely receive a long-term deal worth a pretty penny being a Scott Boras client. I do not think it would be in the Cardinals’ best interest to entertain a long-term deal with Ozuna.

Someone else that may not return to the Cardinals is Michael Wacha. Also poised to hit free agency, the 28-year-old did not have the best 2019 possibly due to injury. With Flaherty and Hudson holding two spots in the rotation for cheap, the Cardinals may look to cut ties with Wacha and go get a big ticket free agent.

The guy I want to keep a spotlight on in 2020 is Carlos Martinez. Martinez has been with the club since 2013 and has fought injuries since day one. This year he found himself in the bullpen closing games after the Jordan Hicks injury.

Martinez is one of those guys with such nasty stuff, but can’t find a way to be consistently effective with it. We have seen him struggle against the Cubs this year and has struggled to locate and produce outs in the playoffs. The right-hander can be a huge help for this team if he can stay healthy and command his breaking pitches.

The Cardinals have a mix of guys that need to take the next step and old veterans that may not have the skills they once had (Yadier Molina is an offensive liability for $20 million). I think pending a fantastic offseason and a big step from players like Tommy Edman and Harrison Bader, this team will likely regress and trail the Brewers in the division to finish third.