Chicago Cubs: A fourth contender could emerge in the NL Central

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
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Chicago Cubs: Are the Reds already contenders?

The Chicago Cubs should know firsthand how pesky the Reds were last season, as they went just 8-11 against their old division rival in 2019. Overall, the Reds went 75-87 this past season, their best showing in five years, while their run differential was only -10. They improved over the previous few years largely because of their pitching, which ranked eighth in the majors in ERA.

If the Reds pitch in 2020 as they did in 2019, there’s a good chance they’ll be a contender. Sonny Gray was outstanding for them in 2019, while Luis Castillo emerged as a solid starter. The team even tried to strengthen their starting pitching by trading for Trevor Bauer during the 2019 season, as they sent Yasiel Puig to the Cleveland Indians (though Bauer was terrible for the Reds down the stretch).

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The offense needs improvement, but the Reds do have some pieces to work with. Of course, there’s Joey Votto, who’s coming off a rough year but has a long track record of success. Eugenio Suarez is coming off a monster season. And Aristides Aquino and Nick Senzel appear to have bright futures.

Still, they could use another outfielder, which is why Castellanos and Ozuna have come up as possibilities. Plus, with Jose Iglesias becoming a free agent and a disappointing season from Jose Peraza, they’ll look to improve their middle infield, which is why Gregorius has come up. And the Grandal rumors are swirling because the team believes it needs to upgrade at catcher over Tucker Barnhart.

Clearly, the team believes it is close enough to contention that they could get there with a couple of splashes in the free agent market. It also appears they have the money to spend and are willing to do so. Does this mean that the Cubs – and the rest of the NL Central – should be worried?