MLB dot com has third place finish projected for Chicago Cubs in NL Central

Mar 18, 2023; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA;  A general view of fans seated behind the Chicago Cubs
Mar 18, 2023; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; A general view of fans seated behind the Chicago Cubs / Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Baseball regular season is officially one week away and many outlets are beginning to make their predictions for the season and for the Chicago Cubs, the team may not have a clear path to winning the National League Central.

While the Cubs spent over $300MM this past offseason, the team still lacks the front-end talent that will likely allow them to be a legitimate threat to taking the National League Central title away from the St. Louis Cardinals. That should be why it should come as no surprise that Will Leitch of MLB dot com has the Cubs finishing in third place this season in the National League Central. The surprise, however, comes at the top of his predictions.

"THIS HUMBLE SCRIBE’S BEST GUESS AT THE STANDINGS Brewers: 88-74 Cardinals: 87-75 Cubs: 81-81 Pirates: 68-94 Reds: 66-96"

Will Leitch via MLB Dot Com

Leitch is admittedly much higher on the Brewers entering the 2023 season than other outlets. While the Brewers undoubtedly have a pitching staff that is among the best in the National League, there are legitimate questions about their offense. Leitch refers to the Brewers' offense as "underappreciated" but the reason they are underappreciated is that they struggled to score runs last season. The lack of scoring runs does not mean that an offense is underappreciated, it means that an offense is bad.

As for the Cubs, Leitch seemingly does not understand their plan.

"2) Are we clear about the long-term plan here? Signing Swanson was definitely a sign that the Cubs are no longer punting: That’s a lot of money to commit to a key position for seven years, money that sure makes it look like the Cubs are ready to start winning games again. (The short-term deals to Bellinger and company certainly imply this as well.) But even in a division like the NL Central, which is hardly some bastion of juggernauts the caliber of the NL and AL East, the Cubs still seem to have a clear ceiling."

Will Leitch via MLB Dot Com

The Cubs' plan is rather clear. The team lacks a true blue-chip prospect and that is among the reasons why they are not entering the 2023 season as a threat to win the World Series. But the team has raised its floor to the point where barring injury, the team should be in contention by the time that the trade deadline arrives. Assuming that happens, the Cubs have left themselves with the financial flexibility to potentially add a significant piece at the deadline.

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At the very least, the Cubs have established their floor with the moves that they have made this offseason. That doesn't make the Cubs a clear postseason candidate as they embark on the start of the season but with their floor in place and their top prospects set to reach Wrigley Field over the course of the next one to two seasons, there is a clear path to understanding what the team's plan is.