Seven paragraphs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the Cardinals signing free agent Adam Wainwright to a one-year contract, The beaten up writer Derrick Goold wrote this sentence: “But in the tight belt of midwestern NL towns in the Midwest, the Cardinals’ $ 8 million guarantee in Wainwright represents more out of pocket expense for free agents than the other four division teams – combined.
We are January 29th. The teams were allowed to sign free agents from November 1. And here we are, almost three months later, and this one signed by the Cardinals – a one-year contract awarded to a 39-year-old starting pitcher. – represented a total expense greater than all the other guarantees granted by the other four teams of the NL Central. It was also, as Goold noted, the very first addition the Cardinals had made to their roster throughout the offseason.
I’m sorry, but this is insane. Is anyone really trying to win the Central?
The answer, at least at this point, is clearly no.
The Cardinals, Cubs, Reds and Brewers would certainly love to win the division title, but the current strategy of “let’s hope the other teams keep losing talent” isn’t exactly a proven method of reaching the playoffs.
“There is still time to keep exploring things,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said at a Zoom press conference on Friday. “I know that sounds strange as we are two weeks away from heading to Florida. But unusual times require unusual things, so here we are.
Even before signing Wainwright, the Cardinals had a better offseason than other teams in the division – sorry, Cardinals Fans had a better offseason – because the club weren’t actively dropping talented players to destinations across the league, although they opted not to activate the 2021 club option for Kolten Wong, who won gloves from ‘consecutive shortstop gold and produced a base percentage of .356 over the past four years. And they still don’t know if “inherited” receiver Yadier Molina will return.
–The Cubs traded ace Yu Darvish and backup receiver Victor Caratini to San Diego for four young prospects who are years away from the MLB’s potential impact. They cut slugger Kyle Schwarber, who hit 38 home runs in 2019. Jon Lester, Albert Almora and Jose Quintana are also gone. On Friday morning, they signed a one-year contract with Joc Pederson.
– The Pirates traded three “big” names with 2021 impact value this offseason – 2019 All-Star Josh Bell, rotating staple Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, who was coming off a lost season to injury. Trevor Williams, Chris Archer and Derek Holland are also gone. Oh, and they haven’t signed a single major league player yet.
– The Reds sent the most established and trusted guns to their pen, more closely trading Raisel Iglesias and non-bidding Archie Bradley. Free agent Trevor Bauer won’t be back, nor will free agents Tyler Thornburg, Anthony DeSclafani, Curt Casali or Freddy Galvis.
– The Brewers haven’t necessarily lost any players, but they haven’t really added to their club either. Oh, but they could trade Josh Hader more closely, so stay tuned.
Central had four teams in October in the expanded 2020 playoff format – only the Pirates missed – but no one stepped forward. Not even the Cardinals, who have just come closer to maintaining the status quo by bringing Wainwright – the club’s most reliable starter in 2020 – back into the fold.
For those five fan bases watching teams like the Blue Jays charge around October with a slightly aggressive offseason, inaction has been frustrating.
“The pandemic has created several levels of challenges for each team,” Mozeliak said. “You look at this last offseason, so far there have been four, five or six clubs that have been very aggressive on a number of fronts, be it free agent or trade, but I think a lot of teams are trying. yet to figure out what their identity will look like next year. And so that at some level created a bit slower pace in the offseason. But as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, teams are starting to sign players and make deals, so it’s clear that the pace has felt more normal, from an offseason perspective.
“There are still a lot of people wondering what 2021 will look like. I think it’s only natural to be a little more hesitant.
At this point – things could of course change, as there are still a lot of free agents available and a lot of potential trades to be made – NL Central’s offseason slogan has been “A little more hesitant”.
Hopefully, for the sake of the fans of those five teams, that’s not how clubs play once the season has started.