The calendar has flipped to February and spring training is only two short weeks away., so spring training and the regular season will begin as scheduled, assuming the pandemic cooperates. Cross your fingers, everyone.
Throughout the offseason my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we discussed Trevor Bauer's landing spot. This week we're going to tackle Nolan Arenado and the new-look Cardinals.
Does Arenado make Cardinals NL Central favorites?
Matt Snyder: Yes, he does. I don't really think they are all that impressive, but they don't have to be in this awful division. The Cubs have gotten worse with the trade of Yu Darvish, among other things. The Reds have gotten worse with Trevor Bauer surely walking in free agency -- not to mention trading away closer Raisel Iglesias -- and the Brewers haven't done much to improve on mediocrity. And the Pirates? Well, we'll just move on. The Cardinals are the pick here, even if it sounds like it's by default. I will say this on a positive note, the top of the order with Tommy Edman in front of Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado along with promising youngster Dylan Carlson in a cushy lineup spot is pretty exciting.
R.J. Anderson: Yes, although I think that's a statement on the rest of the division as much as anything -- I'd have the Cardinals a step or two behind the Dodgers, Padres, and perhaps the Braves and Mets. Still, you can play only in the division you're in, right? The Pirates are a nonfactor; the Cubs and Reds don't seem to know which way to go; and the Brewers haven't added enough to that roster to feel great about their chances. I credit the Cardinals for taking a big swing. I think it make them the clear favorites at this stage of the game.
Dayn Perry: I agree that the Cardinals are now the team to beat. As noted, this has something to do with the Cubs' disinvestment in the roster, and the Brewers' and Reds' almost total lack of activity. The Cardinals were in a tight spot before the Arenado acquisition. Assuming Kolten Wong would not have returned, Tommy Edman would've been in line for primary duty at second base. That would likely mean that Matt Carpenter -- in steep decline with the bat and the glove -- would be the regular at third base. Plug in Arenado instead, and it's no exaggeration to say the Cardinals can be five games better than they would've been. I think the Cubs' offense will bounce back in 2021, but the rotation is just too decimated. This trade pushed the Cardinals to strong favorites in the NL Central.
Katherine Acquavella: With Arenado on board, I'd say the Cardinals are definitely the team to beat in the NL Central in 2021. Arenado's certainly going to improve the Cards; he should slot in nicely in the middle of the lineup alongside Paul Goldschmidt and he'll bring elite defense with him to the infield. St. Louis saw its odds (via SportsLine) of winning the division jump from 36.1 percent to 44.3 -- over an eight percent increase -- after Arenado addition. The trade pushes the club to the top, but not all of the Cards' offseason moves have been ideal, declining Kolten Wong's option and losing him to division rival Brewers, for example, wasn't great.
Aside from Arenado, the Cardinals followed suit with the (mostly) inactive theme of the entire NL Central this winter. The Cubs signed free agent outfielder Joc Pederson, but traded away ace Yu Darvish, but lost Kyle Schwarber and Jose Quintana. The Brewers grabbed Wong and traded Corey Knebel, for their most notable moves. The habitually rebuilding Pirates sent players away in a flurry of trades this winter; Josh Bell to Nationals, Joe Musgrove to Padres and Jameson Taillon to Yankees. And, the Reds sent Raisel Iglesias and will almost certainly depart with free agent starter Trevor Bauer, as well. Where things stand right now -- a little less than two weeks until spring training kicks off -- I'd go Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Pirates for my 2021 standings prediction.
Mike Axisa: Yeah, for sure. I have the Cardinals as the NL Central favorites. Coming into the offseason, I thought the Cardinals and Cubs were pretty close atop the division, the Brewers and Reds a notch behind them, then the Pirates way down in the cellar. St. Louis added a legitimate impact player -- as Dayn said, it's not crazy to think Arenado represents a five-win upgrade in 2021 -- and the Cubs have mostly stripped down (thought I love the Joc Pederson signing). The Brewers and Reds haven't done anything that really moves the needle (Cincinnati has actively gotten worse, in fact). It might take only 86 wins to win this division, and so far the Cardinals are the only club to improve their roster in a meaningful way. The other NL Central teams have treaded water at best.