The Rundown: NL Central Temperature Check, Ohtani Suitors Dwindling, Cease Market Warming, Brewers Set to Ink Prospect to 8-Year Deal

Baseball’s Winter Meetings are a few days away, so let’s take a look at the current and potential future state of the NL Central.

Jed Hoyer has his to-do list and he’s expected to aggressively pursue roster additions, though we may see more trades than free-agent signings. The Cubs need two everyday bats — preferably at first and third base — a starting pitcher, and bullpen help. Tyler Glasnow and Shane Bieber have been mentioned as potential acquisitions, and Dylan Cease could be an option, too. The Cubs have also been linked to Pete Alonso, but Rhys Hoskins is probably a better fit. Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are this year’s best players on the open market and the Cubs can afford both, but returning from Nashville with either signed would make this year’s meetings a success.

Moves Made: Replaced David Ross with Craig Counsell as the team’s manager; Brendon Little traded to the Blue Jays for cash; signed lefty reliever Edwin Escobar.

Expected Moves: Hoyer trades for Glasnow and signs Ohtani, Hoskins, and reliever Robert Stephenson.

Milwaukee surprisingly non-tendered Brandon Woodruff and could trade Corbin Burnes because the starting pitching market is so underwhelming. William Contreras is the only catcher on the roster, but prospect Jeferson Quero was moved to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Milwaukee also needs a third baseman. Josh Donaldson is a free agent, Brian Anderson was released earlier this year, and the team is unlikely to give Andruw Monasterio the everyday role.

Moves Made: Replaced Counsell with Pat Murphy; non-tendered Woodruff and Rowdy Tellez; traded Jace Avina and Brian Sanchez to the Yankees for Jake Bauers; acquired Oliver Dunn from the Phillies for Hendry Mendez and Robert Moore.

Expected Moves: The Brewers will trade Burnes and try to find some team to take Christian Yelich.

Cincinnati surprised everybody with a mid-season playoff run before fading down the stretch. The Reds have a competitive roster, but team president Nick Krall is expected to be active in the trade market next week. There is no shortage of young starter talent but Hunter Greene, Graham Ashcraft, Andrew Abbott, Nick Lodolo, Brandon Williamson, and Connor Phillips are inexperienced. The Reds are also lefty-heavy and will be seeking a power bat that hits from the right side. Their defense is atrocious.

Moves Made: Right-hander Nick Martinez and the Reds agreed on a two-year, $26 million contract late last night; signed reliever Emilio Pagán to a two-year contract with a third-year option; Signed catcher Luke Maile to a one-year deal.

Expected Moves: The Reds will trade infielder Jonathan India and sign one of the mid-tier veteran starters, possibly Wade Miley.

Ben Cherington will focus on rotation additions, though the Pirates aren’t looking at anything close to a major upgrade. Johan Oviedo will undergo Tommy John surgery this offseason, so they’ll kick the tires on Woodruff, Miley, Marcus Stroman, Lucas Giolito, Tyler Mahle, and Martin Pérez. Pittsburgh’s bullpen is a strength, so Cherington has tradeable assets.

Moves Made: None of any significance.

Expected Moves: Cherington signs Giolito and trades reliever David Bednar.

John Mozeliak entered the offseason in serious need of rotation upgrades and quickly signed Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Sonny Gray. That said, St. Louis has forfeited its top draft pick in successive years after signing Willson Contreras last winter. Mozeliak has to contend in 2024 or the organization will quickly fall off its rails. While it’s unclear exactly what they will do, it sounds like St. Louis will be very active in the trade market. Three players receiving interest ($) are outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, and Alec Burleson, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Moves Made: Signed Lynn, Gibson, and Gray.

Expected Moves: Mozeliak would like to sign Yamamoto but that’s probably a stretch. The Cardinals will head to Nashville looking for one more starter and will likely come away with one of Bieber, Glasnow, or Cease.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

The A’s have concluded their offseason in record time. Las Vegas is going to love this front office.

Central Intelligence

Thursday Stove

The Angels and Dodgers are enamored with the idea of trading for Burnes

Blake Snell would like to pitch for the Mariners according to NBC’s Mike Tirico.

The Mets signed pitcher Luis Severino and infielder Joey Wendle to one-year contracts.

The Red Sox and Giants both appear to be prepared to go big for Yamamoto.

If San Diego decides to trade Juan Soto, the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Giants are the best fits.

New York and San Diego have discussed Anthony Volpe, Jasson Domínguez, and Drew Thorpe in a potential trade for Soto.

Jon Heyman believes the Yankees will land at least two of Soto, Yamamoto, and Cody Bellinger.

The Braves are among the favorites to trade for Cease, and a deal could be struck before the Winter Meetings.

Kevin Kiermaier and Jorge Soler are this year’s best under-the-radar free agents ($). Joc Pederson and James Paxton also made the ESPN list.

The Royals signed utilityman Garrett Hampson to a one-year deal.

Félix Bautista and Devin Williams were named AL and NL Relievers of the Year. I know I’m old, but it was a lot more fun when the honor was sponsored by Rolaids and called the “Fireman of the Year” award. Oh, for the days of This Week in Baseball with Mel Allen and Joe Garagiola.

Apropos of Nothing

This is still my favorite Walk-Up Song during my tenure with Cubs Insider. Perhaps I’ll do a top-five list tomorrow.

Extra Innings

Take note, Mr. Hoyer.

They Said It

  • “Painfully, we did not finish the race,. And you can’t call something that falls short of your goals a success. Ultimately, we have to live with that. I know it’ll motivate me all winter, and I know talking to our players and coaches and front office, I know it’s going to motivate them.” – Hoyer

Thursday Walk-Up Song

I’m expecting the Cubs to dominate the Winter Meetings and then the NL Central for the next 5-7 years.

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