Category Archives: Cincinnati Reds

Dodgers trade Kemp and Puig to the Reds

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds pulled off a major blockbuster offseason trade as the Dodgers sent outfielder Matt Kemp, outfielder Yasiel Puig, starting pitcher Alex Wood, and catcher Kyle Farmer in exchange for starting pitcher Homer Bailey, right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray, and shortstop Jeter Downs.


Dodgers analysis/grade:

This move sort of makes sense for the Dodgers because it clears a lot of much-needed salary which is important because it will allow the team to be more active in free agency. Also, the Dodgers had a logjam in the outfield for 2019 and they didn’t really have regular roles to offer Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. The Dodgers also didn’t have much of a role for Alex Wood considering the amazing depth that they have in their starting rotation. Those 3 players certainly would have helped the team win in the short-term, but it was probably best to trade them away and allow them to have a better opportunity for playing time in Cincinnati. Meanwhile, the Dodgers also received a few players in this deal. Homer Bailey is the most notable name in this deal considering that he was a good starting pitcher at one point. However, Bailey won’t see any action for the Dodgers as he will be released by the team. The Dodgers though did add a couple of intriguing prospects in this trade. Jeter Downs is a decent prospect as he was a high draft pick in the 2017 draft and he could be a decent major league player some day. Downs has terrific speed as he stole 37 bases last season, although he’ll need to improve offensively if he wants to be an above average starting middle infielder at the MLB level. The Dodgers also added minor league right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray in this deal. Gray was a high draft pick in the 2018 draft by the Reds and he was impressive in his first minor league season as he had a 2.58 ERA in 12 starts. It is a short sample size, but Gray is a good prospect that could add some depth to the Dodgers starting rotation in a few years. Overall, this trade makes sense for the Dodgers as they dump some salary and get a couple of decent prospects in return as well. That being said, this trade doesn’t help the Dodgers much in the short-term as they are getting rid of three very good veteran players.

Grade: C+


Reds analysis/grade:

This trade really shows that the Reds are ending their rebuild and ready to try to compete for a playoff spot in 2019. Matt Kemp was an all-star just last season when he hit .290 with 21 home runs for the Dodgers. Kemp is still an above average player, although it will be interesting to see if Kemp can keep up that level of consistency considering that he is 34 years old. Yasiel Puig is another piece that has the potential of making a big impact for the Reds in 2019. Puig struggled with consistency last season when he hit .267 with 23 home runs for the Dodgers. However, he has proven that he can be a really good player when he gets on a hot streak offensively. Kemp and Puig will be big upgrades in the outfield for the Reds and they will make the Reds lineup even more dangerous heading into 2019. Cincinnati also added starting pitcher Alex Wood in this deal which should help to improve their rotation which has been terrible in recent years. Wood didn’t have much of a role for 2019 in the Dodgers rotation, but Wood is still a very good starting pitcher. Wood has a career 3.29 ERA which is obviously outstanding and he’ll immediately slot into the top of the rotation for a Reds pitching staff that obviously needs to get better. Kyle Farmer was also received in this deal and he’ll provide some quality depth and versatility for the Reds as a bench player. Farmer is technically a catcher, but he is valuable since he can play different positions in the infield as well. The Reds did give up a couple of decent prospects in this trade, but that is a risk that they need to take in order to finally be a competitive team. This trade should make the Reds a much better team in 2019 because they added three impact players in this deal and it is a really good deal since it shows the Reds are finally trying to be competitive in the NL once again.

Grade: B+


Nationals trade Roark to the Reds

The Cincinnati Reds made an upgrade to their starting rotation during the Winter Meetings as they acquired veteran starting pitcher Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals in exchange for right-handed pitcher Tanner Rainey.

Reds analysis/grade:

The main goal for the Cincinnati Reds this offseason was to improve what has been a terrible starting rotation over the past couple of seasons. Tanner Roark might not be the ace that the Reds are looking for, but he still provides some tremendous depth to a rotation that really needs it. Roark has been very durable for the Nationals over the past few seasons as he made at least 30 starts in each of the past 3 years. Roark didn’t have a great year in 2018 as he went 9-15 with a 4.34 ERA with Washington. However, Roark has proven that he can be a very good starting pitcher like in 2016 when he had a 2.83 ERA. The Reds are hoping that Roark can return to being that type of pitcher, but even if he isn’t he is still a big upgrade to their rotation. Roark is a veteran pitcher that can help lead the young Reds pitching staff in 2019. Also, this move is good for the Reds because they are signaling that they are done rebuilding and that they will be ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2019. This move helps to make the Reds chances of winning in the short-term and they didn’t give up much in return which makes this deal even better.

Grade: A-


Nationals grade/analysis:

I’m really not sure what to think of this trade for the Nationals because they seem like a team that is without a real sense of direction this offseason. They already made a big move this offseason by signing Patrick Corbin to a massive contract. That move showed that they want to compete, but this trade sends a different message because they are getting rid of a veteran pitcher that can help them win in 2019. Roark hasn’t been very good over the past couple of seasons and his $10 million salary in 2019 was probably too much for the Nationals to handle. It makes sense for the Nationals to unload his salary and spend that money elsewhere. That being said, Washington is hurting their ability to win right now because of this trade and they didn’t get much in return. Tanner Rainey is an inconsistent pitching prospect that the Nationals hope can be developed into a decent middle-relief pitcher in their bullpen. Rainey has a good arm, but he has struggled with control of his pitches. Rainey had his first taste of MLB action last season, but he proved that he clearly wasn’t ready for that type of competition as he had a 24.43 ERA in 8 appearances. Rainey should start the 2019 season in Triple-A to try and improve, although he probably won’t ever become anything more than bullpen depth for the Nationals. This trade just doesn’t help out the Nationals much as it certainly doesn’t help their playoff chances in the short-term and it likely won’t help them much in the future unless Rainey can revive his career. It makes sense for the Nationals to get rid of Roark’s salary, but they still should have received a better return in this deal.

Grade: C-



Biggest need for every MLB team this offseason

Arizona Diamondbacks – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Diamondbacks had a decent starting rotation in 2018 as Zack Greinke was very good as he usually is. Patrick Corbin was terrific in 2018 as well as he had a 3.15 ERA for the Diamondbacks. However, the Diamondbacks head into the offseason with major questions with their starting rotation. The biggest question mark is whether Patrick Corbin will re-sign with the team and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will return in 2019. That would leave with the Diamondbacks rotation with a major void that will be really difficult to fill. It is also very possible that the Diamondbacks could decide to move Zack Greinke since he has a big contract and he is getting older. Clay Buchholz was a pleasant surprise with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts, but the Diamondbacks can’t expect him to have that type of production again even if they decide to re-sign him. Robbie Ray provides some hope for the pitching staff, but he struggled at times this past season. Taijuan Walker could be back from Tommy John surgery at some point in 2019, but the Diamondbacks shouldn’t count on any contributions from him. Arizona’s rotation will look a lot different next season and they need to do something in free agency to address it in order to remain competitive.

Atlanta Braves – Biggest Need: Catcher

The Atlanta Braves received decent production from Kurt Suzuki at the catcher position last season as he hit .271 with 12 home runs. However, Suzuki is 35 years old and he is a free agent this offseason. The Braves would ideally like an upgrade over Suzuki anyways and it is extremely likely that they try to find a new starter at the catcher position this offseason. The catcher market in free agency provides the Braves with some good options like Wilson Ramos and Yasmani Grandal if they are willing to spend that kind of money on a catcher. However, it seems more likely that the Braves will tap into the trade market to find their new catcher. J.T. Realmuto is certainly the best option available, but it would likely take at least a couple of top prospects in order to get the deal done. The Braves have some options to find a new catcher, but it will be interesting to see how they address that position.

Baltimore Orioles – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Orioles have big needs at just about every position, but the glaring weakness continues to be their starting pitching. They tried to address the problem last offseason by signing veteran pitchers Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner in free agency, but those players just ended up making the rotation worse. Baltimore could see if those guys improve in 2019 or they could just decide to cut their losses and replace them. Dylan Bundy was supposed to be the ace of the Orioles rotation, but it appears that he isn’t the answer either as he had a disastrous 5.45 ERA last season. It is highly unlikely that the Orioles get a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason, but they need to sign several starting pitchers to try and at least make their starting rotation acceptable.

Boston Red Sox – Biggest Need: 2nd Base

Boston’s main weakness was at 2nd base this season mainly because starter Dustin Pedroia couldn’t stay healthy as he only played in 3 games. The Red Sox tried to fix the problem by trading for Ian Kinsler, but that didn’t really work out very well. Kinsler is a free agent after this season and the Red Sox certainly have no intention of bringing him back. That leaves Pedroia as the starter heading into 2019, but he has struggled to stay healthy over the past couple of seasons. That being said, Pedroia is 35 years old and he likely is just an average starter at best at this point in his career. Pedroia might still have some solid production left in his career, but it might be time for the Red Sox to move on from Pedroia and find an upgrade at 2nd base.

Chicago Cubs – Biggest Need: Shortstop

Addison Russell was once a hyped prospect, but he has failed to live up to the hype as he is just an average starting shortstop. Russell is a terrific defensive player, but he just hasn’t provided the Cubs with much of anything on offense. Russell was already in danger of losing his job in 2019 due to his lack of offensive production, but it seems even more likely now due to his character concerns. Russell will miss the start of the season because of a domestic violence issue and there is a chance that the Cubs could just decide to get rid of him altogether. Either way, the Cubs need to do something to address the shortstop position and it is somewhat likely that they could do so by going after a top player like Manny Machado. There is a good chance that the Cubs could land Machado and it would be a major upgrade at the shortstop position even when Russell returns.

Chicago White Sox – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon look like good young starting pitchers as they led the White Sox rotation last season. The White Sox also remain hopeful that talented prospects Michael Kopech and Lucas Giolito can live up to the hype and help make the White Sox rotation stronger. Either way, the White Sox need to find at least one veteran starting pitcher to help improve the rotation and make the White Sox a contender in 2019. The White Sox could be big spenders this offseason and they have many areas to improve, but the continued growth of their young starting pitchers should be the number one priority.

Cincinnati Reds – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Reds have one of the best offenses in the MLB and they have a decent bullpen as well. However, the starting pitching remains the main issue that keeps the Reds from being playoff contenders. They were counting on veterans Homer Bailey and Anthony DeSclafani to lead the rotation last season, but both had an absolutely disastrous 2018 season. Cincinnati has some talented young starting pitchers led by Luis Castillo, but they all suffered some growing pains as expected. The Reds are hoping that their young starters like Castillo can continue to improve in 2019. However, the Reds need to either sign a solid veteran pitcher in free agency or make a trade to improve their rotation. If the Reds can find a couple of good starting pitchers then it is possible that they could be playoff contenders in 2019.

Cleveland Indians – Biggest Need: Center Field

Cleveland had hopes that Bradley Zimmer could finally live up to the hype and take over the everyday role in center field, but that unfortunately never happened. They struggled to find anybody to take over that role and they ended up shifting Jason Kipnis to center field. Kipnis has been an infielder for basically his entire career and he was never meant to be anything more than a temporary solution at the position. The good news is that Cleveland could address the free agency with solid veterans like Adam Jones or A.J. Pollock. However, Cleveland just needs to do something in order to upgrade that position because it is really holding the team back.

Colorado Rockies – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Rockies spent tons of money last offseason to try and improve their bullpen, but they didn’t see any results at all. Bryan Shaw, Chris Rusin, and Jake McGee all had big bullpen roles last season, but they all had an absolutely horrible season. Even closer Wade Davis who was known as one of the top closers in the game struggled with consistency. Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg pitched very well for the Rockies, but they didn’t get much help from the rest of the bullpen. It is possible that the bullpen gets even worse next season especially if Adam Ottavino departs in free agency. Either way, the Rockies need to upgrade their bullpen in a major way this offseason. It is unlikely that they spend tons of money to upgrade the bullpen like they did last year, but they need to add a couple of reliable bullpen pieces in order to get better in that area.

Detroit Tigers – Biggest Need: Shortstop

Detroit has already made it known that last year’s starting shortstop Jose Iglesias won’t be retained for the 2019 season. However, that leaves a major void for the Tigers at shortstop that they must fill this offseason. The Tigers likely won’t spend much in free agency on a shortstop and they’ll likely just add a veteran shortstop on a short-term deal. That being said, the market for shortstops is once again slim this offseason. However, there are some decent temporary options at shortstop for the Tigers as Freddy Galvis, Alcides Escobar, and Adeiny Hechavarria are all free agents. Those guys are good defenders, but they don’t provide much on offense. Detroit needs a shortstop that can fill that role temporarily and it is very likely that they sign a player like Galvis for that role.

Houston Astros – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Astros head into a very interesting offseason mostly because they have a few key free agents that they need to decide whether to re-sign or not. However, starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton might be the most important players for them to re-sign. Houston has Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander as two terrific options at the top of their rotation. However, if they fail to re-sign Morton and Keuchel this offseason then they would have 3 rotation spots to fill especially with Lance McCullers out for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. It is very possible that the Astros won’t be able to re-sign Morton or Keuchel, so it needs to be a priority to try and find a top level starting pitcher like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, or Nathan Eovaldi. Either way, the Astros will be searching to find at least a couple of new starting pitchers this offseason.

Kansas City Royals – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

Kansas City is in the midst of a full-scale rebuild so they have needs at several positions, but the biggest problem that they had last season was their starting pitching. Danny Duffy was supposed to be the ace of the rotation, yet he had an awful 2018 season as he had a 4.88 ERA. The Royals need him to bounce back in 2019 and they need their younger pitchers like Jakob Junis to continue to improve. Brad Keller was a pleasant surprise for the Royals last season as he became the Royals best starter, but we’ll see if he can continue his success in 2019. Either way, the Royals rotation needs to add a couple of quality veteran pitchers to try and solidify their starting rotation this offseason. They certainly won’t sign a top-level starting pitcher in free agency, but they need to find  at least someone on a short-term deal that can help their rotation out in 2019.

Los Angeles Angels – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Angels have an offense that can compete at a high level, but the consistency of the team’s pitching continues to hold them back. They once again struggled mightily with injuries to their starting rotation as players like Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs once again couldn’t stay healthy. Richards is a free agent this offseason and it is unlikely that the Angels retain him due to his lengthy injury history. Shohei Ohtani also won’t pitch in 2019 after he just had Tommy John surgery. That leaves the Angels with a couple of major voids to fill in a starting rotation that already was just average at best. The Angels need to find a couple of starting pitchers in free agency to try and give some more stability to their rotation.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Dodgers used Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen extensively in the postseason because those were about the only two relief pitchers that they could rely on. However, that ended up being their downfall because the teams that they faced in the playoffs had much more depth in their bullpen. If the Dodgers want to make a deep playoff run again then they’ll need to at least find a good 7th inning option that will take some of the pressure off of Baez and Jansen. If the Dodgers can add some more depth to their bullpen then it will allow them to be more competitive if they reach the playoffs once again in 2019.

Miami Marlins – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Marlins have a couple of good starting pitchers with Jose Urena and Dan Straily. Neither are elite starting pitchers, but they at least provide some stability to the Marlins starting rotation. However, the rest of the starting rotation needs some help for sure. Wei-Yin Chen was completely unreliable in 2018 and they also couldn’t rely on consistency from younger starters like Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards. Miami likely won’t spend big to get a starting pitcher in free agency, but they need to find a veteran that can help provide some depth to their rotation.

Milwaukee Brewers – Biggest Need: Catcher

The combination of Erik Kratz and Manny Pina didn’t do much during the regular season, but they did contribute to the Brewers success in the 2018 playoffs. However, Kratz is 38 years old and the Brewers need to find an upgrade over him either way. Meanwhile, Pina is a good backup catcher for the Brewers, but he isn’t the long-term starter at catcher. The good news is that the catcher market in free agency gives the Brewers several good options. It is unlikely that they spend big money on a catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos. However, they could go after a lower-cost starter like Kurt Suzuki, Jonathan Lucroy, Brian McCann, or Matt Wieters. There are plenty of options at catcher for Milwaukee, but they need to do something to improve that position.

Minnesota Twins – Biggest Need: 1st Baseman

Minnesota has had the privilege of having Joe Mauer be their everyday 1st baseman for the past few years. However, the Twins now must find a replacement at 1st base after he decided to retire this offseason. The bad news though is that the Twins don’t really have a player on their roster that can fill that everyday role. They will likely use free agency to fill that major void, but the issue is that it is a a very weak group of 1st baseman. Steve Pearce, Matt Adams, Lucas Duda, and Mark Reynolds are about the only options for the Twins at that position and none of them are exactly inspiring options. The Twins could decide to trade for a 1st baseman and that is likely the better route to take, but they need to do something because they don’t have anybody that can fill the void at 1st base right now.

New York Mets – Biggest Need: Catcher

The good news for the Mets is that they have one of the best starting rotations in the MLB right now. However, the bad news is that they probably have the worst offense in the entire MLB as well. They have needs to fill at several positions and they need key players like Todd Frazier and Michael Conforto to produce more consistently. That being said, the biggest need for the Mets continues to be at the catcher position. They tried to address the issue by acquiring Devin Mesoraco from the Reds early in the 2018 season, but that trade didn’t work out. Now Mesoraco is set to become a free agent this offseason and the team has basically nothing left at the catcher position. Either way, the Mets need an upgrade over Mesoraco at catcher and it is likely that they will go all-in on finding a good starting catcher this offseason. It is very possible that they spend big to sign a catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos in free agency. However, they also have expressed tons of interest in trading for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. It will take a big risk either way to find a good starting catcher, but it is a risk that they must take in order to improve their team.

New York Yankees – Biggest Need: 1st Baseman

The New York Yankees are pretty much a complete team and they especially don’t need to improve their offense much. However, 1st base continues to be the position that holds their lineup back from reaching its full potential. The Yankees had hope that Greg Bird would live up to the hype and become their everyday 1st baseman. Sure, he has shown tremendous power with his bat, but he just hasn’t been able to produce consistently on offense. Luke Voit came in and did a very good job at 1st base, but he didn’t do much in the playoffs and he isn’t the long-term answer at 1st base. The Yankees don’t have any better options in free agency, but they could look to address their need at 1st base via a trade. The Yankees already are rumored to be intrerested in Paul Goldschmidt if the Diamondbacks decide to trade him and that would make the Yankees offense perhaps the best of any team in MLB history. Either way, they need to find a long-term solution at 1st base because Greg Bird and Luke Voit just aren’t the answer.

Oakland Athletics – Biggest Need: Catcher

Bruce Maxwell was supposed to take over the starting role at catcher for the Athletics, but it appears that will never happen. Jonathan Lucroy was the Athletics main catcher and he did a good job defensively, but he surprisingly struggled offensively as he only hit for a .241 average with 4 home runs. Lucroy is a free agent this offseason and the Athletics should definitely explore options to upgrade at the position. The Athletics could bring back Lucroy at a low cost or they could decide to spend more money and get a better catcher. It isn’t typical of Oakland to be aggressive spenders in free agency, but this might be the offseason that they need to do that in order to improve at the catcher position.

Philadelphia Phillies – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Philadelphia Phillies received a terrific performance from young starting pitcher Aaron Nola who became the Phillies undisputed ace last season with an impressive 2.37 ERA. Jake Arrieta also had a decent season with a 3.96 ERA, but beyond those two pitchers the Phillies starting rotation was really inconsistent. The return of Jerad Eickhoff next season should give the Phillies rotation some much needed depth. However, the other two spots in the rotation are completely up in the air. They could just have Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Vince Velasquez compete for the final two spots. That being said, it is probably just best if the Phillies add at least one veteran starting pitcher to help add some more depth in order to solidify the Phillies rotation. Philadelphia likely won’t be in the market for a top starting pitcher, although they must do something in order to improve the back end of their starting rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Biggest Need: Shortstop

The Pirates middle infield is likely going to look a lot different next season with 2nd baseman Josh Harrison and shortstop Jordy Mercer both likely to depart in free agency. However, the biggest concern is the void that Pittsburgh currently has at shortstop especially if Mercer leaves in free agency. Mercer was just an average shortstop at best and it shouldn’t be too difficult to replace him, but the problem is that they don’t really have a plan to do so. The Pirates could dig into the rather weak shortstop market in free agency with players like Freddy Galvis and Alcides Escobar available likely at a low cost. However, none of the free agent options for the Pirates are necessarily upgrades over what the Pirates had with Mercer. Maybe the Pirates can address the need via a trade, but that seems highly unlikely at this point. The Pirates don’t have many good options to fill the shortstop void and it might be best if they just bring back Mercer on a short-term deal.

San Diego Padres – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Padres let go of a couple of good starting pitchers from the 2017 season as they traded away Trevor Cahill and let Jhoulys Chacin leave in free agency. Those turned out to be really bad decisions for the Padres as their starting rotation was an absolute disaster in 2018. Joey Lucchesi was clearly the team’s best starting pitcher last season and he struggled with consistency as he had a 4.08 ERA. The other pitchers including Eric Lauer, Tyson Ross, and Clayton Richard were even more inconsistent. The only real lock to make the starting rotation in 2019 is Lucchesi, but the rest of the starting rotation is completely up in the air. Either way, San Diego needs to sign a few veteran starting pitchers in free agency to finally help improve their starting rotation. If they fail to accomplish that this offseason then it will hold the Padres back from being a competitive team once again.

San Francisco Giants – Biggest Need: Right Fielder

The San Francisco Giants was absolutely terrible last season and the main issue was that their entire outfield wasn’t good at all. Andrew McCutchen was brought in to improve their lineup and he was arguably their best offensive player, but he still failed to live up to the hype before being traded during the season. However, after he was traded then it left the Giants with a major void at each of the outfield positions. Right Field is a particular area of need because they have absolutely nobody to fill that role right now. Hunter Pence had a terrible 2018 season and it is almost certain that the Giants will let him depart in free agency. Gorkys Hernandez could fill the void, but he will most likely start in left field for the Giants. Either way, the Giants desperately need to find a new starting right fielder this offseason. Maybe they make a push to sign a mid-range starter in right field like Carlos Gonzalez or Nick Markakis. However, it isn’t out of the question that they make a bigger splash at the position by trying to acquire an elite player like Bryce Harper. Adding him would not only fill the void in right field, but it would instantly make a huge difference in a rather weak Giants lineup. Either way, the Giants need some more power in their lineup and they certainly need to find a new everyday player in right field.

Seattle Mariners – Biggest Need: Catcher

The Mariners made the first big move of the MLB offseason by trading away starting catcher Mike Zunino. However, the problem is that the Mariners don’t have a catcher that is able to replace him. David Freitas is the best catcher that the Mariners have right now, but he isn’t even a very good backup. The Mariners desperately need to find a new starting catcher this offseason and the good news is that it is a strong market for catchers in free agency. It is unlikely that they try to sign a top catcher like Yasmani Grandal or Wilson Ramos since the team is clearly trying to shed payroll this offseason. That being said, there should be some decent low-cost options like Jonathan Lucroy or Kurt Suzuki that the Mariners could sign on a short-term deal. Either way, the Mariners at least need to do something to fill the void left by Zunino’s departure.

St. Louis Cardinals – Biggest Need: Closer

The Cardinals bullpen started off the 2018 season well especially since Bud Norris performed well in the closer’s role. However, Norris’ performance faded later on in the season and the rest of the bullpen didn’t fare well either as pretty much every relief pitcher struggled with consistency. It is a problem that the Cardinals must address this offseason as they especially need to find a reliable closer that can shut down games and help them reach the playoffs once again. The good news for St. Louis is that there are plenty of good closers available in free agency. Craig Kimbrel is obviously the best closer on the market, but it would take tons of money to sign him. It is more likely that the Cardinals try to sign a mid-range closer like Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Jeurys Familia, or Sergio Romo. Either way, Bud Norris proved that he wasn’t the right guy in the 9th inning and now the Cardinals badly need a closer to help solidify their bullpen that needs some serious improvement.

Tampa Bay Rays – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

Jose Alvarado quietly became an elite setup man for the Rays as he had a 2.39 ERA in 70 appearances. Alvarado figures to play a major role in the Rays bullpen next season and it is very possible that he could take over the closer’s role as well. However, the rest of the bullpen needs some serious help. Closer Sergio Romo is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason and it seems somewhat unlikely that he’ll be retained. Ryne Stanek and Chaz Roe provide some solid bullpen depth, but the Rays need to find some better late-inning options. The Rays need to find a mid-range relief pitcher in free agency that can help solidify their bullpen in the late innings.

Texas Rangers – Biggest Need: Starting Pitching

The Texas Rangers added some veteran starting pitchers last offseason in hopes that they could piece together a decent starting rotation. However, things didn’t work out quite as planned as veteran pitchers Mike Minor, Yovani Gallardo, Bartolo Colon, Doug Fister, Martin Perez, and Matt Moore all struggled tremendously. Another big problem is that all of those pitchers except for Mike Minor are scheduled to be free agents this offseason. Minor is a lock to make the Rangers rotation since he was their best starting pitcher last season, but there is a major void with the other 4 spots in the rotation. It will be tough for the Rangers to adequately fill all 4 spots, yet they need to do something to fix their starting rotation which was completely awful last season.

Toronto Blue Jays – Biggest Need: Relief Pitching

The Blue Jays weakened their bullpen considerably when they traded away Roberto Osuna and Seunghwan Oh during the 2018 season. However, the Blue Jays bullpen could get even worse this offseason with Tyler Clippard and Aaron Loup becoming free agents. They still have Ken Giles and Ryan Tepera in their bullpen, but that’s about all that they have. The Blue Jays badly need to find another late-inning option and they just need to add much more depth to their bullpen in general.

Washington Nationals – Biggest Need: 2nd Baseman

The Nationals have some huge decisions to make this offseason especially with star player Bryce Harper becoming a free agent. However, the biggest area of weakness for the Nationals is at 2nd base. Washington traded away Daniel Murphy during the season and that created a big void at 2nd base. Wilmer Difo isn’t a bad backup, but he has already proven that he shouldn’t be relied upon to be the starter at 2nd base. There are some intriguing options in free agency that the Nationals should consider. Jed Lowrie and DJ LeMahieu seem like the best options for the Nationals as they would provide an instant upgrade at 2nd base. However, there are also a couple of intriguing lower-cost options available like Josh Harrison and Brian Dozier. Washington has a chance to find a good starter at 2nd base this offseason and an upgrade over Wilmer Difo would be very beneficial.


Biggest weakness for every MLB team

Arizona Diamondbacks – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The Diamondbacks were decent at the catcher position last season, but they let starter Chris Iannetta leave in free agency. However, the Diamondbacks are seriously struggling at the catcher position in 2018. Jeff Mathis is a good defensive catcher, yet he is only hitting .182 with no home runs this season. The Diamondbacks also have Alex Avila at the position and he has been even worse while batting .148 this season. It is hard to find good offensive catchers these days, but Arizona needs much better production than what they are getting right now.

Atlanta Braves – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

The Braves have a really good starting rotation, but issues arise when they have had to call upon their bullpen this season. Arodys Vizcaino has been terrific as the team’s closer, but the rest of the bullpen has been very inconsistent. Shane Carle, A.J. Minter, and Dan Winkler have been good at times. However, none of those guys have been the reliable relief pitchers that Atlanta needs. If Atlanta is going to make the playoffs this year, then they need to find some better late-inning options in the bullpen.

Baltimore Orioles – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Baltimore has been terrible in many different aspects, but starting pitching stands out as being the worst of it all. Dylan Bundy has been the best starter for the Orioles, but even he only has an average 4.08 ERA this season. Kevin Gausman has been decent as well with a 4.11 ERA, but he has been inconsistent as well. The rest of the rotation though has been completely awful as the offseason free agent signings of Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb have just made the rotation worse. Also, Daniel Hess and Chris Tillman both have absolutely terrible ERA’s as well. Baltimore has had terrible starting pitching for years, yet it might actually be worse than ever this season.

Boston Red Sox – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Sandy Leon performed well offensively in 2017, but he has regressed so far this season as he has become the weakness of the Red Sox lineup. Leon still hasn’t been terrible, yet he is only averaging .252 with 4 home runs in 2018. Meanwhile, Christian Vazquez has been even worse offensively for Boston. Vazquez is hitting .213 with 3 home runs in 2018 despite getting even more at-bats than Leon. Boston has enough in their lineup to make up for the lack of production at the catcher position, although they will need more if the Red Sox really want to reach their full potential.

Chicago Cubs – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Jon Lester has been outstanding for the Cubs this year as he has a 2.45 ERA. However, the rest of the starting rotation for Chicago hasn’t been nearly as good. Mike Montgomery has been decent as a 5th starter for the Cubs, but they need much more from the other pitchers. Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood, and Yu Darvish have all underachieved this season. The Cubs are still a probable playoff team, but if the Cubs want to make a deep playoff run then they’ll need much more from their starting pitching.

Chicago White Sox – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Reynaldo Lopez has been the lone bright spot in the White Sox starting rotation as leads the White Sox starters with a 3.77 ERA. However, the rest of the White Sox starting pitchers have been disastrous to say the least. James Shields, Dylan Covey, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer all have been really awful. Giolito and Fulmer are still big parts of the rotation for the future, yet Chicago needs much better starting pitching if they ever want to be relevant again.

Cincinnati Reds – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Tyler Mahle has been outstanding with a 3.66 ERA this season and Matt Harvey has been good for the Reds as well with a 3.79 ERA in 11 starts for the team. However, the rest of the rotation hasn’t been good at all. Sal Romano, Luis Castillo, and Homer Bailey all have an ERA 5.28 or less this season. The good news is that the Reds have a very good offense, but they will need much better starting pitching if they want to compete anytime soon.

Cleveland Indians – Biggest Weakness: Center Field

Bradley Zimmer and Greg Allen have both split time in center field for Cleveland this season, but the issue is that neither of them have been productive offensively. Zimmer is hitting only .226 with 2 home runs this season. However, Greg Allen has been even worse as he is a .208 hitter with just 1 home run. Cleveland might need to consider adding a center fielder at the trade deadline since they are getting terrible production from the position right now.

Colorado Rockies – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

Colorado made some major changes to their bullpen this past offseason, but it has only seemingly made that unit even worse than last season. Adam Ottavino has been terrific and Scott Oberg has been good as well, but the rest of the bullpen has been terrible. Wade Davis was supposed to be an elite closer for the Rockies, but he instead has a mediocre 4.04 ERA this season. Also, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, and Mike Dunn have all been awful this season. The Rockies have some proven relief pitchers, yet for whatever reason they just haven’t been able to produce this season.

Detroit Tigers – Biggest Weakness: Designated Hitter

Victor Martinez has had a terrific career, but at this point he is nothing more than a mentor for the young players on the Tigers team as he finishes out his likely final MLB season. Martinez certainly isn’t the player that he once was as he is currently 39 years old and he hasn’t been a good hitter at all. Martinez is hitting .240 with just 4 home runs for Detroit this season despite making $18 million in salary. Those aren’t great stats especially for a designated hitter that is supposed to help carry the Tigers offense.

Houston Astros – Biggest Weakness: Bullpen

The Astros are a world series contender once again this season, but they certainly don’t have a bullpen worthy of that distinction. Ken Giles was supposed to be the closer this season, but he has been awful with a 4.11 ERA. Will Harris is another late-inning option for the Astros that has really struggled this year as well. Joe Smith has been the worst of all with a 4.70 ERA in 2018 for Houston. Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, and Chris Devenski have been the reliable relief pitchers for the Astros. However, that isn’t exactly an inspiring group of relievers especially for a team that could make a deep playoff run. Either way, Houston needs to make it their priority to find some much better late-inning bullpen options at the trade deadline.

Kansas City Royals – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitcher

It’s never a good sign when a pitcher that has been in the bullpen for most of his career is the best starting pitcher that the team has. However, that is the case with the Royals as Brad Keller has basically been the ace of the Royals rotation with a 2.82 ERA in 7 starts this year. Veteran Pitchers Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Hammel were supposed to carry the starting rotation for Kansas City this season. However, all three of those guys have an ERA of 4.89 or lower. Meanwhile, Jakob Junis had a terrific start to the season, but he has been absolutely recently. The Royals need to find some better young starting pitchers or else their rotation might be bad for awhile.

Los Angeles Angels – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

Ian Kinsler was acquired by the Angels in order to be a major upgrade at the 2nd base position, but he has performed probably even worse than what the team had before. Kinsler has dealt with some injuries this year and that might be a contributing factor to his poor performance, but there is no excusing his .213 batting average. Kinsler has been a major weakness in the Angels lineup and he is holding them back from reaching their full potential.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

The 2nd base position has been somewhat of revolving door as they really haven’t had a clear starter at the position. Logan Forsythe has been the starter for most of the season at 2nd base, although he has been absolutely awful offensively. Forsythe is hitting only .199 this season with just 2 home runs for the Dodgers. Veteran 2nd baseman Chase Utley hasn’t been much better as he is only hitting .227 with 1 home run this year. Either way, the 2nd base position has been a major weakness for the Dodgers and it is something that needs to be fixed soon.

Miami Marlins – Biggest Weakness: Starting Pitching

Miami hasn’t really had a clear ace of their starting rotation since the death of Jose Fernandez and they still don’t have one. Jose Urena has been the best Marlins starter this season, although he only has an average 4.13 ERA. Caleb Smith has been decent as well, but the rest of the rotation hasn’t been good at all. Dan Straily has really underachieved this season as he was supposed to be the ace of the rotation. Also, Trevor Richards and Wei-Yin Chen have been absolutely awful this season. Miami has some decent players in their lineup, but they need to find some better starting pitchers soon.

Milwaukee Brewers – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The Brewers have used four different catchers this season, but the problem is that none of them have been good. Manny Pina has seen the most action at catcher for the Brewers, yet he is hitting just .227 with 16 RBI’s in 2018. Also, backup catcher Erik Kratz has been even worse with a .210 batting average and 6 RBI’s. Milwaukee has a good lineup otherwise, but they need to find some help at the catcher position if they want to make a deep playoff run.

Minnesota Twins – Biggest Weakness: Designated Hitter

Minnesota added Logan Morrison this offseason as they were hoping to add some power to their lineup. Morrison has accomplished that to some extent as he has hit 10 home runs this year, but the issue is that he hasn’t hit much of anything else. Morrison is batting just .193 for Minnesota this season and that just isn’t good enough. The designated hitter position is supposed to have a player that is a good hitter, but Morrison hasn’t lived up to expectations for the Twins.

New York Mets – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

The New York Mets had a big void at the catcher position which is why they acquired Devin Mesoraco early in the year from the Cincinnati Reds. However, Mesoraco hasn’t exactly been the solution at catcher as he is hitting just .232 with 18 RBI’s this season. Also, his backup Kevin Plawecki has been even worse as he is hitting .217 with just one home run for the Mets this year. The Mets have struggled mightily offensively this season and the catcher position has been a major source of those issues.

New York Yankees – Biggest Weakness: 1st Base

1st Base has been a revolving door for the Yankees this season as they have started a few different players at the position. They started out with Tyler Austin at 1st base, although he hit just .223 before being demoted to Triple-A. Meanwhile, Greg Bird has provided some power with 6 home runs, but he is only hitting .207 this year. The Yankees have even put Neil Walker at 1st base a lot and that has been disastrous as he is only hitting .197 with 2 home runs this season. The rest of the Yankees lineup is really good, but they need to find somebody that can produce more at 1st base.

Oakland Athletics – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Jonathan Lucroy was once an all-star caliber catcher in the MLB, but he hasn’t really been an average catcher for the Athletics this season. Lucroy is hitting just .245 with 1 home run for Oakland in 2018. His backup Josh Phegley has been worse as he is batting just .219 with 2 home runs for the Athletics this year. Oakland really needs to find a new starting catcher because the position has just not been good this season.

Philadelphia Phillies – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Scott Kingery was an elite prospect coming into this season for Philadelphia and there were high expectations for him as the starting shortstop. However, Kingery has failed to live up to expectations as he is hitting just .229 with 4 home runs this season. Pedro Florimon has been better in his limited time at shortstop as he is batting .263 with 2 home runs this year. The Phillies have been rumored to be interested in Manny Machado and they could really use him at this point because they are really struggling at shortstop.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Jordy Mercer is just an average shortstop and he probably always will be, but he especially hasn’t provided much offense this season. Mercer is hitting just .242 with 5 home runs for Pittsburgh as he has basically been the everyday player at that position. The Pirates need to finally find an upgrade at the position because Mercer isn’t worthy of being their starting shortstop.

San Diego Padres – Biggest Weakness: Shortstop

Freddy Galvis is certainly known for his defense and that is probably the only reason that he remains a starting shortstop at the MLB level. However, he has been a liability offensively for the Padres this season as he is batting just .234 with 4 home runs. Galvis makes the Padres a better team defensively, although the team needs to find a shortstop that can provide much more on offense.

San Francisco Giants – Biggest Weakness: Left Field

Hunter Pence was once an all-star caliber player, but his performance has really dropped off this season. He is hitting just .208 with no home runs in 2018 for the Giants as he has been a major liability in their offense. Gregor Blanco has also seen some time in left field for the Giants, but he hasn’t been much better as he is hitting just .242 with 1 home run. The Giants need to find more production from that position especially if they want to remain in the playoff race.

Seattle Mariners – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Mike Zunino has spent quite a bit of time on the disabled list this season, but he hasn’t even been productive when he has been healthy. Zunino has provided great power as proven by his 12 home runs, but the problem is that he doesn’t do much else on offense. Zunino strikes out way too much and he is only hitting .189 so far this year for the Mariners. David Freitas and Chris Herrmann are the other catchers on the roster right now, but they haven’t been any better. Freitas is hitting just .194 with no home runs while Herrmann is batting .222 with 1 home run this year. The Mariners have a good lineup otherwise, yet the catcher position could hold them back if they make the playoffs.

St. Louis Cardinals – Biggest Weakness: 2nd Base

Kolten Wong has basically been the everyday starter at 2nd base, but he hasn’t exactly proved that he is deserving of being the starter. Wong is hitting just .221 with 7 home runs for the Cardinals this season as he has been the weakest part of their lineup. The Cardinals need to find an upgrade at that position especially if they want to compete with the Brewers and Cubs in the NL central.

Tampa Bay Rays – Biggest Weakness: Right Field

Carlos Gomez was once a terrific starter at the MLB level and that is the main reason the Rays signed him to see if he can provide that type of play to the team. However, it hasn’t quite worked out that way so far as he is batting just .206 with 7 home runs this year. Gomez has been the everyday starter in right field, but the Rays need to find an upgrade at that position since it is holding the lineup back.

Texas Rangers – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Robinson Chirinos has basically been the everyday catcher for the Rangers this season and he has provided some good power with 11 home runs. However, he has struggled to make contact as proven by his .204 batting average this year. The Rangers have been so bad at the position that they have utility infielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the backup catcher. Texas needs to find an upgrade at the position because that duo just doesn’t provide the offense necessary to help out their lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Russell Martin was once an all-star catcher, but he has not been good the past couple of seasons for the Blue Jays. He still provides some power as he has 6 home runs this season, but he is only hitting .173 so far in 2018. Backup catcher Luke Maile has been better, although he is still only hitting .234 with 3 home runs. Russell Martin isn’t the player that he once was and it is about time for Toronto to find an upgrade at the position.

Washington Nationals – Biggest Weakness: Catcher

Matt Wieters wasn’t performing well as the starting catcher for the Nationals as he was hitting just .232 for the team before getting injured. His injury just weakened what was an already bad group of catchers. Pedro Severino has seen the most playing time since the injury, although he has been awful as he is batting just .171 with 2 home runs. Backup catcher Spencer Kieboom has been somewhat better, yet he is still only hitting .222 with no home runs. Washington is likely in the market for a catcher at the trade deadline and they really need to find at least an average catcher to help improve their lineup.

Best trade asset for each potential seller teams at the MLB trade deadline

Baltimore Orioles – Manny Machado – Shortstop

This one is really easy because Machado is by far the best player on the Orioles and he is also the most likely player to be traded since his contract expires after this season. Machado is still really young as he is only about to turn 26 years old and that means it will take a huge haul to acquire Machado from the Orioles. It is somewhat unlikely that the Orioles will be able to re-sign Machado since it would take a huge contract offer to be able to do so. However, the Orioles could get some elite prospects in return if they do decide to trade Machado before the deadline.

Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu – 1st baseman

Jose Abreu is by far the best available trade bait that the White Sox have as he is one of the players at 1st base in the MLB. However, the question will be whether the White Sox are in a rush to trade him. He is under contract through the 2019 season, so theoretically the White Sox could stay patient and wait for the right deal to take place. Abreu is 31 years old and doesn’t appear to be too much part of the White Sox future. However, the White Sox might not trade him at the deadline since they really have until the 2019 trade deadline to make a decision.

Cincinnati Reds – Raisel Iglesias – Relief Pitcher

Raisel Iglesias has quietly become one of the top closers in the entire MLB and there aren’t many closers available via trade this season. There will certainly be many contending teams that acquire about Iglesias, but the Reds do have the ability to wait for the right deal to come around. Iglesias is under contract through the 2020 season and he is only due $5 million each season, so the Reds don’t have to rush to trade him. Iglesias might not get traded very soon because the asking price will probably be too steep for many teams. However, if a team offers some top prospects then that could be enough to get a deal done.

Detroit Tigers – Nick Castellanos – Right Fielder

The Tigers have a couple of pieces that are more likely to be traded like Francisco Liriano and Matthew Boyd. However, the player that could get the most in return is probably right fielder Nick Castellanos. He is under contract at a cheap price through the 2020 season which means the Tigers could decide to keep him. Also, he is only 26 years old, so he could still be a key part of their future when the team can contend again. The Tigers need to decide soon whether Castellanos is going to be a key part of their future or if he is a player that they can trade while his value is still high. Castellanos could be traded soon, but in all likelihood it will come at a later point.

Kansas City Royals – Mike Moustakas – 3rd Baseman

Mike Moustakas is one of the few reliable players in the Royals lineup, but the problem is that Moustakas is going to be a free agent once again after this season. Kansas City almost lost Moustakas in free agency for nothing this past offseason before he decided to re-sign on a relatively cheap deal. There is no doubt that Moustakas could help a playoff contender this season, but the problem is there isn’t much of a market for starting 3rd basemen right now. The Royals probably wouldn’t get a top prospect in return especially since Moustakas will probably just be a rental player for a playoff team. However, it would be shocking if the Royals don’t trade him by the deadline since they will likely lose him for nothing if they don’t.

Miami Marlins – J.T. Realmuto – Catcher

It is really tough to find all-star caliber catchers available for trade and the Marlins are very fortunate to have one that they are willing to trade. J.T. Realmuto is one of the top catchers in the MLB and he is arguably the best offensive catcher in the MLB. There are plenty of MLB teams that have a bad need for a catcher and Realmuto would be a major upgrade for many teams at that position. He is still under team control through the 2020 season, so the Marlins don’t have to rush to trade him this season. If they decide to trade him, then they could get some really good prospects in return since there is a shortage of really good catchers in the MLB. The Marlins should just wait for the right deal, but don’t be surprised if they charge a steep price for Realmuto.

New York Mets – Jacob DeGrom – Starting Pitcher

Jacob DeGrom is one of the elite starting pitchers in the MLB and he is still under team control at a cheap price through the 2020 season. The Mets could very well decide to keep him as he is an extremely valuable piece of their team. However, DeGrom’s value is probably as high as it will ever be and the Mets could get at least two elite prospects in return for him. It is unlikely that New York will trade him before the deadline unless the team receives an offer that blows them away. However, it would make sense for the Mets to trade him soon in order to replenish their farm system.

Oakland Athletics – Jed Lowrie – 2nd Baseman

Perhaps no player has had their trade value increase this season more than Oakland 2nd baseman Jed Lowrie. He has always been an above average player, but this season he has taken his game to an all-star caliber level. Also, he probably isn’t part of the Athletics future since he is 34 years old. The Athletics would be very wise to trade him before the deadline while his value is still high especially since Oakland might lose him for nothing after this season in free agency. The Athletics could probably get a top prospect in return for Lowrie, but that might not be the case since he will likely just be a rental for a playoff contender.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Josh Harrison – 2nd Baseman

It is kind of surprising that the Pirates haven’t traded Harrison by now considering that rumors have been swirling around him for awhile. Harrison is still under two more years of team control, but the question is whether the Pirates really want to keep him around for that long. Harrison probably won’t bring back too big of a haul, but he is still valuable considering that he can play several positions as a utility player. The Pirates could stay patient and wait for the right trade, although it seems as if Pittsburgh is willing to trade him very soon.

San Diego Padres – Brad Hand – Relief Pitcher

Not many teams even wanted to sign Brad Hand not too long ago as he was claimed off of waivers by the Padres just two years ago. However, San Diego has completely revived Hand’s career and now he has become one of the best closers in the MLB. Hand is under contract with the Padres through the 2021 season, so the team is in absolutely no rush to trade him. It would likely take a big trade package consisting of top prospects for the Padres to even consider trading Hand. However, there is no questioning that there will be many teams interested in acquiring Hand since there aren’t many elite closers available on the trade market.

Tampa Bay Rays – Wilson Ramos – Catcher

Wilson Ramos has become an all-star level catcher in the MLB as he provides rare offensive abilities for someone of his position. However, the Rays will likely have to trade him away before the deadline considering that he is a free agent after this season. The Rays also appear to like Jesus Sucre to replace Ramos as their catcher of the future, so it appears that a trade involving Ramos could be imminent. The good news is that several teams have a major need for a good starting catcher and it helps that Ramos is basically an all-star player at that position. Tampa Bay does lose some value since Ramos is likely going to be just a rental for a playoff contender, yet they could still get some good prospects in return.

Texas Rangers – Adrian Beltre – 3rd Baseman

Adrian Beltre is really old at 39 years old, yet he continues to play at a really high level despite his age. Beltre is going to be a free agent after this season and it is sort of unlikely that Texas is willing to re-sign him considering his age. However, Beltre still has some good trade value and the Rangers could get a couple of solid prospects back in return.

Toronto Blue Jays – J.A. Happ – Starting Pitcher

It would be kind of shocking if the Blue Jays don’t trade away Happ before the deadline since he is 35 years old and he is scheduled to be a free agent after the season. The good news is that there are plenty of teams that are already reportedly interested in Happ. He has had a terrific 2018 season and he could provide some solid depth to basically any playoff contender’s starting rotation. He is likely just a rental player for a contender and that will likely diminish his trade value, yet the Blue Jays could still get a lot in return for him.

2018 NL Central Predictions

  1. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are still a very good team, but the NL central will be much more interesting this season with the Brewers and Cardinals making big improvements this offseason. However, Chicago still has arguably the most dangerous lineup from top to bottom in the entire MLB. The Cubs have terrific power hitters Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras,  and Kyle Schwarber in the middle of their lineup. However, they also have solid complementary players like Addison Russell and Jason Heyward to make their lineup even deeper. They really don’t have any weaknesses in their lineup and their roster is so deep that quality players Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist don’t even have a starting role. Chicago also has an extremely deep starting rotation even though they lost Jake Arrieta this offseason. The Cubs just ended up replacing him with terrific starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and they also added Tyler Chatwood to be their quality 5th starter. Chicago also returns Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana which makes their rotation arguably the best in the MLB. The Cubs bullpen looks a little bit different especially with Brandon Morrow as their new closer. However, it is likely even deeper than it was last season as they have Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., and Steve Cishek as quality late-inning options. It is very difficult to find a weakness on this roster and that is why they are once again the favorites to win the NL central in 2018.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are in a better position to compete with the Cubs for the division title in 2018 especially after the acquisitions that they made this offseason. The biggest addition that they made was acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins as he provides the elite power hitter that the team was missing last season. St. Louis already had a good lineup, but now it is great since they have terrific hitters like Tommy Pham, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and Paul DeJong all returning for the 2018 season. St. Louis shouldn’t have any problems scoring runs and they certainly have just as good of a lineup as any team in the MLB. The Cardinals also have a very good starting rotation led  by Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright. We all know what those 3 pitchers can do, but it will be young pitchers Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty that will need to step up. Both Weaver and Flaherty have tremendous potential, but they will need to make an immediate impact if the Cardinals rotation is to become great in 2018. The Cardinals bullpen is the one area that could potential hold them back in 2018. They do have plenty of depth and they have Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons as terrific late-inning options. However, the closer role is still somewhat of an issue for the Cardinals heading into 2018. Luke Gregerson was signed in order to fill that void, but even he struggled last season and it is unknown if he will improve that role in 2018. Overall, the Cardinals should be a playoff team in 2018, but they still have a few holes that are holding them back from winning this division.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers signaled that they are ready to compete for a playoff spot in 2018 after they made some big-time acquisitions this offseason. Milwaukee now has an extremely deep outfield after acquiring Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain this offseason. The team now has Yelich, Cain, Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton all competing for 3 outfield spots in 2018 and it’s safe to say that they might have the best outfield in the entire MLB. However, the Brewers also have a very deep lineup with players like Travis Shaw, Orlando Arcia, and Eric Thames all figuring to be key contributors once again this season. Milwaukee is certainly going to score many runs in 2018, but the main area of concern is with their pitching. Their best pitcher Jimmy Nelson is injured right now and he probably won’t return until June. Zach Davies and Chase Anderson both had terrific years for the Brewers in 2018, but besides them the pitching staff doesn’t have much depth. Milwaukee is hoping that veteran pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo can be the pitchers that they once were and make the Brewers rotation great. Milwaukee has a decent starting rotation right now and it will be better once Nelson returns, but they still need to add some more depth in order to compete with the best teams in the NL. The Brewers bullpen has the potential to be good especially with elite closer Corey Knebel and quality setup man Josh Hader as their 8th-inning option. However, Milwaukee needs somebody to step up and really take control of the other late-inning role. The Brewers have a decent bullpen right now with Knebel and Hader, but the rest of the bullpen needs to prove itself in order for them to be really good. Milwaukee will certainly compete for a playoff spot in 2018 and they are better than last season, although they need to improve their pitching before they can really guarantee themselves a playoff spot.

4. Cincinnati Reds

The Reds are a team that might be able to be a respectable team in 2018, but one thing is for sure and that is they are going to score plenty of runs in 2018. Joey Votto is still arguably the best hitter in the MLB and that probably won’t change much this season. However, the one thing that he does have is plenty of offensive threats alongside him as Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler, Scooter Gennett, and Eugenio Suarez all proved to be very capable power hitters last season. The pitching is the one thing that will likely destroy the Reds season in 2018 just like it did last season.  Veteran starting pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey are back from injury and that should provide a major boost to the Reds rotation especially if they can pitch like they have before in their careers. However, the rest of the rotation is a complete unknown as they have a few young unproven pitchers that will likely will the rest of the rotation. Luis Castillo was very impressive last season, but we’ll see if he can continue that success with a full season for the Reds. Brandon Finnegan is another young pitcher that has had some success in the past, but we’ll see if he can bounce back from injury in 2018. The Reds starting rotation has tremendous potential in 2018, although it could also be the thorn in the side of the Reds just like the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the Reds bullpen has the opportunity to be decent in 2018. Raisel Iglesias is the clear leader of the bullpen as he has quietly become one of the best closers in the MLB. The Reds also added some much needed depth to their bullpen by signing veteran relief pitchers Jared Hughes and David Hernandez. Both of those guys will compete with Michael Lorenzen and Wandy Peralta for the late-inning roles for Cincinnati. We’ll see which pitchers win that competition, but just based on depth the Reds bullpen should be better this season. Cinncinnati is a team on the rise and don’t be surprised if they are at least a respectable team in 2018.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh had a few years of success, but now it is back to the rebuilding mode for the Pirates after trading away star players Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen this offseason. However, all isn’t lost for the Pirates as they still have a good outfield with Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and newly-acquired Corey Dickerson. Marte and Polanco didn’t have very good seasons for Pittsburgh in 2018, but they still have tremendous potential and if they improve in 2018 then it could provide the Pirates with a big boost on offense. The team also has above average starters Josh Bell and Josh Harrison in their lineup and they should provide the offense with even more of a boost. Either way, the Pirates offense should still be decent in 2018 even with the loss of McCutchen and it could be really good if Marte and Polanco bounce back in 2018. The problem for the Pirates could be their starting pitching which wans’t even that good prior to Gerrit Cole’s departure. Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Joe Musgrove are all decent starting pitchers, although they all struggled last season as each of them had at least a 4.14 ERA. However, the Pirates absolutely need them to improve in 2018 because the team has no chance without them especially since there isn’t much depth at the back end of the rotation. Pittsburgh’s rotation could be better than most expect, but those guys need to step it up in order for the pitching staff to be successful. Meanwhile, the bullpen also has a chance to be decent for the Pirates in 2018. Felipe Rivero is a terrific closer and he became one of the elite closers in the MLB last season. However, the depth behind him is somewhat of a concern as they don’t have great late-inning options to set him up. George Kontos and Kyle Crick are decent options, but they will need to improve in order for the Pirates bullpen to be successful since they don’t have much depth. The Pirates are technically in a rebuild mode for the 2018 and don’t expect them to compete for a playoff spot. However, Pittsburgh should still be a decent team considering they still have some quality position players to carry the load.

Reds sign Hughes to a 2-year deal

The Cincinnati Reds are looking to improve their bullpen that was one of the worst in the MLB last season and they have upgraded it somewhat by signing veteran right-handed pitcher Jared Hughes to a 2-year/$4.5 million deal. Hughes is a very underrated relief pitcher, but he has proven to be a reliable option out of the bullpen as he has an impressive 2.85 career ERA. We’ll see if the Reds put him in a setup role for the 2018 season as he is probably a better option in that role than what the Reds currently have. The Reds could use him in a middle relief role which they will most likely do since they didn’t give a very big contract. However, Hughes could also slide into the 7th inning setup role for Cincinnati considering the success that he’s had throughout his career. Either way, Hughes should provide the Reds with the much needed stability to improve the Reds bullpen in 2018 after they were only the 27th ranked bullpen in the MLB last season. Hughes isn’t a dynamic pitcher and he won’t strikeout many batters, but it is difficult to argue against his career production and this could be a very good signing for Cincinnati.

Grade: B+

jared hughes