Reds have work cut out for them
I’m freshly back from covering the Cubs and Cardinals in the NLDS. As you know, the Cubs put on quite a display to overrun the Cardinals in four games. While I was generally focused on helping with Cardinals coverage, one thought frequently surfaced.
Winners of 97 games in the regular season, Chicago is simply stacked with young hitters that will be around for a long time — Bryant, Schwarber, Rizzo, Soler, Russell, Baez all factored in the series. The Cubs went all in on offense and were willing to sacrifice some defense to do it Schwarber, a catcher, wasn’t always smooth in left field but manager Joe Maddon wasn’t afraid to use him to keep his bat in the lineup while Miguel Montero caught. The starting pitching could be improved (besides Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester) and the bullpen has some gaps, but the Cubs have money to spend to improve both.
Meanwhile, the 100-win Cardinals were beat up by injuries but aren’t long in the tooth. Stephen Piscotty had a great series with three two-run homers but fellow rookies like Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham and younger players like Kolten Wong also contributed. Jason Heyward will be a free agent, but he’s only 26. If St. Louis can re-sign him, they could have a potent outfield for up to a decade.
The Pirates won 98 games but went out in the Wild Card round to the Cubs. Polanco, McCutchen, Cole and more will be back.
Just before the end of the season, Reds first baseman Joey Votto acknowledged the strength of the NL Central.
“We have really, really stiff competition in our division,” Votto said. “That’s what we have to recognize. We can’t go in with a half effort because of how good those three teams are. Three of probably the best five teams in all of baseball are in our division. These teams are really well put together, well rounded, really dangerous. They’re good it seems at every aspect of the game. We have to exceed them.”
The Reds have some promising young pitching and Votto certainly is back to producing at around 2010 levels, but the club needs offensive help and doesn’t have much money to spend. It will have to find a way to accumulate young hitters much like they’ve piled up with young power pitchers the past few years.
To exceed Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh — well, that could take a while. It certainly won’t happen overnight.