2019 Payroll Preview: NL Central (Part 4 of 6)

In the first three parts of this series, we took a look at all the teams in the NL and AL East as well as the AL Central to look at what may happen the rest of the winter for those organizations. Today, we turn to the NL Central where all five member-teams appear to be turning their heads to 2019 to make a major run for the World Series after the moves each team has made so far this winter.

Chicago Cubs

Previous 3 Seasons: $183.6M
Current Payroll Commitments for 2019: $169.1M
Projected Payroll: $225M
Arbitration Projections: Kris Bryant ($12.4M), Kyle Hendricks ($7.6M), Javier Baez ($7.1M), Addison Russell ($4.3M), Kyle Schwarber ($3.1M), Mike Montgomery ($3M), Carl Edwards Jr. ($1.4M)

The Cubs look to make up for the end of their 2018 season by dominating and improving their roster from last season. That being said, Theo Epstein may struggle to find the moves to improve the team due to the fact that the Cubs are already spending a massive load of money and might struggle to lure free agents to Chicago. There have been rumors the Cubs may trade Kris Bryant to try and open up some salary space but reports seem to continue denying that notion. After arbitration and contract updates for pre-arbitration players, the Cubs will likely be spending in the neighborhood of $212M, leaving very little wiggle room for Epstein to improve the roster.

Off Season Suggestions:
– Tyler Clippard, RP, 1 year, $1.5M – The Cubs have a crowded lineup and rotation, giving meaning they can really only improve in the bullpen without splurging beyond their means, and with a 115 ERA+ in 2018 and a record of consistency over the last 12 seasons, Clippard would be a great addition to their bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds

Previous 3 Seasons: $95.1M
Current Payroll Commitments for 2019: $56.8M
Projected Payroll: $115M
Arbitration Projections: Yasiel Puig ($11.3M), Scooter Gennett ($10.7M), Jose Peraza ($3.6M), Anthony DeSclafani ($2.1M), Michael Lorenzen ($1.9M), Curt Casali ($1.3M)

The Reds surprised many people when they started making moves this winter to make their team start to look like a competitor. With Tucker Barnhart behind the plate, the veteran presence of Matt Kemp and Joey Votto, young stars in Puig, Gennett, and Eugenio Suarez, and a solid bullpen, the Reds look much better than the 95-loss team they were in 2018. On top of all that, the Reds could have a little room to play with some money if they are willing to spend more than projected.

Off Season Suggestions:
– Marwin Gonzalez, OF/IF, 3 years, $18M – Gonzalez has been a great player over the last couple of seasons as a super-utility for the Astros, accumulating 6.8 bWAR over the last two seasons and hitting for a 146 OPS+ in 2017 and 103 in 2018.
– Shawn Kelley, RP, 2 years, $12M – After a down year in 2017, Kelley bounced back in 2018 posting a 145 ERA+ in 49 IP. He could serve very well in a setup role for Raisel Iglesias.

Milwaukee Brewers

Previous 3 Seasons: $80M
Current Payroll Commitments for 2019: $80M
Projected Payroll: $130M
Arbitration Projections: Travis Shaw ($5.1M), Corey Knebel ($4.9M), Jimmy Nelson ($3.7M), Junior Guerra ($2.7M), Zach Davies ($2.4M), Domingo Santana ($2M), Manny Pina ($1.8M)

The Brewers have been able to save a ton of money over the past couple of years as they waited for their extremely young core to grow up. Well, they’ve grown up and demonstrated an ability to compete at the highest level after making the NLCS in 2018. After arbitration, they will likely be spending in the neighborhood of $105M, so they should have some room to finally make some big moves as the rest of the winter unfolds.

Off Season Suggestions:
– Trade Eric Thames to the New York Yankees for Sonny Gray and a mid-level prospect – Thames has no spot in Milwaukee after the emergence of Jesus Aguilar and Sonny Gray could fare remarkably well from a change in venue.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Previous 3 Seasons: $96.2M
Current Payroll Commitments for 2019: $47.3M
Projected Payroll: $125M
Arbitration Projections: Corey Dickerson ($8.4M), Keone Kela ($3.2M)

Like the Brewers, the Pirates have spent the last couple years biding their time as their star prospects come of age. And again, like the Brewers, its time for them to start competing with their young stars that are ready to challenge the rest of the loaded NL Central. They may not make many moves this year to get up near that $125M mark and allow their young guys to grow one more year before scouring the market for talent.

Off Season Suggestions:
– Jose Iglesias, SS, 4 years, $30M – Max Moroff is currently slated to be the starting SS, however his inexperience and lack of ability to hit major league pitching to date is a concern for the Pirates, while Iglesias is not a great hitter, he is about league-average and excels in the field

St. Louis Cardinals

Previous 3 Seasons: $152.8M
Current Payroll Commitments for 2019: $127.1M
Projected Payroll: $180M
Arbitration Projections: Marcell Ozuna ($13.4M), Michael Wacha ($6.6M), Dominic Leone ($1.3M)

The Redbirds haven’t made a lot of moves so far this winter, but the moves they’ve made have been mightily impactful. Bringing in stars Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller greatly helped both the Cardinals’ lineup and bullpen. However, the Cards would still like to add a left-handed bat with some pop and another arm in the bullpen. As a Cardinals fan, I cannot wait to watch the rest of this winter and see the team come Opening Day.

Off Season Suggestions:
– Cody Allen, RP, 1 year, $6M – After a rough season in 2018, Allen could be going for a discount, and Allen might actually be able to make a comeback in 2019 with the Redbirds
– Cory Gearrin, RP, 3 years, $12M – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Cory Gearrin might be the most overlooked reliever in this year’s free agency, and he could be due to repeat his 215 ERA+ he recorded in 2017, after a “down year” where he recorded a 115 ERA+, still more than serviceable
– Marwin Gonzalez, OF/IF, 3 years, $18M – Gonzalez could serve as that left-handed bat the Cardinals are looking for even as a switch-hitter. Dexter Fowler was lackluster in RF in 2018, and Gonzalez could be a solid replacement to Fowler if the team is willing to eat some salary
– Bryce Harper, OF, 8 years, $300M – The Cardinals have been a dark horse candidate in the Harper sweepstakes since the beginning, but mutterings of their participation seemed to fade until this week when Richard Justice claimed they weren’t quite out of the race on a new episode of The Morning Lineup. Maybe this is just me dreaming as a Cardinals fan, but maybe its still possible

Coming Next:
AL West

Photo Credit:

Mick Callahan

Hi, I'm Mick Callahan. I'm a native of St. Louis, MO, and a lifelong Cardinals fan. Most of the time, I'm a software engineer, which has left me to be one of the resident Stat Nerds here at Diamond Digest. If you need an example, check out my aRBI+ article.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button