• For part two of this article, I will be predicting the 2023 MLB Season Opening Day rosters for the NL Central. For part one, where I overview the NL East, click here.

     

    St. Louis Cardinals

    The Lineup:

    1. Tommy Edman (SS)
    2. Brendan Donovan (2B)
    3. Paul Goldschnidt (1B)
    4. Nolan Arenado (3B)
    5. Juan Yepez (DH)
    6. Sean Murphy (C)
    7. Alec Burleson (LF)
    8. Dylan Carlson (RF)
    9. Kevin Kiermaier (CF)

     

    Bench Bats:

    Nolan Gorman

    Ivan Herrera

    Paul DeJong

    Brett Phillips

     

    The Rotation:

    1. Miles Mikolas (R)
    2. Adam Wainwright (R)
    3. Jack Flaherty (R)
    4. Jordan Montgomery (L)
    5. Corey Kluber (R)

     

    The Bullpen:

    Closer: Ryan Helsley (R)

    Chris Stratton (R)

    Giovanny Gallegos (R)

    Jordan Hicks (R)

    Andre Pallante (R)

    Dakota Hudson (R)

    Steven Matz (L)

    Genesis Cabrera (L)

     

    Summary:

    St. Louis lost a franchise staple this offseason with the retirement of Yadier Molina. Additionally, franchise icon Albert Pujols also hung them up after returning to the team for his final season. With the departure of Molina, we will see a new face behind the plate for St. Louis for the first time since 2004. That’s where Sean Murphy comes in. Murphy is one of the few major league talents currently on that Oakland A’s roster, and given the catcher depth in that organization, it makes sense for Oakland to move him. Murphy is a good pitch framer and was already a gold glove finalist in his young career. Here, I have the A’s trading Murphy to the Cardinals for Laars Nootbar in addition to some prospects. While I don’t think Oakland realistically wants any major league talent right now, I admit that Nootbar may not make a bunch of sense in a trade. There’s been some speculation that the Cardinals will go after former Cub Willson Contreras to be their catcher, but his defensive tools are not something the Cardinals typically value, so I believe Murphy would be more valuable to them.

     

    With top prospect Jordan Walker getting reps in the outfield in addition to other prospects such as Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson also playing some outfield, I also have the Cardinals trading slugger Tyler O’Neill. Otherwise, a report from Bob Nightengale came out that the Cardinals are infatuated with former Rays center fielder, Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier is also the kind of player the Cardinals value, as he’s a defensive specialist. I have Kiermaier signing a two-year, $15 million contract with the Cardinals. Meanwhile, the Cardinals also have a lot of starting pitching depth, as top-prospect Matthew Liberatore should be in the majors sooner rather than later and guys like Steven Matz and Dakota Hudson are projected to start the year in the bullpen. That didn’t stop me from giving them one more starter, and that’s another ex-Ray in starting pitcher Corey Kluber. Kluber will sign a similar deal to what he signed last year with Tampa Bay, signing a one-year, $7.5 million deal. The former ace is the type of guy the Cardinals could rehabilitate. Additionally, with the durability concerns for Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty, in addition to Adam Wainwright turning 42 years old in August, the Cardinals will secure extra pitching depth.

     

    Milwaukee Brewers

    The Lineup:

    1. Christian Yelich (LF)
    2. Kolton Wong (2B)
    3. Willy Adames (SS)
    4. Rowdy Tellez (1B)
    5. Hunter Renfroe (RF)
    6. Evan Longoria (3B)
    7. Tom Murphy (C)
    8. AJ Pollock (CF)
    9. Dominic Smith (DH)

     

    Bench Bats:

    Luis Urias

    Mike Brosseau

    Tyrone Taylor

    Victor Carantini

     

    The Rotation:

    1. Corbin Burnes (R)
    2. Freddy Peralta (R)
    3. Aaron Ashby (L)
    4. Eric Lauer (L)
    5. Jordan Lyles (R)

     

    The Bullpen:

    Closer: Devin Williams (R)

    Brad Boxberger (R)

    Brent Suter (L)

    Luis Perdomo (R)

    Trevor Gott (R)

    Matt Bush (R)

    Adrian Houser (R)

    Jake McGee (L)

     

    Summary:

    Pursuant to Part One of this article, I have the Brewers trading Brandon Woodruff to the Mets simply because they will not pay both Woodruff and Corbin Burnes when the time comes. Similar to what the Brewers did with Josh Hader two years before he hit free agency, I have the Brewers trading Woodruff to the Mets for a treasure trove of prospects that includes Mark Vientos, Ronnie Mauricio and Matt Allan. That’s three of the Mets top six prospects. Woodruff aside, the Brewers desperately need some hitting so that is what I focused on for them. First, I have them trading for Seattle Mariners catcher, Tom Murphy. While I didn’t name a specific prospect that Murphy would be traded for, it wouldn’t take a highly touted one.

     

    As for free agent signings, I have the Brewers signing Dominic Smith to a one year, $2.5 million deal. I’ve longed for Dominic Smith to get a full-time role somewhere, as his tools have always been intriguing. Next, the Brewers biggest need for years has been centerfield, so I have them getting the oft-injured AJ Pollock. Pollock would theoretically sign a two-year, $22 million deal with a mutual option in year two. The Brewers also could use an upgrade at 3B where they could sign journeyman Evan Longoria to a two-year, $14 million deal. While the Brewers ooze pitching depth, trading Woodruff still stings, so I have them bringing back old friend, Jordan Lyles. Lyles thrived for the Brewers in a bullpen role in 2018 and 2019, and he could potentially end up in that role again, as he’d compete for the fifth rotation spot with Adrian Houser. Lyles has pitched at least 179 innings each of the past two years so he can be a reliable fifth starter for the Brewers. I have Lyles signing a one-year, $7 million deal. Finally, let’s give the Brewers a lefty out of the bullpen and give them Jake McGee. The Brewers are great at developing pitchers and they take a shot on a guy who got some save chances for San Francisco last year on a one-year, $1.2 million deal. Between the Hader and Woodruff trades, the Brewers suddenly replenished their farm system while still being competitive.

     

    Chicago Cubs

    The Lineup:

    1. Seiya Suzuki (RF)
    2. Ian Happ (LF)
    3. Carlos Correa (SS)
    4. Jose Abreu (DH)
    5. Matt Mervis (1B)
    6. Patrick Wisdom (3B)
    7. Christian Vazquez (C)
    8. Nico Hoerner (2B)
    9. Christopher Morel (CF)

     

    Bench Bats:

    Yan Gomes

    Nick Madrigal

    David Bote

    Franmil Reyes

     

    The Rotation:

    1. Marcus Stroman (R)
    2. Taijuan Walker (R)
    3. Kyle Hendricks (R)
    4. Hayden Wesneski (R)
    5. Justin Steele (L)

     

    The Bullpen:

    Closer: Kenley Jansen (R)

    Rowan Wick (R)

    Keegan Thompson (R)

    Adbert Alzolay (R)

    Alec Mills (R)

    Stephen Brault (L)

    Brandon Hughes (L)

    Adrian Sampson (R)

     

    Summary:

    I have the Cubs having a huge offseason. The Cubs, along with the Phillies and Dodgers, are a ton who are openly conducting their due diligence in the shortstop market. In this exercise, I gave them Carlos Correa. There is speculation that Correa could end up a Dodger despite the 2017 World Series scandal, but I have the Dodgers getting a different star shortstop. I have the Cubs signing Correa to a ten-year, $330 million deal with opts out every couple years for him to keep his options open. The Cubs also have been in on ex-White Sox 1B Jose Abreu. I have the Cubs signing Abreu to a two-year, $33.2 million deal. Even with top prospect Matt Mervis, likely being their opening day first baseman, Abreu can be the designated hitter for the Cubs.

     

    Further, on the night free agency opened, it was reported that closer Kenley Jansen was in talks with the Giants. If the Cubs are going to add big time bats such as Correa and Abreu, they will need to add a pitcher that can close games for them, so Jansen filled a need more than anything. I had Jansen signing a two-year, $26 million deal with the Cubs. Finally, the Cubs needed one more starting pitcher to be competitive again, so I gave them former former Met Taijuan Walker. I had Walker sign a three-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs. According to xERA, Walker can been lucky almost every year of his career in terms of his ERA outcome, so maybe that contract is an overpay, but the Cubs are the same team that paid Marcus Stroman a three-year, $71 million deal a year ago.

     

    Cincinnati Reds

    The Lineup:

    1. TJ Friedl (LF)
    2. Jonathan India (2B)
    3. Joey Votto (1B)
    4. Tyler Stephenson (C)
    5. David Peralta (RF)
    6. Jake Fraley (DH)
    7. Mike Moustakas (3B)
    8. Nick Senzel (CF)
    9. Kevin Newman (SS)

     

    Bench Bats:

    Nick Solak

    Spencer Steer

    Omar Narvaez

    Matt Reynolds

     

    The Rotation:

    1. Hunter Greene (R)
    2. Nick Lodolo (L)
    3. Justin Dunn (R)
    4. Graham Ashcraft (R)
    5. Brandon Williamson (L)

     

    The Bullpen:

    Closer: Alexis Diaz (R)

    Tejay Antone (R)

    Lucas Sims (R)

    Reiver Sanmartin (L)

    Tony Santillan (R)

    Luis Cessa (R)

    Connor Overton (R)

    Jeff Hoffman (R)

     

     Summary:

    Clearly, the Reds are in full rebuild mode. For that reason, I only have them making two minor free agent signings. The first is bringing in right fielder, David Peralta. Similar to what the Reds did with Tommy Pham a year ago, they can sign Peralta to a one-year, $6 million deal and then flip him to a contender at the trade deadline. Additionally, I had them sign backup catcher Omar Narvaez for a one-year, $2 million deal. He’s another guy they can flip come trade deadline time. For their rotation, lefty Brandon Williamson deserves a spot in their rotation. Williamson came to Cincinnati from Seattle in the Jesse Winker trade, and they just added him to the 40-man roster. Even if Williamson starts the season in the minors due to service time manipulation, I expect him to see him in the majors well before the All-Star break. Additionally, the Reds finally found their closer towards the end of last season in Alexis Diaz. Diaz, the younger brother of Edwin Diaz was dominant to end the year last season, and the Reds also have set-up man/long-reliever Tejay Antone ready for opening day after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Reds also have one of the top handful of prospects in baseball with middle infielder Elly De La Cruz. It is possible that he could potentially be up sometime next season as well, and the Reds desperately need a shortstop. The Reds just traded last year’s starting shortstop, Kyle Farmer to the Twins and acquired shortstop, Kevin Newman from the Pirates.

     

     

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Lineup:

    1. Oneil Cruz (SS)
    2. Bryan Reynolds (CF)
    3. Ke’Bryan Hayes (3B)
    4. Ji-Man Choi (1B)
    5. Miguel Andujar (DH)
    6. Jack Suwinski (LF)
    7. Rodolfo Castro (2B)
    8. Cal Mitchell (RF)
    9. Endy Rodriguez (C)

     

    Bench Bats:

    Ali Sanchez

    Diego Castillo

    Ji Hwan Bae

    Ryan Vilade

     

    The Rotation:

    1. Roansy Contreras (R)
    2. Mitch Keller (R)
    3. JT Brubaker (R)
    4. Kyle Gibson (R)
    5. Rich Hill (L)

     

    The Bullpen:

    Closer: David Bednar (R)

    Wil Crowe (R)

    Yerry de Los Santos (R)

    Miguel Yajure (R)

    Zach Thompson (R)

    Bryse Wilson (R)

    Matthew Boyd (L)

    Chase De Jong (R)

     

    Summary:

    The Pirates are in a similar boat to the Reds in the aspect of rebuilding and they want to give their prospects time to develop in the majors, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing to sign some free agents that can be flipped at the deadline. The Pirates had a lot of success rehabilitating starting pitcher Jose Quintana and then traded him to the Cardinals at the trade deadline. Here, I have the Pirates signing two starting inning-eaters in Kyle Gibson and Rich Hill. By the time the season starts, Hill will be 43 years old, so he doesn’t have much in the tank, but he can still contribute to a contender in some capacity. Over the past two seasons, he’s pitched 283 innings and had a hair over a 4.00 ERA. Not bad for the old-timer. I don’t think any contender will want to sign Hill during free agency, but once they lose a couple of pitchers and need an extra arm, they will come calling the Pirates for Hill. However, the return for Hill would be modest. As would it be for Kyle Gibson. Gibson is just one year removed from making the All-Star team with the Rangers, but last year was a disaster, as he pitched to the tune of over a 5.00 ERA. Even so, over the last eight full seasons (I didn’t count the 2020 shortened sixty game season), Gibson has pitched at least 147 innings every year. He reminds me of a similar situation Jose Quintana was in last season when he signed with Pittsburgh, even if he lacks the upside. I have the durability of Gibson netting him a one-year, $4.5 million deal, while Hill receives a one-year, $2.5 million deal. The Pirates could also use Zach Thompson and Bryse Wilson in the rotation, both of whom I have pegged in the bullpen to start the year, as well as pitching prospect, Luis Ortiz. Ortiz pitched 16 innings in the majors last year with a 2.96 xERA and the small sample-size and prospect pedigree may earn him a spot in the Pirates opening day rotation.

     

    I also have the Pirates signing former-starter-turned-reliever Matt Boyd. Last time we really saw Boyd was in 2021 when he was pitching for the Tigers as a starter. However, after spending most of last year with the Giants, he ended up pitching 13 innings for Seattle out of the bullpen. He gives the Pirates a lefty out of the bullpen, and maybe even another rotation option. At the very least, Boyd is another option for contenders at the deadline that the Pirates can move. I have Boyd signing a one-year, $2.2 million deal with the Pirates.

     

    Be on the lookout later this week where I’ll release Part 3 of this article and conclude the National League with the NL West!

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