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Are the Cardinals Division Favorites Following the Darvish Trade?

National League Wild Card Game 2: Miami Marlins v. Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Cubs not getting a single top 10 prospect from the Padres, or even a prospect over 20 years old (besides Zach Davies), was surprising. Zach Davies is a decent pitcher, but this trade certainly made the Cubs worse this season, and also showed where their priorities lie for 2021. Without Darvish, the Cubs are relying on Kyle Hendricks to be the team’s ace, while Hendricks and Davies are the only established MLB starters on the team’s roster. This is not a good sign for the Cubs chances of success in 2021. Even though the team still has Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Wilson Contreras, the pitching staff is going to struggle without any acquisitions. Additionally, the lineup is not as star-studded as it once was as Rizzo was simply a league average hitter in 2020, and Bryant and Baez struggled immensely. The 2020 season was short and weird, but these are not good signs for the Cubs. In fact, ZIPS ranked the Cubs lineup between 10th and 12th in the league, which is solid but not good enough to carry the pitching staff.

Additionally, there are plenty of rumors that the Cubs are shopping Kris Bryant, which would only make next year’s Cubs team even worse. It certainly does not seem like the Cubs are trying to win in the last season of Rizzo’s, Bryant’s, and Baez’s contracts. This opens the door for the Cardinals to reclaim the division crown, especially because the Reds also appear more willing to sell their best pitchers than to build around them. Additionally, the Brewers have a solid pitching staff, but the lineup is not very deep behind Christian Yelich. Therefore the Cardinals seem like the most likely team to fill the void that is potentially going to be left by the Cubs at the top of the division.

Even though the Cardinals do not seem likely to be active in improving the team, there is plenty of depth in the pitching staff and some quality players in the lineup. One infield signing could allow the Cardinals to improve the lineup and push Matt Carpenter to the bench. This seems likely to be the only major move that the Cardinals will consider making as there are plenty of young outfielders, and the pitching staff remains strong. Such a signing could be enough for the Cardinals to reclaim what looks to be potentially the weakest division in baseball.

Additionally, the Cardinals seem to be aware of the need for another infielder as they were one of the teams that was rumored to have offered a contract to Ha-Seong Kim before he signed with the Padres. While Kim would have been a strong signing, it is likely that the Cardinals were not willing to pay as much as the Padres considering how aggressive the Padres have been, and how conservative the Cardinals have been. However, the fact that they were interesting in Kim is a good sign that the organization is trying to improve the team before the 2021 season. Additionally, chasing Kim is much more aggressive than chasing another Brad Miller type of signing. This could bode well for the team’s chances of improving the infield heading into next season.

This should be the team’s goal as just one signing could push the team into first place in the division. With the Cubs and the Reds looking to actively shed payroll instead of chasing the division, the Cardinals have an opportunity to reclaim the division title with just one improvement to the offense. This should make the team more willing to spend a bit of money, as it could make a significant difference. However, regardless of what the team does, it is likely that the Cardinals will once again rely on pitching and defense if they are going to win the division, which suddenly looks more possible.