Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining Current State of the NL Central

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate after the final out in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 23, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 23: Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrate after the final out in a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 23, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Aug 19, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs manager David Ross (3) looks on from dugout during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Cubs manager David Ross (3) looks on from dugout during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Cubs

During the 2020 season the Chicago Cubs ended up winning the National League Central with a 34-26 record. They did this with the help of a great season from Yu Darvish, who finished 2nd in National League Cy Young voting, a fantastic breakout year from utility man and former top prospect Ian Happ and a bounce back campaign from outfielder Jason Heyward.

They also got contributions from the always solid soft tossing Kyle Hendricks, relief pitcher Jeremy Jeffress and rookie Adbert Alzolay. However, the amount of questions that proceed the Cubs going into 20201 will far outweigh the for sure answers.

First off, the Cub core is slowly dismantling. They recently non-tendered slugger Kyle Schwarber while starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Jon Lester are heading into free agency. Former National League MVP and Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant’s name has been brought up in trade rumors multiple times. Even if Bryant isn’t traded, he’s a free agent at the end of 2021 and will likely sign elsewhere, especially after filing for service time grievance last offseason.

Bryant isn’t the only core piece the Cubs have potentially leaving in free agency next offseason. Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez will also be free agents with Bryant. All-Star catcher Willson Contreras will be a free agent the offseason after that.

Obviously, it would be hard to keep around so many core pieces. They are still on the hook for Heyward’s and Darvish’s massive contracts through the 2023 season as well, which makes it much more difficult financially. They do still have some young players to build around even after the current core is gone.

Alzolay looked great in his rookie campaign and they have two top 100 prospects currently in the system in outfielder Brennan Davis and Miguel Amaya. Bralyin Marquez is another talented pitching prospect coming up the ranks.

However, they still are considered to have a poor farm system. FanGraphs ranks them at the 24th spot while MLB Pipeline placed them at 26th. They definitely would benefit from a rebuild, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re in a similar position the Pittsburgh Pirates are in now by 2023.

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