The 2017 NL Central might not feature the best teams in baseball, but it’s still a very tight race:
- Milwaukee Brewers –
- Chicago Cubs – 3.5 Games Back
- St. Louis Cardinals – 4.5 Games Back
- Pittsburgh Pirates – 7.0 Games Back
- Cincinnati Reds – 8.5 Games Back
Indeed, the Brewers’ three-and-a-half game lead is tied for the second smallest in MLB. And because the Cubs and Cardinals are almost certainly better true-talent teams than the Brewers, I’d say that Milwaukee’s grasp on first place is the most tenuous in baseball.
And that’s been my go-to explanation this year, for why the Cubs should be buyers this July. Unlike last season, when the Cubs were all but guaranteed a playoff spot at this point, getting to the playoffs in 2017 is going to be a bigger challenge. Every additional win added – via trade, in this example – could have an enormous impact on the standings at the end of the year. Of course, that strategy applies to more than just the Cubs.
So when I see rumors like this, I really understand the interest:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 5, 2017
According to Jon Morosi, the St. Louis Cardinals have shown interest in the AL’s 2015 MVP, Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson, 31, is under team control via arbitration for one more season after 2017 and could be a huge add to any team in baseball. To be sure, he’s not dominating in typical Donaldson-fashion this season (.238/.350/.457), but he’s still an above average bat and glove with a 14.1 BB% and a .219 ISO. Anyone who bets against Donaldson in the second half (or next season, for that matter) is making a bad bet.
According to a few different systems, the Chicago Cubs are projected to take the NL Central with just 86 wins this year. The Cardinals, by contrast, are projected to finish six games behind them at 80-82. But that’s not an insurmountable gap, especially not if they were able to add someone like Donaldson.
As of now, Donaldson is projected to add somewhere between 2.5-4.0 wins by the end of the season. Greg Garcia, the Cardinals interim second baseman while Kolton Wong works things out at Triple-A Memphis, is projected for just 0.2 wins the rest of the way. That means that, conservatively, the Cardinals could stand to cut the Cubs end-of-season lead in half by adding someone like Donaldson (and moving Jedd Gyorko, who’s having a career year at the plate, to second base).
If, however, Donaldson breaks back out in the second half, that lead could be cut by even more. I’ll refrain from going too far down the rabbit hole for now (or at least until the rumors get more serious), but I can say that this might be a really solid move for the Cardinals and a pretty harmful one for the Cubs. And herein lies the problem of a winnable division … everyone wants to take their shot.