NL Central Notes: – MLB Trade Rumors

Heading into the off-season, the Brewers have a number of quality players and like any smaller market team, their dwindling years of control make them speculative trade candidates. Star pitchers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are both entering their final two seasons of control, but according to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Brewers are more likely to add to their roster around those two than look to deal them.

Burnes followed up last year’s NL Cy Young winning campaign with another brilliant season, throwing 202 innings of 2.94 ERA ball. He struck out 243 batters (1st in NL) and while he’s not a finalist for the Cy Young award in 2022, he’ll certainly receive some down-ballot votes. Woodruff finished fifth in Cy Young voting last year, and pitched to a 3.05 ERA across 153 1/3 innings in 2022. Woodruff is due $11MM in arbitration, while Burns slightly tops that with $11.4MM, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz’ projections. A trade of either could give the Brewers farm system – which ranked 13th on Baseball America’s mid-season rankings – a massive boost.

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017 and finishing seven games back of the Cardinals, it might’ve been an opportune time to retool a little and replenish their farm system, but instead it appears they’ll look to bounce back by adding to their current core in 2023. According to RosterResource, the Brewers payroll currently projects at around $130MM, $7MM shy of their final mark in 2022. While it’s unclear if the Brewers plan to increase payroll, as things stand that doesn’t leave a ton of wiggle room to improve and try and catch the Cardinals, though they could opt to non-tender some of their arbitration-eligible players to free up some payroll space.

Here’s some more from around the National League Central:

  • The Cardinals have a clear need at catcher following the retirement of Yadier Molina, and it seems they could fill that hole with the top free agent catcher Willson Contreras. According to Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, the Cards are one team (alongside the Tigers and Astros) to have expressed interest in Contreras. The slugging catcher hit 22 home runs and slashed .243/.349/.466 in 113 games this year with the Cubs. They did issue him with a qualifying offer, so the Cardinals would have to forfeit a draft pick in the event they did sign him. Currently Andrew Knizner is the top catcher on the Cardinals depth chart, but he profiles as more of a backup so it’s not surprising to see the team linked with free agent catchers.
  • Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds’ elite production and years of control – along with Pittsburgh’s ongoing rebuild – have made him one of the most coveted trade pieces in recent years, but according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Bucs are unlikely to trade him this off-season. Reynolds can be a free agent after the 2025 season, and despite their second-straight 100-loss year, Morosi says the Pirates believe they can be competitive within that window. Reynolds hit .262/.345/.461 with 27 home runs in 2022, a solid year but down on his lofty standards. A year ago, Reynolds slashed .302/.390/.522 and finished eleventh in NL MVP voting. On the whole, Reynolds is a quality hitter that almost any major league team would find room for. Defensively, Reynolds has split time between left and center fields, but grades out better in left with seven Defensive Runs Saved there in his career, against -16 in center. He’s put up 13.6 bWAR across four seasons (including the pandemic-shortened 2020 year) and has given Pittsburgh a star to cheer for through some lean years. Ultimately, there’s reasonable cases to be made for and against trading Reynolds, and while Morosi’s tweet doesn’t rule out a trade by any stretch, given Pittsburgh’s turned down trade interest in recent years there’s a good chance they keep him and look to build around him again in 2023.

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