Three of the 2020 campaign’s five lowest-scoring offenses belonged to National League playoff teams, but that’s not an ideal outcome if you truly want to make noise in October. Indeed, all three of those clubs (St. Louis, Cincinnati and Milwaukee) failed to advance beyond the playoffs’ initial round during the fall. So what have they and the league’s other two bottom-feeding offenses done to improve themselves this offseason? Not much, as you’ll see below…
Pirates (219 runs scored, 73 wRC+):
- The Pirates look even worse on paper than they did at the end of the season, having traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Nationals last week. While Bell had a horrid season in 2020, he was a star-caliber performer during the previous year, in which he slashed .277/.367/.569 with 37 home runs. The Bell-less Pirates haven’t done anything of significance to bolster their offense this winter, but the good news is that they should get a full 2021 (however many games that consists of) from third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who ran roughshod over the league during a scintillating 95-PA debut in 2020. There’s also nowhere to go but up for holdovers such as Gregory Polanco, Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier, who each posted awful numbers last season.
Rangers (224 runs, 67 wRC+):
- The Rangers have a couple newcomers in outfielder David Dahl and first baseman Nate Lowe, who they hope will improve their attack in 2021. Otherwise, they’ll be counting on bounce-back efforts from the likes of Joey Gallo, Willie Calhoun, Nick Solak, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. It’s hard to imagine things will get any worse next year for that quintet, though Andrus and Odor have been trending in the wrong direction for years. The Rangers are down enough on Andrus these days that they’re planning on using him as a backup shortstop/utilityman behind Isiah Kiner-Falefa next season.
Cardinals (240 runs, 93 wRC+):
- The Cardinals’ place in these rankings is deceiving because a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak cost them two full games. Their 93 wRC+ was closer to average than horrendous, but that isn’t to say they don’t have work to do offensively. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt and outfielder Harrison Bader, two of their best hitters in 2020, are returning. But Brad Miller, who was second on the team in wRC+ (121), is a free agent. Going by wRC+, those three were the only above-average offensive players on last season’s roster. The Cardinals haven’t done anything thus far to better their offense, even though they’re facing questions almost everywhere. Catcher Yadier Molina is a free agent, as is second baseman Kolten Wong, while most of their outfielders underwhelmed at the plate in 2020.
Reds (243 runs, 91 wRC+):
- The Reds made a real effort to upgrade their offense last winter in signing Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama. Moustakas wound up having a typical season at the plate, but Castellanos and Akiyama fell short of expectations. Barring trades, no one from that group is going anywhere in 2021. Likewise, Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel and Tucker Barnhart will hang around in key roles. Aside from Winker, who was fantastic in 2020, the Reds will need more from everyone listed in the previous sentence. They also need to upgrade at shortstop, where the largely untested Jose Garcia is their current starter, but it’s unclear whether the team will do so to a satisfactory extent during what has been a cost-cutting winter so far.
Brewers (247 runs, 89 wRC+):
- We’ll cap things off with another NL Central team, Milwaukee, which has joined its division rivals this winter in doing virtually nothing to better its chances of success in 2021. The Brewers opted against retaining infielder Jedd Gyorko, among their most productive hitters last season, instead paying him a $1MM buyout in lieu of exercising his $4.5MM option. They also declined team icon Ryan Braun’s option, but that was an easy decision because the six-time All-Star would have otherwise earned a $15MM salary in 2021. Braun, to his credit, was roughly a league-average hitter last season, which is more than you can say for most Brewers regulars. Whether or not the Brewers bring in outside help, better years from former NL MVP Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez would go a long way in helping the team tack more runs on the board in 2021.