The Duel

3 Moves the Cubs Can Make to Leapfrog the Cardinals in the NL Central

Dan Israeli

The Chicago Cubs were the odd team out in a very competitive NL Central race last season, failing to make the playoffs while the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers both did. The Cubs went 2-8 over the season's final ten games, and will be looking to change course in 2020 behind new manager David Ross.

With that in mind, here are three moves the Cubs could make to improve their chances of unseating the Cardinals in the NL Central next season.

3. Trade for Jon Gray

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While the Cubs had a solid pitching staff in 2019, finishing seventh among MLB teams with a 4.10 ERA, their starting rotation lacks top-tier talent. With Cole Hamels' potential departure as an unrestricted free agent, Chicago could also have an opening in its rotation, and Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray could be an interesting target. Gray is coming off a solid season for the Rockies, as he finished with a 3.84 ERA despite playing half his games at Coors Field. Oddly enough, Gray was better at home last season, posting a 3.46 ERA at Coors Field and a 4.22 ERA on the road. Even so, if the Rockies are willing to part with the righty for a decent prospect package, the Cubs could be adding a starter with serious upside to a rotation that sorely needs it.

2. Re-Sign Nicholas Castellanos

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Chicago took a chance on Nicholas Castellanos last season, as the Detroit Tigers outfielder was hitting .273 with 11 homers through 100 games before being acquired by the Cubs. Castellanos was seemingly reborn in Chicago though, hitting an impressive .321/.356/.646 with 16 homers in 51 games. After the very successful audition, the Cubs now have to decide what to do with the unrestricted free agent. The Cubs can certainly use his power if they want to stay competitive in the NL Central, and Castellanos provides them with a solid option at both corner outfield spots.

1. Trade for Whit Merrifield

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The Cubs have a lot of offensive talent, but they've been lacking a dynamic leadoff hitter and currently have a void at second base. Both of those issues make Whit Merrifield a very attractive trade target, and the team has been linked to him in recent weeks as the Winter Meetings are on the horizon. Merrifield was rumored to be a popular trade target during the deadline this year, but the Kansas City Royals ultimately did not budge on their multi-talented All-Star. It would probably take a very enticing package of prospects for Chicago to land Merrifield, but he could prove to be worth it for the Cubs.

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