The Brewers have been pulling away from their division foes over the past few years thanks to incredible pitching and an opportunistic front office that always answers the phone when a team calls looking to move a Willy Adames or Rowdy Tellez type. They won the NL Central by five games despite an epic late push from the Cardinals and a bad year from Christian Yelich. It’s hard to imagine anyone closing the gap anytime soon. 

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One glance at the Estimated Time of Arrival column here provides a lens into the Cubs’ timeline, or at least their next big wave of hitters. It’s a promising group, and bah gawd it better be, given the club’s firesale focused on these teenage, back-to-the-future lottery tickets. I’m not calling the front office yellow, but we all saw them flee from the fight in 2021 like Marty McFly after the time jump, and the rewards for doing so look bountiful at the moment. 

But it’s not all about a half-decade from now. To their credit, the club has a middle infield combo ready to roll in the superhero team of Punch and Judy. I’m not sure which is Nick Madrigal and which is Nico Hoerner, but I do think the club would be thrilled to get ten total home runs from the pair, which could combine with 3B Patrick Wisdom, 1B Frank Schwindel and C Willson Contreras to create a passable big league infield. Add that to outfielders Ian Happ, Rafael Ortega, Jason Heyward and (eventually) Brennen Davis and the team looks like a rebuilder. 

Sorry, I meant to say “contender” there, I think, or something more than rebuilder because you really can squint and see the start of something above the Mendoza line here. It takes a lot of wishful thinking to see much more than that, but they do have an interesting group at the top level, at least on the position-player side, and their minor league system is the deepest of the six I’ve ranked so far, so as the team’s most famous fan might say, they’ve got that going for them. 

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Weirdest trade of the year award goes to the Nationals, who attached Trea Turner to Max Scherzer’s remaining contract and moved about 130 million dollars off the payroll over the next seven years for the pre-free-agency life cycles of Dodgers’ prospects RHP Josiah Gray and C Keibert Ruiz. It’s an intriguing build, provided they get anything from Stephen Strasburg, Carter Kieboom, Victor Robles, Patrick Corbin and Luis Garcia. The team doesn’t look particularly close at first blush, but if they can find a few clever free agent moves, I can see the bones of a contender if I squint hard enough. 

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One odd outcome of this tank-focused era in baseball: you really stick out if you try to win and then don’t. Have you seen Squid Game yet? The would-be contenders who try but fail are essentially those people who moved after the giant doll said red light, only this happens daily for several months until merciful October embraces us all in pumpkin spice, candy corn and yard work. 

In New York, we find an organization that could have Jarred Kelenic, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kumar Rocker. Instead, Steve Cohen and company have Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and a chunk of payroll that wouldn’t exist if they’d just waited for their ship to come in. I get it; I like to push all in, too. I just never quite understand the binary that suddenly crops up midseason for some teams. Or when a new boss comes in and wags their Brodie V around just to say they’ve done something. Or when a new owner plays hardball with a first-round pick he was lucky to land. The game shouldn’t be about winning now or winning later and always waking the line going back and forth on that, or always robbing from the one hoping for the other. Whatever, sorry for the rant, let’s check the spects.

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The Marlins had high hopes this year coming off a crazy playoff chase fueled partially by Covid-based rule changes and the emergence of RHP Sixto Sanchez. 2022 was a different story—a coming-back-to-earth for the cellar dwelling fish—but that’s in the past after today, and the future remains bright in South Beach.

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I was putting the finishing touches on my top 10 prospects piece for the Miami Marlins when a curious news blurb came across my feed. The Pittsburgh Pirates would be calling up RHP Roansy Contreras to start Wednesday’s game. “Blimey!” I shouted like a scurvy landlubber walking the plank. “We’ve been hornswaggled!” 

I was confused, in other words, and have been circling the briney deep in my mind ever since, sailing around the pros and cons like an old seadog scanning for land.

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Atlanta is finishing a painful but impressive season, bottoming out at one point after losing Mike Soroka and Ronald Acuña Jr. for the year on top of missing Ian Anderson–not to mention the Marcel Ozuna saga. 

They could’ve done the cool kid thing and stopped trying. Instead, they traded for a whole new outfield of misfit toys–Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson, and Adam Duval–that selling teams no longer wanted on the payroll, sacrificing next to nothing from their farm in the process and putting together another potentially division-winning club, their fourth in a row if they can hold off the Phillies, who are just one game back as I type this on Saturday night. 

If Atlanta can power through, they’ll have benefited from being in baseball’s wonkiest division, but a win is a win, and who knows, perhaps this team that figures to win about 85 games will outperform much better regular season squads in the postseason, and even if they fall short, their minor league system looks better to me than it has since Acuña graduated. 

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I’m often referencing the echo chamber in this space, and sometimes I’ll throw in a specific citation even though I’m not here to drag other prospect people in specific as much as I’m here to help readers find value in general. A big part of finding value is knowing who’s free and who’s a helium-filled fever dream. When a deep lens into the echo chamber crossed my Twitter feed this week courtesy of High Upside Fantasy, it seemed like something I should share here. 

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Curious events in Cincinnati lead the way this week, as it probably hasn’t since Jerry Springer was running that town. Director of Pitching Initiatives / Pitching Coordinator Kyle Boddy has stepped away from the club this week, citing creative differences with the front office while heaping praise on major league pitching coach Derek Johnson. 

Click here for the full press release

The timing is odd, given the Reds success on the farm this season and proximity to a post-season on the big league side, but I suppose there’s never an ideal time for a break-up. Cut to early-20’s me navigating the transition from summer love to school-year fade to long-term relationship fizzle to finding some fickle reason to finally call it quits. I used to really hate endings. Now I’m old as hell and appreciate any kind of pause in the monotony.

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Washington OF Victor Robles is a priority target for me this off-season because I still think he’ll someday become the .280, 20 HR, 30 SB type he appeared to be before totally forgetting how to hit. The price is definitely Bob right now. I won’t go bidding into the wind of that dreamscape on the trade market if he’s rostered by a devout Robles believer, but chances are, the Robles-heavy investor is more than ready to diversify the portfolio. 

So why should we buy?

Just hope and hype of winters past?

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