NL Central Notes: Carpenter, Alvarez, Cubs, Lindor, Reds, Eckstein (www.baseball-reference.com)

After struggling in both 2019 and 2020,

has reshaped his offseason training routine in advance of what he considers to be a make-or-break year or perhaps even his final year in the big leagues, Carpenter tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Carpenter’s contract with the Cardinals is up after the 2021 season, unless he records at least 550 plate appearances to trigger an $18.5MM vesting option for 2022.  “As far as guarantees, this is the last guaranteed trip to spring training, period, for me.  Maybe for any baseball team, let alone St. Louis,” Carpenter said.  “I think about that, and that’s why I say it’s such an important season for me personally.  And that’s not even to say whether I want to play past this season.  I just want to finish strong.”

Carpenter is entering his age-35 season, and he is likely correct in guessing that another tough year will greatly lessen his chances at anything beyond a low-cost MLB contract or even a minor league deal next winter.  Carpenter finished ninth in NL MVP voting as recently as 2018, but has since hit .216/.332/.372 over 661 plate appearances in 2019-20.  Between the Cardinals’ COVID-19 outbreak and the compressed schedule of make-up games once they returned to play, Carpenter didn’t feel the 2020 season was “a fair representation, hitting or pitching, good or bad” for the entire club.  Still, Carpenter knows he needs to get on track, saying “the last two seasons, in my eyes, our offense has been about a bat short….I have basically been the one bat missing.  I put a lot of the responsibility for the offensive woes the past two seasons on myself.

More from the NL Central…

  • As rumors swirl about Kris Bryant trade talks between the Cubs and Mets, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (via Twitter) that Chicago has a particular interest in Mets catching prospect Francisco Alvarez.  Currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 58th-best prospect in all of baseball, it isn’t surprising that the Cubs (and probably many other teams) would like to have Alvarez in their farm system, particularly if Willson Contreras might also soon be dealt away from Wrigleyville.  In regards to a Bryant trade, it seems unlikely that New York would deal Alvarez for just one year of Bryant’s service.  Even with James McCann now signed to a four-year deal, Alvarez might still be the Mets’ catcher of the future since he is only 19 years old, so the Mets surely have their eyes on grooming Alvarez to be ready by the time McCann’s contract is up.
  • “The Reds were not involved in making any push to acquire Francisco Lindor” before the Indians dealt Lindor to the Mets on Tuesday, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes.  Acquiring Lindor to fill their hole at shortstop would’ve been quite the pivot for the Reds, whose offseason focus to this point has largely been on cutting salary, between trading Raisel Iglesias to the Angels, non-tendering Archie Bradley, and being open to trade offers for many high-priced stars.  This isn’t to say that Cincinnati might not yet sign a shortstop from amongst the well-known free agent names still on the market, but Lindor was likely a bridge too far, given the prospect cost to pry him away from Cleveland and the likelihood that the Reds wouldn’t be able to sign Lindor to an extension beyond the 2021 season.
  • David Eckstein is leaving the Pirates after two years as a special assistant to the baseball operations department, according to Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports (Twitter link).  Eckstein made the move in order to spend more time with his family.  The former 10-league MLB veteran is best remembered for his role in helping both the 2002 Angels and 2006 Cardinals win the World Series, even capturing Series MVP honors with St. Louis.



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