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Know your enemy: St. Louis Cardinals

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The defending division champions haven’t changed much this winter.

Roger Dean Stadium, spring training home of the Cardinals
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Cardinals won the N.L. Central in 2019 primarily by sweeping the Cubs at Wrigley Field in late September. If that series had gone differently, maybe we’re talking about the Cubs being defending division champs. Apart from that sweep, the Cardinals went just 12-12 in September — the Brewers, who finished two games out, were 20-7 in September

And during the offseason, not much happened in St. Louis. There were rumors that the Cardinals were going to try to deal for Nolan Arenado, but nothing came from that.

So the biggest change for St. Louis will be the addition of Kwang-Hyun Kim, a 31-year-old lefthander who’s pitched 12 seasons for the SK Wyverns of KBO in his native South Korea. Kim has an excellent KBO record, but sometimes that doesn’t translate to MLB. We’ll see.

The other major acquisition by the Cardinals was Matthew Liberatore, a top prospect acquired from the Rays (along with Austin Dean) for Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena. Liberatore was ranked in the Top 100 Prospects last year by both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Liberatore, though, is just 20 and has yet to pitch above the Midwest League. As far as I know, he is not related to former Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore.

So this year’s Cardinals will look a lot like last year’s Cardinals, except without Martinez, Marcell Ozuna (who signed with the Braves) and Michael Wacha (who signed with the Mets). The Cubs will be sorry to see Wacha out of the division, because they almost always hit him hard (career ERA 6.50 in 20 career appearances against the Cubs, who hit 21 home runs off him in just 98⅓ innings).

Tyler O’Neill, who’s been one of the Cardinals’ better prospects for the last couple of years, will take Ozuna’s spot in left field. That should improve the St. Louis outfield defense, if nothing else.

The Cardinals’ division title was their first in four years after three straight seasons of missing the 90-win plateau. I think they’ll go back under that mark in 2020.

Lastly, the trip to London to see the Cubs play the Cardinals should be fun.

KEY ADDITIONS: Matthew Liberatore, Austin Dean, Kwang-Hyun Kim

KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Jose Martinez, Chasen Shreve, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Wacha, Mike Mayers, Dominic Leone, Adolis Garcia, Randy Arozarena

The Cubs will face the Cardinals 19 times this year, but just once before June and not in St. Louis until July. Then the teams will play each other in seven of the season’s final 16 games.

April 10-11-12, August 21-22-23, September 25-26-27 at Wrigley Field
July 23-24-25-26, September 10-11-12-13 at St. Louis
June 13-14 in London, England