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Chicago Cubs facing a ‘year of reckoning’ in 2019

Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon looks on during an exhibition game against the Kansas City Royals on March 6.

A look at every team in the National League Central and their 2019 predicted order of finish.

1. CHICAGO CUBS

2018 | 95-68, 2nd in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2016

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The lovable, feel-good Cubs descended into a gloomy spring as they welcomed back shortstop Addison Russell from a suspension for violating the sport’s domestic violence policy. Manager Joe Maddon does not have a contract beyond 2019. The team won 95 games in 2018 but lost in the wild-card game. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein called this a “year of reckoning” for a reason.

2. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2018 | 88-74, 3rd in Central

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Last year in playoffs | 2015

After missing the playoffs for three consecutive seasons, the Cardinals made perhaps the most significant addition for the 2019 season, trading for former Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He will join a lineup that already featured all-star infielder Matt Carpenter, and aid the defense behind talented young pitchers such as Jack Flaherty and John Gant. The Cardinals moved to extend staff ace Miles Mikolas this spring. They may aim to do something similar with Goldschmidt as the summer progresses.

3. MILWAUKEE BREWERS

2018 | 96-67, 1st in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2018

The Brewers used an unorthodox strategy in 2018, often abandoning the concept of starting pitchers en route to a berth in the National League Championship Series. The offense was powered by National League MVP Christian Yelich. The team remains intact for 2019, with the addition of former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal.

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4. CINCINNATI REDS

2018 | 67-95, 5th in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2013

The Reds zagged this winter, loading up on players entering free agency by acquiring outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp and pitcher Alex Wood from the Dodgers. The addition of Puig should bolster a lineup that already featured a strong core of first baseman Joey Votto, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Scooter Gennett. And Wood will improve a rotation that also added Sonny Gray as the Reds aim to be competitive in 2019.

5. PITTSBURGH PIRATES

2018 | 82-79, 4th in Central

Last year in playoffs | 2015

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You think your team didn’t do much this winter? They probably did more than the Pirates. After making a surprising trade for pitcher Chris Archer last summer, Pittsburgh did not make major augmentations to its core for 2019. The Pirates will be competitive, but likely under-armed in the National League Central.

andy.mccullough@latimes.com

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes


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