The NL Central could be the most fascinating division in baseball this year.
The defending champs from Milwaukee will look to repeat, following a deep playoff run keyed by Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and multiple other shrewd acquisitions. The Cubs are three years removed from a historic World Series win, facing some roster question marks but still armed with plenty of elite talent. The Cardinals got sick of missing the playoffs three straight years, so they aggressively scooped up All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller. Even the Cincinnati Reds, the perennial doormats who haven't won a playoff series since 1995, went on a shopping spree, shockingly acting as the win-now-focused team when the mega-revenue Dodgers decided to dump a bunch of salary.
And then there are the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you want to summarize the Pirates' 2018-2019 offseason, and just about every season since the end of their three-year run in the early 90s, this'll do it.
There's nothing inherently wrong with J.B. Shuck, Brandon Guyer and Cameron Maybin, especially when your starting outfield is the excellent trio of Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco (whenever Polanco makes it back from his September shoulder injury). Under the right circumstances, there's also nothing wrong with swinging for singles during the offseason, the way the Bucs have in pursuing backup outfielders to go with the minor acquisitions of Lonnie Chisenhall, Erik Gonzalez, Jordan Lyles and Brandon Maurer.
The problem is one of context. The Pirates won 82 games last year. They've got a solid, young core of talent, led by that outfield, and some promising pitchers. Every other team in the NL Central is playing to win now, either through moves made this winter (Cardinals, Reds), or recent winters (Brewers, Cubs). They spent 20 years between the end of the Barry Bonds Era and their next playoff berth, made the postseason three years in a row, and have again fallen back to mediocrity.