Bellinger deal another reminder that NL Central race will be dogfight for the Brewers

It's never easy defending a title, but it feels like this division battle will be particularly tough.

May 1, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A view of the Rawlings logo on a glove prior to the game of the
May 1, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; A view of the Rawlings logo on a glove prior to the game of the / Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Much to the delight of Milwaukee Brewers fans, the rival Chicago Cubs were relatively quiet in free agency compared to some other teams. There was the signing of Shota Imanaga, but even much of the Chicago faithful found the offseason underwhelming.

But then came the moment Cubs fans were waiting for. Outfielder Cody Bellinger, a key contributor for the team in 2023, finally put an end to his free agency when he agreed to a deal to return to Chicago.

Reuniting with Bellinger immediately increased the Cubs' odds of competing for an NL Central title, something they fought for with the Brewers until they faded late in the 2023 season. Unfortunately, that just adds yet another hurdle in what was already likely going to be a difficult road to a second consecutive division championship.

The Cubs deal with Bellinger is just another reminder that the race to win the NL Central will be a dogfight for the Brewers.

Last year, during the Brewers' quest to win the NL Central, they fought off numerous contenders to the throne. First it was the Pirates, then the Reds, and finally the Cubs. Ultimately, it was still Milwaukee who came out on top.

A similar scenario could play out here in 2024. Besides the two big free agent signings, the Cubs have some young talent on their squad, not to mention a familiar face leading the team in new manager Craig Counsell.

The Reds also are a team with some young talent leading the way who added some pieces in the offseason such as Frankie Montas and Jeimer Candelario. Even the Pirates went out and added some pieces to their roster in what might seem uncharacteristic to others.

Let's not forget about the Cardinals either. After one of their first poor seasons in quite some time, they addressed their biggest weakness, starting pitching, by bringing in the trio of Sonny Gray, Kyle Gibson, and Lance Lynn. They didn't do much for the offense, but they should still be better than they were last season.

The Brewers are still the reigning champions of the NL Central division until someone comes and takes the crown. Defending that title will be tough, though, perhaps even tougher than winning it in the first place.