The Cubs have a target on their back.
They enter 2016 as the odds-on favorite to win the World Series and manager Joe Maddon will have them embracing the expectations.
The Cubs committed more than $275 million to free agents this winter, taking the baseball world by storm with the Jason Heyward signing while also bolstering the pitching staff by bringing Trevor Cahill back and acquiring John Lackey and Adam Warren.
[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
The Cubs also said goodbye to former franchise icon Starlin Castro to make room for free agent Ben Zobrist, shipping the 25-year-old shortstop to the New York Yankees.
With another month-and-a-half until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, there is still plenty of time for the Cubs to make more moves, with trade rumors swirling around Jorge Soler and the possibility of the Cubs adding another top-of-the-rotation arm.
But as it stands right now, the Cubs already look like an improved team entering 2016.
With the new year upon us, let's take a look how the rest of the National League Central is shaping up.
Manager: Mike Matheny (Record w/Cardinals: 375-273)
2015 record: 100-62
New additions: SP Mike Leake, IF Jedd Gyorko, C Brayan Pena, RP Matt Bowman
Key losses: OF Jason Heyward, SP John Lackey, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, IF Pete Kozma, RP Steve Cishek, RP Carlos Villanueva, RP Randy Choate, OF Peter Bourjos, C Tony Cruz, OF Jon Jay
X-Factor: Matt Holliday
Biggest question: Can they continue to rise above injuries and age and stave off the Cubs?
1. Matt Carpenter - 3B
2. Stephen Piscotty - RF
3. Matt Holliday - LF
4. Jhonny Peralta - SS
5. Matt Adams - 1B
6. Randal Grichuk - CF
7. Yadier Molina - C
8. Kolten Wong - 2B
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Carlos Martinez
3. Michael Wacha
4. Mike Leake
5. Jaime Garcia
DL: Lance Lynn
The Cardinals may be coming off a 100-win season, but the Cubs have all the momentum right now. Apart from beating them in the NLDS, the Cubs also stole the top position player (Heyward), and pitcher (Lackey) from the Cardinals' 2015 squad in free agency and look poised to compete for years.
Losing Heyward, Lackey and other key role players - plus Lynn's Tommy John surgery - will be hard to get past, but the Cardinals are essentially acquiring Wainwright, Holliday and Adams, given all three players missed most of 2015 with injury.
Molina - who hurt his thumb when Anthony Rizzo slid into it at home plate late in the regular season - is already starting the season banged up and he will be 33. He's taken a pounding behind home plate in his career, and he took a step back offensively last season (.660 OPS, his lowest since 2006).
Holliday is 36, Peralta is 33, Carpenter is 30 and Wainwright is 34. Like Heyward said when he signed with the Cubs - age is catching up to this St. Louis core.
However, in defense of the Cardinals, the new wave has arrived. Piscotty looks like a star, while Grichuk looks promising and Wong is still only 25 and has plenty of breakout potential. Martinez and Wacha are only 24 and the key pieces in the bullpen (closer Trevor Rosenthal, setup men Kevin Siegrist and Jordan Walden, plus Seth Maness and Tyler Lyons are all 28 or under). Lyons and 23-year-old former top prospect Marco Gonzales provide depth for the starting rotation.
The Cardinals lost out in the David Price sweepstakes, but opted to hand Leake a five-year, $80-million deal to help bolster the starting staff after Lackey's departure. That's a hefty price tag for a guy who has never been more than a mid-rotation arm, but then again, the Cardinals have a knack for getting the most out of pitchers.
Keep in mind: There is stll plenty of an offseason left, with top free agents like Chris Davis, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Alex Gordon still available. The Cardinals very well may have another move or two up their sleeves.
The Cardinals are still the Cardinals. Count them out at your own risk.