National League Central team capsules
1. Cincinnati Reds
2011: 79-83 (3rd)Manager: Dusty Baker (5th year)
He's here: RHP Mat Latos (traded from San Diego), RHP Ryan Madson (1 year, $8.5 million), LHP Sean Marshall (traded from Cubs), OF Ryan Ludwick (1 year, $2.5 million).
He's outta here: C Ramon Hernandez (signed with Colorado), RHP Francisco Cordero (signed with Toronto), RHP Edinson Volquez (traded to San Diego), 1B Yonder Alonso (traded to San Diego).
Written in Stone: The Reds didn't even make it out of spring training without absorbing a major blow: Closer Ryan Madson, signed over the winter, was lost for the season with an elbow injury. It looks like former Cub Sean Marshall, with seven career saves, will get the first crack at the job previously held by the departed Francisco Cordero. The Reds showed their commitment to winning now by bundling a lot of young talent to San Diego for Mat Latos, whom they view as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Reds' biggest strength continues to be first baseman Joey Votto, who — speaking of commitment — is on the verge of signing a 10-year extension.Lineup
|2B B. Phillips||.300||18||82|
|SS Zack Cozart*||.310||7||32|
|1B Joey Votto||.309||29||103|
|3B Scott Rolen||.242||5||36|
|RF Jay Bruce||.256||32||97|
|LF Chris Heisey||.254||18||50|
|CF Drew Stubbs||.243||15||44|
|C Ryan Hanigan||.267||6||31|
|RH Johnny Cueto||9-5||2.31||104|
|RH Mat Latos||9-14||3.47||185|
|RH B. Arroyo||9-12||5.07||108|
|RH Mike Leake||12-9||3.86||118|
|RH H. Bailey||9-7||4.43||106|
|LH S. Marshall||2.26||5||4|
2. St. Louis Cardinals
2011: 90-72 (2nd)Manager: Mike Matheny (1st year)
He's here: OF Carlos Beltran (2 years, $26 million).
He's outta here: 1B Albert Pujols (signed with Angels), RHP Edwin Jackson (signed with Washington), RHP Octavio Dotel (signed with Detroit), manager Tony La Russa (retired).
Written in Stone: The Cardinals' 2011 season ended quite nicely, but the offseason was a little rocky. Shortly after their improbable World Series run, legendary manager Tony La Russa retired, legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan took a leave of absence to be with his ailing wife, and legendary first baseman Albert Pujols took his talents to Anaheim. First-year manager Mike Matheny still has a lot of talent to work with, augmented by free agent Carlos Beltran, but he'll be hard-pressed to recapture the magic of '11. Speaking of magic, David Freese hopes to be able to translate an October for the ages into a breakthrough full season, after spending the winter reveling in the role of local hero. Ace Chris Carpenter, out indefinitely with a neck injury, is a huge concern. Their season ultimately might hinge on his ability to come back.
|SS Rafael Furcal||.231||8||28|
|RF Carlos Beltran||.300||22||84|
|LF Matt Holliday||.296||22||75|
|1B L. Berkman||.301||31||94|
|3B David Freese||.297||10||55|
|C Yadier Molina||.305||14||65|
|CF Jon Jay||.297||10||37|
|2B D. Descalso||.264||1||28|
|RH Kyle Lohse||14-8||3.39||111|
|LH Jaime Garcia||13-7||3.56||156|
|RH L. Lynn**||7-3||3.84||64|
|RH Jason Motte||2.25||9||4|
*2010 stats; ** minor-league stats
3. Milwaukee Brewers
2011: 96-66 (1st)Manager: Ron Roenicke (2nd year)
He's here: 3B Aramis Ramirez (3 years, $36 million), SS Alex Gonzalez (1 year, $4.25 million), INF Cesar Izturis. He's outta here: 1B Prince Fielder (signed with Detroit), 3B Casey McGehee (traded to Pittsburgh), SS Yuniesky Betancourt (signed with Kansas City), RHP LaTroy Hawkins (signed with Angels), INF Craig Counsell (retired), RHP Takashi Saito (signed with Arizona).
Written in Stone: Not only did the Brewers lose one of their power forces when Prince Fielder signed a megadeal with the Tigers; they also have to worry about the residual effects from the winter ordeal of their other premier slugger, MVP Ryan Braun. After testing positive for a banned substance, Braun won his appeal, but he scarcely had time to savor his brilliant season, or that of the Brewers, who made it to the NLCS. Braun had a lackluster spring, but the Brewers are confident he'll quickly find his .300-30-100 form, despite likely being dogged all year by steroids questions. They are counting on free-agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez to fill the power void left by the departure of Fielder, who has averaged 40 home runs over the past five years.
|2B Rickie Weeks||.269||20||49|
|CF Nyjer Morgan||.304||4||37|
|LF Ryan Braun||.332||33||111|
|3B A. Ramirez||.306||26||93|
|RF Corey Hart||.285||26||63|
|1B Mat Gamel*||.310||28||96|
|SS Alex Gonzalez||.241||15||56|
|C Jonathan Lucroy||.265||12||59|
|RH Y. Gallardo||17-10||3.52||207|
|RH Z. Greinke||16-6||3.83||201|
|LH Randy Wolf||13-10||3.69||134|
|RH S. Marcum||13-7||3.54||158|
|LH C. Narveson||11-8||4.45||126|
|RH John Axford||1.95||46||2|
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
2011: 72-90 (4th)Manager: Clint Hurdle (2nd year)
He's here: SS Clint Barmes (2 years, $12 million), C Rod Barajas (1 year, $4 million), RHP A.J. Burnett (traded from Yankees), LHP Erik Bedard (1 year, $4.5 million), 3B Casey McGehee (traded from Milwaukee), OF Nate McLouth (1 year, $1.75 million).
He's outta here: C Ryan Doumit (signed with Minnesota), OF Ryan Ludwick (signed with Cincinnati), LHP Paul Maholm (signed with Cubs), 1B Derrek Lee (free agent).
Written in Stone: This could finally be the year for the Pirates. No, not the year they return to the playoffs, after three straight NLCS appearances in the early 1990s with Barry Bonds. That would be silly. This could be the year they finally return to .a .500 record, something they haven't done in 19 years — ever since Bonds left for San Francisco. Or not. While the Pirates definitely have some intriguing young talent (don't they always?), they also have glaring holes (don't they always?) that could undermine their season. Like, for instance, a starting rotation in which ex-Mariner Erik Bedard immediately ascended to No. 1.Lineup
|LF Alex Presley||.298||4||20|
|RF Jose Tabata||.266||4||21|
|CF A. McCutchen||.259||23||89|
|2B Neil Walker||.273||12||83|
|1B Garrett Jones||.243||16||58|
|C Rod Barajas||.230||16||47|
|3B Pedro Alvarez||.191||4||19|
|SS Clint Barmes||.244||12||39|
|LH Erik Bedard||5-9||3.62||125|
|RH Jeff Karstens||9-9||3.38||96|
|RH J. McDonald||9-9||4.21||142|
|RH K. Correia||12-11||4.79||77|
|RH C. Morton||10-10||3.83||110|
|RH J. Hanrahan||1.83||40||4|
5. Chicago Cubs
2011: 71-91 (5th)Manager: Dale Sveum (1st year)
He's here: OF David DeJesus (2 years, $10 million), 3B Ian Stewart (traded from Colorado), 1B Anthony Rizzo (traded from San Diego), RHP Chris Volstad (traded from Miami), LHP Paul Maholm (1 year, $4.75 million).
He's outta here: 3B Aramis Ramirez (signed with Milwaukee), RHP Carlos Zambrano (traded to Miami), LHP Sean Marshall (traded to Cincinnati), 1B Carlos Pena (signed with Tampa Bay), OF Chris Colvin (traded to Colorado), RHP Andrew Cashner (traded to San Diego).
Written in Stone: Theo Epstein becomes the latest person to try to mastermind the Cubs' first World Series title since 1908. It won't happen this year, but he brought over a chunk of his former Red Sox brain trust — including general manager Jed Hoyer, by way of San Diego — to help dig the Cubs out of their latest hole. One of Hoyer's first moves was to acquire the same slugging first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, that he got in San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez. But right now, that position is occupied by none other than former Mariner Bryan LaHair, coming off a Pacific Coast League MVP season.
|RF David DeJesus||.240||10||46|
|2B Darwin Barney||.276||2||43|
|SS Starlin Castro||.307||10||66|
|1B Bryan LaHair*||.331||38||109|
|LF A. Soriano||.244||26||88|
|3B Ian Stewart||.156||0||6|
|CF Marlon Byrd||.276||9||35|
|C Geovany Soto||.228||17||54|
|RH R. Dempster||10-14||4.80||191|
|RH Matt Garza||10-10||3.32||197|
|RH C. Volstad||5-13||4.89||117|
|LH P. Maholm||6-14||3.66||97|
|RH C. Marmol||4.01||34||10|
6. Houston Astros
2011: 56-106 (6th)Manager: Brad Mills (3rd year)
He's here: SS Jed Lowrie (traded from Boston), C Chris Snyder, OF Travis Buck. He's outta here: OF Jason Bourgeois, C Humberto Quintero (traded to Kansas City), SS Clint Barmes (signed with Pittsburgh), RHP Mark Melancon (traded to Boston), OF Jason Michaels (signed with Washington).
Written in Stone: The Astros of the moment are a pretty miserable collection of talent, but here's an ironclad guarantee: Next year, they won't be the worst team in the NL Central. That's because they're switching leagues, and stand a good chance of being the worst team in the AL West. The poor Astros have few good players in the majors, and not much help on the way from the minors. It's a deadly combination, one that new, sabermetric-friendly general manager Jeff Luhnow and his "decision sciences" department — yes, they really have one — will try to repair. It's particularly hard when your highest-paid player (Carlos Lee at $18.5 million) is no longer productive and completely untradeable. But Lee's six-year, $100-million albatross of a contract finally comes off the books next year.
|CF Jordan Schafer||.242||2||13|
|SS Jed Lowrie||.252||6||36|
|LF J.D. Martinez||.274||6||35|
|1B Carlos Lee||.275||18||94|
|RF B. Bogusevic||.287||4||15|
|3B Chris Johnson||.251||7||42|
|C Jason Castro*||.205||2||8|
|2B Jose Altuve||.276||2||12|
|RH L. Harrell**||12-5||2.63||94|
|RH Bud Norris||6-11||3.77||176|
|LH J.A. Happ||6-15||5.35||134|
|RH Brett Myers||4.46||0||0|
*2010 stats; **minor-league stats.