The Cincinnati Reds end 2012 the same way they ended 2011—as National League Central favorites.
Although the team failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs, it made great strides. Coming within one run in Game 3 of knocking off the eventual World Series champions shows growth from this team.
Cincinnati had players with legitimate cases for the NL Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. Several players got NL MVP votes, and players like Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips will only get better next season.
General manager Walt Jocketty has made plenty of moves during his time in Cincinnati, and this year was no different.
Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton were both acquired this year to help solidify baseball's best bullpen. Both ended up signing multi-year deals with the club.
Ryan Ludwick and Shin-Soo Choo have been brought in to fill gaping holes on this club. Ludwick beat out Chris Heisey in left field and eventually worked his way into the cleanup spot. Choo will immediately be inserted into the leadoff spot to get on base for the rest of the lineup.
The Reds also signed and let Ryan Madson go this year. It was a move that looked great at the time, but ended up being a bust. Wilson Valdez was also acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, but was not re-signed.
Utility man Miguel Cairo's contract is up, so the Reds replaced him with Jack Hannahan with a two-year deal this offseason.
How does 2013 look?
Cincinnati may look to add a left-handed reliever if Aroldis Chapman stays in the rotation, but no other big moves will be made. Veteran Scott Rolen is still deciding what to do next year, so the third baseman could still get a contract with the team for 2013.
Other than those two possible moves, this team is set. Cincinnati has built its core through the draft, but made big gambles via trades and free agency that paid off in 2012.
Manager Dusty Baker has a new deal that will enable him to build on the team's success. The Reds need to prove 97 wins was no fluke. They need to show they can win in back-to-back seasons. Heck, if the Cincinnati Bengals can do it, why can't the Reds? Both teams played in the postseason in 2010 and 2012, so it's a good sign that the Bengals made it back this season.
Reds fans, enjoy the team's success. Ownership has brought a new attitude to town, and it's here to stay. This team suffered a letdown in the 2012 playoffs, so they will be hungrier than ever to make a deep October run.
Cincinnati has avoided overpaying for players in recent years, and the smart moves have helped this team win the division twice in three seasons. There will be fewer acquisitions in 2013, but that is because this team is already built to win.