MLB Power Rankings: Zack Greinke and NL Central's 10 Biggest Offseason Moves
With so many of the big name free agents signed early on this off season, it has been a winter of trade rumors, and while most have proved to be nothing beyond just rumors, the Brewers managed to pull off two of the bigger trades of the off season.
However, the rest of the NL Central has been fairly busy as well, as the Cubs, Reds, Cardinals, and Brewers all look to be in the running for the division. Even the Astros and Pirates made a handful of moves that could make series' against them that much tougher.
So here are the ten biggest moves of the off season for the NL Central, as we look forward to Spring Training and the start of the season.
No. 10: Pirates Sign Lyle Overbay
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One Year, $5 Million
.243 BA, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 75 Runs in 154 Games
After five seasons with the Blue Jays, Overbay returns to the NL Central, where he spent two seasons with the Brewers in 2004 and 2005, leading the league in doubles in 2004 with 53.
He is not your prototypical power hitting first baseman, with a career high of 22, and a average of 17 longballs per season. However, he is as durable as they come, playing in at least 154 games in five of the past seven seasons.
The Pirates are moving in the right direction, as they continue to draw from a talented farm system, and a one year contract to Overbay as a stop gap veteran to help the younger players was a very smart and cost effective move for the Pirates.
No. 9: Cardinals Trade For Ryan Theriot
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Cardinals Got: SS Ryan Theroit
Dodgers Got: RP Blake Hawksworth
.270 BA, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 72 Runs, 20 SB in 150 Games
Theriot came to the Dodgers in the deal that sent Ted Lilly out of Chicago, and he became the team's starting second baseman. However, following the off season signing of Juan Uribe, Theriot became expendable and the Dodgers dealt him the talented young Hawksworth.
Theriot has always done just enough to get by throughout his big league career, posting a solid batting average with good speed, and adequate defense at second base or shortstop, but little else. He was also a late bloomer, becoming a full-time starter at the age of 27 in 2007, so what you see is what you get at this point in his career.
For the Cardinals, however, Theriot represents a solid offensive upgrade over last year's starting shortstop Brendan Ryan, who struggled to a .223 batting average after hitting a respectable .292 the previous season. Making the signing a bit more interesting, Theriot proclaimed that he was "finally on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry".
No. 8: Reds Sign Edgar Renteria
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One Year, $2.1 Million
.276 BA, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 26 Runs in 72 Games
Renteria was mulling the idea of retirement after the Giants failed to make him an offer beyond one year, $1 million. However, the Reds were a good fit for both sides.
Gone from Cincinnati's team last season is starting shortstop Orlando Cabrera. He not only was the team's everyday shortstop, but he was one of the few sources of veteran leadership on an otherwise very young team.
Renteria's in the twilight of his career, and he will not be counted on to provide a ton of production. As long as he hits enough to stay in the lineup and stays healthy, the $2.1 million will be money well spent for the Reds.
No. 7: Astros Sign Bill Hall
One Year, $3.25 Million
.247 BA, 18 HR, 46 RBI, 44 Runs in 119 Games
Hall is among the most versatile players in all of baseball, doing everything but pitching and catching last year for the Red Sox, and having played over 100 games at five different positions in his career.
The Astros, however, will ask him to be their everyday second baseman, a position he played in 51 games last season, making six errors in the process.
Hall has very good pop, and while he may never again approach his 35 home runs season of 2006, he seems like a safe bet for 15 HR and 60 RBI if he plays everyday and stays healthy, and on a team in need of all the offensive help they can get, the signing could prove to be a very good one.
No. 6: Cubs Sign Kerry Wood
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One Year, $1.5 Million
47 Games, 8 Saves, 3-4, 3.13 ERA, 49 Ks, 46 IP
Wood is not the young kid that struck out 20 batters as a 21-year old back in 1998, nor is he the pitcher who saved 34 games and made an All-Star appearance back in 2008. He is, however, a very good veteran right hander that will help take some pressure off of the Cubs young bullpen in the late innings.
He is a fan favorite in Chicago, and apparently that is a two way street, as he gave the Cubs a significant hometown discount, turning down some reported multi-year deals in the process, as he opted instead to return to the organization that drafted him.
Wood was amazing after his trade to the Yankees last season, posting a 0.69 ERA in 26 innings, as he bounced back well from a disastrous year and a half with the Indians.
No. 5: Cardinals Sign Lance Berkman
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One Year, $8 Million
.248 BA, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 48 Runs in 122 Games
The days of .300 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons out of Berkman are a thing of the past, as he has not even approached those numbers the past two seasons, and will be 35 this coming season.
However, he is still a solid offensive player, and a valuable switch hitter, which was enough for the Cardinals to pull the trigger on a one year deal and bring him in to play right field.
Berkman has not seen time in the outfield since 2007, and has not been an everyday outfielder since 2004, so his defense may be cause for concern, and at the very Colby Rasmus will be counted on to cover a good amount of ground playing center field. A platoon of Berkman and John Jay could be the best way to use Berkman, and time will tell how much playing time he gets.
No. 4: Cubs Sign Carlos Pena
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One Year, $10 Million
.196 BA, 28 HR, 84 RBI, 64 Runs in 144 Games
After the Cubs traded away Derrek Lee last season, it became clear that their top off season target would be signing a first baseman. The Cubs made it known that they were seeking a left handed bat to fill the position, and they had a few in house options in Micah Hoffpauir and Tyler Colvin, but the free agent market was not short on options.
Aside from Pena, the Cubs also kicked the tires on Adam LaRoche, Lyle Overbay, and Adam Dunn, but in the end, Pena gave them the power and sure handed defense that they were looking for.
Despite a disastrous .196 average last season, Pena seems like a good candidate for a bounce back after averaging .252 BA, 39 HR, 108 RBI over the previous three seasons. The one year contract works out for both sides, as Pena can look to boost his value for a multi-year deal, and the Cubs aren't saddled with another big contract.
No. 3: Brewers Trade For Shaun Marcum
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Brewers Got: P Shaun Marcum
Blue Jays Got : 2B Brett Lawrie
31 Starts, 13-8, 3.64 ERA, 114 ERA+, 165 Ks, 195.1 IP
In an off season in which there was a good deal of speculation that the Brewers would deal free agent to be Prince Fielder, the team instead took a far more aggressive approach to their off season, not only landing Zack Greinke in trade but further bolstering their staff in acquiring Marcum.
Marcum missed all of the 2009 season after under going Tommy John surgery, but quickly returned to his role as the Blue Jays ace, and he had the best season of his career last year. He didn't come cheap, however, as Lawrie was a highly regarded prospect.
Still just 20 years old, Lawrie spent the entire season at Class-AA last year, hitting .285 BA, 8 HR, 63 RBI, 30 SB, as he could see some time at the big league level this coming season. With Rickie Weeks blocking him, the Brewers pulled the trigger to give themselves a formidable roster.
No. 2: Cubs Trade For Matt Garza
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Cubs Got: SP Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez, P Zach Rosscup
Rays Got: SP Chris Archer, OF Brandon Guyer, SS Hak-Ju Lee, C Robinson Chirinos, OF Sam Fuld
32 Starts, 15-10, 3.91 ERA, 101 ERA+, 150 Ks, 204.2 IP
The Cubs have relied on Carlos Zambrano as the ace of their staff for the past several seasons, but after a move to the bullpen, dugout confrontation with teammates and related suspension, and great last month of the season, the Cubs are no longer confident in Big Z.
Garza has been great for the Rays since coming over from the Twins in the Delmon Young deal, and he had his best season last year, winning a career-high 15 games and throwing a no-hitter.
The Cubs will retain control of Garza until 2014, when he is first eligible to become a free agent, and he should be a staple at the front of their rotation until that time at the very least. The Cubs gave up a good deal to get him, trading away three of their top 10 prospects, so he will need to perform well to justify the deal.
No. 1: Brewers Trade For Zack Greinke
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Brewers Got: P Zack Greinke, SS Yuniesky Betancourt
Royals Got: SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, P Jeremy Jeffress, P Jake Odorizzi
33 Starts, 10-14, 4.17 ERA, 100 ERA+, 181 Ks, 220 IP
Greinke toiled in Kansas City for seven seasons, posting a 60-67 career record, despite a 3.82 ERA, and he made it very clear last season that he was no longer interested in playing for a team not capable of contending.
He scuffled last season, posting a 4.17 ERA, a full 2.01 points higher than the league best 2.16 ERA he posted in 2009 when he won the AL Cy Young despite pitching for a team that lost 97 games.
His fall-off has could very well be attributed to the his lack of interest in pitching for the Royals, and it is reasonable to expect him to bounce back to his front of the rotation form this coming season, as the Brewers look to make a run in the NL Central.