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Carlos Beltran and the 10 Best Moves by NL Central Teams This Offseason

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2011

Carlos Beltran and the 10 Best Moves by NL Central Teams This Offseason

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    Major League Baseball's winter meetings have come and gone. The event proved, largely, uneventful for anyone living outside Los Angeles.

    The landscape of the NL Central could be very different next season. Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols will not be in St. Louis, and Prince Fielder will probably not be in Milwaukee either. 

    The Cubs are in rebuilding mode along with the Astros and, of course, the Pirates.

    Cincinnati could be primed to make the jump to NL Central leaders after making two major trades.

    Many moves have been made this offseason.

    Here are the 10 best moves so far in the NL Central:

Cubs Sign David DeJesus

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    The Chicago Cubs signed David DeJesus to a two-year, $8.5 million contract at the end of November. The contract also includes $6.5 million option for 2014.

    Last year DeJesus batted .241 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI as a member of the Oakland Athletics. This was the worst season of DeJesus' nine-year career.

    DeJesus brings a competent left-handed bat to the Cubs' lineup. He plays above-average defense and has a veteran approach at the plate.

    New Cubs GM Theo Epstein can only hope DeJesus is a solid upgrade in right field because of his versatility. He doesn't provide a ton of power, but he has solid gap-to-gap hitting ability.

    DeJesus is a career .284 hitter.

Pirates Acquire Casey McGehee

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired third baseman Casey McGehee from Milwaukee in exchange for relief pitcher Jose Veras.

    McGehee is not a star-caliber player, but he could provide some pop to a power-starved lineup. McGehee hit just .223 last season but hit .285 and .301 in the two prior seasons.

    In 2010, McGehee stroked 23 home runs and 104 RBI. His RBI total was second among Brewer players.

    Defensively, McGehee is nothing special. However, he can play first base in a possible platoon situation with Garrett Jones.

    McGehee could be a dud in Pittsburgh, but he is a solid pickup considering the price paid by the Pirates.

Brewers Sign Alex Gonzalez

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    The Brewers inked Alex Gonzalez to a one-year, $4.25 million contract earlier this offseason. The deal also includes a $4 million vesting option for 2013 if Gonzalez makes 525 plate appearances next season.

    Gonzalez brings veteran leadership to the table, if nothing else. He provides solid defense despite his decline at the plate in recent years.

    Last season Gonzalez his .241 with 15 home runs as a member of the Atlanta Braves.

    The Brewers had a need at shortstop this offseason. Gonzalez provides an immediate starter and solid contributor for a possible National League contender.

Cardinals Sign Rafael Furcal

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    The Cardinals acquired Rafael Furcal before last season's trade deadline. Furcal will remain in St. Louis for two more years after signing a two-year, $14 million contract in mid-December.

    Furcal isn't the same player he used to be, but he still provides the same general assets. He plays above-average defense and provides speed at the top of the order.

    He doesn't provide much power at the plate and has been banged up throughout his career.

    Furcal batted .255 last season as a Cardinal. He also turned 36 double plays to lead all National League shortstops.

    The Cardinals attempted to lure Jimmy Rollins out of Philadelphia. That didn't work out, but Furcal is a quality veteran option nonetheless.

Pirates Sign Erik Bedard

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    The Pirates brought in southpaw Erik Bedard on a one-year, $4.5 million contract. Bedard split time between Boston and Seattle last season.

    Bedard is coming off his healthiest season since 2007. He had a 3.62 ERA with a 42-percent groundball rate last season.

    If Bedard can stay healthy, he is a viable option for the top of the Pirate rotation. He possesses power stuff from the left side, and the Pirates lost veteran lefty Paul Maholm this offseason.

    The one-year contract adds very little risk to this signing. Bedard has health issues, but he is 56-50 in his career.

    In other words, when Bedard is healthy, he has been very good throughout his career.

Reds Acquire Sean Marshall

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    The Reds sent Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes to Chicago in exchange for southpaw reliever Sean Marshall.

    Wood was expendable in Cincinnati in order to fill another need. However, Chicago could be happy with what he becomes in their rotation.

    The Reds hope to take advantage of limbo in Milwaukee and St. Louis. Adding Mat Latos and Marshall should bring their pitching up to par with their potent lineup.

    Marshall had an excellent 2011 season. He was 6-6 with five saves and a 2.26 ERA in 79 appearances. His 34 holds are a Cubs franchise record and were third in the major leagues.

    Cincinnati still needs to find a closer, but adding Marshall to the bullpen is a major move. He has serious stuff and can pitch in a variety of situations.

Reds Acquire Mat Latos

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    The Reds surrendered Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez to acquire Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres.

    Yes, the Reds gave up a lot, but they paid the correct price for the superbly-talented Latos.

    Alonso has major potential at first base but is stuck behind Joey Votto until further notice. Grandal is stuck behind Devin Mesoraco behind the plate, and Volquez hasn't quite lived up to his potential as of yet.

    Latos was 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 2011. He was among the National League leaders in strikeouts and ERA.

    The Reds desperately needed another top-of-the-rotation arm to complement Johnny Cueto. Adding Latos gives them an immediate talent, and he still has room to grow as he matures.

Brewers Sign Aramis Ramirez

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    The Brewers prepared for their pending loss of Prince Fielder with the signing of Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez's deal goes for three years, $36 million with a mutual option for a fourth year.

    Ramirez is coming off a Silver Slugger season in 2011. He hit .306 with 26 home runs and 93 RBI. He may lack defensively, but Ramirez brings immediate pop to the middle of the Milwaukee order.

    The Brewers do not want to take a step backward in 2012. With the possible loss of Fielder and the 50-game suspension of Ryan Braun, that seems like a dangerous possibility.

    Ramirez cannot change that fact on his own, but he is a big step in the right direction.

Cubs Bring Theo Epstein to Chicago

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    The Chicago Cubs started their rebuilding phase on the right foot by bringing in one of the best young minds in baseball today.

    Theo Epstein jumped from Boston to Chicago to become the Cubs' President of Baseball Operations. His deal is for five years, $18.5 million.

    Epstein was the architect of a very successful time period in Boston. His teams won two World Series rings and were a top contender in the American League.

    The Cubs' biggest move this offseason will be bringing Epstein into the fold, unless they land Prince Fielder.

Cardinals Sign Carlos Beltran

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    The Cardinals added Carlos Beltran to their lineup on a two-year, $26 million contract. The contract also includes a full no-trade clause for the 34-year-old outfielder.

    Beltran hit .300 with 22 home runs and 85 RBI last season with the Mets and Giants. He brings a versatile, veteran presence to the middle of the St.Louis order from day one.

    The Cardinals lost Albert Pujols to the Los Angeles Angels this offseason. That requires Lance Berkman to move to first base and Beltran to start full-time in right field.

    Beltran was one of the biggest names available this offseason. He is a six-time All-Star, and St. Louis hopes he can regain that form in 2012.

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