September 7, 2011; St. Louis, MO. USA; Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder (left) talks with St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols (5) during the second inning at Busch Stadium. St. Louis defeated Milwaukee 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

NL Central Offseason Review

Another offseason came and went, and a few notable players switched teams. Here’s a look at some of the bigger names, where they left, where they went to, and how they fit in with their new counterparts. Although I will go in-depth, I cannot cover every single move and will ultimately leave out a few big moves at my will. Did you know that since I have nothing better to do, I reviewed nearly every offseason transaction of note? You can view them here, as well as even better and more in-depth analysis from the others who write for this site. So enjoy a quick offseason review for every team in the MLB and reminisce on your team’s decisions over the past few months. Don’t worry, we’re all judging.

NL Central Offseason Review

St. Louis Cardinal Offseason Review

Again, I only look at the additions, okay? So I’m going to pretend like Albert Pujols doesn’t exist for the duration of this review. But I will say this, the Carlos Beltran signing alleviates that pain. They gave him quite a bit of money to the point where you can make a case for either side of this deal, but there is no doubt that this addition makes them much stronger offensively. Even without Pujols (I broke my promise, it’s too hard) this team still has a strong offensive nucleus.

Grade: C-

Milwaukee Brewers Offseason Review

Goodbye Prince Fielder and hello Mat Gamel. But fear not Brewers fans, that wasn’t the only change that transpired on this team. The Brew Crew signed Aramis Ramirez to play third, and he is one of the best offensive third basemen in the NL and is a consistent veteran. After that signing, Casey McGehee became even more expendable, and it was a waste of resources for the Brewers to wait and see if McGehee really was a one-year wonder or not. They shipped him to Pittsburgh for reliever Jose Veras, who gives them some decent bullpen depth.

Norichika Aoki is an interesting Japanese outfielder to watch for, and he should be a solid OF for the Brew Crew for some time. Alex Gonzalez is a massive upgrade over Yuniesky Betancourt, because he led the league in DRS and is obviously the much better defensive player. He can’t hit and I’ll never forget the horrible Yunel Escobar deal (what were the Braves thinking? Fantasy sports?), but he’s still a quality veteran and will help the Brewers.

Grade: B

Cincinnati Reds Offseason Review

Now that was some terrible luck with the whole Ryan Madson situation, because that was a heckuva steal…until injury struck. But no matter, because the Reds also made a second big acquisition to bolster the bullpen. They traded disappointing starter Travis Wood to the Reds for the elite and underrated Sean Marshall. This is a 2+ WAR reliever who spent years toiling away as the unheralded SU in the Windy City, and he will hopefully get his due as the newly minted closer in Cincinnati.

The Reds also added Ryan Ludwick to platoon in the outfield, which was a mediocre signing that helps this team a bit. So yeah, make the “Not Bad” face if you can. Sean Gallagher is a nice addition to the bullpen, and Wilson Valdez was better than the reliever they gave up to obtain him.

Alright, the move you guys actually care about is the four-for-one with the San Diego Padres to acquire young ace Mat Latos. He will certainly bounce back from an unlucky 2011 campaign and will be worth 4 WAR next season. He’s gold.

But was it worth the price? Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, and pitcher Brad Boxberger are three top prospects. But the Reds already have Devin Mesoraco as a catching prospect, and he is right there with Grandal. The recently extended Joey Votto has a lucrative deal, is a superstar, and was never going to go anywhere. The Reds also traded Edinson Volquez, but the Reds were sick of the command troubles and the great tease of 2008; it’s time for results. It’s time for Latos. The only piece in the deal that wasn’t expendable was Boxberger, but he’s a reliever. He’s a really good one, but he’s a reliever. I’m liking this deal for the Padres, even though it was a lot to give up. The Reds couldn’t have feasibly used all that, and the “resources” went to a more lucrative prize: Mat Latos.

Grade: B

Pittsburgh Pirates Offseason Review

Their best offseason move was an extension, but I only care about extension and already lavishly praised the McCutcheon deal about fifty times and have already danced in the streets to celebrate its coming.

The Pirates became the benefactor of the Yankees quest to dump off A.J. Burnett, and they have a league-average, veteran starter who is much better off in his new surroundings. The Pirates traded two prospects they didn’t need for him, with Diego Moreno being the only useful prospect in the deal. But here’s the thing, he needed a change of scenery as well, since the Pirates were sick of him and basically dumped him off as well. I already went over the McGehee trade, and it’s a quality one for the Pirates. Either Pedro Alvarez or McGehee will step up as reclamation projects and end up providing some quality PAs for the Pirates next season.

Grade: B-

Chicago Cubs Offseason Review

February 23, 2012; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum (center), president Theo Epstein (left), and general manager Jed Hoyer (right) watch the inaugural match play bunting tournament during spring training at Fitch Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

I love what Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are doing in Chicago, even if I don’t feel the same way about the trade to bring in Travis Wood. It’s not that Wood is a bad pitcher, because he will most likely be a 2 WAR pitcher in the near future. However, Sean Marshall is worth more than Wood in terms of pure value, and he also doubles as one of the best relievers in baseball.

The Cubs made two trades to get rid of headcases in the offseason, with the most well-known one being the Carlos Zambrano deal. They ate up a large portion of his salary and only received Chris Volstad in the trade, but you have to do what it takes to get rid of someone like Z whose presence was clearly detrimental to the team. The other trade involved a pair of prospects that cancelled in a deal that was basically the league-average with upside outfielder Tyler Colvin for 3B Ian Stewart. It was a quality deal for both the Cubs and Rockies, simply because the Cubs wanted to get rid of Colvin, and the Rockies needed to give Stewart a change of scenery (ditto with Covlin). Both teams received sufficient value in return, with the Rockies ending up with the better player. But still, Stewart can get back to the league-average value and is the much safer player (Colvin is an upside guy at this point). Who knows? Maybe he finds his power stroke again.

The Cubs got off two bargain deals this offseason. It’s no secret that both Epstein and Hoyer love Anthony Rizzo, with both front office stars having headed teams with Rizzo. They were able to trade some prospects for Rizzo, in a deal where it was quality over quantity all the way. And quality won; the pieces given to the Padres did not amount to Rizzo’s value. The Cubs will end up with a quality, 3 WAR hitter after the Bryan LaHair project comes to an end. I can’t wait until Rizzo’s call-up, but it’s important to note that he is a “safe, low upside” type prospect who will be a solid 1B, but he struggles too much against high velocity fastballs to be a star. Unless, of course, he undergoes a dramatic mechanical change with his swing, because his bat speed is terrible.

The other big move of the offseason for Chicago was the signing of the underrated David DeJesus, who has a big arm and has power. He was  nice, inexpensive, 3 WAR addition to right field and is their only quality starting outfielder at this point. Unless if Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd are still quality players by your value system- and if they are, then your value system makes as much sense as Jeff Ireland’s (any NFL fans?).

Grade: B

Houston Astros Offseason Review

The Astros had a quiet offseason, which is predictable given that this is a team in rebuilding mode that doesn’t have any tradeable pieces to rebuild with. Except for the guy they traded to the Red Sox this offseason: closer Mark Melancon. While Melancon is a quality pitcher and would have certainly helped this team (Brett Myers anyone?), the Astros were able to get some nice return value. If you’re rebuilding, you’ll take a decent starting shortstop with upside (Jed Lowrie) and a young No. 5 starter with four quality, won’t-blow-you-away pitches (Kyle Weiland). Lowrie would be so much better if he was consistently healthy, but let’s not wish too much. This deal amounted to some good overall value for the ‘Stros, which is what you can hope for if you’re rebuilding and trading off a good reliever to a contender.

The rest of the signings were to add underwhelming veterans, with the list being Jack Cust, Livan Hernandez, and former Pirates Chris Snyder and Zach Duke. Synder is a decent backup catcher, and Duke is a decent back-of-the-rotation pitcher who wasted years and morale playing for some really bad Pittsburgh teams. For some reason, I always think that Duke’s career would have been better had he pitched for quality teams. None of those signings do much, but they allow veteran guys to help out the young players looking to break through and give them more options as a rebuilding team.

Grade: C+

Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook.

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Tags: Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Houston Astros Milwaukee Brewers Pittsburgh Pirates St Louis Cardinals

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