Friday, December 24, 2010

BD Hot Stove: Brewing Up A Challenge | Baseball Digest

BD Hot Stove: Brewing Up A Challenge | Baseball Digest

When you think of the NL Central, you think of Tony LaRussa and the St. Louis Cardinals. LaRussa’s birds have finished first (6) or second (2) in eight of the last 11 years, with two pennants and a World Series championship to boot. They’re usually the early season favorite to win the division and this year may be no different with Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter leading the way. But the thing is, there’s a new sheriff town.

“Yes, Pete, it is. In fact , it’s pronounced “mill-e-wah-que” which is Algonquin for “the good land.”: In “Wayne’s World” Alice Cooper helped give Milwaukee its most notoriety since “Laverne & Shirley”. But in 2011, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and Yovani Gallardo may help bring Milwaukee back to the promised land. No one is saying the Brewers will win a World Series, something the town of Milwaukee hasn’t seen since the Braves took the title in 1958, but the team should be competitive this season with the aforementioned trio at the top of the order. GM Doug Melvin had to give up highly touted 2nd base prospect Brett Lawrie to Toronto to land Marcum, and then swung four other prospects to KC for Greinke and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. The Brewers also added reliever Sean Green to help set up for closer Joe Axford.

Pujols Country: It may take a country to pay Albert Pujols the kind of money he’ll want to stay parked in St. Louis forever. LaRussa just has to hope it doesn’t distract a team that has Wainwright, Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Jake Westbrook in the starting rotation. The Cards signed catcher Gerald Laird to back up starter Yadier Molina, inked Lance Berkman who’ll see most of his time in the outfield, and grabbed lefty reliever Brian Tallet to shore up the bullpen.

Chicago Hope: It’s going to be a time for pundits predict the Cubs will dominate the NL Central. None of the predictions over the last few years came to fruition, and the team is not ready for a charge to the top. Gone is long time Cub Derrek Lee with Carlos Pena signed to take his place. The team also reunited with Kerry Wood, who left for a free agent deal after the 2008 season. He’ll set up for closer Carlos Marmol. The Cubs have stated they won’t deal Carlos Zambrano, but that could change in order to either dump salary and/or no longer have to deal with his personality.

It’s spelled V-o-t-t-o: In case you were’t sure how to spell the name of NL MVP Joey, who led a baseball revival in Cincinnati this past summer. The Reds won their first division and made their first playoff appearances in 15 years, before being summarily dispatched in three games by the Phillies. The Reds haven’t been very active this off-season, preferring to “dance with the one who brung ya”. They gave their top starter, Bronson Arroyo, a three year contract extension, re-signed catcher Ramon Hernandez and utility man Miguel Cairo, and exercised the option on Jonny Gomes’ contract.

Not quite ready for lift off: The Astros finished 10 games under .500 or worse each of the last two seasons and it’s going to be difficult to improve on that with not punch in the lineup. The Astros dispatched their ace Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia last season and former Phils’ exec/current Astros head honcho Ed Wade may be helping his former team again. Rumors of a Joe Blanton to Houston deal is rumored to be in the works. If so it would give the Astros a decent top three starters in Wandy Rodriguez, J. A. Happ (acquired in the Oswalt deal), and Blanton. The Astros also added lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, who can work out of the rotation or pen. But outside of Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence there’s not much offense to work with.

They don’t shiver your timbers: The Pirates have a lot of good young talent, but they won’t be look down at other teams for quite some time. The Pirates made some small moves that could help new manager Clint Hurdle keep the team’s hopes up. 1st baseman Lyle Overbay, pitcher Scott Olsen, outfielder Matt Diaz and corner man Garrett Atkins will try to help out stars on the rist Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Just as they did with Johnny Damon, the Yankees reportedly had internal discussions about Bronx native Manny Ramirez. Nothing is likely to happen.

The Nationals signed reliever Sean Burnett to a two year contract.

In a minor league deal, the A’s sent Corey Wimbley, who stole 56 bases at Triple-A last year, to the Pirates for pitcher Ryan Kelly. The 23-yr old right-hander spent the 2010 season in Single-A.

Some last minute items on Santa’s gift list

Yankees fans: One more season of watching Andy Pettitte.

Randy Winn: A chance to finally appear in the playoffs after 1,721 career regular season games.

Bert Blyleven: Induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame

Marvin Miller: Enough sense in the coming year for the veteran’s committee to elect you into Hall next December.

Fans: Reduced ticket prices and better national TV announcers.

Jamie Moyer: Recovery from Tommy John surgery and the chance to pitch into your 50′s.

Nick Johnson: No doctor’s appointments.

Oliver Perez: Regain control.

The Dodgers: No more McCourts.

Bryce Harper: Humility

Stephen Strasburg: Complete arm strength.

Ryan Westmoreland: Complete health and a return to baseball.

Opposing Announcers: A guide to pronouncing the name of the Royals’ Kila Ka’aihue.

Jermaine Dye: The chance to play again.

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