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Offseason winners and losers: National League

Chicago Cubs' Carlos Pena, left, celebrates with teammate

Chicago Cubs' Carlos Pena, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Montanez after hitting a solo home run during the second inning of a spring training game against the Chicago White Sox . (March 11, 2011) Credit: AP

You saw the drill yesterday with the American League teams. Now let's do the NL.


1. Cubs. Now that some dust has cleared, their winter seems better to me. They have enough remaining interesting players to withstand the pool of talent they gave to Tampa Bay for Matt Garza, and Kerry Wood doesn't need to do much to justify his $1.5 million salary. Carlos Pena is low-risk, high-reward. With other NL Central teams having rough springs, maybe the Cubs can actually sneak back into contention.

2.  Philadelphia. Yup, they've had a brutal spring, and I love how David Murphy called out Ruben Amaro Jr. on his "We're broke!" line. Having written that, they signed Cliff Lee for a relatively reasonable deal, thereby building on the impressive run they already have going.

3. San Diego. I think the Padres could regress this season, just because it might not be realistic for their bullpen to match last year's success, but I really liked what they did over the winter. They sold high on Adrian Gonzalez and picked up a multitude of interesting players for good prices. They positioned themselves well for beyond 2011.


1. Arizona. Everything they did - trading Mark Reynolds to Baltimore, signing J.J. Putz, taking flyers on Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga - I said to myself, "OK, I get that." Didn't love them, but got them. New GM Kevin Towers knows what he's doing.

2. Atlanta. Dan Uggla should give the lineup an appreciated upgrade, and that the Braves acquired him from division rival Florida is nice, too. The team also should have the young arms to replace the retired Billy Wagner.

The potential downside comes in Uggla's defensive inferiority. How batty will that drive the Braves? And how realistic is their hope that Chiipper Jones, signed for this year and next year, can stay on the field for a good length of time?

3. Florida. The Braves' partner in the Uggla deal, the Marlins (of course) traded Uggla partly to create financial flexibility. Next year, when their new stadium opens, that excuse has to stop.

The return on Uggla (Mike Dunn and Omar Infante) was decent, however, and I liked buying low on Javier Vazquez (of course I did) and the bullpen moves. The John Buck contract (three years for $18 million, buying high) provides the downside here.

4. Dodgers. By re-signing Ted Lilly and bringing back Jon Garland (who will miss the start of the season with an oblique injury), Ned Colletti ensured that a better pitching staff will patrol Chavez Ravine. I think Don Mattingly will do well - it was time for a change, as Joe Torre himself said - yet I understand the opinion of those who question whether Mattingly will do well. And therein lies the potential downside.

5. Milwaukee. They're going for it in a huge way, with the acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to accompany Prince Fielder for his (extremely likely) last year in town. Greinke, however, will start the season on the disabled list due to an injury suffered while playing basketball.


1. Cincinnati. The Reds easily were the most inert of the eight playoff teams from 2010, as their comings and goings barely registered. The extension to Bronson Arroyo was the biggest expenditure, and that was probably ill-advised.

Really, the best news to hit the Reds since their NLDS loss to the Phillies has been the bad news suffered by their competitors, as the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the season and the Brewers lost Greinke for the start. Hey, you take your upside when you can find it.

2. Colorado. I disliked the Troy Tulowitzki extension so much - why in the world would you extend a guy who's already committed into his free agent years, as opposed to the Carlos Gonzalez extension - that I put them in this column. Overall, though, their moves could result in a better 2011 team.

3. Pittsburgh. Not a big fan of their player moves, but I do think Clint Hurdle was about as perfect a hire as manager as they could have found. So there's something.

4. Washington. I think the Jayson Werth contract was remarkably dumb, but he still is Jayson Werth, and perhaps he can provide a short-term boost. Then again, maybe he'll be absolutely miserable as the face of a last-place team. The starting rotation still looks quite bad.


1. Houston. The Astros' biggest winter move was signing Wandy Rodriguez to a long-term deal. And Rodriguez is currently sidelined with right shoulder tendinitis.

2. Mets. Yeah, I'm obviously high on the Sandy Alderson hiring, and I like the player moves that Alderson and his new crew made. I'm even willing to suspend disbelief and think that maybe, just maybe, Terry Collins will be all right, based on the impressive way Collins has conducted himself in spring training.

But there's that ownership situation, which hangs over and defines everything that occurs in the Mets' world. As long as that remains unresolved - and it's gonna be a while, to slightly paraphrase the Snickers commercial - it'll be difficult for the actual baseball team to extract itself from the nonsense.

3. St. Louis. Even before Wainwright went down for the season, the Cardinals made the questionable moves - fueled by Tony La Russa's desires - of signing Lance Berkman (to play rightfield!) and Ryan Theriot. It could be an ugly, Torre-esque ending to La Russa's managerial career.

4. San Francisco. They were losers in this space a year ago, and that seemed to work out all right. But at this juncture, of course, with no results to grade, all we can analyze is the process. And a process that pays Aubrey Huff a large amount of money to stick around at age 34 and decides that Miguel Tejada is your shortstop is not a great process to me.

--Here's my column on Manny Banuelos from last night. He's an impressive kid.

--OK, just like David Banner in "The Incredible Hulk" series, it's time for me to pack my bags and move on. Port St. Lucie tonight for Nationals-Mets. I'll check in later.

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