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Article:NL Central: Who Is Better and Who Is Worse?

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1.) Chicago Cubs (85-77) Additions: OF Kosuke Fukudome
Subtractions: OF Jacque Jones, OF Cliff Floyd, C Jason Kendall, SP Mark Prior

Net: +3. A quiet offseason for the Cubs, after they mortgaged their future last year. Fukodome is a big upgrade in the outfield, and the Cubs didn't really lose anything that mattered.

2.) Milwaukee Brewers (83-79) Additions: RP Eric Gagne, RP Salomon Torres, C Jason Kendall, RP Guillermo Mota, OF Mike Cameron, RP David Riske
Subtractions: C Johnny Estrada, OF Geoff Jenkins, RP Francisco Cordero, RP Scott Linebrink, RP Matt Wise

Net: +2. A lot of moves, especially in the bullpen, but they have done nothing really to get better. The on exception is the signing of Mike Cameron. He improves their defense immensely, not just with his own work in center, but his signing allows the Brewers to get Ryan Braun in the outfield where he belongs.

3.) St. Louis Cardinals (78-84) Additions: SP Matt Clement, SS Cesar Izturis
Subtractions: Of Jim Edmonds, SS David Eckstein, RP Troy Percival

Net: -3. Coming off a mediocre season, the Cards' big move was to sign a 33 year old pitcher who hasn't pitched since June 14, 2006. Talk about underwhelming.

4.) Houston Astros (73-89) Additions: RP Jose Valverde, SS Miguel Tejada, 2B Kaz Matsui, OF Michael Bourn, RP Geoff Geary, OF Darin Erstad
Subtractions: 2B Craig Biggio, IF Chris Burke, RP Chad Qualls, OF Luke Scott, RP Brad Lidge, SS Adam Everett, SP Jason Jennings

Net: +6. I like what the Astros have done. Bourn is a dynamic leadoff hitter, Geary and Valverde give the Astros a top notch pen, and Matsui is a solid #2 hitter. The big gamble, and the key to their season, is Tejada. Can he still be a middle of the lineup force? Or is last season's power outage the start of a downward trend? And finally, will his legal troubles keep him off the field? If Tejeda lives up to his reputation, Houston could have put themselves in the middle of the Central race.

5.) Cincinnati Reds (72-90) Additions: SP Edinson Volquez, RP Francisco Cordero, RP Jeremy Affeldt
Subtractions: OF Josh Hamilton

Net: +4. The Reds needed to improve their pitching, and they have done that. Their 4.94 team ERA was next to last in the league last season, and they needed to get some good arms. Volquez has what scouts call 'electric stuff', and Cordero is a proven, solid closer coming off a great season. Their pitching is much better, but still probably only good for about a .500 ballclub.

The NL Central has the makings of being a very fun division to watch in 2008. The Cubs are certainly the team to beat, but the rest of the division is full of good young players who could make a run at things. I'll go out on a limb with one prediction - the Cards will barely keep themselves above the Pirates and finish in fifth place. The rest of the division has passed them by.


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