Earlier today, I ran down what the Cardinals and Cubs got accomplished (or, didn't get accomplished) at the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings last week in Nashville.
Now, we'll continue with the rest of the division to try and develop a whole picture of how the Central can be won in 2016 (along with the moves to be completed in the next two months plus, of course).
Pittsburgh found themselves coming into the meetings having bid adieu to a number of familiar faces. Joe Blanton, Joakim Soria, Sean Rodriguez, Corey Hart, and JA Happ all entered free agency. Aramis Ramirez and AJ Burnett have both retired, and the team declined to tender a contract to their former first round pick and first baseman Pedro Alvarez.
The most notable thing the Pirates accomplished at the meetings was swapping long time 2B Neil Walker with the Mets for SP Jon Niese.
Walker has been an valuable piece to the Pirates roster, putting up anywhere from 2 to 4 bWAR (2.8 WAR/yr) during his six seasons as a pro. His OPS+ never dipped below 107 during this time, peaking at 126 as recently as 2014. That season netted him the a Silver Slugger, if you're into that sort of thing. Walker's defense is unspectacular (at best), but his bat, at just over 30 years old, should provide value to the Mets, who weren't themselves lighting up the highlight real at 2B in 2015.
In exchange, the Pirates receive Jon Niese, who I'm sure they will turn into something close to the 2012 version of himself, when he pitched 190 innings of 3.40 ERA ball for the Mets, good for a 112 ERA+. Because finding veteran pitchers and making them good again is something that Pirates have excelled at over the years. Otherwise, Pittsburgh can drop him after this season with a $500K buyout.
For Niese, a Francisco Liriano type renaissance would be just what the doctor ordered, as 2015 was something of a struggle for him, good for only a 89 ERA+ that featured his SO/W drop by a little more than one. Overall, he's been a solid pitcher for a Mets rotation that's evolved into something of a powerhouse that left him as the odd man out.
Aside from picking RHP Juan Nicasio on a $3 million deal to add some heat to their bullpen and listening to everyone in baseball who wanted to know about the availability of Mark Melancon (who they did not end up dealing despite lengthy discussions of the contrary), the Pirates, who were thought to be one of the main movers and shakers of the meetings, were quiet.
They did on Saturday part with veteran starter Charlie Morton, who went to the Phillies for David Whitehead, who was the 34th selection in the 2013 draft. Just off a full season of 4.44 ERA ball at A+, Whitehead reportedly has a ceiling that tops out at the back-end of a rotation. More importantly for the Pirates, they shed Morton's salary in anticipation of Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. And, today they re-signed Sean Rodriguez to fight Gatorade coolers in the dugout.
Of course, this all comes with the usual caveat before the over-reactions pour in: The off-season doesn't end at the meetings. The Pirates have plenty of time to fill out their rotation with, say, Mat Latos (because of course they will), trade Mark Melancon, and fill their holes at first and second base. They just didn't do it at the meetings.
The Brewers join the Reds in the basement of the NL Central (and both appear to stick there for the foreseeable future), and they also joined their Central counterparts in their inaction, for the most part.
They listened all week about trades for former All-Star Jonathan Lucroy, who, in this scenario, is basically the Brewers Todd Frazier. And like Todd Frazier, the Brewers are looking to get a great return for the affordable young catcher and as a result, the making the deal is difficult for other teams to justify. The Rangers reportedly checked in, but considered the price the Brewers were asking them to pay to be "prohibitive." Lucroy will almost surely be traded, if not soon, down the road in this process. But, like the Reds, the Brewers aren't rushing to make that deal.
In actual moves, the Brewers deal Adam Lind to the Mariners for three pitching "prospects" that are basically 12 years old. Seriously, not one of them is 20 years old yet, and a million years away from the majors. That's not necessarily a criticism of Milwaukee's front office; it's a decent get from a fairly limited slugging first baseman that would've been gone after next year. If one of these pitchers pans out, they should do so when the Brewers are good again. If they don't? Shrug emoticon.
And, really, that was about it. Our friends over at Brew Crew Ball have a nice summary of their meetings (that's not to say that our friends at the other blogs haven't, just that BCB can give you a better run down of the full teardown than I possibly could).
We're just a little over two months away from pitchers and catchers reporting, but there's still a lot of off-season left, and a lot moves to be made in the Central. The Pirates and Cardinals will assuredly continue to make a move or three. Can they catch the Cubs? Will the Cubs receive a trophy for winning the meetings?