The National League Central shaped up to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball last season. Now, as the 2013 season approaches, just about every team is scrambling to improve and make decisions.
If it weren't for the Pittsburgh Pirates' (second) epic collapse, the National League Central could have had a three-team race. Actually, the Cincinnati Reds rose above the rest of the competition, but the St. Louis Cardinals were pretty impressive nonetheless. Now, with the division thinned out (bye, bye Houston Astros), the remaining five teams are looking to build themselves into contenders, maintain their success, or simply dig out of the basement.
This is about the time that Kyle Lohse is probably questioning his representation. Things worked out to the tune of $48 million guaranteed for Michael Bourn, but Lohse is still sitting atop the list of the best free agents but without any real interest. Lohse turned down the St. Louis Cardinals' qualifying offer and has become less attractive on the free agent market because of it.
Lohse is looking for a multi-year deal, much like Bourn was. Bourn was able to find a team willing to part with their first round pick, but Lohse has not been so lucky. And he doesn't seem to have any luck hiding up his sleeve either, as no one is biting even as pitchers and catchers have reported. And for those thinking Lohse will suddenly get a Bourn-like contract, you may want to think again. He's simply running out of time.
Could it be that Jeff Samardzija dislikes the Chicago Cubs so much that he would turn down multiple guaranteed years? That's probably not the case, but he did reject a five-year extension. Many young players are tempted to take these early contract extensions, and it would seem Samardzija is the perfect candidate. He has not been great, but he hasn't been bad, and the Cubs expect big things from him.
He could have guaranteed financial security for himself and his family for the rest of his life had he agreed to the deal, but instead he and the Cubs settled on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. Samardzija, who posted a 3.81 ERA in his first year as a starter, has said he still wants to work toward a long-term deal with the Cubs. This mean, Chicago simply didn't offer him enough.
Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals have both expressed interest in a long-term extension. Unfortunately, that extension does not appear to be close. The two sides are too far apart right now, but they will continue to talk in hopes of getting something done. With Chris Carpenter on the verge of retirement, Wainwright's presence in the rotation is all the more important. He has proven himself as a possible ace while pitching behind Carpenter. Last season, he got a chance to be the number one guy, but he was returning from Tommy John surgery.
It took him some time to readjust, but he figured things out toward the end of the season. In all, Wainwright has started 151 games in his seven year career. In that time, he has posted a 80-48 record with a 3.15 ERA. At 31 years old and in the final year of his contract, the Cardinals will need to lock Wainwright up now, because they may not get a better shot during the offseason. As fans tend to do, some in the Cardinals nation are worrying, but a contract extension can still be accomplished.
It's been one of the biggest questions this offseason. Will Scott Rolen give it another go, or will he call it a career? The All-Star third baseman has suffered through a litany of injuries in his career, mostly to his shoulder, and has been weighing retirement. He has indicated that he may be willing to give it one more year if he finds the right deal. However, it looks like that deal won't come with the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds, Rolen's most recent team, have bowed out of contention to land the free agent. For Rolen, the Reds being out of the picture may equal the end of the line for his career. The Los Angeles Dodgers had been interested, but they are no longer considering the 37-year old. Rolen may find interest elsewhere, but he first must decide if he really wants to continue playing. It doesn't seem to be the teams holding up any potential deal as much as it seems like Rolen simply can't decide if he wants to come back. He will be missed in Cincinnati.