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Grading the First Half of the Offseason: NL Central

The Cardinals got a new slugger, with everyone else doing some work, too.

Cincinnati Reds v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

It’s the end of January. We are more than halfway through the offseason, and the biggest free agent stars (such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, and Marwin Gonzalez) are still free agents.

Let’s check out and grade how every National League East team has done this offseason, listed in order of their 2018 regular season records.

Milwaukee Brewers: B+

2018 record: 95-67
Although it has been somewhat quiet, this offseason for the Brewers has been solid. As they say, quality over quantity. Their winter kicked off with just one notable move in November, which was southpaw Angel Perdomo inking a minor league deal with Milwaukee while also receiving a spring training invite; later, catcher Tuffy Gosewisch and righty Deolis Guerra to similar deals. Although the Brewers didn’t make any major league signings until the New Year, they did make a pair of trades in December. First, they acquired southpaw Alex Claudio from the Texas Rangers in exchange for a future draft pick. Days later, they finalized a trade with the busy Seattle Mariners that sent outfielder Ben Gamel and righty Noah Zavolas to Milwaukee and outfielder Domingo Santana to Seattle. To kick off 2019, the Brewers agreed to a major league deal with infielder Cory Spangenberg, before also agreeing to big league deals with pitcher Jake Petricka and catcher Yasmani Grandal a couple of weeks later. In the midst of those signings, they also sent outfielder Keon Broxton to the New York Mets for righties Adam Hill and Bobby Wahl, and infielder Felix Valerio. Before moving on to the next team, you should be provided with one more cheesy, cryptic, and perhaps inspirational quote as you take in the moves that the Brewers have made to this point: sometimes, less is more.

Chicago Cubs: B

2018 record: 95-67
This offseason has been a tough one to figure out for the Chicago Cubs. Just like Milwaukee, the Cubs have been quiet. But also just like Milwaukee, perhaps less is more. They kicked off their offseason by freeing up some cap space as they sent lefty Drew Smyly and a player to be named later to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a different player to be named later. That move was followed by an additional trio of moves, as they acquired righty Rowan Wick from the San Diego Padres for infielder Jason Vosler and infielder Ronald Torreyes from the New York Yankees for a player to be named later, while also sending infielder Tommy La Stella to the Los Angeles Angels for southpaw Connor Lillis-White. Amidst all of this, they made one major league signing, when southpaw Kyle Ryan put pen to paper on a one-year deal. December featured just two notable moves, and they were the only notable ones since: the signings of infielder Daniel Descalso and righty Kendall Graveman. It’s obviously not quite what Cubs fans were hoping for, but you can be the judge of just how short the front office staff has fallen to this point.

St. Louis Cardinals: C+

2018 record: 88-74
The Cardinals have also made a flurry of moves this season, which comes as a delight to many fans and a disappointment to others. First of all, they’ve signed many players to minors deals with big league camp invites. That class features pitchers Williams Perez, Mike Hauschild, Tommy Layne and Hunter Cervenka. Since then, the Cardinals have made a trio of other notable moves. The least popular of those three is the acquisition of outfielder Drew Robinson from the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Patrick Wisdom. The next biggest one was the signing of star reliever Andrew Miller on a multi-year deal. And last but certainly not least was the trade that brought the best first baseman in baseball to Missouri, when the Cardinals acquired Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Carson Kelly, righty Luke Weaver, infielder Andy Young and a draft selection.

Pittsburgh Pirates: B

2018 record: 88-74
The Pittsburgh Pirates are often a confusing team. Are they contenders? Are they rebuilders? Or, are they somewhere in the middle? (Hint: pick number three.) The Pirates have made some underrated moves this season that certainly pushes them closer to being contenders, if only they weren’t in such a challenging division that will be led by the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals for several years to come. Pittsburgh began their offseason by bringing back infielder Jung Ho Kang on a major league deal, and later in November, adding outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall to the big league squad, too. In the middle of all of this, the Pirates sent outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff to the Cleveland Indians for righties Dante Mendoza and Tahnaj Thomas, and infielder Erik Gonzalez. They also sent pitcher Tanner Anderson to the Oakland Athletics for a player to be named later, which ended up being righty Wilkin Ramos. They also signed righty Roberto Gomez, southpaw Tyler Lyons, and catcher Steven Baron to minor league deals and extended spring training invites to that trio. Later, the club sent righty Ivan Nova to the Chicago White Sox for minor-league pitcher Yordi Rosario and international slot money. The final notable transaction involving the Pirates that has yet to be mentioned is their signing of southpaw Tyler Lyons. The Pirates have a smart front office and coaching staff, and a bright future ahead of them.

Cincinnati Reds: A-

2018 record: 67-95
The Reds are a team that deserves a lot of attention. They somewhat-surprisingly struggled in 2018, but have done a terrific job in recent drafts and this offseason to help prepare for a playoff run sooner than many people may expect. To kick off the winter, the Reds signed a group of players to minor league deals with spring camp invites, including catcher Juan Graterol and Christian Colon, outfielders Mason Williams, Jordan Patterson, Kyle Wren and Aristides Aquino, and pitchers Kevin Shackelford, Felix Jorge, Buddy Boshers, Anthony Bass and Odrisamer Despaigne. Next up was the acquisition of Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals, which only cost the Reds minor-league pitcher Tanner Rainey. After that came the massive deal with the Dodgers that brought outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood, catcher Kyle Farmer, and cash to the the Reds while pitcher Homer Bailey and prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray went to Los Angeles. The Reds weren’t done yet, though. After claiming southpaw Robby Scott off waivers from the Boston Red Sox, the Reds flipped him to the Diamondbacks for cash. And finally, the Reds struck a deal to acquire pitcher Sonny Gray (as well as Reiver Sanmartin) from the New York Yankees in exchange for prospect Shed Long (who was quickly flipped to the Seattle Mariners) and a competitive balance pick, which led to the Reds locking up Gray for the future as they signed him to a three-year, $30.5 million extension, which, added on to his current contract, keeps Gray under contract through 2022, or 2023 if the Reds exercise his club option worth $12M, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.