Trev Rogers’ Vegas Odds to win the N.L. Central in 2009
With spring training underway, the boys of summer are getting ready to embark on another long season in route to the World Series. Big moves have been made throughout the league but perhaps none more so than the NL Central.
Chicago Cubs -160 to win the N.L. Central (97-64 last season)
After another postseason filled with utter disappointment, the Cubs were forced to do some major retooling during the offseason. Chicago picked up Aaron Miles from the Cardinals, a bright young star who pretty much carried St. Louis on his back into the playoffs last season. Aaron Heilman was acquired in a trade with the Mariners along with former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg who could possibly close out games for Kerry Wood who was lost to free agency. The biggest acquisition was Milton Bradley who will make a nice addition to Aramis Ramirez and Derreck Lee. So, while the Cubs lost some big names like Felix Pie and Mark DeRosa, the team improved overall and could make another run at the NL Central crown.
Cincinnati Reds +600 to win the N.L. Central (74-88 last season)
The Reds may have lost multi-talented utility-man Ryan Freel but they did fill several gaps with nice acquisitions. After struggling through many seasons with David Ross and Jason LaRue at the plate, it will be refreshing for Cincinnati to have a true catcher in Ramon Hernandez who can really put up numbers. Jay Bruce shined after being called up from the minors in 2008, driving in 21 homers with a decent average of .254. Hernandez should fit it well with Bruce as well as solid hitters Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto. The Reds can definitely put up numbers but will surely miss Adam Dunn by mid-season.
Houston Astros +1500 to win the N.L. Central (86-75 last season)
The Astros are trying to get back to the prominence that saw them competing in the World Series a few years ago. Houston added some nice role players to the lineup with back-end starter Clay Hensley and backup catcher Toby Hall, yet they suffered a crucial blow with the loss of Ty “Wiggy” Wiggington at third. It may be up to Ramon Vasquez to hold down third base at least for the start of the season. The Astros should be solid behind the arm of Roy Oswalt and his 129-64 career record as well as Jose Valverde who garnered 44 saves in 2008. However, with Carlos Lee a year older and Miguel Tejada’s career in question, Houston just could end up at the bottom of the division.
To say the Brewers had a rough offseason would be a great understatement. This team made a nice run last season in the playoffs, only to lose their two best starters Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia to the free agency market. Despite the hardships, Milwaukee did re-up with slugger Prince Fielder and bring in the veteran arm of Trevor Hoffman to close out the ninth. Fielder and Ryan Braun will need another all-star season from Corey Hart if they want to play with Cards and Cubs in the Central. With the subtraction of Sabathia and Sheets, Manny Parra and Yovanni Gallardo will need to step it up as starting pitchers as well.
Pittsburgh Pirates +2000 to win the N.L. Central (67-95 last season)
Rumor has it that Pittsburgh is struggling to make ends meet and its shows by the lack of offseason moves. Other than adding Eric Hinske and Ramon Vasquez, the Pirates didn’t do much to increase their chances of making noise in the NL Central. Although they lost Ronny Paulino to the Phillies, that loss should not be as significant when considering Ryan Doumit’s breakout season in 2008. The addition of Hinske could help Doumit tremendously and also encourage Brandon Moss and Craig Monroe to swing their bats a little harder. The batting lineup has potential but starters Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny will need to pitch around .500 or better to get the Pirates a division title.
St. Louis Cardinals +500 to win the N.L. Central (86-76 last season)
It was a quiet offseason for St. Louis as the team did not sign that top-notch pitcher they needed. In addition, they also lost Aaron Miles to Cubs. Instead, the team will rely on veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright and Albert Pujols to right the ship and hopefully lead the Cardinals back to the promise land. Coming off an NL MVP season, Pujols just may be the key to helping St. Louis clinch the division. A batting average of .357 and 37 jacks last season is hard to argue with. Unfortunately, no one knows what role Wainwright will play as he could be starting the game or closing out. When considering that Joel Piniero and Kyle Lohse are mediocre at best, the Cards have what just could be the most suspect rotation in the majors.
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