While the Cardinals have built a team that is in good shape to return to the playoffs in 2012, the Cincinnati Reds are continuing to make moves and appear to be the biggest challenge to the NL Central crown in 2012. I’m not counting out the Brewers in any way at this point, and I’m also not so sure that the Cards are done making moves.
So I’ll start off today by putting a few things out there that I think may happen. One, the Cardinals may sign Roy Oswalt. Oswalt is looking for a 1 year deal at this point, and while the Cards appear to have the starting rotation set, it’s getting hard to ignore why Oswalt is still available. The Cards apparently floated the idea of trading Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook earlier at the winter meetings, and you have to wonder if they are continuing to do so. At the Winter-Warm Up this weekend, John Mozeliak didn’t exactly kill the idea of signing Oswalt, stating that he “likes the idea of an insurance policy” as well as “There’s no doubt he would be a nice addition, but I just don’t know how practical it would be at this time”.
Adding Oswalt makes a lot of sense and would give the Cards another potential ace when the playoffs come. 2011 may have been a down year for Oswalt, but it was still a good one. The Yankees and Red Sox seem out of the running for his services, and Oswalt wanting a 1 year deal to prove he’s still got it is good news for the Cards chances IMO. The Cardinals have been rumored to Oswalt along with the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers. Also of note is Lance Berkman apparently trying to urge both the Cards and Oswalt to get something worked out.
Kyle McClellan is next. McClellan apparently wants the opportunity to be a starter somewhere, and it doesn’t appear that chance is going to be in St. Louis. I’m not sure if the McClellan is going to be back with the Cards in 2012. The Cards have a bullpen that is full of young arms, with plenty more on the way. It may be time for them to cut ties with McClellan, and they may find his price tag a little high for a reliever in 2012 with cheaper options.
On to the competition, it’s hard to ignore what the Reds are building. Along with signing Padres ace Mat Latos, the Reds have added closer Ryan Madson, and gave themselves another bat in Ryan Ludwick. The Ludwick signing may not have caught a lot of attention, but he’s now going from one of the hardest places to hit a HR in Petco Park to one where the ball flies out easily in Cincy. Ludwick won’t be counted on to be a star in Cincy, he’ll just be another piece hitting lower in the order to already potent lineup. Ludwick will probably split time in LF with Chris Heisey, hitting 6th or 7th.
The Milwaukee Brewers are a team that a lot of folks seem to be writing off in 2012, but I’m not one of them. While they lost Prince Fielder as well as Ryan Braun for 50 games, they added Aramis Ramirez, and still have a strong rotation and bullpen. The Brewers might end up trading K-Rod, but at this point he’s set to be the set-up man for John Axford for the entire year. The Brewers will also have Zack Greinke to start the year in 2012 to go along with Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum. That’s still a very good staff.
Right now it appears the NL Central will be a 3 team race, but there’s still 32 days left until pitchers and catchers report. Oswalt will be signing with someone soon, and that might change the odds on paper. Right now Vegas has the odds to win the 2012 World Series for these 3 teams as: