This Week's Storylines: NL Central

It's been a pretty wild past week in baseball. Much of the craziness has to do with teams and players in the NL Central. For one, Albert Pujols has made it more known than ever that he wants a $300MM contract. Also, the Brewers locked up yet another piece of their young core -- Rickie Weeks, agreeing to a 5 year/$50MM deal which will keep the second baseman in navy and gold for many years to come. With Spring Training finally here, there are lots of other news buzzing around the NL Central and the rest of baseball, so i've rounded up some notes from writers around SB Nation's NL Central team blogs, who were kind enough to provide us with links and storylines.

Brewers

First and foremost, in light of the aforementioned Weeks deal, Brew Crew Ball's Kyle Lobner had this to say about the Weeks deal and the Brewers current state:

"The Brewers waited until the last minute to do it (less than 24 hours before his scheduled arbitration hearing), but this week they got a deal done with second baseman Rickie Weeks, who will be a Brewer through at least 2014 and could earn $50 million over that time if he plays enough to trigger a vesting option. With Weeks locked up long term, six members of the likely Opening Day lineup, Yovani Gallardo and closer John Axford, among others, are under team control through the 2013 season or longer."  - Kyle Lobner

To go along with what Kyle said, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Jorunal Sentinel broke down the terms of the deal. As I Kyle mentioned, most of the Brewers young core will be around for several more years. Despite the possibility of losing slugger Prince Fielder following the 2011 season, the Brewers now have Braun, Weeks, Hart, Gallardo, Axford, Braddock, and possibly McGehee under control for quite a while.

 

Reds

Red Reporter and BtB's very own Justin (Jinaz) was also kind enough to gather up some links and news surrounding the Redlegs. As you may or not know, the Reds have plenty and plenty of depth. Pitching depth, catching depth, infield depth, and the same goes for the outfield. The only problem with that is the Reds have more roster decisions to make than most, for pitchers as well as position players. Justin had this to say about the Reds:

"The big questions going into spring are the rotation and left field.  The top of the rotation is set (Arroyo-Cueto-Volquez), but there is a three-way battle between Homer Bailey, Travis Wood, and Mike Leakefor the last two spots.  Bailey is out of options, and showed very impressive peripherals in '10, so he's favored.  Leake has yet to spend time in the minors, and the sentiment right now is that he's likely to get his first start in AAA in April.  But who knows?  In left field, it's between Jonny Gomes, Frank Lewis, and possibly someone like Chris Heisey or Yonder Alonso.  Most likely scenario right now is a platoon between Gomes & Lewis." - Jinaz

 

Cubs 

Al Yellon, of Bleed Cubbie Blue did a four part series this past week regarding the last few available spots on the Cubs 25-Man Roster. The Cubs 5th starter, the 5th outfielder, the 6th infielder, as well as deciding who should fill the back of the Cubs bullpen were among the topics discussed with the Bleed Cubbie Blue community. Al also had this to say about the Cubs:

"There isn't a whole lot of "news" with the Cubs, nothing major. Marmol signed a three-year, $20m deal, which is pretty reasonable by today's closer standards. It buys out his arb years." - Al Yellon

I'm not going to say that I agree with the contract, but the Cubs have one of the most interesting arms in the NL in Marmol, and made sure that they'll have him for at least three more years. BtB's Justin Bopp created a graph displaying the good and the bad of Marmol, as well as other similar relievers.

 

Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals have had one heck of a week as well. With an apparent negotiating window that has since closed, there seems to be a negative vibe at Cardinals camp right now, regarding the contract situation of Albert Pujols. After Tim Brown tweeted that the Cardinals offered Pujols a contract slightly higher than Mark Teixeira's deal, Viva El Birdos chimed in with their thoughts, including quotes from Dan Lozano, Pujols' agent as well as some words from Bill DeWitt.

All in all, we are virtually certain the Pujols will not be talking about his contract throughout the season, giving us a ton to talk about when he potentially hits free agency. To me, it seems as though he simply wants the money or he wants to match, or out-do A-Rod's contract. However, nothing can really be said until we hear it from the man himself, who recently said he wants to remain a Cardinal for life.

 

Pirates

In a positive story, Charlie from Bucs Dugout writes that Jose Veras appears to now be guaranteed a spot in the Pirates bullpen, according to a quote from Clint Hurdle. The Pirates bullpen now consists of potentially Joe Beimel, Evan Meek, Joel Hanrahan, Veras, Chris Resop, among others. All together, it should be a much improved year for the Pirates, pitching-wise.

In addition to that, whether it's a big issue or not, Scott Olsen had to get his hamstring checked out after leaving practice early. Olsen, who isn't necessarily guaranteed a spot in the pen, was signed a few months ago after a two-year stint with the Nationals.

 

Astros

Finally, not much is happening with the Astros. However, with a potential arbitration hearing taking place soon, Hunter Pence has officially filed for $6.9MM while the team has countered with $5.15MM. Bill discussed a a major problem regarding Hunter Pence. With that said, here's a quote from David Coleman of Crawfish Boxes:

"The Astros are preparing for the upcoming season with a ton of numbers. They have 31 pitchers in camp and need to find a bullpen and a fifth starter out of the huddled masses. Hopefully, someone else will step up so top prospect 20-year old Jordan Lyles doesn't have to fill that role." - David Coleman
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