To say baseball's landscape has shifted this offseason is an understatement. The gap between the top and the bottom isn't as vast in the NL as it is in the AL, but this offseason was a time of reckoning for some teams with ownership troubles (Dodgers and Mets) and a time of emergence for others (Marlins). Here's how each NL team did during the winter. (You can find my AL grades here.)
Miami Marlins – Grade: A
Key Transactions: Acquired RHP Carlos Zambrano and cash from Chicago Cubs for RHP Chris Volstad; signed SS Jose Reyes, six years, $106 million; signed LHP Mark Buehrle, four years, $58 million; signed RHP Heath Bell, three years, $27 million; signed IF Greg Dobbs, two years, $3 million.
The Marlins hadn’t signed a major free agent since they inked Carlos Delgado back in 2005. However, with the excitement of a new stadium and Ozzie Guillen as manager, owner Jeffrey Loria opened up the checkbook. They signed the second-best shortstop in baseball, improved the rotation, upgraded the bullpen and improved the clubhouse by 180 degrees. The Marlins are finally legitimate contenders for the division or a wild-card berth.
Cincinnati Reds – Grade: A-
Key Transactions: Acquired RHP Mat Latos from San Diego for 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Edinson Volquez and RHP Brad Boxberger; acquired LHP Sean Marshall from Chicago Cubs for LHP Travis Wood, OF Dave Sappelt and IF Ronald Torreyes; acquired IF Wilson Valdez from Philadelphia for LHP Jeremy Horst; signed RHP Ryan Madson, one year, $8.5 million; signed OF Ryan Ludwick, one year, $6.78 million; signed LHP Jeff Francis, one year, $2 million; signed RHP Andrew Brackman, one year, $500,000.
The Reds weren’t afraid to trade away four of their top 10 prospects this offseason, but the haul from those deals at the major league club was astounding. Latos is a potential No. 1 starter; Marshall is a shutdown left-handed setup man; and Madson is an impact closer. Ludwick was a solid midlevel free-agent signing who should add some pop in the small confines of Great American Ball Park. The Reds are primed to return to the postseason this year.