The club that won the National League pennant began strengthening itself just one month after breaking out the champagne. Meanwhile, its division rival in Cincinnati has done little to improve.
St. Louis traded third baseman David Freese, a hometown boy who had been the World Series Most Valuable Player in 2011. He struggled last season, though, hitting just .262 with nine home runs.
The Cardinals sent Freese to the Angels in exchange for outfielder Peter Bourjos, thereby strengthening their chances of defending their N.L. Championship. Bourjos, a speedster who in 2011 stole 41 bases and led the league in triples, bunts and infield hits, provides insurance in case top prospect Oscar Tavares is not ready to take over center field.
Earlier in the week, the Reds themselves made a move that did little to strengthen their club. They signed former St. Louis utility player Skip Schumacher, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cincinnati could have used Bourjos as a replacement for departing free agent Shin soo Choo, last season’s leadoff hitter and center fielder. Unfortunately, the Reds seem content to entrust both roles to prospect Billy Hamilton, an exciting player who has yet to hit consistently at any level.
Once again, Cincinnati fans will have to watch as its bitter rival proactively addresses its weaknesses, while the Reds sign utility players such as Schumacher and catcher Angel Pena. Last winter they inked deals with Cesar Izturius and Jack Hannahan, who became part of the reason the Reds finished in third.
With the departure of Choo and starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati has crucial needs that need to be addressed long before Opening Day. Hamilton may work out, but there is no backup plan. The Reds seldom do have a backup plan, other than crossing fingers and acquiring utility players.
Right now, just two months from the start of spring training, Cincinnati has holes at leadoff and cleanup. On the other hand, the Cardinals have a solid lineup, as well as veteran John Jay and their top prospect as insurance.