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NL report card (cont.)

Posted: Thursday January 18, 2007 10:33AM; Updated: Thursday January 18, 2007 12:07PM
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Marcus Giles looks to have a bounce-back season in San Diego.
Marcus Giles looks to have a bounce-back season in San Diego.
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Milwaukee Brewers
Maybe I'm crazy, but Jeff Suppan for $42 million looks almost like a bargain in this free-agent market. He won 44 games the past three years and starred in the Cardinals' improbable postseason. Estrada is an upgrade at catcher, and they have some special young hitters. Too bad they couldn't upgrade their outfield. No one apparently wants Geoff Jenkins.
Grade: B.

New York Mets
They improved the offense with the signing of accomplished professional hitter Moises Alou and helped a bullpen that's going to get its work with the pickups of Ambiorix Burgos and Scott Schoeneweis and, yes, the re-signing of a presumably unjuiced Guillermo Mota. However, they have held so tightly to their money (they were outbid by $51 million for Zito) and prospects that they appear likely to start the season with a rotation of very old and very young.
Grade: D.

Philadelphia Phillies
GM Pat Gillick still knows how to wheel and deal, and his acquisition of Freddy Garcia is the latest example. Garcia is a big-game pitcher as he heads into his walk year, which is quite often a productive one. The Phillies rested most of the winter, but that's OK because that one deal made it all worthwhile. With an upgraded rotation and dangerous lineup, they should contend in the NL East.
Grade: B+.

Pittsburgh Pirates
It took months, but they finally landed Adam LaRoche from the Braves, a move that significantly improves the lineup. Their other big switch was in the front office, where one newspaperman, Bob Nutting, took over as managing partner for another, Kevin McClatchy. That means they'll probably go from cheap to just as cheap.
Grade: B.

St. Louis Cardinals
They won the World Series after doing nothing last winter (Juan Encarnacion was the big signing) and being barely better than a .500 club in the regular season, so it's hard to keep knocking them. If Mark Mulder looks like a risk and Adam Kennedy a reach, extending Chris Carpenter for $65 million over five years makes the overall effort a success.
Grade: B.

San Diego Padres
My one rule: You can never go wrong with Greg Maddux. And look for David Wells, another plus-40 pitcher, to join them eventually. The Padres had money to burn for once but you can't kill them for staying out of a market that went nuts. That said, their offense still looks short from here. Kevin Kouzmanoff is still just a prospect (though with fine minor-league numbers), Marcus Giles suffered a falloff last year and Jose Cruz Jr. looks like a flier at this stage.
Grade: C+.

San Francisco Giants
What a strange and wild ride it's been (and continues to be). Their attempt at a youth movement seems to consist of one move, the decision to let Schmidt go and replace him with Zito (for many more years). Otherwise, it looks more like they want to hold onto their past, with the re-acquisition of Rich Aurilia and re-signing of Barry Bonds (assuming they finally clear up the "language'' difficulties). It's easy for folks to say they should let Bonds go, but after failing to land Soriano, Lee or Manny Ramirez, among others, who in the name of Willie Mays would bat third? Bengie Molina is one of the most criticized signings (other GMs can't find another team bidding), Dave Roberts looks like an overpay and Ryan Klesko a stretch. What happened to the days when they used to make all the best trades?
Grade: B-.

Washington Nationals
After feigning interest in making their decision not to trade Soriano seem somewhat sensical, then being outbid by double ($70 million to $136 million), they settled into their plan to play for 2010 by signing 21 six-year, minor-league free agents. Get ready for tryout camp.
Grade: F.

• Click here for Jon Heyman's AL report card.

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