A team-by-team look at the National League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:
St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Mike Matheny (fifth season).
2015: 100-62, first place, lost to Cubs in NLDS.
Training Town: Jupiter, Florida.
Park: Roger Dean Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 18/23.
He’s Here: RHP Mike Leake, INF Jedd Gyorko, RHP Seung Hwan Oh, C Brayan Pena, RHP Matt Bowman, C Mike Ohlman.
He’s Outta Here: RF Jason Heyward, RHP John Lackey, INF-OF Mark Reynolds, OF Jon Jay, C Tony Cruz, OF Peter Bourjos, INF Pete Kozma, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Matt Belisle, LHP Randy Choate, RHP Steve Cishek.
Going campin’: The Cardinals led the majors with 100 victories last season, and although they made an early exit and took a couple of free agent hits when Heyward and Lackey signed with the Cubs, they appear to have no holes. Mike Leake is a durable rotation addition and ace Adam Wainwright is back from a torn left Achilles tendon that sidelined him for most of last season. Stephen Piscotty, coming off an exceptional rookie debut, likely will be the right fielder. There’s power potential at first base with Brandon Moss a year removed from hip surgery and Matt Adams healthy. The team might again need to monitor the innings load for Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, whose season ended in September due to shoulder woes. Gyorko could get semi-regular playing time at three infield spots while helping 2B Kolten Wong, SS Jhonny Peralta and 3B Matt Carpenter stay fresh. All-Star C Yadier Molina is unlikely to be ready for the opener, leaving Pena as the stand-in starter.
Manager: Clint Hurdle (sixth season).
2015: 98-64, second place, lost to Cubs in wild-card game.
Training Town: Bradenton, Florida.
Park: McKechnie Field.
First Workout: Feb. 19/23.
He’s Here: LHP Jon Niese, 1B John Jaso, INF Jason Rogers, RHP Neftali Feliz, RHP Juan Nicasio.
He’s Outta Here: 2B Neil Walker, 1B Pedro Alvarez, RHP A.J. Burnett, RHP Joakim Soria, RHP Vance Worley, 3B Aramis Ramirez, OF Travis Snider.
Going campin’: The Pirates had the second-best record in the majors in 2015 but their postseason lasted all of one game thanks to Jake Arrieta and the precocious Cubs. While Chicago ramped up its spending in hopes of catching St. Louis, the Pirates stuck to the plan and the budget. They swapped longtime building block Walker for Niese, declined to offer Alvarez a contract and signed Jaso and Rogers, hoping one of them can give Michael Morse some help in a first-base platoon. The back end of the starting rotation is filled with question marks, and the infield could be a work in progress until Jung Ho Kang returns from the broken leg that cut short his rookie season. The strength remains the outfield, led by perennial All-Star Andrew McCutchen and the back end of the bullpen, where setup man Tony Watson and All-Star closer Mark Melancon are among the best 1-2 combinations in the majors. There’s work to be had in front of them, though general manager Neal Huntington has become an expert at filling in the holes with capable arms.
Manager: Joe Maddon (second season).
2015: 97-65, third place, wild card, lost to Mets in NLCS.
Training Town: Mesa, Arizona.
Park: Sloan Park.
First Workout: Feb. 20/24.
He’s Here: OF Jason Heyward, RHP John Lackey, 2B Ben Zobrist, RHP Adam Warren.
He’s Outta Here: 2B Starlin Castro.
Going campin’: The Cubs broke out in a huge way last season and fueled hope that a championship drought dating to 1908 is nearing the end. That optimism has only escalated since the final out of Game 4 of the NLCS. That’s because the Cubs added to a team that already boasted the NL Cy Young winner (Jake Arrieta), Rookie of the Year (Kris Bryant) and Manager of the Year, not to mention sluggers such as Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. Even better, they did it without trading any of their top prospects. They strengthened their outfield and rotation by signing Heyward ($184 million, eight years) and Lackey ($32 million, two years) away from division rival St. Louis. The Cubs also avoided arbitration with Arrieta, agreeing to a $10.7 million, one-year contract. One remaining item on the to-do list: an extension for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. The architect of the team’s overhaul, he is entering the fifth and final season of his contract.
Manager: Craig Counsell (second season).
2015: 68-94, fourth place.
Training Town: Phoenix.
Park: Maryvale Baseball Park.
First Workout: Feb. 21/25.
He’s Here: 1B Chris Carter, IF Aaron Hill, SP Chase Anderson, SS Jonathan Villar, OF Rymer Liriano, 3B Will Middlebrooks, OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, 3B Garin Cecchini
He’s Outta Here: 1B Adam Lind, RP Francisco Rodriguez, SS Jean Segura, SP Kyle Lohse, IF Jason Rogers, OF Shane Peterson
Going campin’: Milwaukee is rebuilding under new general manager David Stearns and Craig Counsell, who is entering his first full season as skipper. The trade of Segura to Arizona seems to pave the way for top shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia to get to the big leagues sooner. Owner Mark Attanasio is giving Stearns full control of the overhaul, which could take a few years before the Brewers are contenders again. Spring training is all about getting incoming veterans like Hill and Carter to fill in the lineup, while continuing to develop young talent already at the major league level like outfielder Domingo Santana and starter Taylor Jungmann. Slugger Ryan Braun will proceed carefully after back surgery. Don’t be surprised if the Brewers continue dealing, with veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy another top candidate to go. After going 6-14 with a 5.63 ERA, pitcher Matt Garza has vowed to improve this spring.
Manager: Bryan Price (third season).
2015: 64-98, fifth place.
Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.
Park: Goodyear Ballpark.
First Workout: Feb. 18/23.
He’s Here: INF Jose Peraza, OF Scott Schebler.
He’s Outta Here: 3B Todd Frazier, closer Aroldis Chapman.
Going campin’: The Reds launched into a full-scale rebuilding last July, trading starters Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake for prospects. The overhaul continued in the offseason with Frazier — the All-Star Home Run Derby champion — and Chapman getting dealt for prospects. Cincinnati tried to trade 2B Brandon Phillips, but he blocked the deals. What’s left is a rotation that lacks experience — it consisted of all rookies the second half of last season — and a bullpen with no proven closer. C Devin Mesoraco (hip surgery) and SS Zack Cozart (reconstructive knee surgery) are expected back. RH starter Homer Bailey had Tommy John surgery last May and will be back at some point, too. But it’s been a long time since the Reds went into spring training with so many things unsettled. They’ll spend the time in Arizona trying to figure out which of the young players is closest to being ready, and who might fit into the rotation. 1B Joey Votto, CF Billy Hamilton and RF Jay Bruce remain, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bruce is traded during the season.