Free agency hasn't made much of a difference in the NL Central

Posted by Scott Wuerz on January 26, 2014 

The Milwaukee Brewers announced during their fan festival Sunday that they've finally completed a deal with former Chicago Cubs pitcher Matt Garza.

Although the contract guarantees Garza more than $50 million over four years, he was 4-5 last season after being traded to the Texas Rangers with an ERA of 4.38. Throw in Garza's injury history and I wonder if this deal will more closely resemble the huge deal the Brewers gave to Jeff Suppan than it will be a major game changer.

Regardless, it's going to apparently rank as one of the biggest deals in the National League Central this winter.

The Cubs pretended to be in the running for Japanese free agent Masahiro Tinaka. But in the end they'll hold onto their cash and slice the payroll from about $150 million four years ago to somewhere in the $80 million range in 2014.

The Reds lose Shin-Soo Choo to free agency and then tried to replace him with a guy who hasn't played in two seasons, Grady Sizemore. But, after GM Walt Jocketty confidently said that he thought a Sizemore deal would get done, the oft-injured outfielder jilted Cincinnati and signed instead with the Boston Red Sox.

In Pittsburgh the Pirates waived goodbye to the two players they brought in last season at the trade deadline, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd. They could also lose veteran starting pitcher AJ Burnett who apparently has not yet decided if he will retire. The Bucs GM said over the weekend that if Burnett doesn't play in 2014, the Pirates won't try to replace him through free agency.

When you add it all up, the Cardinals signing of Jhonny Peralta seems to be the biggest potential difference maker in the division. Not only will the birds hit better from the shortstop position. But they're deeper because they signed Peralta as a free agent instead of trading from their young pitching surplus.

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