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Summing up the Central at the trade deadline

Here's how the National League Central clubs rated at the trade deadline:

1) Pittsburgh: I give the Pirates a solid B+ trade grade. The Bucs ranked 12th in the National League in offense so they added former Cardinals outfielder and cleanup man Ryan Ludwick and former Cubs slugger Derek Lee at first base. Neither play is as splashy as a Carlos Beltran deal would have been. But, togther, they're a pretty good upgrade. Both players are familiar with NL Central pitchers, so the Pirates got the most bang for their trade buck.

2) St. Louis: The Cardinals weren't able to make the sexy deal for Padres closer Health Bell. But they did significantly improve the bullpen -- and the starting rotation in the trade that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto. If the Redbirds had the bullpen they have now all season they'd be in first place by five or six games. The Rasmus trade has been unfairly criticized as being short sighted, but I disagree. The enigmatic centerfielder and his meddling father had to go. And the longer the Cardinals held on to Rasmus, the less they were going to get in return. St. Louis GM John Mozeliak didn't make a bad deal from a position of strenght, he made a pretty good deal from behind the eight ball. Who knows what happens if Albert Pujols leaves as a free agent. Maybe the Birds re-sign 26-year-old starter Edwin Jackson and the deal looks a whole lot better over the long term... The Cardinals trade for Rafael Furcal was a low risk, potentially high reward swap. Sure, Furcal is hitting .197 after spending a long stay on the DL with a broken hand and another stay with a muscle pull. But his bat has been showing a lot of signs of life lately. And it's not like Furcal is the Ancient Mariner. He's 33 and he hit .300 last year. If Furcal plays his usual level of defense at short and hits .250 the Birds are going to be a much better team. But I suspect Furcal, who is playing for a contract, might do a lot better than that. Grade: B+

3) Milwaukee: The Brewers made the sexy trade, adding Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets last week. The only trouble the Brew Crew already had a pretty good closer. Using K-Rod as an eighth inning guy is pretty luxurious. But who is going to replace the injured Rickie Weeks at second base? Former Cardinal, Diamondback, Ray, Red, National and Brewer Felipe Lopez? Jerry Hairston Jr.?I don't think so. Neither of those players can replace Weeks' bat. Not even close. Grade: C-

4) Cincinnati: Sinking in the NL Central standings, the Reds were rumored to be in play for Ubaldo Jiminez, James Shields and Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne. In the end they did next to nothing, sending away Jonny Gomes for minor league help. The Reds are still dangerous. But they're not going to get a much-needed shot in the arm. Grade: D

5) Chicago: The Cubs sent Kosuke Fukodome to Cleveland to save some cash. But they were unable to stock the minors by trading Carlos Lee, Aramis Ramirez or Carlos Zambrano. Grade: D.

6) Houston: The Astros dealt away their best remaining position player, Hunter Pence. Then they dealt their second best player, Michael Bourne. If they could find someone to take his terrible contract they would have dealth Wandy Rodriguez. The cupboard is very bare in Houston and I feel terrible for their fans who are going to have to suffer through a few years of scorched earth. Time will tell if the return the Astros got was worth it. But Bourne and Pence are young players that the team could have built around. Grade: F

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