2014 Previews: National League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2014 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League Central.

The Cardinals won the pennant, but they got even better. The Reds and Pirates stood mostly pat. The Brewers have Ryan Braun back, but will that get them anything more than boos? And are the Cubs anywhere closer to contention now?

Below are our team-by-team previews for the NL Central as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division:

St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs

Giants sign Darin Ruf to minor league contract

Darin Ruf
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
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The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reports that the Giants have signed 1B/OF Darin Ruf to a minor league contract.

Ruf, 33, played parts of five seasons in the majors with the Phillies from 2012-16, enjoying occasional offensive success. He spent the last three seasons in the KBO League in South Korea with the Samsung Lions, reigniting his career. Ruf hit an aggregate .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI over 1,756 plate appearances.

Ruf joins an ever-increasing list of players whose major league careers fizzled out, then found new life overseas — Eric Thames and Miles Mikolas are a couple of examples. Ruf will hope to prove himself as a big leaguer once more in spring training with the Giants.