Beyond those three, there could again be a gap, as the division's other three clubs seem focused on the longer term rather than the immediate. To their credit, however, the Pirates, Astros and Cubs all seem to be rebuilding in earnest. None of the three clubs seems terribly worried about putting on a better face next year if it means hindering the grand plan.Pittsburgh, which has been exceedingly busy over the winter, improved its defense, but in so doing likely exacerbated what was already a team on-base percentage problem. Erik Bedard could be a stealth bargain for the Bucs, but it's hard to see them cracking the top tier in 2012. The long-term trend looks good, though, and that's the main thing. Meanwhile Houston and Chicago are involved in full-scale roster remakes. New general managers Jeff Luhnow and Theo Epstein, respectively, have wisely decided that 2012 is not the year to focus on. Any of the three could make a run -- after all, who saw the Pirates coming in 2011? -- but more likely is that their brighter days are further off in the future. Here's a look at some of the key comings and goings within the division since the regular season ended. Not all transactions are included. Brewers: Arrivals: Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Jose Veras
Departures: Yuniesky Betancourt, Casey McGehee, Takashi SaitoUnsigned: Fielder Cardinals: Arrivals: Beltran Departures: Pujols, Octavio Dotel Unsigned (but expected to leave): Edwin Jackson, Ryan Theriot Cubs: Arrivals: David DeJesus, Travis Wood, Sonnanstine, Ian Stewart Departures: Marshall, Ramirez Unsigned: Carlos Pena Reds: Arrivals: Latos, Marshall Departures: Yonder Alonso, Hernandez, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood Astros: Arrivals: Jed Lowrie Departures: Mark Melancon, Clint Barmes Pirates: Arrivals: Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, Bedard, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth Departures: Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Doumit, Derrek Lee, Paul Maholm, Jose Veras
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.