Rating the ever-changing NL East

Rating the ever-changing NL East
December 18, 2012, 1:00 pm
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We're roughly halfway through the offseason, and though there are still plenty of significant decisions to be made before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, most teams' rosters already resemble something close to what they will in 2013.

It's been a particularly eventful Hot Stove League so far in the NL East, with all five clubs making major moves to reshape their rosters (some for the better, some for the worse).

The Nationals, actually, have been the least active team in the division, their only big-league acquisitions so far coming in the forms of Dan Haren and Denard Span. Of course, no team in the East entered the offseason with as few question marks, who were aggressive in plugging two of their only roster holes.

The Braves and Phillies have been a bit more active, trying to make the additions that will catapult them ahead of the division's new powerhouse. The Mets and Marlins, meanwhile, have been in tear-down mode, trading away some of their most-valuable assets in an attempt to restock for the future.

With all that in mind, let's recap what each of the five NL East clubs have done so far this winter, and whether those moves have resulted in a net positive or negative...

NATIONALS
Last season: 98-64, 1st place
Additions: RHP Dan Haren, OF Denard Span
Subtractions: 1B Adam LaRoche (for now), RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Sean Burnett, LHP Michael Gonzalez, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP John Lannan, C Jesus Flores
Net result: Slight negative, though that could change if LaRoche re-signs and if Mike Rizzo is able to acquire a left-handed reliever to replace Burnett. Haren could be an upgrade over Edwin Jackson, if his back and hip truly aren't an issue. Span will be an upgrade defensively, though it's debatable whether he's an offensive upgrade over whomever he ultimately replaces in the lineup (Michael Morse or LaRoche). In the end, though, Rizzo didn't need to do very much roster tweaking. And the two biggest reasons the Nats will be an improved team in 2013 are their two young stars who will be better and will be available for a full season for the first time: Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.

BRAVES
Last season: 94-68, 2nd place
Additions: OF B.J. Upton, RHP Jordan Walden, C Gerald Laird, INF Ramiro Pena
Subtractions: 3B Chipper Jones, OF Michael Bourn, RHP Tommy Hanson, C David Ross, 1B Eric Hinske, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Jair Jurrjens, RHP Peter Moylan
Net result: Even. The Braves signed Upton to the biggest contract in franchise history (five years, $72.5 million) but is he an improvement over Bourn, who departed via free agency? Yes, he hits for more power and is younger, but Bourn really made that lineup click out of the leadoff spot, and his defense in center field was second-to-none. Atlanta did add yet another impressive arm to its already-deep bullpen when it acquired Walden from the Angels. And Laird is a solid No. 2 catcher who can start early in the season if Brian McCann isn't ready to return from shoulder surgery. Like the Nats, the Braves weren't a team with a lot of holes and already had plenty of young talent. They look like they'll be right back in the thick of the race again.

PHILLIES
Last season: 81-81, 3rd place
Additions: 3B Michael Young, OF Ben Revere, LHP John Lannan, RHP Mike Adams
Subtractions: OF Juan Pierre, 3B Placido Polanco, IF Ty Wigginton, OF Nate Schierholtz, C Brian Schneider, RHP Vance Worley, RHP Jose Contreras, RHP Josh Lindblom
Net result: Slight positive. Just when you thought they had reached the end of the road and were ready to rebuild, the Phillies went on a late-season surge that convinced team officials they could make another run at it in 2013. So Ruben Amaro traded for Revere and Young, who should help boost a lineup that ranked in the middle of the pack last year. Amaro did have to give up Vance Worley in the deal to acquire Revere. Whether ex-Nat Lannan can fill that void remains to be seen. And the biggest question of them all: Whether an ever-aging roster can stay healthy enough to make it through a full season intact.

METS
Last season: 74-88, 4th place
Additions: C John Buck
Subtractions: RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole, C Mike Nickeas, RHP Mike Pelfrey, OF Andres Torres, RHP Manny Acosta, OF Scott Hairston, RHP Jon Rauch
Net result: Moderately negative. Though they forked over nine figures to keep David Wright in Flushing for the rest of his career, the Mets decided not to sign Dickey to a contract extension and instead traded the knuckleball ace to the Blue Jays for a bunch of prospects. In the long run, it was probably the smart move, and catcher Travis d'Arnaud is going to be the real deal. But he's several years away, and what remains at Citi Field is not pretty.

MARLINS
Last season: 69-93, 5th place
Additions: RHP Henderson Alvarez, OF Juan Pierre, INF Adeiny Hechavarria, C Jeff Mathis
Subtractions: SS Jose Reyes, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Heath Bell, OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, 1B Carlos Lee, RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Austin Kearns
Net result: Significantly negative. Seriously, look at all those names who have been subtracted from the roster. How could any team recover from that? Just like the Mets, the Marlins will be better off in the long run, and GM Larry Beinfest's track record for acquiring top-notch prospects in exchange for quality big leaguers is rock-solid. But this was a 69-win team last season despite all the talent, and it's hard to see how they'll even match that record with the club they're projected to field in 2013.