Nationals Baseball: NL East Offseason

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NL East Offseason

While we'll be looking at the Nats this off-season, trying to figure out how they deal with their issues big (what happens at 1st), moderate (what about that 5th starter), and small (no more DeRosas please), they don't play games in a vacuum.  Every other team in the NL East, which is now officially out of the playoffs,  (bad showing for the "best division in baseball".... hahahahhaha) is trying to get better too.  How they end up improving (or not) will play a big role in how the Nats do next year.  Let's take a walk around the division and see what they might be up to these next few months.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves are losing Chipper to and will likely lose Michael Bourn to free agency. Consequently, they'll need to fill holes at 3rd and center.  Since 3rd base is likely to be a weak spot in FA, the Braves will probably look to move Prado to the infield (where he'd rather be anyway) and try to find two outfielders.  The Braves have said they are willing to spend money so it'll be interesting to see who they come up with.  Early thoughts have them looking at Pagan in CF and potentially trading for that LF spot and they have the minor league pitching pieces everyone likes to get to make a nice deal. I can also totally see something like the Braves dealing a 2nd rate prospect for Adam Lind and watching him get back to hitting .280+. Stupid Braves.

Outside of that there isn't much going on here. The could let McCann go by not picking up his potion (they won't) or let David Ross go by not re-signing him (they won't) so the rest is fiddling with the bench and middle innings.  

Philadelphia Phillies

The starting pitching and the closer are fine, but the Phillies are kind of a mess offensively. Victorino and Pence are gone in trade and neither Mayberry nor Brown look like long term answers.  Poor Placido Polanco died at 3rd (1998-2012, Never Forget!). A healthy full year of Utley and Howard will certainly help but it can't be just them, Ruiz, and a prayer that Rollins can have 3 straight decent years (last done by him 2006-2008). They'd also like to shore up a pen that couldn't quite get games to their big name closer. 

They've shown no issues with spending money in the past, which is good because there's nothing in the minors to speak of to trade. There has been talk of going big, and it would make sense somewhat if they could limit those deals to 4 years or so.  They look like they are going to crash hard and ugly so they might as well double down on today.  That'll be hard to do at 3rd, so I look for them to be big players in the OF for "now" type players. Bourn for sure (even if Charlie Manuel likes Rollins at leadoff better - Amaro is not Charlie-dumb), but maybe Swisher or Hunter? A year of Suzuki? Phillies fans are holding out hope for Hamilton who would be scary in that park.

New York Mets 

The Mets could lose a couple of huge pieces in Wright and Dickey.  If they lose those you can forget about this team for the Nats planned success window. Most likely though it seems like they'll use their money to re-sign both these guys and that's about it.  That's not going to sit well for Mets fans who are desperate for the team to make a splash in free agency but Alderson isn't stupid and IF this team is going to be good it's not next year. It makes more sense to wait for Bay's and Santana's contract to come off the payroll ($41 million combined!) and see what happens.

Then again the 2014 class is going to be terribly weak so pulling the trigger a year early knowing fully well there will be little chance of improvement next year could be a smart move. Still I can't see the Mets making that gamble. I think they'd rather let their young starting pitching develop and wait till the pre-2015 offseason to make moves. I look for just a re-signing of Wright and Dickey, definitely a catcher, maybe a low-rent OF (can't be any worse than what they have got now) and some bullpen help. Unless that catcher is somehow Mike Napoli this team will be pretty similar to last year.

 Miami Marlins

The Marlins lose no one.  Whether that's good news or not depends on what you think of this team.  The best thing you can say is that they need so much help, it'll be hard for them to not improve in the offseason. The worst thing you can say is that they need so much help that it'll be hard for them to improve enough to matter.

Normally you'd think being up for a firstbaseman when a lot of teams aren't is a good position to be in but this is a weak class WITH LaRoche.  They'll have to sign someone but I think it'd be smarter to pick up someone super cheap and just put them there for now. Third base is another hole, but why compete when you have other pressing needs.  I think they just ride with the offense they have and hope everything comes together around Stanton.  Instead I see them trying to get a starting pitcher (or two) and putting money into the pen.  It's slapping a fresh coat of paint on what's a jalopy, but there is no reason to spend big money when your offense could show itself to be worthless this year and then where are you?

The Braves should be good again next year and with a couple of right moves could be really good.  The Phillies, if they decide to go all in (like they should) could also be right there. The Mets and Marlins, on the other hand, should both be in a holding pattern.  The Mets waiting for young pitching to blossom. The Marlins waiting for a miracle.  It's going to be a Nats/Braves division for the next few years, the question is whether the Phillies make it interesting for the first couple years, and/or the Mets make it interesting for the last couple. 


cass said...

(bad showing for the "best division in baseball".... )


One strike away, Harper. One strike away.

Quick question: Real early, based on the competition, what do you think the Nats odds of winning the division are? How about just making the playoffs?

blovy8 said...

I bet A-Rod is available.

I thought Frandsen had a shot at keeping the Phillies 3B spot.

blovy8 said...

Reading that last comment from the prior posting, I wonder - do the Nats even offer Lannan arbitration? Is he worth 5 million, or even a lowball 4 million offer? I think he is, but wouldn't they like to sign a better pitcher than him? He won't have an option left this year. I never heard a very serious trade offer last year, and I doubt things have changed if they are stuck with that kind of one-year deal in April.

Donald said...

With the Phillies, I think most of their season next year is going to depend on their starting pitchers. If Halliday and Lee stay healthy and effective they could be decent. If those two suffer, it might not matter what other moves they've made.

Harper said...

cass - just mocking the early season thoughts that the NL East was a power house when it turned out to be allright.

Early - I'd give the Nats like anywhere from a 70-90% chance of the playing the playoffs (depends on what Philly does mostly). Division title would be lower - around 55-60% now.

blovy8 - I think he will keep it but not because he really should, nothing better out there.

I bet they let him walk, honestly. And then he goes to the Mets or Yankees and he is... fine.

Donald - True but if they can't put together another bat or two, next year will probably look a lot like this one.

blovy8 said...

The other thing about the Phillies is whether those core players can stay healthy. It doesn't look like Ruiz and Utley are going to be everyday players. They need a good corner outfielder to take advantage of their ballpark a little more.

I would guess the Marlins and Mets are still going to be caught in between, for the former it'll probably depend on how they start. I don't think the slight bump in attendance would encourage them to continue spending money like they did last year, and they ditched Sanchez, who I think is underrated.

Pagan is significantly worse than Bourn, even with the fade that guy did in September. Atlanta may still be a reasonable place for him to land if all these big offers don't actually happen and teams are sensible - a lot of his value is defense.

Anonymous said...

The Braves have potions!

"The could let McCann go by not picking up his potion (they won't)..."

Damn you autocorrect.

Froggy said...

I know this is a bit out of the box, but having had four shoulder surgeries myself, I winced when I saw how Zimn's mechanics looked on a lot of relatively routine throws to first. There is something not right in there, and it could be fixed in time for next season, but lets just say it isn't. And things don't go so well with negotiations with LaRoche. Does it make any sense to move Ryan to 1B as a place holder.

On the otherhand, a quick scope to clean things up and he could be good as new.

Kenny B. said...

I was also worried about Zimm. He had a lot of cortisone shot into him. That must create some issues. The last thing we need is for him to be hurt for most of a season.

Wouldn't mind seeing a post from Harper on the Nats' minor league system. I don't really follow it that closely, but I understand it's more or less barren at the moment.

And are the Nats considering themselves set with Bryce in CF? I always took that as a short-term approach, and thought they would keep looking for a prototypical CF. But then that raises questions of what the rest of the OF looks like. Harper in RF, Werth in LF? Then Morse at 1st? No Morse at all?

I'm also sort of weirded out by how similar the 2013 Nats will be to the 2012 Nats. I don't think we've really had that kind of stability in DC sports in awhile, outside the Caps.

Donald said...

Part of the complexity for Rizzo this off-season is because of prospects that won't be available to start 2013 but could be for 2014. In CF, they have Brian Goodwin who they are pretty high on. I don't see Corey Brown or Eury Perez being the long-term solution but Goodwin could be. So do they try for Bourne or Upton on a multi-year deal if they may only have a gap for 1 or 2 years? They have a number of strong pitchers in the farm system too, but they are all at least a year or two away. There's not much in AAA. The most intriguing option in the near term is probably Christian Garcia if he can make that leap. So for pitching, I think if they could get Grienke or another top-line starter it might make sense, but I don't think it makes sense to get a 4 or 5 starter for multiple years.

In the infield, Rendon is obviously their top prospect assuming he can stay healthy. The only issue is there's no natural spot for him. I like the idea of moving Zimm to 1B when Rendon's ready, but Zimm didn't sound like he was all that willing to surrender 3B. How he recovers this winter will probably be what decides that. The alternative, which I wouldn't ordinarily expect, would be to move Rendon to 1B or LF. It's only because of the Lombardozzi and Moore experiments in LF that make me think the Nats would consider this, but what you do with marginal prospects vs. someone like Rendon is probably different.

Kenny B. said...


"bad showing for the 'best division in baseball'.... hahahahhaha"

Too soon...