Grading the N.L. East offseason so far

Grading the N.L. East offseason so far
January 17, 2013, 4:30 pm
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After the Nationals’ moves this week - signing free agent closer Rafael Soriano and trading Michael Morse to Seattle - the team’s roster looks pretty close to complete. There may be a few minor moves left in store, but we think Mike Rizzo is almost there. We think.

They could always pull of a big trade involving Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard, or maybe there is a lefty reliever out there they will sign or trade for. But for the most part, it seems all the biggest moves have already been made. There just aren’t that many holes on the Nationals roster, if any truly exist.

At times this offseason, it appeared the Nationals were standing pat with what they had after winning 98 games in 2012. They were going to roll with what worked last season and hope another year of experience would lead to improvement and another step for the team. 

But whatever people wanted to say about the Nationals not being aggressive this offseason has since been disproven. Rizzo and the Nats were, in the end, very proactive in improving their roster for the 2013 campaign.

The Nationals have made some significant changes, but they aren’t the only team in the division who saw some turnover in the last few months. Here is a roundup of the moves made around the division so far and grades for what they have done.

NATIONALS – 98-64 (1st in N.L. East)

IN: SP Dan Haren, CF Denard Span, CL Rafael Soriano, SP Ross Ohlendorf, RP Bill Bray

OUT: SP Edwin Jackson, SP John Lannan, RP Sean Burnett, RP Tom Gorzelanny, RP Mike Gonzalez, 1B/OF Michael Morse, C Jesus Flores, UT Mark DeRosa, SP Chien-Ming Wang

The Nats, as you see, let a lot more players walk out the door than they brought in. This is because the team is banking on players they already had to fill those vacant roles. Tyler Moore now steps up as the first guy off the bench, lefty Zach Duke now heads to the bullpen, and a healthy Wilson Ramos gives the team two catchers. Signing Ohlendorf will give them pitching depth at Triple-A and Bill Bray could play a bigger role than some expect.

But overall, the Nats look much improved. Haren has a higher ceiling than Jackson, Soriano pads the back of the bullpen, and Span makes them better defensively and gives them a natural leadoff hitter. Time will tell.

Grade: B+ (hard to improve on 98 wins, but they’re definitely trying)

BRAVES – 94-68 (2nd in N.L. East)

IN: OF B.J. Upton, OF Jordan Schaefer, RP Jordan Walden

OUT: IF Chipper Jones, SP Tommy Hanson, OF Michael Bourn, SP Jair Jurrjens, SP Ben Sheets, OF Reed Johnson, OF Eric Hinske

In letting Bourn walk and signing Upton, the Braves essentially chose youth and power over the more familiar commodity. Upton will bring some of the same skills as Bourn, but add another dimension in the ability to hit 20+ home runs. He is also a right-handed bat which slots nicely in their lineup built around lefties.

The Braves let a few starting pitchers go, but that was due to a logjam at the position. They will now have more defined roles for their pitching staff as Kris Medlen will begin the season as a starter this time around.

Grade: C+ (maybe not as deep as they were, but could pack more punch)

PHILLIES – 81-81 (3rd in N.L. East)

IN: RP Mike Adams, SP John Lannan, OF Ben Revere, IF Michael Young

OUT: SP Vance Worley, IF Placido Polanco, IF Ty Wigginton, OF Juan Pierre, RP Josh Lindblom

Instead of continuing to sell off pieces and rebuild, the Phillies decided to retool on the fly this offseason. They brought in some veterans in Adams and Young, and took a flier on former a former rival in Lannan. Lannan for one-year, $2.5 million could be a bargain.

Philly’s fortunes will once again depend largely on health, but they clearly improved from their final 2012 roster. Given they starting winning games after trading Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, the tweaks they made could get them back into playoff contention.

Grade: B+ (improved without spending lots of money)

METS – 74-88 (4th in N.L. East)

IN: P Zack Wheeler, C Travis d’Arnaud, P Noah Syndegaard

OUT: P R.A. Dickey, OF Jason Bay, C Kelly Shoppach, C Josh Thole, OF Scott Hairston, P Jon Rauch, P Chris Young, P Ramon Ramirez, P Manny Acosta, IF Ronny Cedeno

The biggest move New York made this offseason was trading the reigning Cy Young award winner Dickey. Normally it would be a shocking move, but the Mets know they are still a few years away and couldn’t pass up the potential return for the knuckleballer. Dickey landed them two of Toronto’s top prospects in d’Arnaud and Syndegaard which set them up nicely for 2014. The Mets will see what some of their young talent can do in 2013, but they don’t look very scary for the near future.

Grade: C (position well for the future, considering)

MARLINS – 69-93 (5th in N.L. East)

IN: IF Placido Polanco, OF Juan Pierre, IF Yunel Escobar, IF Adeiny Hechavarria, SP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis

OUT: SP Josh Johnson, IF Jose Reyes, SP Mark Buehrle, RP Heath Bell, C John Buck, RP Randy Choate

When the Marlins shipped nearly everybody out in a mid-season trade with the Dodgers, the baseball world was shocked. But it turns out Miami was just getting started as they traded essentially the second half of their team almost as soon as the offseason ended. They sent Bell to Arizona in October and then in December sent Johnson, Reyes, and Buehrle to the Toronto Blue Jays. There may be no safe bet as to who wins the N.L. East in 2013, but the Marlins sure look like they are headed for fifth place.

Grade: F+ (the ‘+’ for creativity)