NL East: Who’s the Beast?

Good Morning, Nats Fans!

Today, in my return from a 3 job caused hiatus, i’ll be taking a look at the NL East. They certainly were active, with the Braves making the biggest move, acquiring both Uptons. The Phillies certainly aren’t dead, bank on that. The Mets will be there, and the Marlins are a joke, there are no other words. So, let’s get into it!

Washington Nationals
2012 Record: 98-64
Result- Won NL East, lost 3-2 in NLDS to St. Louis Cardinals.

Moves:
11/29/12- Acquired CF Denard Span from MIN for RHP Alex Meyer.
12/7/12- Signed RHP Dan Haren (1 yr/$13MM).
1/8/13- Signed 1B Adam LaRoche (2yr/$24MM w/ option)
1/15/13- Signed RHP Rafael Soriano (2yr/$28MM w/ option)
1/16/13- Acquired RHP AJ Cole & Blake Treinen & PTBNL from OAK; Traded OF/1B Mike Morse to SEA in 3 way trade.

Thoughts

The Nats were able to get better in multiple ways while keeping their Major League Roster intact. Mike Rizzo finally gets his dynamic leadoff hitting Center Fielder in Span, and for 3 yrs at less money than one year of BJ Upton. They got back Adam LaRoche keeping a nice righty/lefty balance in their lineup. They add a nice 5th starter in Haren, as they continue to sign placeholder type guys fpr their youngsters. The one casualty of this depth and talent in Mike Morse. He’s a Right Handed Power hitter who simply no longer had a spot on this team anymore. It was obviously more prudent to sign LaRoche because of his Lefty offense and defense at first, so Morse was unfortunately the odd man out. He’ll be fantastic in Seattle, who should be pretty good since they finally added some offense to go along with their pitching. Nevertheless, this Nats team, in my opinion became even more dynamic because of the Soriano and Span additions. Their lineup is certainly top five, their bullpen top three, and i’m not sure their rotation isn’t the best in the Majors.

Prediction: 100-62- NL East Champions.

Atlanta Braves
2012 Record: 94-68
Result: Wild Card. Lost, 6-3, to Cardinals in Wild Card Game

Moves:
10/30/12- Exercised options on C Brian McCann (1yr/$12MM), RHP Tim Hudson (1yr/$9MM) and LHP Paul Maholm (1yr/$6.5MM).
11/16/12- Signed C Gerald Laird (2yr)
11/28/12- Signed CF BJ Upton (5yrs/$75.25MM)
11/30/12- Acquired RHP Jordan Walden from LAA for RHP Tommy Hanson.
1/24/13- Acquired OF Justin Upton and 3B from ARI for OF/IF Martin Prado and prospects.

Thoughts

The Braves, much like Nats, do have most of their team intact. What i’m leery on is the players the lost compared to the players they acquired. They lost Michael Bourn to Free Agency, traded Tommy Hanson to the Angels, let Jair Jurrjens walk away, and traded Martin Prado to the Diamondbacks. They got back Jordan Walden, a wild young reliever with incredible potential, BJ Upton, a player who either hits for average or power but never both, Justin Upton, a guy who played his way out of Arizona, where he hits much better than anywhere else. They also saw Chipper Jones retire as well. While the Uptons provide much needed Righty balance, here are average years for BJ and Justin Upton.

BJ: .255/15HR/56RBI/.336OBP/.422SLG
Justin: .278/18HR/65RBI/.357OBP/.475SLG

Obviously, Justin looks to be the power brother, he’s just built that way. Both have shown they can be studs, but have also shown they’re mediocre just as often, if not more often. I don’t believe adding them make the Braves favorites to win it all. The  fact is, their rotation isn’t much to fear after Medlen and Hudson. Paul Maholm had a nice year, but when he’s your #3 starter, you’re not in the best of positions.

Prediction: 96-66- Second in NL East.

Philadelphia Phillies:
2012 Record: 81-81. Third in NL East.

Moves:
10/29/12: Exercised option on C Carlos Ruiz (1yr/$5M)
12/6/12: Acquired OF Ben Revere from MIN.
12/8/12: Acquired IF Michael Young from TEX
12/18/12: Signed LHP John Lannan (1 yr/$2.5M)
12/20/12: Signed RHP Mike Adams (2 yr/$12M)
1/22/13: Signed OF Delmon Young (1 yr/$750K)

A lot of people are criticizing what Ruben Amaro has done in the free agent market. I’m not one of those people. They still have some of the best pitching around with Halladay, Lee and Hamels leading the rotation. Papelbon at the end of the bullpen is still solid. Add in Adams and there’s your eighth and ninth inning. Kyle Kendrick isn’t terrible either. Adding John Lannan gives them a lefty heavy rotation in a division with some very good lefty hitters. The fact is Ben Revere is a more affordable version of Michael Bourn and Michael Young will feast on NL pitching in a great hitters park in Citizens Bank Park. As long as the Phillies have Charlie Manuel and get through the Ruiz suspension, don’t expect them to lay down. The Phillies are not dead. Mark that down.

Prediction: 90-72- Third in NL East

New York Mets
2012 Record: 74-88. Fourth in NL East

Moves:
10/30/12: Exercised options on 3B David Wright (1yr/$16M) and RHP R.A. Dickey (1yr/$5M)
11/26/12: Acquired SS Brandon Hicks from OAK
12/4/12: Extended 3B David Wright (8yrs/$138M)
12/17/12: Acquired C John Buck, C Travis D’Arnaud, RHP Noah Syndergaard from TOR for RHP R.A. Dickey and Cs Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas.
12/18/12: Acquired OF Colin Cowgill from OAK.
1/24/13: Signed RHP Shaun Marcum (1yr/$4M)

The Mets, with the Wright extension and the Dickey trade have shown they have solid long term plans for the team. The centerpiece of the Dickey trade, Travis D’Arnaud, could very well be up about a month in or so, depending on the performance of John Buck and the team overall. Their rotation is probably the most ready-made commodity on the team, (Santana, Niese, Gee, Harvey, Marcum) and will keep them in a lot of games, presumably. Their biggest problem is their bullpen and their outfield. They don’t have a Center Fielder, although Duda and Cowgill on the corners isn’t terrible. It would behoove them greatly to sign a guy like Brian Wilson for their bullpen, moving Frank Francisco, John Rauch and Ramon Ramirez into a setup/7th inning role, which they all could be better off in. I like the Mets, especially if they can lock up a guy like Michael Bourn to solidify the leadoff spot and Center Field, and a low risk, high reward guy in Brian Wilson. The Mets are a year or so away, but will be very competitive this year in a very good division.

Prediction: 83-79, 4th in NL East.

Miami Marlins
2012 Record: 69-93. Fifth in NL East

Moves:
10/20/12: Traded RHP Heath Bell to ARI.
11/17/12: Signed OF Juan Pierre
11/19/12: Traded SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Josh Johnson, C John Buck, C Jeff Mathis, RHP Henderson Alvarez and UTIL Emilio Bonifacio to TOR for SS Adeiny Hecchavarria, SS Yunel Escobar, OF Jake Marisnick, P Justin Nicolino, and P Anthony DeSclafani
11/20/12: Signed 3B Placido Polanco (1yr/$2.5M)
12/4/12: Traded SS Yunel Escobar to TB for Derek Detriech.

As competitive and respectable as the aforementioned teams could be this year, the Marlins could be just as much of a laughingstock, joke team, which they already are, but on a more physical level. Jeffrey Loria has proven that making money is number one in his book, and if that doesn’t happen he’ll do whatever he can to get his way. He has also completely screwed the Rays, an organization that other teams should idolize, but will not get a new ballpark and may end up having no choice but to relocate, possible to Nashville. The fact is, the Marlins are a joke, and i’ve spent way too much time on them already.

Prediction: 58-104. Fifth in NL East.

Well, there we are. I believe the NL East will finish exactly how it did in 2012, here’s my final standings:

NL EAST 2013
1) Nationals 100-62 –
2) Braves 96-66 4.0 GB
3) Phillies 90-72 10.0 GB
4) Mets 83-79 17.0 GB
5) Marlins 58-104 42.0 GB

Call me a homer, I don’t care. The fact is, I don’t believe that any team in this division made themselves definitively better than the Nats.

Go Nats!

-Nick

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