Last week, I covered the AL East; now we’ll take a look at the Senior Circuit’s Eastern Division. We’ll begin with the pennant winning Phillies.
Key additions: SP Roy Halladay; 3B Placido Polanco; RP Danys Baez
Key losses: SP Cliff Lee; SP Brett Myers; 3B Pedro Feliz
It’s not as if the two-time defending pennant winners needed to do a lot of tinkering. But Philly made arguably the winter’s biggest move, acquiring Blue Jay ace Roy Halladay in a three-way deal. The Phils also bid adieu to 3B Pedro Feliz and welcomed Placido Polanco back to the fold, a high contact / high average player who will slot nicely hitting in front of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth. While this squad remains the class of the NL, there are some question marks. The loss of Lee and Myers puts pressure on J.A. Happ to reproduce his stellar ’09 campaign. One pitcher that DOESN’T want to repeat ’09 is Brad Lidge, the-flawless-stopper-of-2008-turned-beleaguered-BP-pitcher in 2009. And who is the #5 starter? Kyle Kendrick? Jamie Moyer? Nevertheless, the Phils have to be considered the favorites in this division and the entire National League entering the season.
Key additions: 1B Troy Glaus; CF Melky Cabrera; RP Billy Wagner
Key losses: RP Mike Gonzalez; RP Rafael Soriano; SP Javier Vazquez; 2B Kelly Johnson
I really don’t get their offseason. They came out of the chute fast, doling out a $7 million dollar deal to Wagner, a once dominant closer who is now 38 years old and only pitched 15.2 innings last year. Gonzalez and Soriano made a lights out duo at the back end of the ‘pen last year; when Wagner lands on the DL in mid-May, Braves brass will be kicking themselves for letting them go. If that weren’t bad enough, Javier Vazquez — he of the 2.87 ERA and the 238 strikeouts — was shipped out for a banjo-hitting CF. The move supposedly freed up more cash for the club, which Frank Wren then used to acquire Glaus, a former slugger who logged all of 32 plate appearances in 2009. If the goal is to reassemble the 2003 All-Star team, you’re well on your way, Frank. This spring, all eyes are on super prospect Craig Heyward, a five tool stud who should be a fixture in RF for the next decade. I’m not sure the Braves will be healthy enough to contend with Philly all season, but I hope Bobby Cox can field a contender in his final hurrah.
New York Mets
Key additions: LF Jason Bay; C Rod Barajas
Key losses: RP J.J. Putz
Where do you start with this mess? The move to Citi Field and injuries to Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado led to an offensive nosedive; only five MLB clubs scored fewer runs than the Mets and no team hit fewer home runs. The pitching was awful, too — every Met starter saw their ERA rise over their 2008 performance, but none was more pronounced than Oliver Perez, whose ERA of 6.82 was a full 2.5 runs more than the previous season. The addition of Bay should help the offense a little, but this pitching staff is still a mess. On the bright side, the Mets have to be healthier this year than they were in ’09. Right?
Key additions: None
Key losses: 1B Nick Johnson; RP Matt Lindstrom; OF Jeremy Hermida
Did you remember that this young team finished 2nd in the NL East last year? Did you know they were sixth in the league with 87 wins last season? The Marlins had a quiet winter with no major additions coming in from outside. But here are the reasons I think this team could contend for the NL Wild Card: 1. Hanley Ramirez. The guy is a singular talent and he’s entering his prime. 2. Josh Johnson & Ricky Nolasco. With this one-two punch, the Marlins can compete with any pitching tandem in the league. Seriously. 3. CF Cameron Maybin. Maybin emerged in the second half with improved plate discipline and a .293/ .353 / .500 line over his final 28 games with the parent club. If he can come close to producing those kinds of numbers over a full season, this offense will thrive.
Key additions: RP Matt Capps; SP Jason Marquis; C Ivan Rodriguez
Key losses: OF Austin Kearns; C Josh Bard
First, the good news: Stephen Strasburg is going to be a good one. And the offense — with Zimmerman, Dunn, and Willingham in the heart of the order — shouldn’t be terrible. Now the bad news: the growing pains are going to continue this season in the nation’s capital. The rotation — John Lannan, Jason Marquis, Scott Olsen, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen — could be the worst in the league. And the bullpen, outside of Pirates castoff Matt Capps, is equally nondescript. But all anyone will really be interested in D.C. this year is the arrival of Strasburg. I imagine he’ll get the call sometime mid-summer, just in time to sell some tickets in what promises to be an otherwise lackluster season for the Nats.