Key Subtractions: Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado, Tommy Hanson, David Ross, Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, Ben Sheets, Jair Jurrjens, Randy Delgado
Key Additions: BJ Upton, Jordan Walden, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson
The Braves sure are good at amassing a ton of pitching depth to form a consistently competitive team. That's Atlanta's bread-and-butter. There's not much to talk about in terms of their pitching without sounding redundant year after year. They already had a good rotation and perhaps baseball's best bullpen (though I could make arguments that only the Giants can make that claim), and that hasn't changed. Starter Tommy Hunter is out, traded for Jordan Walden of the Angels (because the Braves needed more high-ceiling relievers...). Ben Sheets helped out down the stretch, but he decided to retire. Kris Medlen was unbelievable in his 12 starts, so Atlanta may be dealing with another top-of-the-rotation arm in the making. However, the offense will look quite different -- especially the outfield. Before musing about the new keepers of the grassy outfield expanses of Turner Field, I must address the retirement of perhaps the greatest all-time Brave outside of Hank Aaron; the one and only Chipper Jones has called it a career. Chipper will be sorely missed, especially given the lack of dominant offensive third basemen around these days. As for the outfield, Atlanta essentially exchanged Michael Bourn (free agent) and Martin Prado and a top pitching prospect (both traded) for BJ Upton (free agent) and his broseph Justin Upton (trade). Brothers in the same outfield? How cute! Brotherly fun aside and thinking in terms of making the Braves better, I don't think this swap will help the 2013 Braves. Bourn and Prado were more productive than the Upton brothers. Bourn certainly had a better year than BJ, and Prado (1) offers defensive versatility and (2) probably outperformed Justin Upton in 2012. This does not mean that the deal was a bust. In fact, I think both teams are better suited afterwards. Prado was not likely to sign an extension with Atlanta, highlighted by the fact that he inked a four-year deal with Arizona almost immediately after the trade. Prado had one year left before free agency before being extended, while Justin Upton has three years before free agency. Three certain years of Upton is better than possibly only one year of Prado, and with his older brother signed for the next five years (for $75.25M), Justin is only going to be more inclined to stay with the Braves beyond 2015. Beyond that, Justin Upton is 25 and one year removed from a third-place finish on the NL MVP ballot, so he comes with considerable upside while Prado is in his thirties and isn't getting any better. At the end of the day, the Braves still have a solid offense and delicious pitching. They may not win the division, but you're darn tootin' they will be as tough competition for a wild card spot as anyone.
Key Subtractions: Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Juan Oviedo, Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Lee, Heath Bell
Key Additions: Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Henderson Alvarez
Everything and more has been said about the Marlins' fire-sale. One year after changing their name, ballpark, manager and half the team's best players, the Marlins are back to being a bunch of nobodies. No more Jose Reyes, no more Josh Johnson, no more Mark Buerhle. I would say no more fans, but I'm not sure those things ever existed. Poor Giancarlo Stanton will be blasting home runs all by his lonesome, though if the Marlins are smart (they're not) they would try to grab young guys like Jurikson Profar and/or Mike Olt from the Rangers. Stanton is probably not a happy camper, but more importantly, he's nearing the end of his pre-arbitration years. That means he's about two-to-three years from being really expensive, which is around the time the Marlins ship off their players. Unless the Marlins believe they can slap together a contender in the next two or three years, it may be wise to keep the fire sale going in order to reap even more prospects and cheap, controllable players. I don't even think MacGruber could salvage the wreckage of the Marlins' roster. No amount of lettuce in the buttcheeks can distract from what roughly equates to an Astros-esque roster. To the Marlins' credit, they managed to acquire good prospects from Toronto, so their infamous trade wasn't exactly a pure salary dump. They'll have plenty of openings for youngsters to make a name for themselves, even if it's just for a couple years before they end of traded. Other than Stanton and Logan Morrison, the Marlins traded away their 2012 Opening Day lineup -- three players traded midseason, the other four in the Toronto swap. The only reason I can think of to watch the Marlins, other than Stanton, is to see a bunch of prospects with wide eyes and heads full of fluffy dreams of being a Major Leaguer duke it out for playing time. Other than that, this team will not be fun to watch, and that will reflect in the standings.
NEW YORK METS:
Key Subtractions: RA Dickey, Jason Bay, Josh Thole, Andres Torres, Ramon Ramriez, Chris Young, Kelly Shoppach, Ronny Cedeno, Jon Rauch
Key Additions: John Buck, Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Fred Lewis (lololololol)
For several years, the Mets have been struggling to create a competitive team due to their payroll limitations and bad decision making. Past monster deals to Johan Santana, Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran didn't pan out as well as they hoped, and have added further stress on their tumultuous financial situation. Thankfully, only one year remains on both the Santana and Bay deals (even though Bay was cut), while the others have run their course. This allowed New York to maintain some goodwill with the fans by inking David Wright to an eight-year deal worth $138M (that includes the $16M he was already set to make after they exercised the option-year on his previous deal). Outside of that, the Mets have taken a different direction by trading away 2012 NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey to Toronto, who might as well rename themselves to the "Really Good NL East Rejects." That's an awful name that took no creativity, but that's beside the point. You can criticize my laziness later, you jerk. While shipping away a Cy Young winner who's being payed like a 3-starter seems counter-productive, the Mets got two fantastic young'uns in exchange. Travis d'Arnaud -- who highlighted the deal betwixt the Phillies and Blue Jays that sent Roy Halladay to the City of Brotherly Scumbags -- could end up one of the game's best catchers in the near future, while pitcher Noah Syndergaard is almost as highly-regarded around the game. Throw in Zach Wheeler, who the Giants swapped Beltran for in 2011, and suddenly the Mets have a solid core of youth they can possibly build around. But for 2013, the team lacks depth in the rotation, bullpen and lineup. Last time I checked, those are three pretty important things in baseball. Unless a ton of little tikes burst onto the scene, the Mets will have to spend another year towards the bottom of the division.
Key Subtractions: Vance Worley, Placido Polanco, Jose Contreras, Joe Blanton, Nate Schierholtz
Key Additions: Mike Adams, Ben Revere, Michael Young, John Lannan
|After getting in Shane "Butthole" Victorino's face before an on-field brawl,|
Eli Whiteside will always be welcome at the Codega dinner table. Boy I
miss that little white-haired scoundrel.
Key Subtractions: Edwin Jackson, Michael Morse, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez, Jesus Flores, Mark DeRosa
Key Additions: Dan Haren, Rafael Soriano, AJ Cole, Denard Span
The Nationals finally crafted a team that parallels America, or 'Murica more accurately. In the 2012 regular season, the Nationals exploded onto the scene and were probably the best team over the entire 162 games. This construction of talent took years to complete, but all the work has finally payed off. What did the Nationals do after winning an MLB-high 98 games? They let Edwin Jackson walk (who signed a one-year deal) in order to sign the superior Dan Haren (also signed for one year), signed closer Rafael Soriano, resigned Adam LaRoche, traded the expendable Mike Morse for a pitching prospect (AJ Cole) they shipped away for Gio Gonzalez last year and made perhaps the offseason's best trade in acquiring Denard Span from the Twins. Adding a former All-Star starter to perhaps the game's best rotation, a closer to a bullpen with two capable closers and effectively swapping a flawed power hitter for the speedy leadoff-hitting center fielder they've craved for years. That's all. The Nationals have Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler and Haren in a delicious rotation, a deep bullpen that's great in the late innings and a complete offense with no openings or question marks to speak of other than the eventual re-phasing of Wilson Ramos as the primary catcher. Even this potential area of weakness is negated due to the presence of Kurt Suzuki, who is a decent backstop even when he doesn't hit. Oh yeah, and that one douchey guy is pretty solid. Bryce Harper will play at the ripe old age of 20, and his 22 homers could easily double in the next few years. Like his team as a whole, Harper is only getting better. The Nationals are quite possibly the best team in baseball, and by quite possibly, I mean they are. The only question that remains will be seeing how this team can handle going deep into the postseason. They got a taste in 2012, and I think anything short of a World Series appearance will be disappointing for them. It's going to be tough when the Giants dramatically overthrow them in the NLCS, but the Giants can't be the best every year. If not them, it'll probably be the Nationals.
1. Washington Nationals
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
The cellar is pretty easy to figure out. It's kind of cute that the Marlins are still classified as a Major League team, and while the Mets are making some good decisions, they're not ready to put it all together. Things get interesting with the third spot. The Phillies are a dark horse for once, but if their old age and injuries get out of hand, they could play uninspiring baseball on par with the Marlins. On the flip side, they have so many good and experienced players that they could make a run for the postseason. The new wild card play-in game even gives them hope of making the postseason despite finishing third in the division. One of those wild card spots has "Braves" written all over it. The Braves had an 8.0-game lead over the closest team to miss the wild card, and there's little reason to expect them to be any worse. The Nationals, if anything, are better than the 98-win team of 2012, and anyone who expects them not to win the division is either a Braves fan or a communist. Anyone who expects them not to win the pennant and represent the National League in the World Series is either a communist or a really perceptive and handsome Giants fan. In a totally unrelated note, I -- in my perceptive and handsome opinion -- think the Giants will win the 2013 World Series.