Yesterday, we examined the changed American League landscape in the wake of the Winter Meetings. Today, we move on to the National League to see how each team stands after the flurry of trades, signings, and near-deals, using the events of the past weeks to see what could be to come.
Without prattling on any further, here is the new National League, ladies and gents.
Atlanta Braves - On the offensive side of things, the only spot that seems to be generating significant concern in Georgia is second base. Dan Uggla's contract already looks terrible three years through the five-year deal, and he will receive another $26MM for his services. For Atlanta to get out from under his deal, they will have to eat a significant chunk of money. Given that B.J. Upton was even worse than Uggla in 2013--so bad, in fact, that he contemplated switching names with Joey Terdoslavich--the Braves should also be looking to do something about the sub-replacement level production they're getting out of their $75.2MM acquisition last offseason. His -0.6 fWAR season was grotesque. Four more years of Upton is potentially even more dire a proposition. Since he is due so much money still, the Braves will probably have to cross their fingers and hope Upton produces a little bit. The Braves also would be best served adding a starting pitcher to replace Tim Hudson and need to bring in more bullpen depth. It will also be interesting to see whether or not the Braves intend to head into the 2014 season with Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird, and Christian Bethancourt as their catching corps, as doing so would be placing an awful lot of confidence in either Gattis or Bethancourt behind the dish.
Miami Marlins - Unless they grant Giancarlo Stanton his wish and trade him to a team likely to win more than 70 games in 2014, it is hard to envision the Marlins making much of a splash this offseason. They dumped arb-eligible Justin Ruggiano for pre-arb Brian Bogusevic. They dumped Logan Morrison (also arb-eligible) for reliever Carter Capps. It seems like there is a pattern here. They are apparently looking for a cheap, flexible option stop-gap at third until Colin Moran is ready, presumably in 2015. Having already acquired Garrett Jones and Rafael Furcal to man the right side of their infield, they are probably close to done making any moves, unless they ship off any other non-essential arbitration-eligible pieces.
New York Mets - Even with the Mets' signing of Curtis Granderson, it's hard to envision a scenario in which they spend so much in free agency as to buy their way into contention, especially without the services of the recovering Matt Harvey in 2014. Sandy Alderson has been equal parts shrewd and measured while positioning the Mets to possibly arrive in 2015, once Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, and Wilmer Flores have a year under their belts. It appears as though Ike Davis is likely to get moved soon, and if Alderson & Co. are comfortable handing the starting job at second to Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy could net them a decent return. Other than adding some fungible pitching depth for the back-end of the rotation or the bullpen, it's hard to see where they could spend money to improve the team. It seems like they might be better served waiting until next offseason to address glaring issues, but they do have large market revenue, so they could spend money because they feel like they should. It's just hard to see where that might be well-spent from their vantage point.
Extend him again, Amaro. Photo credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Philadelphia Phillies - Honestly, does anyone have any idea what Ruben Amaro, Jr. is going to do? One minute, Jonathan Papelbon is on the trading block. The next, he's not. One might be better served trying to figure out the least sensible move and choosing that as Amaro's next move. My guess? Ryan Howard extension. He's only under contract through 2016 with an option for 2017. May as well lock him up through 2025. In all seriousness, though, Cody Asche is probably a placeholder for another year until Maikel Franco is deemed ready. Every other infielder is entrenched, for better or worse. The outfield looks to be in place for 2014. They possibly have a glut of outfielder after the Marlon Byrd signing. Darin Ruf and John Mayberry would make a nice platoon, but there's nowhere for them to play. The addition of Cuban defector Miguel Gonzalez could be what makes or breaks this rotation. Regardless, an obvious move doesn't scream out unless you look towards turning the bullpen into a strength.
Washington Nationals - Frankly, there aren't many holes on the Nationals squad after they added Doug Fister to the rotation. Fister has been more valuable than James Shields over the past three seasons (in terms of fWAR), and somehow cost a fraction of what Shields cost the Royals last offseason. With a sterling top four in the rotation and a strong starting lineup up and down the order, the only area that can really be improved is the bullpen. They also have a completely superfluous Danny Espinosa, who could get dealt to someone looking for a fallback plan at second base.
Chicago Cubs - Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have quite a few potential impact prospects in the pipeline in Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant. Unfortunately, only Baez has played higher than A-ball, so there won't be much help on the way in 2014. The Cubs are extremely unlikely to contend in 2014, and there is a lot of buzz surrounding Jeff Samardzija, who could net quite a return, bolstering a rather stocked farm system and potentially accelerating the rebuild. Samardzija could end up being the consolation prize for whoever loses out on David Price. Realistically, the Cubs could definitely add bullpen depth. They have no consensus closer, though Epstein and Hoyer may not feel the need to acquire one. The Cubs have a slew of arms amongst whom they can distribute relief innings. It is just questionable as to how good those arms actually are.
Photo credit: Dilip Vishwanat
Cincinnati Reds - Cutting to the chase here, the Reds are going to trade Brandon Phillips if it kills them. It almost happened with the Yankees for Brett Gardner. There were talks with the Dodgers for Matt Kemp. They are apparently interested in Omar Infante. Phillips is not long for Cincinnati. They lost Shin-Soo Choo but have Billy Hamilton to plug into the mix in the outfield. They can probably survive on a Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey platoon in left, though that is really the only other offensive spot that might see a change between now and the start of Spring Training. The Reds could stand to add another starting pitcher as well, though look for them to move Phillips for whatever they can get first.
Milwaukee Brewers - After moving Norichika Aoki to make room for Khris Davis in the outfield, the Brewers only have one position left on offense that they are likely to attempt to fix in the offseason: first base. Given the fact that Scooter Gennett jumped Rickie Weeks on the depth chart, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Brewers move Weeks, though it would be hard for them to address their needs at first in whatever meager return they get for their maligned second baseman. Otherwise, they might try to add a bit on the pitching side of things. It looks as though they will open up competition for the last couple rotation spots in Spring Training. They have quite a few arms in the mix but might be better served adding a reclamation project to the mix. They should also add a quality bullpen piece or two.
Pittsburgh Pirates - The one spot the Pirates could still afford to improve would be shortstop. Sure, they just signed Clint Barmes to go along with Jordy Mercer, but one could hardly blame them if they did not sleep at ease with the prospect of going in with two question marks splitting time at short, though ideally these two are just filling in the spot until Alen Hanson is ready in 2015. Unless you view Edinson Volquez as an answer to their thin rotation depth, the Pirates probably need to add another arm, though they have been linked to A.J. Burnett. It is likely that Jameson Taillon hits the Majors by midseason, so the Pirates wouldn't need to go crazy.
St. Louis Cardinals - Less than two months removed from a World Series berth, the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta, swapped David Freese for Peter Bourjos, and opened up a spot at second base for prospect Kolten Wong. With Oscar Taveras waiting in the wings and the Cardinals' pitching staff locked and loaded, it is hard not to pencil the Cardinals into the playoffs right now. There is not much they need to do. It's not like they can't simply call up some random guy and get a 3.0 WAR season out of him if they need it.
Arizona Diamondbacks - As a Royals fan, it doesn't take much imagination to figure out what the Diamondbacks might do. Find the grittiest, walk-hating guy out there and overpay for him in either years or prospects. Need a gritty back-up catcher? Sign Henry Blanco. Need a "proven" closer? Let Kevin Towers overpay for one. Need a walk-hating first baseman who probably shouldn't play in the outfield but can't play first because Paul Goldschmidt is already entrenched? Already took care of it. Short of trading Paul Goldschmidt, there isn't much that Kevin Towers could do that would astonish anyone. They probably need a back-up catcher, and they could stand to add a short-term fix to the rotation to build a bridge to Archie Bradley. Either Chris Owings or Didi Gregorius could render the other (or Aaron Hill) redundant. One of their three middle infielders could yield a decent return, so the Diamondbacks will probably trade for two more.
Colorado Rockies - With little help on the way from the farm in 2014, the Rockies will have to try to address their needs from without. They do have an excess of second basemen, making Josh Rutledge expendable. They have quite a bit of depth in the starting rotation, adding Brett Anderson to a quartet of 2.0+ fWAR returning starters. They are apparently content to go into 2014 with Jordan Pacheco and Justin Morneau duking it out at first base. After adding Boone Logan on a three-year deal, they are in talks to add J.P. Howell to the pen, too. They could stand to add a back-up catcher in addition to another bullpen piece or two.
Photo credit: Stephen Dunn
Los Angeles Dodgers - Having signed shortstop Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, the Dodgers can either have Hanley Ramirez man third and Guerrero take short, or move the two to the middle. Regardless, the Dodgers do not have an in-house option to play either second or third--unless you believe Dee Gordon should be starting in the Majors, of course. Corey Seager is still a year away, so it might make sense for them to bring back Mark Ellis on a one-year deal. With the Dodgers actively shopping Matt Kemp in an attempt to clear the logjam in the outfield, a piece with as much potential value as the former NL MVP could yield a hefty return in spite of his inability to stay healthy. On the pitching front, the Dodgers could well be content with their acquisition of Dan Haren. They could definitely trade Chad Billingsley as well, as he'd probably be worth more to another team than the Dodgers.
San Diego Padres - As of late, Josh Byrnes seems preoccupied with adding left-handed relievers to the roster. He and the White Sox reportedly discussed Chase Headley, though Byrnes was quick to shoot those rumors down. If the Padres were going to try to move one of their pieces, Headley would be one of their more valuable trade chips. They also have a glut of corner outfield-types. Of course, every time you turn around they've acquired themselves another (Seth Smith) without having gotten rid of one of the many they already had. Between Carlos Quentin, Kyle Blanks, Seth Smith, Jesus Guzman, and infielder Logan Forsythe, they have a lot of pieces that can be moved to improve the club. Whether or not Byrnes actually takes care of this is another story entirely.
San Francisco Giants - The Giants' three main areas that could still stand to be addressed are the outfield, second base, and their starting rotation. Angel Pagan is coming off a season in which he missed more than three months. They could probably obtain a lefty-crushing outfielder to platoon with Pagan. Right now, they have Tony Abreu slotted to start at second base and Joe Panik has yet to reach AAA. They probably don't need anything permanent (depending on their view of Panik) at second, but it's clearly their weakest position at present. Unless the Giants are content to let Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit duke it out for the final rotation spot, Brian Sabean will have to add another starting pitcher. As their top four is quite good, there is no need to break the bank on their final starter.