Each year GM’s from across the league come together and meet in one place and talk hardcore baseball, these are the Winter Meetings. It’s the Black Friday of baseballs shopping season, and the springboard that leads into MLB’s Hot Stove offseason.
The meetings wrapped up last week and to review the action The Nats Blog is going to get reviews from top blogs across the league. Today will be the NL East, here will be the schedule for the rest of the week:
12/16-NL Central, 12/17-NL West, 12/18-AL East, 12/19-AL Central, 12/20 AL West
Team Name: Atlanta Braves
2009 Record: 86-76
Team Needs: 1st baseman, utility infielder, outfielder, several bullpen arms
Team Moves: Extended Tim Hudson; signed Takashi Saito and Billy Wagner; released Ryan Church and Kelly Johnson; traded Rafael Soriano for Jesse Chavez
Winter Meetings Grade: C+
Evaluation: The most noteworthy aspect of the Braves’ offseason so far was Frank Wren’s miscalculation on Rafael Soriano, who wound up accepting arbitration after Wren had publicly predicted that he wouldn’t, forcing Wren to trade Soriano for a scrap arm from the Rays. There was no room or money for Soriano after Wren had already spent $10 million on Wagner and Saito, who are aging but still intriguing, particularly outside the launching pad in Fenway. Money issues also prompted the non-tender of bench OF Ryan Church and IF Kelly Johnson, whom the team might welcome back at a lower price.
Wren and Cox have identified the team’s biggest remaining need as offense, but it’s not clear where that will come from: Cox has disavowed interest in Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, and the team refused to offer arbitration to 1B Adam LaRoche. The team has no serious internal options for 1B, so they’ll need to fill it with a free agent or a trade. Outfield is less clear: Matt Diaz and Nate McLouth will be back, and Cox has indicated Jason Heyward will be given the chance to win the RF job in spring training, though at least one of those positions really ought to be upgraded — Diaz isn’t very good against RHP, and McLouth’s CF offense and defense are both average at best. A higher offseason grade will depend on how Wren improves the offense.
New York Mets
Team Name: Philadelphia Phillies
2009 Record: 93-69 (NL Champs)
Team Needs: Pitching of all kinds, 3B
Team Moves: IN: Placido Polanco, Ross Gload, Brian Schneider, Juan Castro, DeWayne Wise, Wilson Valdez, Cody Ransom OUT: Brett Myers, Matt Stairs, Pedro Feliz, traded for Roy Hallaay
Winter Meetings Grade: B
Evaluation: Looking at the in/out team moves above it might be difficult to understand a B rating; that might be the least exciting group of free agent signings in recent memory. I applaud the front office for being direct and successful in signing their targeted players. Polanco (as Ibanez was last year) is slightly overpaid, but he was the team’s main target and they did what they needed to do to get their guy. Also to this point management has been smart about the Roy Halladay sweepstakes. Putting him atop the rotation with Lee makes the Phillies an even more dangerous team, but only at the right price. If it costs Happ, our best prospect and we have to move Blanton, and maybe lose a Eyre and a few others in the prospects, there might be more holes than we began with, just a lot of smaller ones. Bottom line, the Phillies have had a magical two-year run and after this offseason the Phillies are still in a place to potentially extend the excitement for another season.
Team Name: Washington Nationals
2009 Record: 59-103
Team Needs: Starting Pitching, Middle infielder, CatcherTeam Moves: Signed C Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Traded for RHP Brian Bruney, Re-Signed LHP Scott Olsen
Winter Meetings Grade: C+ (pending signing of FA pitchers)
Evaluation: The Nationals went to the Winter Meetings looking for a pitcher or two, a veteran catcher and some middle infield help, and came out with reliever Brian Bruney, acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees, who seems, in hindsight, to have been signed as insurance should Mike MacDougal not take his non-tendering well; Pudge Rodriguez, a veteran catcher who, in hindsight, seems to have been signed as insurance in case Jesus Flores isn’t ready for the start of the season; and Scott Olsen, signed just after the Meetings, who was non-tendered and re-signed to an incentive-based deal as insurance in case he can’t come back from surgery to repair a torn left labrum…The Nationals are still looking for starting pitching and possibly a middle infielder, but with ’09 No.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg competing for a starting spot and IF Alberto Gonzalez still on the roster, they might just have to go into the season with the roster they have if they can’t convince any more free agents to believe in their Plan.
Projected 2010 Lineup: 1) Nyjer Morgan, CF 2) Ian Desmond, SS 3) Ryan Zimmerman, 3B 4) Adam Dunn, 1B 5) Josh Willingham, LF 6) Elijah Dukes, RF 7) Ivan Rodriguez, C 8) Cristian Guzman, 2B.
Team Name: Florida Marlins
Record: 87-75 6.0 GB 2nd NL East
Team Needs: Salary Relief (as usual), New Stadium (on the way), and a suitor for Dan Uggla.
Moves Made: Dealt Jeremy Hermida to Boston for Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez Dealt Matt Lindstrom to Houston for Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and Jorge Jiminez
Winter Meetings Grade: Incomplete – no Uggla deal leaves little to grade them on.
Evaluation: Florida continued to pare payroll moving Matt Lindstrom to the Astros for Luis Bryan, Robert Bono and Jorge Jiminez, who Houston had selected from the Red Sox in the Rule V draft. Moving Uggla remains the priority to the Maarlins offseason. The take will determine how successful their offseason will have been. With Gaby Sanchez likely ready to assume first base and Jorge Cantu able to slide across the diamond to play third, incumbent 3B Emilio Bonafacio then would take over for the departed Uggla. The outfield situation is more settled in Miami. Chris Coghlan, Cameron Maybin and Cody Ross are all young and carry reasonable expectation of improvement. John Baker and Ronny Paulino continue to share the catching responsibilities.
On the mound, Florida returns ace Josh Johnson, whose looming free agency has sparked rumors the righty will be dealt. The Marlins tried to quash any speculation by emphatically declaring Johnson would not be going anywhere. Florida seems content to promote from within with prospects Sean West and Andrew Miller likely to join the rotation accompanying Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco. With Lindstrom gone, Leo Nunez will hold onto the closer job. The Fish have a collection of solid setup men and middle relievers.
As usual the club is putting together a team on the cheap. They’ll contend in July and maybe into August. If their young pitching pans out, they might even make the post-season. But the patchwork plan leaves much to be desired and does almost nothing to build fan loyalty, a commodity the Marlins desperately need.