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National Winter Meetings Review – NL East

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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

Atlanta Braves:

Chop-N-Change:

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+
amd-wagnersubEvaluation: 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: New York Mets
2009 Record: 70-92
Team Needs: Left Field, First Base, Starting Pitching, minor bullpen help
Team Moves: Signed C Chris Coste, Signed C Henry Blanco, Non-tendered Tim Redding, Cory Sullivan, Jeremy Reed, Lance Broadway
Winter Meetings Grade: C
Evaluation: The Mets appeared to lay a lot of groundwork for improvements to the roster, as they announced they have made offers to sign Jason Bay and Bengie Molina. The offer to Bay is aggressive, however it is not known if the Mets will improve their offer.
That said, like a lot of teams, the Mets didn’t make any moves during the winter meetings which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the last thing they should do is make a move out of haste rather than a calculated move which takes advantage of the team’s and stadium’s strengths. The offer to Bay would indicate the Mets are on the right path towards fulfilling that goal.
However, I believe the club should be emphasizing pitching rather than a left fielder. The Mets have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Johan Santana  and if they intend to be contenders, they must improve the pitching staff above anything else for 2010.

Team Name: New York Mets
2009 Record: 70-92
Team Needs: LF, SP, C
Team Moves: NONE
Winter Meetings Grade: C-/Incomplete
6a00d8341c39e853ef00e5535d534c8833-800wiEvaluation: Last winter Omar Minaya travelled to Las Vegas with arguably the worst bullpen in baseball.  When he returned to New York, he had arguably the best.
This winter, Minaya travelled to Indianapolis and did, well, absolutely nothing.  So as a Mets fan it’s easy to come away disappointed.  However, with so many elite free agents still on the market, it’s way too early to actually hand out a grade.  Minaya was rarely spotted last week, which suggests that either he was hard at work negotiating or taking an extended siesta.  With a stagnant market full of Scott Boras clients, it’s all about laying the groundwork for contract offers.  If they spent all week talking to Jason Bay, and he eventually signs, that C- would instantly become at least a B+.  If they fail to sign anyone of significance that C- would instantly become an F.
As fans we are so quick to demand action.  But sometimes it is better to stay patient and allow the market to develop.  With such glaring needs, I think it is imperative that the Mets add either a power bat or a legitimate #2 starter.  Anything less would be a failure.  That doesn’t necessarily mean Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, or John Lackey, but they should each be serious targets.  There is still plenty of time, but I have to admit Omar Minaya’s seat is quickly getting hotter.
Philadelphia Phillies
Team Name: Philadelphia Phillies
2009 Record: 93-69 (.574), lost World Series 4-2 to New York Yankees
Team Needs: Going into the off-season, the Phillies were searching for an everyday third baseman, a few relievers, and several bench players.
Team Moves: Signed free agents 3B Placido Polanco, C Brian Schneider, IF Juan Castro, 1B/OF Ross Gload and OF Dewayne Wise; non-tendered RP Clay Condrey; tendered contracts to RP Chad Durbin, SP Joe Blanton, C Carlos Ruiz, and CF Shane Victorino. Traded for Roy Halladay.
Winter Meetings Grade: B-
Evaluation: The Phillies did address their need for a third baseman by acquiring Placido Polanco. I am not a fan of the signing because the Phillies are married to him for his age 34, 35, and 36 seasons — certainly not his prime. Polanco has been in offensive decline since 2007, and he hasn’t played third base regularly since 2002. However, the deal was cheap enough to allow them to pursue other goals which they have yet to truly address.
halladay-philliesThe Juan Castro signing was also puzzling. They essentially replaced Eric Bruntlett with another version of Bruntlett, but without any base running ability. Among available utility infielders suitable for a bench role, Castro was near the bottom.
Schneider was a good pick-up. I would have preferred Gregg Zaun, but the Milwaukee Brewers were able to give him a chance to start, something the Phillies couldn’t offer with Carlos Ruiz in the way. Schneider is very familiar with the NL East, has a reputation for being a good teammate and handling pitchers well, and he can throw out base runners at a decent clip.
I never wrote an evaluation of Ross Gload, so this is the first time I will publicly state an opinion of the signing — lucky you. Gload was productive off the bench last year with an .872 OPS. Some of his fortune was influenced by good fortune on balls in play (.345 BABIP compared to career average of .310) but it’s not nearly enough to label his success as flukish. If the Phillies get him about 250 plate appearances, he should be good for about a 90 OPS+.
Dewayne Wise, who you may recall saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game last season, is a good depth signing. As we saw with the Mets in ’09, injuries can decimate a team so it’s always good to have back-up. He’s not much with the bat but is proficient defensively in all three outfield locations. Wise can also run, having stolen 25 bases in 31 attempts (81%) over his career.
The Phillies still need to add a LOOGY (potentially Scott Eyre) and a reliable 7th or 8th inning reliever to tag alongside Ryan Madson. Also, the Phillies could stand to sign a starting pitcher to slot in the #5 spot if Jamie Moyer doesn’t inspire any confidence. There are talks the Phillies will trade for Roy Halladay, but that would require them to both include starter J.A. Happ in the deal and ship Joe Blanton elsewhere to open up some space on the payroll. Either way, the Phillies will still need a #5 pitcher even if they do acquire Halladay.











We’re the Team to Beat:

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.

Washington Nationals

Federal Baseball:

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)

pudge-rodriguez-signs-with-astrosEvaluation: 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.


Florida Marlins






Tetreault Vision

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.

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