Atlanta Braves: So far, the Atlanta Braves have signed 15 players to minor league deals, and that’s been it for their offseason additions. The team lost Brian McCann and Tim Hudson, but even without signing anyone, the Braves look ready to head into next season.
The Nationals will present a challenge, but the rest of the NL East is mediocre at best. McCann signing with the Yankees means the slugging Evan Gattis can catch rather than play the outfield. Now if only Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton can be consistent offensive threats, the Braves’ lineup wouldn’t have any holes.
The pitching staff will be young but good, and when you have a closer like Craig Kimbrel, you only have to worry about piecing eight innings together instead of nine, which goes a long way during the course of season. Atlanta will surely be in the mix for a playoff spot.
Miami Marlins: The Marlins will have a few new faces on the right side of the infield with Rafael Furcal taking over at second base and Garret Jones at first base. The team also has a new catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia who signed a three-year, $21 million deal.
If the Marlins compete, Giancarlo Stanton needs to carry the load, and the two other young outfielders -- Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna -- will have to produce. Having a few veteran players around may help the team improve, but the pitching staff is still very inexperienced. Jose Fernandez made great strides in his first season, but the dreaded sophomore slump is looming. Maybe the team will have a better year than last year, but it likely won’t be enough to get them to the playoffs.
New York Mets: Oh, the Mets: always searching for a bargain. But all of a sudden, the Mets have spent $87 million this offseason. When Sandy Alderson took over as general manager, the telling sign would be the offseason prior to the 2014 season. That’s finally arrived, and Alderson is making the most of it.
He brought in Curtis Granderson (four years, $60 million), Chris Young (one year, $7.25 million) and Bartolo Colon (two years, $20 million). The Young deal is way too high for a players who hit .200 last year, and Granderson is coming of two injuries, but it’s a good sign that the team is actually spending money and trying to get better.
Colon should bridge the gap this season until last year’s phenom Matt Harvey is ready to return healthy in 2015.
The Mets are not done however. They are players for free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew but only if his price tag drops. One of Ike Davis or Lucas Duda will likely be traded, and the team still needs to sign a proven bullpen arm. OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a Mets fan, and I do have to say that even without Harvey, I’m pretty excited for the upcoming season.
Washington Nationals: Of all the teams with high expectations last year, the Nationals were the biggest disappointment. Let’s see if new manager Matt Williams can get the team to play to its potential, because the Nats have so much talent.
The Doug Fister trade looks like it will be a great deal. Washington needed some stability behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman, and Fister slots in nicely. Anthony Rendon is ready to take the next step as he becomes the team’s everyday second baseman. The team signed Nate McLouth to be the fourth outfielder.
Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard are drawing trade interest, especially now that the Nats have added Jerry Blevins to the back of the bullpen. But trading one of them is not likely to net the team something that would help this year. Even with a new manager, it’s hard to imagine the Nats struggling through the upcoming season.
Philadelphia Phillies: Carlos Ruiz is back being the plate, and the Phillies locked up Marlon Byrd -- who they originally drafted -- to a two-year, $16 million deal. The whole key with the Phillies is staying healthy, mainly Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Roy Halladay announced his retirement, so it’s up to Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee to lead the rotation.
The Phils are surely in the market for a starter and will maybe splurge on Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez. Surprisingly, the team is shopping outfielder Domonic Brown, who had a career year last year. The thinking is to sell high on him right now while his value is through the roof, especially because he’s still young and under team control. Third base right now is a gaping hole, so maybe Brown could be used to acquire a third baseman or even a starting pitcher if signing a free agent doesn’t work out. With a veteran core, the Phillies window to win is now, but that’s a tough task in a division with the Braves and Nationals.
St. Louis Cardinals: It’s amazing that whoever the Cardinals wind up penciling into their lineup, they produce. The defending NL champs though will rely on some new faces in 2014.
Peter Bourjos takes over in center field, Matt Carpenter shifts to third base, Kolten Wong slides into second base, Matt Adams will be at first with Allen Craig moving to right field and finally the team signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million deal to be the new shortstop.
All the positions except catcher (Yadier Molina) and left field (Matt Holliday) have experienced some sort of turnover. But even so, does anyone really think the Cardinals will not win at least a wild card spot? They know how to win, and that’s all that matters, despite losing Carlos Beltran, David Freese and Chris Carpenter to retirement. A full season of Michael Wacha is a scary thought for the rest of the NL Central, and the young bullpen is dominant late in games. The Cards seem set heading into next season but may look to add a piece to the bench or bullpen.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers right now are very much in the market for a first baseman, and Ike Davis or Lucas Duda of the Mets is available, especially now that Corey Hart has signed with the Mariners. Losing Norichika Aoki will be a big blow to the top of Milwaukee’s lineup, but it does open a spot for prospect Khris Davis to take over in left, with Ryan Braun shifting to right. Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura had breakout years, so we’ll see if they can repeat that success.
The pitching staff actually looks OK, and maybe a bullpen arm or two could be added to the fold. Braun is a huge question mark, and thus his name has been brought up as a trade candidate. But it looks like the Brewers are willing to give him a second chance. The rest of the league will give him a hard time, but his hometown fans should be accepting.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates were the one of the surprise teams of last season, and they have the pieces for a deep playoff run. They have reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen patrolling center field, and the rest of the young core is now used to experienced success.
The team locked up Charlie Morton to a three-year, $21 million extension and signed Edinson Volquez for one year and $5 million. The Volquez deal is slightly questionable, as the team already has five starters and could have probably waited a bit to sign an insurance option. But it’s really never a problem to have too many arms.
Pittsburgh is in the market to either sign a full-time first baseman or a lefty hitting first baseman to platoon with Gaby Sanchez. It seems to be a recurring theme, but the Mets are looking to deal one or even both of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. James Loney could also be an option. The Pirates should again be a competitive team next season.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs have holes all over the field right now, unless the team is content with giving several young players a chance to earn everyday roles. There are two outfield spots, third base, a starting pitching spot and bullpen spots up for grabs. The team brought in Ryan Sweeney to be a utility outfielder and George Kottaras to split time at catcher with Welington Castillo. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been thrown around in trade rumors, but the Cubs would likely ask for a lot in return to try to fill all of the current needs at once. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo appear to be solid Major Leaguers; now the team has to build smartly around them for future success.
Cincinnati Reds: All the talk this offseason for the Reds is whether or not they will trade Brandon Phillips. The Yankees reportedly turned down a Phillips for Brett Gardner swap, which for the Reds really wouldn’t make sense, since Gardner would block speedster Billy Hamilton’s path to the bigs.
With Ryan Hanigan now in Tampa Bay, Devin Mesoraco is the team’s starting catcher, and the Reds signed Brayan Pena as a backup. Skip Schumaker was brought in on a two-year, $5 million contract to be a super sub, which is a role that suits him. The Reds are built for success with a strong pitching staff -- especially the bullpen -- and a good collection of power hitters. New manager Bryan Price has his work cut out for him, but anything short of finishing .500 would be a disappointment.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have stayed firm on not trading Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki or Michael Cuddyer. Justin Morneau takes over at first base for Todd Helton, so offense shouldn’t really be a problem for this team. But it’s the pitching that has consistently held this team back, so this offseason, the Rockies made it a point to address the staff. They signed LaTroy Hawkins to be a key member of the bullpen, but Colorado has significantly upgrading its starting rotation. It’s unclear where these arms slide slot in, but the team traded for Brett Anderson in the deal for Drew Pomeranz and Jordan Lyles in the deal for Dexter Fowler. The Rockies already have Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio, but again, too many starting pitchers is never a bad thing. Even with all the offensive firepower, the Rockies will be relying on a collection of young players. This may not be the year for Colorado, but it seems the team is moving in the right direction.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers had a miracle run to the postseason after a dismal start. And if all goes according to plan, the Dodgers will be competing for the NL pennant once again. They have a surplus of quality outfielders, so maybe Andre Ethier gets moved in a trade. Matt Kemp is drawing plenty of trade interest, but that’s a huge risk coming off an injury. The emergence of Yasiel Puig has made one of Kemp and Ethier expendable, since Carl Crawford is locked up long-term.
The Dodgers could use a second or third baseman, unless they plan on keep Hanley Ramirez at the hot corner and giving Dee Gordon another chance at shortstop.
The amount of good pitchers on this staff is ridiculous. Dan Haren was brought into the mix after an uncharacteristic season with the Nationals. The team also re-signed Brian Wilson to be the primary set-up man for Kenley Jansen. Wilson will receive closer-type money at $10 million for one year, but the deal makes sense, since Jansen still has not cashed in as a free agent. The Dodgers are the class of the NL West, and it should remain that way next season.
San Diego Padres: It’s basically going to be the same team taking the field for the Padres in 2014 except for a few new faces. Coming off injury, Josh Johnson was given a guaranteed one-year, $8 million contract. It’s a big risk but one worth taking for the Padres, who really needed a frontline starter. If healthy, Johnson can be that guy.
The team also added Seth Smith as a reserve outfielder. There could still be a trade involving an outfielder, such as Will Venable. Chase Headley’s name is always mentioned in trade rumors, but the Padres would need a huge return, even though Headley had an off year last year. The team has a few good young pieces to build around, but this doesn’t seem to be the year for San Diego.
San Francisco Giants: This team always has good pitching, and the trend will continue after signing Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal. This Tim could hopefully be a positive influence on another Tim -- Tim Lincecum, whom the Giants locked up for two years and $35 million. San Francisco also re-signed Ryan Vogelsong, adding to easily one of the game’s best rotations.
But offensively is where this team struggles. Of course, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey will put up numbers and Hunter Pence was signed long-term, but the team lacks other consistent offensive threats. The pitching will keep this team relevant all year, but it just doesn’t have the firepower to compete with the Dodgers.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Diamondbacks outfielders hit a combined 34 home runs last year; Mark Trumbo hit 34 home runs by himself. The D’Backs acquired Trumbo as part of a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Chicago White Sox. Trumbo will provide Paul Goldschmidt with some much-needed protection.
Arizona was said to be players for Shi-Soo Choo, but it seems Trumbo has filled that outfield need. Instead, the Diamondbacks have turned their sights to Japanese starting pitching phenom Masahiro Tanaka. Adding Tanaka to the front-end of the rotation will make the D-backs relevant. Right now, they are an overall solid team in all aspects of the game but really do not posses that “wow” factor. Tanaka would be that wow factor. Sure it’s a risk signing an unknown commodity, but the D’Backs have just enough pieces so that a Tanaka signing could be the final piece to the puzzle.
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