|Grading the NL East||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on February 11, 2009
Well, there is plenty of time for more deals to change the landscape across the Majors, including potential trades and free agent signings, but with Spring Training just a little over two weeks away, it’s time to offer some opinions on what teams did to prepare for the upcoming season.
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies decided it was time to part ways with Pat Burrell and try to sign some of their core players like Ryan Madson to long term contracts. They succeeded on some fronts, but had one big failure to this point - satisfying Ryan Howard, the team’s biggest bat, with a contract offer. This won’t hurt the Phillies too much this year, but this looks to be the second time in two years that Howard and the Phillies will go to arbitration. That could be an issue for the future.
But for 2009 the Phillies really only made one significant change, replacing Burrell with Raul Ibanez, who is a better hitter at this point in his career, but hits lefty, making the Phillies even more predominantly a left hand hitting team (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Matt Stairs, Geoff Jenkins and Ibanez are all lefties).
Grade B- a slight improvement or lateral move.
New York Mets: The Mets bullpen has proved an Achilles heel two years in a row and that was priority one for Mets GM Omar Minaya during the offseason - especially since All-Star closer Billy Wagner underwent Tommy John surgery last September.
And make moves he did. Gone via trade are relievers Joe Smith, Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, while another four relievers (Luis Ayala, Ricardo Rincon, Matt Wise and Ambiorix Burgos) departed via free agency.
The starting staff wasn’t immune to being let go either - Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez are all available on the free agent market.
The new arms in the Mets rotation are Tim Redding and possibly Freddy Garcia (signed to a minor league deal) who underwent surgery last season. In the ’pen, it’s new closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, former closer J.J. Putz, RHPs Sean Green, Darren O’Day, Rocky Cherry, Connnor Robertons, and LHP Casey Fossum.
But while the Mets revamped their pitching, they’ve failed so far to find a third legitimate outfield option - another need they’ve been talking about for a long time.
Grade B+ the Mets finally have those automatic arms they needed for the eighth and ninth innings and have cut ties with old and injury prone pitchers for whom six innings was pretty much the limit.
Still a kick in the starting rotation, gaining two healthy solid arms in return for Smoltz has to be an upgrade for the team. The big question is, Will it be enough? The Braves certainly hope so, since their only other acquisition of note was Japanese free agent Kenshin Kawakami.
Grade B - with a healthy offense, and better pitching the Braves could take a step forward.
They’ve been dealing a fair bit - sending slugging 1B Mike Jacobs, OF Josh Willingham, SP Scott Olsen and former closer Kevin Gregg to other teams for prospects, relievers and backup players. That could be a sign of a major revamping in the works.
Grade C. It’s hard to see how these moves make the team better, but it’s hard to say that the Marlins will be significantly changed by these moves.
Lannan isn’t the only starter they acquired as the team brought in righty Daniel Cabrera who’ll benefit by shifting leagues and getting away from the bats of the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees.
Several other lesser additions, notably Cory Patterson, Josh Towers, and Wilfredo Ledezma could also pay some dividends.
How would you grade the NL East's offseason? Sound off in the comments section below.