Spring Training is almost upon us! The NL East figures to be an exciting division 2017 that includes the Braves, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, and Nationals. In recent years the Nationals and Mets have dominated as both teams figure to fight for the division crown again. After a long offseason, it’s time to hand out some offseason grades. Who put themselves in a position to improve in 2017?
Atlanta Braves: Grade B+
Key Additions – Rex Brothers, Blaine Boyer, Bartolo Colon, John Danks, R.A. Dickey, Jaime Garcia, Luiz Gohara, Alex Jackson, Micah Johnson, Sean Rodriguez, Kurt Suzuki, Kris Medlen, Jordan Walden
Key Departures – Mallex Smith, Chris Withrow
The Atlanta Braves are rebuilding this organization the right way. Atlanta has the deepest farm system in all of baseball. This farm system is so deep that after they acquired Luiz Gohara from Seattle (who was ranked Seattle’s 3rd best prospect) he ranks as the teams 12th best prospect according to MLB.com. This offseason the Braves made it imperative to add some veteran talent to the team in preparation for the opening of their new ballpark this year. Guys like Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey offer virtually no risk on one-year deals. If they perform well Atlanta can ship them during the deadline for more prospects. If not they can just part with them after a year. Regardless Atlanta is positioning themselves to be contenders in a year or two.
Miami Marlins: Grade D
Key Additions: A.J. Ellis, Jeff Locke, Dan Straily, Junichi Tazawa, Edinson Volquez, Brad Ziegler
Key Departures: Andrew Cashner, Luis Castillo, Mike Dunn, Jeff Mathis, Fernando Rodney
The Marlins will never be able to replace the fallen Jose Fernandez. It may be time to rebuild but Miami did the exact opposite this offseason. After bleeding their farm system dry in a trade for Andrew Cashner at the trade deadline they simply let him walk this offseason. This offseason they dealt more prospects including highly touted Luis Castillo to Cincinnati in a trade for Dan Straily who had a 5.40 ERA just two years ago. Miami focuses their efforts on pitching this offseason bringing in a number of veterans. For whatever reason, the Marlins are trying to replicate the super bullpen by bringing in Ziegler and Tazawa but the rotation is still a mess. I’m not sure what the Marlins are doing but they clearly don’t have any sort of identity heading into 2017.
New York Mets: Grade B
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: Bartolo Colon, Alejandro De Aza, Logan Verrett
The Mets spent most of their offseason retaining key players such as Yoenis Cespedes, Neil Walker, and a couple relievers Jerry Blevins – Fernando Salas. They paid a pretty penny to do so including Cespedes 4 year deal worth $110 million and Neil Walker’s qualifying offer worth $17.2 million. The key to the Mets season will be whether that talented rotation can stay healthy in 2017? The Mets could have been more proactive in making moves but give them credit for retaining their key pieces.
Philadelphia Phillies: Grade C+
Key Additions: Joaquin Benoit, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Hannigan, Bryan Holaday, Howie Kendrick, Pat Neshek, Michael Saunders
Key Departures: A.J. Ellis, Charlie Morton, Darin Ruf, Darnell Sweeney
The best thing that happened to the Phillies this offseason was getting out of the horrendous Ryan Howard contract. There is no secret that the Phillies are going to stink for a few years. Philly took a similar approach to Atlanta this offseason acquiring veteran players on short term deals. If they play well they can ship them at the deadline. The Buchholtz trade peaked my interest in particular. In 2013 he had a 1.74 ERA for Boston. What if all he needed was a change of scenery?
Washington Nationals: Grade F
Key Additions: Adam Eaton, Joe Nathan, Derek Norris, Vance Worley
Key Departures: Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Dane Dunning, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, Ben Revere, Mark Melancon, Marc Rzepczynski
I was simply dumbfounded by the moves the Nats made this offseason. Washington gave up 3 incredible prospects in a trade for Adam Eaton. Giving up Giolito, Lopez, and Dunning should have netted them an elite player, not mediocre Adam Eaton. Washington plans to play Eaton in center field instead of right field where he played in Chicago. The problem with that is Eaton graded out as one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball back in 2015 (-1.1 defensive war). Trading for Eaton also moves the electric Trea Turner to the infield where his speed obviously plays better in center. Washington was also bombarded with free agent subtractions but did nothing to secure the bullpen needs. At this time it is very unclear who is going to be closing game for the Nationals in 2017.