Inside the Phillies: Reviewing the offseason moves in the Phillies' division

Posted: January 07, 2013

It is too soon to fill out the final scorecard on this offseason, but we can take a look at what has transpired so far - with the focus for this exercise narrowed to the National League East, since that's the division the Phillies will try to reclaim in 2013.

In order of finish in 2012, here's a look at what each team in the division has done so far this offseason.

Washington Nationals (2012 record: 98-64; N.L. pitching ranking: 1st, 3.33 ERA; N.L. runs scored ranking: 5th, 731)

The Nationals' two biggest additions so far have been centerfielder Denard Span and righthander Dan Haren.

Span was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer, a move the Nationals could afford to make because they have so much talented young pitching. The 28-year-old Span will take over in center field, allowing Bryce Harper to play in left and Jayson Werth in right. Michael Morse would likely move to first base if the Nationals do not re-sign Adam LaRoche, who is seeking a three-year deal for about $36 million.

Haren signed a one-year deal worth $13 million and he will replace Edwin Jackson in the rotation. Jackson signed with the Cubs for four years and $52 million, but it is the Nationals who upgraded their already superb rotation.

Regardless of what the Nationals do now, they will go into the 2013 season as the favorites to defend their first division title. Span makes them significantly better on the defensive side and allows Harper to move into the middle of the batting order, where he should do some serious damage.

Depending upon what happens with LaRoche, the Nationals' biggest departures could be the bullpen losses of lefties Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez, and Tom Gorzelanny. The bullpen was a strength for Washington in 2012, but it could be a weakness this season.

Atlanta Braves (2012 record: 94-68; N.L. pitching ranking: 4th, 3.42 ERA; N.L. runs scored ranking: 7th, 700)

The Braves decided early on to replace Michael Bourn's speed with B.J. Upton's speed and power, signing the free agent to a five-year deal worth more than $75 million. The Phillies liked Upton, too, but they reportedly offered him $20 million less.

The Braves also acquired reliever Jordan Walden in the trade that sent Tommy Hanson to the Los Angeles Angels. That's a move that made the Braves' greatest strength (the bullpen) even stronger. Even with the loss of Hanson, the Braves still have a strong rotation, especially if Kris Medlen comes close to duplicating his 2012 performance.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez must decide who will replace Bourn as Atlanta's leadoff hitter, but the greatest gap that must be filled is at third base, which was vacated by Chipper Jones' retirement. If the Braves move Martin Prado from left field to third base, they will then need another competent corner outfielder.

Atlanta also faces a problem similar to the Phillies' because catcher Brian McCann is expected to miss at least the first half of April after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Phillies will be without Carlos Ruiz for the first 25 games while he serves a suspension for a failed drug test.

The continued development of Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, along with the deepest pitching staff in the division, should allow the Braves to compete for the division title.

Phillies (2012 record: 81-81; N.L. pitching ranking: 7th, 3.83 ERA; N.L. runs scored ranking: 8th, 684)

After trading away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the all-star break, then being underwhelmed by the work of John Mayberry Jr., the Phillies made center field their top offseason priority.

Upton, Bourn, Victorino, and Josh Hamilton were all available via free agency - and the Twins were, obviously, willing to deal Span. The Phillies ended up getting Minnesota's Ben Revere, a 24-year-old lefthanded singles hitter with blinding speed. He has been compared to a young Juan Pierre. If he can do for the Phillies what a young Pierre did for the Florida Marlins in 2003, it will be a great move.

Even with Revere, the Phillies have questions at both corner outfield positions. If the season started tomorrow, you'd have a likely platoon of Darin Ruf and Laynce Nix in left field and Domonic Brown and Mayberry in right field. It's hard to imagine the Phillies starting the season with that collection of outfielders.

Scott Hairston is the one remaining free agent who would fit into the equation, and the Phillies have reportedly talked to the Angels about Vernon Wells. Unless the Angels are eating almost all of the $42 million left on his contract, it's not a deal worth making and even then it could be considered questionable.

The Phillies strengthened two 2012 weaknesses with the addition of Michael Young at third base and Mike Adams as their eighth-inning setup man.

New York Mets (2012 record: 74-88; N.L. pitching ranking: 11th, 4.09 ERA; N.L. runs scored ranking: 12th, 650)

The Mets' one big move was trading 2012 Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and two others to Toronto. Among the players New York received in return were pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard and catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, the former Phillies draft pick.

That is a great trade for the Mets, but it will not help them contend in 2013.

Miami Marlins (2012 record: 69-93; N.L. pitching ranking: 11th, 4.09; N.L. runs scored ranking: 15th, 609)

The 2012 Marlins were what the 2013 Blue Jays are - and Toronto had better hope it works out better in Ontario than it did in Little Havana. You'll need a roster to identify most of the 2013 Marlins, a team that will be quite capable of losing 110 games. It's hard to figure out why a team would purge so much salary and then give Placido Polanco a one-year deal worth $2.75 million. They also signed Pierre.


Contact Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @brookob.

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