Off-season Update: NL East

By Rich Sparago

We are just about at the half-way point of the off-season (in terms of time to spring training), and there has been some activity from teams in the NL East. Let’s take a look at key acquisitions by the Mets’ primary competitors.

Washington: The Nationals added Denard Span and Dan Haren.

August 3, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Minnesota Twins center fielder

Denard Span

(2) heads back to the dugout after scoring a run during the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Over five seasons, Span has averaged 18 HRs and hit .283. Span will play the outfield for Washington, and speculation is that Michael Morse may be traded to open left field for Span. Span is a left-handed hitter, and will add to Washington’s already formidible lineup. Haren is a right-handed pitcher, who has a lifetime record of 119-97, with a 3.66 ERA. He will likely take the place of Edwin Jackson in the Nationals’ rotation.

Atlanta: In addition to re-signing Reed Johnson, Atlanta has added former Rays outfielder B.J. Upton. Upton is a lifetime .255 hitter, with 118 HRs over eight seasons. Upton also has 232 career stolen bases, and has been caught stealing 69 times. He is an excellent defender, and along with Jason Heyward in right field, will cover a lot of ground at Turner Field. Upton will take the place of free agent Michael Bourn and play center field for the Braves. Atlanta will be looking for more offense in 2013 to replace the retired Chipper Jones. Upton’s combination of power and speed will help them in that regard.

Philadelphia: The Phillies traded Vance Worley to obtain Ben Revere from the Twins. Revere is an outfielder who has averaged .278 over three seasons. Revere has yet to hit a big-league HR, but has 74 career stoeln bases and has been caught stealing only 19 times. Revere could help replace Shane Victorino in center field, or take over in a corner outfield spot, where Philadelphia has used a variety of players (John Mayberry, Domonic Brown) since the trades of Victorino and Hunter Pence. Revere and Jimmy Rollins atop the Phillies’ order could create a nice 1-2 punch of speed in 2013. The Phillies also acquired Michael Young from the Texas Rangers, giving them veteran stability at third base, a position previously held by Placido Polanco.

Miami: Where do you begin? The Marlins traded several quality players (Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle, John Buck) to Toronto for a basket of young players, many of whom are regarded as top prospects. While that may bode well for Miami’s future, 2013 appears to be a rebuilding year.

Summary: Overall, it seems that three of the four competitors in the NL east have added pieces to address their needs. While some players have left the division (Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn), fairly significant talent has come into the division. The Mets, as we know, locked David Wright up for 8 years, and this is a very positive move. However, as we also know, the Mets have yet to bring in any talent for 2013. The team indicates that there is plenty of time to do that, and that’s very true. There is no need to rush. However, the Mets also must be cognizant that the competition is not waiting around for New York to improve.

I’d like to make one last point on this post. Sandy Alderson is a firm believer in power, and has pointed to the teams that have made the post-season in recent years as having done so with power. However, one team that relies on power, the New York Yankees, also saw what happens when that relied-upon power disappears in October. The point is that building a one-dimensional offense is a risky proposition in my opinion. I have not heard much from the front office about adding a balance of speed or defense. I think these are critical elements of success. The rest of the off-season will tell us just how much those two elements are part of the organization’s overall plan.