After a lengthy, quiet start to the off-season, the Miami Marlins have burst into 2016 with a series of impactful moves for both the short and long term, most notably the signing of Wei-Yin Chen and the extension of Dee Gordon. The activity has rightfully generated renewed hope and buzz regarding the team's chances in 2016, but their division rivals have not remained idle, either.
The National League East in 2015 was an interesting juxtaposition of wild success and abysmal failure. The division boasted the eventual NL representative in the World Series in the New York Mets, a competitive if fatally flawed Washington Nationals squad, the injury plagued, depth-starved Miami Marlins, and a couple of bottom feeders in the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Should we expect things to be the same in 2016? Examining the moves (or non-moves) of the other teams in the division could prove instructive. If you follow the Marlins with any sort of regularity, you are familiar with the moves the Fish have made up to this juncture. Let's take a closer look at the remaining teams in the NL East, starting with the reigning National League Champions.
All team projections courtesy of Fangraphs.
New York Mets:
2015 Record: 90-72, 1st in the Division.
2016 Projection: 84-78.
Key Acquisitions: Bartolo Colon (re-signed), Jerry Blevins (re-signed), Alejandro De Aza, Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker (trade).
Key Departures: Yoenis Cespedes, Daniel Murphy, Michael Cuddyer (retired), Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, John Mayberry Jr., Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Tyler Clippard, Eric O'Flaherty, Jon Niese (trade).
The Mets went for a strengthening of the overall squad as opposed to dumping all their eggs back into the Cespedes basket, much to the chagrin of a portion of the New York fan base. I like Walker as a replacement for Murphy over the course of the full season and the addition of De Aza and Cabrera offers solid depth that should make them less vunerable against right handed pitching. The ageless Bartolo Colon (or, should he falter, Rafael Montero) will hold down the fort in the fifth spot until Zach Wheeler returns, making an already ridiculous rotation even stronger. Still, it is hard to imagine them getting better without Cespedes in the middle, thus making the six game projected decline seem palpable.
2015 Record: 83-79, 2nd in the Division.
2016 Projection: 88-74.
Key Acquisitions: Dusty Baker (manager), Daniel Murphy, Stephen Drew, Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, Yusmeiro Petit, Ben Revere (trade).
Key Departures: Matt Williams (fired), Dan Uggla, Ian Desmond, Nate McLouth, Denard Span, Doug Fister, Jordan Zimmermann, Casey Janssen, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen (trade).
The Nationals did a nice job reloading, but their biggest move might've been punting Williams for Baker. Don't get me wrong, Baker is an old school guy with a well-earned reputation of riding his starting pitchers into the ground, but there is evidence that he backed off of this in the latter years of his Reds run. Perhaps more importantly to the Nats' immediate fortunes is that Baker will inact effective clubhouse management through a well documented ability to lead, something that was clearly lacking under his predecessor. It also doesn't hurt their chances that Bryce Harper finally emerged as one of the game's great players. Accordingly, it would appear that the Nationals are an appropriate favorite to win the division this year.
2015 Record: 67-95, 4th in the Division.
2016 Projection: 67-95.
Key Acquisitions: Erick Aybar (trade), AJ Pierzynski (re-signed), Tyler Flowers, Nate Freiman, Emilio Bonafacio, Kelly Johnson, Gordon Beckham, Bud Norris, Alexi Ogando, Jim Johnson, Ian Krol (trade), Ender Inciarte (trade), Aaron Blair (trade), Dansby Swanson (trade).
Key Departures: Andrelton Simmons (trade), Pedro Ciriaco, Mike Minor, Ross Detwiler, Jason Frasor, Edwin Jackson, Peter Moylan, Cameron Maybin (trade), Shelby Miller (trade).
While losing arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game can never be considered an upgrade, as a result of their off-season haul between that trade and the Miller trade, the Braves have once again bolstered their rebuild ahead of the arrival of their new ballpark in 2017. There are whispers that the Braves are checking in on Cespedes (and why not if the price has come down), but as it stands, this squad will likely be no better than last year's team. I predict that Freddie Freeman and his gallant band of nobodies will still have an annoying amount of success against Miami, though.
2015 Record: 63-99, 5th in the Division.
2016 Projection: 66-96.
Key Acquisitions: Matt Klentak (GM), J.P. Arencibia, Ernesto Frieri, David Hernandez, Edward Mujica, Vincent Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer, Derek Fisher, Thomas Eshelman.
Key Departures: Ruben Amaro Jr. (Fired), Jeff Francouer, Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Justin De Fratus, Ken Giles.
The Phillies are much in the same boat as the Braves are in, rebuilding and retooling for beyond this upcoming season. Their main moves, beyond not bringing back all of those guys who were interesting in 2002, were trading their closer Giles to the Astros for a significant return, and replacing Ruben Amaro Jr. with fresh-faced Matt Klentak. Klentak had previous experience working his way up the ladder with the Colorado Rockies, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels before finally landing in Philadelphia. He will undoubtedly bring a more statistical inclination to the position than his predecessor, making the Phillies potentially more dangerous going forward. In the short term, though, the Marlins can continue looking forward to them showing up on the schedule.