Offseason Overview: National League

Yesterday, I wrote about each American League team’s needs this offseason and how to address them. Here is the National League edition.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Needless to say, this team was a disaster last season after some costly offseason moves. On the bright side, they still have one of the best players in baseball in Paul Goldschmidt. They will also be getting back their other star, A.J. Pollock, after a season almost entirely lost to a broken right elbow. And while it may already be impossible for Shelby Miller to turn Arizona’s trade for him into anything short of a colossal mistake, he really can’t be any worse. They’ve just added a promising young pitcher in Taijuan Walker, although it was at the cost of breakout star Jean Segura. The D-backs will have to hope Zack Greinke returns to his previous Cy Young self to have a shot at contending this year, but fans can expect the Diamondbacks’ overhaul of their on-field and front office management to be the first step in the right direction for the franchise.

Atlanta Braves

2017 will be year of big changes for Atlanta. It will mark the first at their brand new ballpark, SunTrust Park, and will also be the first full season for manager Brian Snitker, under whom the team’s performance significantly improved last year after taking over. The Braves have done a good job restocking their farm system to the point where they can be ready to contend in the near future. They should improve this year, but will most likely fall short of contending. That hasn’t stopped them from solidifying their starting rotation with two of the oldest pitchers in baseball, Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey, who should provide quality innings to lessen the load on the team’s younger pitchers, in addition to acting as valuable mentors. The Braves spent the last two seasons shipping out most of their veterans, but it would make sense to keep the remaining established players they have who are under team control past this year (Julio Teheran, Ender Inciarte, Freddy Freeman, Matt Kemp). If the Braves’ rebuild is accelerated and they become contenders by 2019, the will want to have those players.

Chicago Cubs

It’s always nice when you enter the offseason as World Champions, but this Cubs team is built to be a dynasty for the next decade. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are not the type to become complacent after winning, but it’s hard to find any part of Chicago’s roster that needs improvement. Their young core is in place for the foreseeable future, although Cy Young contenders Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are the only starting pitchers under team control past the 2017 season. Maybe the Cubs will look to acquire another ace starter. They certainly have the pieces to pull off a big deal. Another (much less costly) option is moving Mike Montgomery back into the rotation. It also seems likely that the Cubs will pursue a dominant reliever to give them the best chance at replicating their postseason success in 2017.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds were one of baseball’s worst teams in 2016, but they did get some promising performances. Outfielder Adam Duvall had a breakout year with 33 home runs, rookie Jose Peraza hit .324 in a utlity role, and Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen both impressed out of the bullpen. With that being said, the Reds are rebuilding and looking towards the future. They will probably try to trade Zack Cozart or Brandon Phillips (if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause), leaving Joey Votto as one of the few established players left on the roster. While their pitching is in better shape than it was heading into last year, it is still very much a work in progress. This leaves the Reds as one of the unlikeliest teams in all of baseball to compete for a playoff spot in 2017.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have a surplus of outfielders and would be in a good position to net large returns on either Carlos Gonzalez or Charlie Blackmon, but it might serve to keep both players and make a playoff push this year. Colorado has a nice core of offensive talent, and full seasons from David Dahl and Trevor Story will only make their lineup more potent. Their biggest offensive need is first base, so free agent Mark Trumbo could be a nice fit. He’ll be pricey and he doesn’t do a whole lot other than hit home runs, but imagine how many long balls he would launch in Coors Field. If they don’t want to go there, they could instead re-sign Mark Reynolds and get another cheaper, left-handed first base option to platoon with him (Brandon Moss, Luis Valbuena, Adam Lind, etc.) As always, Colorado’s pitching is a huge concern, but there’s reason to hope for better times with the emergence of Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, and Tyler Chatwood. If the Rockies can acquire another reliable starter or two to add to this group, and sure up the bullpen, this is a breakout team to watch in 2017.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers should be very busy this offseason, as a number of key contributors are no longer under contract. Last year’s Dodgers didn’t have many reliable offensive contributors on an everyday basis outside of Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner, so look for them to make a strong effort to re-sign Turner and/or pursue some other big offensive weapons. Dave Roberts’ pitching staff was riddled with injuries last year, but he still managed to steer them into the postseason, earning the first-year skipper NL Manager of the Year honors. He will hope to have some more stability in his rotation and bullpen next time around, but that could become more complicated if the Dodgers fail to retain closer Kenley Jansen. Luckily, they are one of the few teams who can afford to spend big on an elite relief pitcher.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins’ everyday lineup is mostly in place already, although that could change if they decide to trade Marcell Ozuna or search for a better hitter than incumbent shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Offensively, the most important aspect for Miami is for Giancarlo Stanton to make it through an entire season. Adding extra depth on the bench might also be something to consider. But the biggest area of need for the Marlins is improving their pitching, both in the bullpen and in the starting rotation. The outlook for the Marlins changed suddenly with the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Fernandez is irreplaceable as a player and as a person, and the impact of his passing is felt throughout the game of baseball and the community in general.

Milwaukee Brewers

Don’t expect the Brewers to add any major players through free agency, but the future looks bright for Milwaukee. First-year GM David Stearns found some nice gems last year in Jonathan Villar and Junior Guerra, and the team has gathered some nice talent in their minor league system. The biggest question surrounding their offseason is whether or not they’ll trade Ryan Braun. He should bring back a sizable haul, but if Milwaukee thinks they can compete in the near future, it might make more sense to keep him. Braun is still under team control for four more years at a high but not unreasonable cost for a player of his caliber in today’s market. On the other hand, the Brewers play in a tough division, and leapfrogging the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates might not be a realistic proposition until Braun is nearing the end of that deal.

New York Mets

I’ve already discussed the Mets’ offseason situation and it begins and ends with Yoenis Cespedes. The Mets need his bat badly, because they just don’t have any other hitters who can be counted upon to provide consistent production. Retaining Neil Walker solidified their infield, as they now have a glut of options to play at various positions. If they do re-sign Cespedes, it would make sense to deal another outfielder, like Jay Bruce, since there would be a redundant surplus of left-handed bats in the outfield. Relief pitching could be something to target. As they have lately, the Mets will otherwise need to ride the expected success of their elite starting pitching.

Philadelphia Phillies

Like their division rivals, the Braves, the Phillies are looking more towards the future than to 2017. They will have a similar approach, continuing to develop young talent and maybe adding a couple of impact free agents that can either fill holes this year or still be around in their primes when the Phillies are ready to compete again. Philadelphia has a nice core of young pitching talent and third baseman Maikel Franco has the potential to become a consistent 30-40 home run bat. The Phillies have already added a quality veteran by trading for Howie Kendrick and have also brought back Jeremy Hellickson, their most reliable starting pitcher from last year.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The talk of the Pirates’ winter has been whether or not they will trade the face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen. If they choose to pull the trigger on a deal, they had better hope they’re getting an elite package of prospects, because it would be foolish to sell low on McCutchen after just one down season. There’s no guarantee that this front office will get fair value for their star player, as they failed to do so in either of the highly questionable Neil Walker or Francisco Liriano trades from last season. The starting rotation, which was once a strength for this team, all of a sudden has question marks beyond Gerrit Cole. When Pittsburgh made the playoffs three consecutive years from 2013-2015, they legitimately had one of the best teams in baseball. It would have been a good time to strike and make a big move, but the organization chose to rely solely on cheaper acquisitions (which did work for the most part). However, there was no reason that the front office couldn’t have added another star to put them over the top, in addition to their successful under-the-radar signings during that stretch. Unfortunately, the window for contention may have closed. Their fans deserve better, and I would be shocked if McCutchen is still with the team next year.

San Diego Padres

The Padres are officially in rebuild mode, so don’t expect any exciting free agent signings. With most of the veterans acquired in the past two seasons are gone, their offseason will be focused on adding low-priced stopgap players to accompany their young talent while their top prospects continue to develop in the minors. The Padres will probably be a pretty bad team, but rookie outfielder Hunter Renfroe is one player who could bring a lot of excitement to Petco Park in 2017.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants earned a wild card berth last year, but it was despite being unable to protect late leads and having an offense that went through prolonged stretches of ineptitude. They are rumored to be after a dominant back end reliever, but it would also behoove them to add a power bat. Only the Marlins and Braves hit fewer home runs than the Giants in 2016. Yoenis Cespedes could be a free agent target, but if they can’t lure him away from the Mets, there are a number of quality outfield bats who could be had in a trade.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals missed the playoffs in 2016 for just the fifth time since 2000. That was despite leading the NL in home runs and finishing third in runs scored. The pitching, while respectable, just wasn’t as good as it was a year prior, when the Redbirds had the best pitching staff in the majors. They will have plenty of options to use in their rotation this year, and they’ve already made a big bullpen move in signing Brett Cecil. An area that could use improvement is the outfield, where St. Louis would be wise to go after a player like Dexter Fowler, who can help on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Washington Nationals

The Nats won the NL East last year despite a down year from 2015 MVP Bryce Harper. However, they received breakout campaigns from Wilson Ramos, free agent acquisition Daniel Murphy, and star rookie Trea Turner. Max Scherzer also picked up his second Cy Young award. Washington will look to replace Ramos, who will probably need to sign with an American League team for this year, as it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to catch by opening day as he recovers from his torn ACL. They can also use an upgrade at either center field or shortstop, whichever position Turner isn’t playing. Lastly, they will look to sign a competent back end relief pitcher. Re-signing Mark Melancon is a possibility.

 

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