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2014 free agent primer: NL East

The NL East is a very cyclical division. The Braves ran roughshod over the division during its first ten or so years, then the Phillies took over after a brief interlude where the Mets played well. Now, it’s looking like we’re in the Nationals era, despite Atlanta’s 2013 division crown. How the division will shake out in 2015 will have a lot to do with each team’s offseason.

Atlanta Braves
Free agents: Emilio Bonifacio, Ryan Doumit, Gavin Floyd, Aaron Harang, Gerald Laird, Ervin Santana
Needs: 2B, Bench, SP
Atlanta doesn’t have much money to spend, but they need to upgrade at second base, reformat their bench, and fill out the back-end of their rotation. I doubt they’ll get involved in the second base market – holding strong with an unproven youngster like Phil Gosselin or Tommy La Stella could be key to their success. The Braves also need to completely revamp their bench (which they can do in several different ways), as they’ll lose three backups from the 2014 team. The only one of those three players I can see returning to Atlanta is Bonifacio, who came over from the Cubs at the trade deadline, but struggled offensively. As for their rotation, the Braves have questions marks past their top three of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Mike Minor. Harang was a huge success on a one-year deal last season, and I could see the Braves looking at another veteran like him to fill out a spot. A player like Jason Hammel, or someone returning from injury like Chad Billingsley or Wandy Rodriguez may be a fit.

Atlanta also may be able to make things happen via the trade market. The Braves have a pair of corner outfielders that could be popular in Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, and either should provide a solid return to help retool the club’s weak points. There’s also the B.J. Upton debacle in center field, which might only be solved by Atlanta eating 80% of the money left on his contract for a minimal return from another team.

Miami Marlins
Free agents: Rafael Furcal, Kevin Gregg, Reed Johnson, Brad Penny, Kevin Slowey
Needs: Corner infield
The Marlins are likely going to be very quiet this winter. They don’t really lose anyone of significance. They could upgrade at first, where Garrett Jones is signed through 2015 but simply isn’t that good. But no players on the free agent market really make sense for Miami, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they rolled into 2015 with Jones still at first base.

Of course, if the Marlins trade Giancarlo Stanton (which I really doubt they will), we could be in for an interesting winter in Miami. Aside from Stanton, the only player tied to Marlins trade rumors is closer Steve Cishek. What a shock – Miami doesn’t need to have a crazy winter to put together a good club in 2015.

New York Mets
Free agents: John Lannan, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Omar Quintanilla, Taylor Teagarden
Needs: Bullpen, corner outfield
The Mets also don’t need to do much this winter. They’ve got a solid rotation that will only get better in 2015 following the return of Matt Harvey. Lucas Duda has strengthened his hold on the first base position following a great 2014. David Wright and Curtis Granderson are paid too much to be traded. Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, and Travis d’Arnaud are young pieces that seem to be locked in to starting jobs next year. Maybe the Mets could be in the market for a reliever or two and a power bat in the mold of Michael Morse in the outfield, but aside from that, they’re in pretty good shape.

As for trades, there are two elephants in the room with the Mets – Daniel Murphy at second base, and the team’s absurd amount of young pitching. New York has something like eight viable starters, and none aside from Bartolo Colon are older than 28. Moving one of those guys for some young offensive talent could work out well for the club (hopefully better than when the Mariners traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero). Murphy is a key contributor at a traditionally weak offensive position, and given his growing age, salary, and free agency after the 2015 season, New York could look to sell high.

Philadelphia Phillies
Free agents: Mike Adams, A.J. Burnett, Tony Gwynn Jr, Kyle Kendrick, Wil Nieves
Needs: SP
It’s not as if the Phillies are a great team…it’s that they’re so tied in to ugly contracts that they can’t do much of anything to get better. After signing Grady Sizemore and Jerome Williams, the Phillies are probably done with big moves this winter – unless they somehow manage to trade Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, or Jonathan Papelbon, or get a great offer for Marlon Byrd or Cole Hamels. The team’s rotation is a house of cards past Hamels, and signing more veterans of the same caliber as Williams (think Harang, Scott Baker, Paul Maholm) could be the best course of action if they’re not sold on him, David Buchanan, and Miguel Gonzalez.

Improving the team in the short-term shouldn’t be what the Phillies are concerned with this winter. They need to worry about moving these expensive veterans and getting better in 2016 and beyond. They’re reportedly very interested in Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, and signing him would probably open the door to trading Marlon Byrd or Domonic Brown to help retool even more for the future.

Washington Nationals
Free agents: Asdrubal Cabrera, Kevin Frandsen, Scott Hairston, Adam LaRoche, Nate Schierholtz, Rafael Soriano
Needs: 2B, bench
The reigning NL East champions will probably have an offseason built around priming their club for another playoff run in 2015. The team needs to do something about second base, and re-signing trade deadline acquisition Cabrera is the easiest way to take care of that. The bench could also use an upgrade with Frandsen, Hairston, and Schierholtz all hitting the open market. The versatile Kelly Johnson, who finished his 2014 in Baltimore, could be a nice fit.

It’s pretty wild that the Nationals are losing a couple of expensive veterans in LaRoche and Soriano, and they won’t even blink in replacing them. I highly doubt that Ian Desmond or Jordan Zimmermann, both of whom will be free agents in a year, will be dangled in trades – they’re too important to the success of the club this season. The Nationals aren’t going to go big this offseason, and that’s just fine considering how their club is currently structured.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.