Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A quick look at the rest of the N.L. East

DALLAS -- The Phillies are the team to beat in the National League East and the Miami Marlins appear to be the team most interested in beating them.

A quick look at the rest of the N.L. East

The Marlins appear to be making the biggest push to beat the Phils in the N.L. East. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)
The Marlins appear to be making the biggest push to beat the Phils in the N.L. East. (Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo)

DALLAS -- The Phillies are the team to beat in the National League East and the Miami Marlins appear to be the team most interested in beating them.

But what about the rest of the division?

With the Marlins' pursuit of every living, breathing free agent taking center stage at these winter meetings, you may not have noticed Tuesday night that the New York Mets got busy with a flurry of moves.

They traded center fielder Angel Pagan to the San Francisco Giants for Andres Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez -- a good deal for the Mets -- and signed free-agent pitchers Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco. Those moves should actually strengthen the Mets, but not to the point where they can challenge the Phillies for the division title, especially after they lost star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Marlins.

It's the relative quiet of the other two teams in the division that has been interesting so far.

When last we saw the Atlanta Braves, they were completing a monumental collapse that allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to earn an unexpected playoff spot that they parlayed into the franchise's 11th World Series title.

Since then, the Braves have done little to upgrade their roster, but unless the Marlins can actually complete their negotiations with Albert Pujols, Atlanta will remain the second best team in the division going into the season.

Regardless of what they do, the Braves have remarkable pitching depth in both the starting rotation and bullpen and rank second to the Phillies in the entire National League in the pitching department. For that reason alone, the Braves should contend again for at least a wildcard spot.

Whether Atlanta can challenge for the division title will likely depend on who they can add in left field and at shortstop and whether Jason Heyward can bounce back from injuries that contributed to a disappointing sophomore season.

The Braves have allowed shortstop Alex Gonzalez to test the free-agent waters, but they have no interest in Jimmy Rollins because they have a prospect about a year away from getting to the big leagues.

At the end of last season, the Washington Nationals appeared to be the team that was ready to emerge as a playoff contender and as these meetings opened there was some thought that they'd be the team making the biggest news.

The Nationals' top priority appears to be signing free agent lefthander Mark Buerhle to be the veteran presence on a staff that includes young studs such as Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman. That would strengthen the Nats, but they would have to do more than that to continue the steady improvement they've shown over the last few seasons.


Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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The place for up-to-the-minute Phillies coverage from The Inquirer beat writer Matt Gelb and columnist Bob Brookover.

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