NL East: Off-season so far

Where in the NL West and Central we saw teams grabbing headlines trying to get back into contention, in the East you can’t start anywhere else than looking at a team that has done precious little this off-season.

The Washington Nationals’ roster is very similar today to how they ended the 2014 season – minus Adam LaRoche who has joined the Chicago White Sox – and whilst that makes for a dull off-season, it doesn’t change the fact that the Nationals were the class of the division last year and remain so.

The Miami Marlins made plenty of noise in signing Giancarlo Stanton to a monumental contract extension, yet that didn’t improve the team in itself as he already figured to be a part of their 2015 team regardless.

The focus from there was on the moves that the Marlins were promising to make to show that they were committed to winning with their homegrown star. They have been active – bringing in Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Michael Morse, Martin Prado and possibly Dan Haren, if the latter does agree to relocate from the west coast – although they are coming from a long way back so it remains to be seen if they have truly put themselves in the Wild Card hunt.

The New York Mets entered the off-season in a slightly similar position whereby they were starting from a non-contending 2014 season, yet they have a group of talented young players, including Matt Harvey returning after missing all of 2014 through injury, that looked like they might be an outside bet to leap forward with a few key additions. Unfortunately for Mets fans, the only real addition they have made is signing veteran outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who may not prove to be a positive addition at all.

They should be improved if their current players stay out on the field, yet that only makes their unwillingness to push the team forward with a bold position player signing or two all the more frustrating. Rumours about potential impact trade targets – Troy Tulowitzki being the most frequent name mentioned – continue to circulate, but recent history doesn’t offer much reason to believe the Mets are on the verge of making such a deal.

If ‘frustrating’ is a good word for the Mets, what one should we choose to sum up the Atlanta Braves? Pitching injuries have hit them hard over the past year or so and now, having traded away Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, they look like a team treading water in the mid-pack despite having a good core of players.

Their move to a new ballpark for the 2017 season seems to be the focus and despite adding Shelby Miller and Nick Markakis so far this off-season, their approach for the next two seasons appears to be one of hoping to sneak a Wild Card if they can without pushing the boat out, rather than really going for it or taking the alternative stance and trading away several more established players (Craig Kimbrel being the obvious next candidate) to focus purely on the 2017 team.

The Philadelphia Phillies do at last appear to be looking to the future rather than desperately clinging onto the successful 2007-2011 period, with Jimmy Rollins being traded to the LA Dodgers. The problem the Phillies have is that the rebuild should have started two years ago, meaning the only really valuable player they have left to trade (excluding Chase Utley, who is still playing well but can block any trade and, by all accounts, wants to see out his career in Philadelphia) is Cole Hamels. Getting that trade right will be crucial for the pace at which they can get back to contention. The 2015 season is undoubtedly a write-off already and 2016-2017 might not be great either.

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