Looking at BP's projections, both favorites in this division should easily crack 90 wins with the Phillies coming in at 96-97 and the Braves settling for 92-93.
|2011 Payroll||2012 FA's||2012 Arbs.|
It's been reported that the Phillies won't be adding much in terms of salary but they have been linked, heavily, to Carlos Beltran. If they expect the Mets to sign the remainder of his checks then it should cost them in terms of prospects and Domonic Brown has been heavily linked whenever the Phillies are rumored to make a move.
Brown would be a logical centerpiece but how well will he fit with the Mets? He does hit from the left-side which can be frustrating at Citi Field but with his exceptional bat speed, legitimate power and advanced strikezone awareness would it make sense for the Phillies to send a divisional rival MLB ready talent for a mere rental? Just the fact that Brown is only 23 years old and still growing into his 6'5" frame Looking over other Phillie prospects: Brody Colvin , Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Sebastian Valle. All these players are available for the right player(s) but they are raw and have hit some snags in their development.
It's been reported that Astro officials attended a game in Low-A Lakewood to watch Phillie prospect Jesse Biddle pitch. Hunter Pence would provide that much needed offense from the right-hand side but could pose a bit of a logjam unless Brown could be moved to left field to replace Raul Ibanez next season. Pence wouldn't be eligible for free agency until 2014 and his defense would be an upgrade over Brown's and it would give the Phillies to players in key positions under the age of 30 in 2012.
Winning now and still finding ways to get younger is something the Phillies need to focus on.
The Braves have also expressed an interest in adding offense but won't be willing to pay a high price. The team is ready to cut bait on Nate McLouth and Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp, or Marlon Byrd would be an easy fix. Bourn would come at a higher price but could be had for some prospects NOT NAMED Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino.
The Braves are also concerned about the high usage from the front end of their bullpen. Craig Kimbrel has already logged in 50 innings and set-up man, Jonny Venters, just passed the 60 inning threshold. The team would like to add another right-hander to face some high-leverage situations and have looked into Tyler Clippard's availability but it's likely they will go in-house for a solution.
The Braves do have a long ways to catch the Phillies but they do have a firm grip on the Wild Card lead. Based on this, along with uncertainties on whether Arizona and Pittsburgh can sustain their success, I don't see a lot of desperation coming from Atlanta.
The Mets have been performing much better than expected but with Jose Reyes' recent leg injury, the team's primary trade chip is Beltran. Rumors have surfaced that Beltran is only looking to be dealt to another NL team. If this is true then the probable suitors will be the Phillies, Braves, Giants and Brewers.
I've already discussed the Phillies interest and the Giants have made their interest well know (although with Brandon Belt and Zack Wheeler declared "off limits" then putting together a package to New York's liking will be difficult). The Brewers lack of near MLB-ready prospects is also making their negotiations difficult and the Braves don't want to hold on to their top prospects (especially if it involves a division rival). Unless a team like the Giants is willing to absorb all of Beltran's 2011 pay, then getting something done in the NL will require some creativity.
Over the weekend, Jeff Conine (special assistant to Marlins President David Samson) made news by offering his opinion that the team could benefit by trading Hanley Ramirez. I can see the team doing this over the offseason but right now wouldn't make much sense. Ramirez has been hot of late and trading him now (especially so close to his recent struggles and injury) would be a complete sell-low and wouldn't net the same return is the team waited for his overall numbers to improve. If Ramirez can show that he is truly an All-Star, despite issues of having to eventually move off of SS, his bat could easily play at 3B and with the money owed until 2015 - he could look like a bargain to some teams.
Right now, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Josh Johnson have been declared "off limits" by the Marlins. Among players they would be willing to move: Leo Nunez and Javier Vazquez. Nunez is arb. eligible this offseason and his move would be a welcomed transaction. Vazquez has improved greatly in his past few starts but his flyball tendencies have been giving him fits since last season.
Finally, the Nationals are rumored to have put Ian Desmond on the market but this has been debated since a few in Washington's front office still believe Desmond can turn into an All-Star caliber SS. One interesting development, MLBTR has briefly reported that the Nats are aggressively pursuing B.J. Upton which would make this team an active buyer? With many free agents predicted to leave this offseason - I suppose it's possible for the Nationals to be actively looking for ways to improve their 2012 team.