Early Hot Stove splashes with more to come in NL East
The first few weeks of the Hot Stove season have been busy, but there is still plenty more action to come.
Among NL East clubs, the Marlins made the boldest move of the winter thus far, coming to terms with Giancarlo Stanton on a contract extension potentially worth $325 million. We've also seen a major trade involving the Braves and a surprising signing by the Mets.
Of course, we can expect the Phillies to be fielding plenty of trade offers for some of their accomplished veterans, and the Nationals will be looking to beef up one of baseball's deep rosters.
As we recover from our collective turkey coma, here's a look at where every team in the NL East stands right now as the Winter Meetings slowly become visible above the horizon.
What the Braves have done: Instead of keeping Jason Heyward around for what would have likely been his final season in Atlanta, the Braves used the popular homegrown outfielder to strengthen their future starting rotations. Heyward and Jordan Walden were traded to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller, a potential frontline starter who will immediately have an impact on Atlanta's rotation, and Tyrell Jenkins, a high-upside prospect who will likely spend at least one year in a farm system that has recently lacked top-caliber starting pitching prospects. The acquisition of Miller provided some much needed comfort for the Braves as they attempt to reconstruct a rotation that currently possesses just three other projected members -- Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood.
What the Braves need to address: Now that Heyward has been traded, the question is whether the Braves will also trade both Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. Given that there has been little indication of Upton getting an extension before he becomes a free agent next year, he seems the most likely to be dealt to the Giants, Reds, Mariners, Padres or any other outfield-hungry team that does not want to shop an outfield-thin free-agent market. The Braves have toyed with the idea of putting Gattis in left field with the hope of continuing to benefit from his right-handed power. But at the same time, they realize he could net a strong return from an American League club. Along with filling outfield spots, the Braves will attempt to add at least one more Major League-ready starting pitcher this winter.
-- Mark Bowman
What the Marlins have done: From a big picture standpoint, Miami's offseason already can be deemed a success. Signing Stanton to a record-smashing, 13-year, $325 million contract puts to rest any speculation the slugger could be traded. Even though the Marlins insisted Stanton would stay, with or without a new deal, had this contract not been reached you would have seen a Stanton frenzy swirl around the franchise all winter. The rumors would have been a non-stop distraction that is now avoided. With the two-time All-Star locked up for the foreseeable future, Miami not only retained one of the premier power hitters in the game, the team sent out a signal that the organization means business about contending.
What the Marlins need to address: Surrounding Stanton with enough pieces to seriously contend is the next order of business. The club has two objectives in mind, first making a commitment to signing some other core players who continue to be under club control. The Marlins are hoping to lock up Gold Glove-winning left fielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, a Gold Glove finalist, to extensions. Center fielder Marcell Ozuna and All-Star right-hander Henderson Alvarez are other extension candidates. A long-shot to sign a multiyear deal is Jose Fernandez. Maintaining their core is the top priority. In addition, either through trades or free agency, the Marlins aim to fulfill their needs for a power bat, frontline starting pitcher and second baseman.
-- Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK METS
What the Mets have done: The Mets wasted little time in plugging their most significant roster hole, surprising many by signing 35-year-old outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year, $21 million deal. Cuddyer gives the Mets some much-needed thump in the middle of their lineup, particularly from the right side of the plate. New York's right-handed batters hit a total of 60 home runs last season, while Cuddyer averaged one every 20.5 plate appearances.
All of the team's moves to date have revolved around its offense; the Mets also moved in their right-center-field fence for the second time in three years, in a strategy that should help right- and left-handed batters alike, and hired Kevin Long as their hitting coach.
What the Mets need to address: Shortstop remains the Mets' most glaring area of need, though there is a decent chance they simply entrust the job to Wilmer Flores. With free-agents such as Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera likely out of their price range, the Mets are looking instead to the trade market, where potential fixes range from the uber-expensive (Troy Tulowitzki and Xander Bogaerts) to the more reasonable (Alexei Ramirez and Didi Gregorius).
To land any of those players, the Mets would need to dip into their stable of starting pitching, which they have historically been hesitant to do under general manager Sandy Alderson. The rest of the roster, outside of a bullpen job or two, is mostly set.
-- Anthony DiComo
What the Phillies have done: The Phillies re-signed outfielder Grady Sizemore and right-hander Jerome Williams. Both players joined the organization during the middle of last season and the Phils liked them enough to bring them back on one-year contracts. Sizemore's deal is worth $2 million and Williams' is for $2.5 million, plus performance bonuses. The club also added some depth to the bullpen by signing left-hander Elvis Araujo. The Phils took a chance by signing Araujo to a Major League contract even though he's never pitched in the Majors.
What the Phillies need to address: This could be a defining offseason for the future of the Phillies as they move into a rebuilding phase. Interim team president Pat Gillick said this month that the Phils probably will not contend again until 2017 or '18. Change is on the way. The Phillies have made it well known that they are exploring trades for any veteran player on the roster. Cole Hamels is likely to bring back the biggest haul and has been linked to a number of teams. Ryan Howard is in play too, though the Phils likely would need to eat some of the first baseman's remaining salary. Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo are two relievers who could be moved. The market for catchers is slim, so Carlos Ruiz could be an attractive option for some clubs. There could be changes in the outfield too, with Marlon Byrd a potential trade piece.
-- Austin Laymance
What the Nationals need to address: The Nationals needed to improve their bench. Pinch-hitters hit .144 this past season. So they signed infielder/outfielder Emmanuel Burriss to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. A D.C. native, Burris, 29, played in 116 games for Triple-A Syracuse and had a .300 batting average with six home runs, 46 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. The Nationals also agreed to terms with infielder Kevin Frandsen on a one-year deal worth $1 million plus incentives, thus avoiding arbitration. Frandsen was a valuable bench player this past season, his first with the Nationals, hitting .259 with a home run and 17 RBIs in 105 games. He was usually the first player manager Matt Williams called on to be a pinch-hitter or defensive replacement.
What the Nationals need to address: The Nationals have to figure out what to do with Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Tyler Clippard, Denard Span and Ian Desmond, all of whom are free agents after the 2015 season. It seems that the team can't sign all of them. In fact, there is talk that the Nationals are listening to offers for Zimmermann and Fister. If general manager Mike Rizzo does trade Fister or Zimmermann, one can assume he will ask for a king's ransom in return. Based on his history with the Nationals since he became GM in 2009, Rizzo would probably want a mix of young players to replenish the farm system and players who have been in the Majors for a while.
The Nationals need a second baseman. It's doubtful Cabrera will be back in Washington, and the team is thinking about making Danny Espinosa a right-handed hitter exclusively. Maybe Rizzo could trade for Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who will be in the last year of his contract. He can drive in runs, has occasional power and is an above-average second baseman.
-- Bill Ladson