National League Offseason Winners and Losers

Alex Moaba


Phildelphia Phillies: The acquisitions of Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton, two solid, middle of the rotation starters, doesn’t seem too exciting on the surface. But remember that this is a team that finished only three games out of the Wild Card last season. General Manager Pat Gillick has built a deep and dynamic starting rotation that resembles that of the 2006 Tigers. There’s the young strikeout machine with ace potential (Cole Hamels), the less spectacular but still very good #2 (Brett Myers), the aging lefty (Jaime Moyer), and the inning-eaters (Garcia, Eaton, and Jon Lieber). Okay, so it’s not perfect, but it works. The revamped rotation gives the Phillies an element of balance that their perennially near-missing teams have lacked. Maybe this time they won’t waste MVP seasons from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.

Arizona Diamondbacks: GM Josh Byrnes put the finishing touches on a savvy rebuilding job by trading for lefty pitchers Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. Rather than sitting back and watching some of the game’s best young position players (centerfielder Chris Young and shortstop Stephen Drew) try to contend over the next two years, Byrnes acted boldly to speed up the learning curve. The Big Unit and Davis join reigning Cy Young winner Brandon Webb and an already established core of young veterans that includes third baseman Chad Tracy and first baseman Conor Jackson. Arizona now has a formidable rotation and talented, cheap players all over the diamond. The Diamondbacks are about to become one of baseball’s most exciting teams and they look poised to finish around the top of the NL West for the next five years.

Chicago Cubs: You can quibble that the $300 million they dropped on Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa, and Jason Marquis could have been invested more wisely, but the spending spree makes a lot more sense when you realize that the White Sox’s success over the last two years has seriously threatened the Cubs’ previously unchallenged Windy City hegemony in television revenues and popularity. But the bottom line is that the Cubs are clearly the most talented team in the NL Central, a division that the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals won with only 83 wins last season. It’s the Cubs’ division for the taking. Now, somebody figure out how to keep Mark Prior healthy this time.


San Francisco Giants: You can almost hear Tony Soprano screaming, “It’s not a nursing home, it’s a retirement community.” There’s nothing more pathetic than watching a team too stubborn to deviate from a clearly flawed strategy. Maybe at one point surrounding an aging but still prolific Barry Bonds with a cadre of ready-to-win-now veteran guys sounded like a good theory, but it’s failed miserably three years and counting. Why does everyone on the roster have to be old just because Barry Bonds is over the hill? GM Brian Sabean should have been fired the moment he decided it was a good idea to re-acquire Rich Aurilia. Dave Roberts and Ryan Klesko are icing on the cake. They’ll fit right in with the team’s core of over-the-hill veterans Steve Finley, Randy Winn, Matt Morris, and Armando Benitez. This team would have been awesome eight years ago. Being a Giants fan these days already requires a certain amount of moral flexibility, but it’d be nice if you didn’t have to suspend your disbelief to imagine the team contending. At least on the plus side they signed Barry Zito, who has pledged to put his $126 million dollars to good use supporting San Francisco’s local cannabis clubs.

New York Mets: Remember the playoffs last year when the Mets clearly had the National League’s most stacked roster but couldn’t get past the Cardinals because of their patchwork pitching? Well, not much has changed. They’ll win 90-100 games again on the strength of a lineup that added Moises Alou in one of the winter’s best deals, but they won’t be able to make a serious October run unless they add another quality starting pitcher. They still have Tom Glavine and El Duque, and Pedro could be back by July. In the meantime, take your pick between Oliver Perez, John Maine, and prospects Mike Pelfrey and Phillip Humber. That list is fine when you need one or two surprises to come out of it, but that group takes on a decidedly more troubling look when you need breakout years from three of the four pitchers. There were persistent rumors of a Lastings Milledge for Joe Blanton swap, which would make a lot of sense for both teams, so stay tuned.