N.L East Still Braves Domain

With the addition of Raul Mondesi, the Braves lineup is starting to take shape. How does the National League East look at this point in the offseason? BravesCenter's Bill Shanks takes a look at the additions for each team.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Added: Danny Kolb, Tim Hudson, Gabe White, Jorge Vasquez, Raul Mondesi

Subtracted: Jose Capellan, Alec Zumwalt, Charles Thomas, Juan Cruz, Dan Meyer, Eli Marrero, J.D. Drew, Antonio Alfonseca, Armando Almanza, DeWayne Wise, Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd, Mark DeRosa, Tim Drew, Russ Ortiz, Travis Smith

Comment: One big change not listed above obviously is the move of John Smoltz back to the starting rotation. He and Tim Hudson replace Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz. The bullpen will be a bit different as well with Gabe White becoming the second lefty behind Tom Martin. The biggest change in the lineup is in right field, where Raul Mondesi replaces J.D. Drew. If Mondesi can duplicate his averages from 1995-2003 (27 homers and 85 RBI), the loss of the multi-talented Drew won't be felt as much.

NEW YORK METS

Added: Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Dae-Sung Woo, Felix Heredia, Juan Padilla, Manny Aybar, Andres Galarraga, Ramon Castro, Marlon Anderson, Miguel Cairo, Chris Woodward, Anderson Hernandez, Kerry Robinson, Gerald Williams

Subtracted: Mike Stanton, Vance Wilson, Al Leiter

Comment: The Mets have made the big splashes in the offseason with the additions of Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, two players with enormous potential but that were highly overpaid. Martinez joins a brittle rotation of Tom Glavine, Kris Benson, Steve Trachsel, and Victor Zambrano. If it stays healthy, it could be a great group of starters. Beltran is one of the best players in the game, but the Mets now have to decide what to do with the disgruntled Mike Cameron, slated to move over to right field. The bullpen is still a huge question mark. They need to get another good bullpen arm before Opening Day.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Added: Kenny Lofton, Jon Leiber, Terry Adams

Subtracted: Felix Rodriquez, Kevin Millwood, Eric Milton,

Comment: Slow offseason for the Phillies compared to the other teams. They chose Jon Leiber over Kevin Millwood or Eric Milton, and re-signing Cory Lidle gives them a formidable rotation. Charlie Manual, their new manager, is the biggest chance with Larry Bowa now gone. He'll bring a new environment to a very decent roster from 2004. The Phillies have a very safe team and may have the fewest questions of the teams in the division. But they haven't won anything in so long they have to learn how to win.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Added: Al Leiter, Antonio Alfonseca, Todd Jones, John Reidling, Chad Bentz, Mike DiFelice, Wilson Delgado

Subtracted: Carl Pavano, Mike Mordecai, Chad Fox, Billy Koch, Josias Manzanillo, Wil Cordero, Mike Redmond, David Weathers

Comment: Not sure if Al Leiter for Carl Pavano is a good switch. Leiter is a five-inning pitcher who has limited ability left. The big trade that brought Paul LoDuca last July 31st was their big move. He'll be a great leader for what is still a very young team. The Fish have revamped their bullpen with the loss of Armando Benitez and the additions of Todd Jones, Antonio Alfonseca, John Reidling, and Chad Bentz. If they sign Carlos Delgado, their lineup will be tremendously impressive. Right now, this looks like a team that could be a few games over .500. But like 2003, they could get much better real quick.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Added: Gary Bennett, Wil Cordero, Christian Guzman, Vinny Castilla, Jose Guillen, Jared Sandberg, Chad Bentz

Subtracted: Tony Batista, Juan Rivera, Macier Izturis

Comment: Jim Bowden has done an admirable job of putting together a roster for the new (old) franchise. Yea, he overpaid for Guzman and Castilla, but how else was he going to get them to go to Washington? He had to overpay. The key to the Nationals may be the health of Tony Armas, Jr. If he rebounds, they could have a very decent rotation. The lineup may be a bit improved, but there are still many, many questions. This is a transition year, however, and they just want to keep their head above water until a new owner is in place.

SUMMARY

As it stands now, the numerous preseason publications may have either the Braves, Mets, or Phillies predicted for first place. But these other teams know they still have to go through Atlanta to win the division, so Atlanta will be the overall favorite. They stack up very well against the division teams, but they have questions as you well know. If the lineup produces adequately and the rotation stays healthy, the Braves are going to be the team to beat. Plus, how dangerous do you think the rest of the National League will know John Schuerholz is going to be with a few extra million bucks able to spend on potential trades during the season? The Phillies, on paper, look very solid. They may be the team that gets off to a fast start. The Mets have a lot of new faces, a new environment with their new manager, and plenty of pressure. If they can't win now, will they ever? Once again, this will be a very competitive division. Is it the best division in the game? Probably not, but these teams have a lot of talent that could produce some good baseball. But as of now, the Braves have to be the favorite.

Bill Shanks can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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