Scouting the NL East

It's not easy to follow all of the movement around baseball throughout the winter. We've been able to keep up-to-date and have scouting reports on each of the Phillies division rivals.

Atlanta Braves

Chipper Jones is beginning to hit, following what he calls his worst season ever. Jones is not blaming injuries for his 2009 performance; because the balls he is hit had topspin on them rather than backspin, he believes that indicates a mechanical flaw.

Derek Lowe is saying all the right things about having no hard feelings after an offseason in which general manager Frank Wren attempted to trade him and his big contract in exchange for a power-hitting first baseman. More important, Lowe says he has corrected the mechanical flaw - which he won't specify - that rendered him only average in his first season with the Braves.

Peter Moylan agreed to terms on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration. Moylan was the last unsigned arbitration-eligible player on the Braves' 40-man roster. Moylan pitched in franchise-record 87 games in 2009, despite missing the first weeks of the season as he came back from Tommy John elbow surgery. Only Mets LH reliever Pedro Feliciano (88 appearances) pitched in more games than Moylan last year.

Kris Medlen will be counted on by manager Bobby Cox and general manager Frank Wren to pick up where he left off at the end of last season, as a steady and effective two- or three-inning middle man, and as an emergency closer.

Nate McLouth got his 2010 marching orders from general manager Frank Wren on the final day of the 2009 season: work on getting on base by any means. The Braves don't need McLouth to be the home run hitter he was for the Pirates, as he likely will be batting first.

Roster Report:

The Braves are already excited about next season, thanks to strong five-man rotation. They're anticipating the return to form of 3B Chipper Jones, and a more consistent year offensively from C Brian McCann, who got off to a slow start after experiencing vision difficulties.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The composition of next season's outfield is in flux, though newly acquired Melky Cabrera will be in there somewhere.

ARRIVALS: RHP Jesse Chavez (trade with Rays), RHP Scott Proctor (minor league free agent from Marlins), LHP Billy Wagner (free agent from Red Sox), RHP Takashi Saito (free agent from Red Sox), RHP Jesse Chavez (trade with Rays), OF Melky Cabrera (trade with Yankees), INF Joe Thurston (minor league free agent from Cardinals), INF Troy Glaus (free agent from Cardinals), INF/OF Eric Hinske (free agent from Yankees).

DEPARTURES: RHP Rafael Soriano (traded to Rays), RHP Buddy Carlyle (released, signed with Japanese team), RHP Jorge Campillo (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), RHP Javier Vazquez (traded to Yankees), LHP Boone Logan (traded to Yankees), 2B Kelly Johnson (non-tendered, signed with Diamondbacks), OF Ryan Church (non-tendered, signed with Pirates), 1B Adam LaRoche (free agent, signed with Diamondbacks), OF Brandon Jones (claimed off waivers by Pirates).

FREE AGENTS: LF Garret Anderson, LHP Mike Gonzalez, INF/OF Greg Norton, RHP Vladimir Nunez.

IN LIMBO: RHP Kenshin Kawakami had a disappointing season, but he had a lot to become accustomed to, including the different heft and covering of the ball, the strike zone, the hitters and the five-man rotation, not to mention food and language. However, following the Javier Vazquez trade, he is likely to keep his job.

MEDICAL WATCH:  CF Jordan Schafer (left wrist surgery in September 2009) should be ready for spring training.

Florida Marlins

RHP Josh Johnson is getting a jump on spring training. He said he started throwing off a mound two weeks ago close to home, at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Johnson has less than five years of service time, but the Marlins have seen enough to believe he's a potential superstar. That hope played a role in the Marlins signing Johnson to a four-year, $39 million contract. "Josh is going to be on this team for well over a decade. We'd like him to go into the Hall of Fame as a Marlin," team president David Samson said.

Jorge Cantu said his right ankle is about 95 percent healed and that he should be ready for spring training. Cantu sprained the ankle in the second to last game of the season.

Cameron Maybin will arrive at spring training guaranteed an outfield spot. Maybin had to compete last spring. He started the 2009 season in the starting lineup but wound up getting demoted to the minors in May before coming back and finishing with a .250 average (.318 on-base percentage) in 54 games.

Brett Hayes will come to spring training as the third-string catcher, most likely destined to open the season at Triple-A New Orleans. Hayes, 26, made his major league debut May 22, collecting a hit in his first at-bat. He batted .273 (3-for-11) in 14 games. The Marlins will open the season with the catching tandem of John Baker and Ronny Paulino.

Roster Report:

The Marlins entered the offseason unsure about what they'll do at second base, first base and right field. They also have decisions about the middle of their rotation and have several spots open in the bullpen.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Marlins need to determine if they can rely on their existing starting pitchers to bounce back next year. They could give prospect Logan Morrison a shot at first base in the spring. They also need to address their bullpen, mainly deciding if RHP Leo Nunez can be a full-time closer.

ARRIVALS: LHP Hunter Jones (trade with Red Sox), INF Danny Richar (minor league free agent from Reds).

DEPARTURES: 1B Nick Johnson (free agent, signed with Yankees), 1B/OF Ross Gload (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP Matt Lindstrom (traded to Astros), OF Jeremy Hermida (traded to Red Sox) RHP Scott Proctor (released, signed minor league deal with Braves), RHP Brendan Donnelly (free agent, signed with Pirates).

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Cody Ross - He asked for $4.45 million, while the club offered $4.2 million.

IN LIMBO: Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross could still be dealt.

MEDICAL WATCH:

Cameron Maybin (left shoulder surgery in November 2009) expects to be healthy in time for spring training.

Alfredo Amezaga (bone bruise on left knee) missed most of the season. He should be ready for spring training.

Jorge Cantu (right ankle sprain) will be ready for spring training.

Hanley Ramirez (right knee contusion) will be ready for spring training.

LHP Taylor Tankersley (left elbow surgery in April 2009) hopes to return to the bullpen this season.

New York Mets

LHP Johan Santana, who had bone chips removed from his left elbow in September, plans to throw for the first time on Jan. 26. He expects to be fully recovered for the start of spring training.

LHP Pedro Feliciano ($2.9 million), RF Jeff Francoeur ($5 million) and RHPs Sean Green ($975,000) and John Maine ($3.3 million) agreed to one-year contracts to avoid salary arbitration. That left OF Angel Pagan as the Mets' lone arbitration-eligible player still unsigned.

Free agent OF Jeremy Reed signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays. With RHP J.J. Putz already having signed with the White Sox and with Reed's departure, that leaves Green as the lone remaining player from the December 2008 three-team trade in which the Mets parted with seven players.

Sandy Alomar Sr. has been tapped as manager of the Mets' rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. Alomar was dismissed as the big-league team's bench coach after last season.

Free agent OF Cory Sullivan signed a minor league contract with the Astros. Sullivan hit .250 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 136 at-bats with the Mets last season.

Jolbert Cabrera signed a minor league contract with the Mets and received an invitation to spring training. Cabrera, 37, has appeared in only 48 games in the majors since 2004.

Roster Report:   The Mets, despite the National League's highest payroll, tied Arizona for the league's third-worst record. While injuries contributed to the woeful season, Mets officials have significant work to do to retool the team for 2010. They made a big splash by landing free agent OF Jason Bay.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Mets' second through fourth pitchers in the rotation, RHP Mike Pelfrey, LHP Oliver Perez and RHP John Maine, combined for a 20-22 record, so upgrading the rotation would be welcome. The Mets also need to replace free agent C Brian Schneider and add an eighth-inning reliever and a left-hander for the bullpen.

ARRIVALS: C Chris Coste (free agent from Astros), C Henry Blanco (free agent from Padres), RHP Ryota Igarashi (free agent from Japan), RHP Kelvim Escobar (free agent from Angels), OF Jason Bay (free agent from Red Sox), LHP Jay Marshall (waiver claim from A's).

DEPARTURES: C Brian Schneider (free agent, signed with Phillies), RHP J.J. Putz (free agent, signed with White Sox), LHP Ken Takahashi (released, signed with Japanese team), OF Cory Sullivan (non-tendered, signed minor league deal with Astros), OF Jeremy Reed (non-tendered, signed minor league deal with Blue Jays).

FREE AGENTS: 1B Carlos Delgado, 1B/OF Fernando Tatis, OF Gary Sheffield, INF Ramon Martinez, RHP Tim Redding (non-tendered).

Delgado is unlikely to return, with the organization seemingly prepared to use Daniel Murphy at first base. Tatis may be re-signed. Sheffield and Dessens may be at the end of their careers, although both indicated they want to play in 2010.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: OF Angel Pagan - He asked for $1.8 million, while the club offered $1,275,000.

IN LIMBO: GM Omar Minaya remains on shaky ground with the team's fan base due to the team's disappointing results and his handling of internal matters.

MEDICAL WATCH:

Carlos Beltran (arthroscopic right knee surgery in January 2010) isn't expected to resume baseball activities until mid-April, meaning he will likely miss the season's first month.

Jose Reyes (torn right hamstring, right leg surgery in October 2009) should be healthy in time for spring training.

Jeff Francoeur (left thumb surgery in November 2009) is expected to be fully healthy in time for spring training.

Johan Santana (left elbow surgery in September 2009) finished the season on the disabled list after having bone chips removed. The surgery should not impact his preparations for 2010.

Oliver Perez (right knee surgery in September 2009) missed the season's final six weeks.

Washington Nationals

RHP Tyler Walker signed a one-year deal with the Nationals, the Washington Post and FoxSports.com reported. Walker was removed from the Phillies' roster after last season. He went 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 32 games with Philadelphia in 2009.

Chris Duncan and Chuck James signed minor league contracts with the Nationals, the Washington Post reported. Duncan, acquired by Boston from St. Louis in July, was released from the Red Sox' Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate in August. He hit .227 in 87 games with the Cardinals early last season. James hasn't pitched since having rotator cuff surgery in September 2008.

Josh Willingham agreed to a one-year, $4.6 million contract, avoiding an exchange of arbitration figures with the club. Willingham, who made $2.95 million last season, hit .260 with 24 homers and 61 RBIs and became a key cog in the heart of Washington's lineup. Despite the Nationals' financial commitment to the outfielder, Willingham still could be shopped around, with GM Mike Rizzo in the market for another starting pitcher.

Jason Bergmann agreed to a one-year, $750,000 contract, avoiding an exchange of arbitration figures with the club. Bergmann, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, is coming off an up-and-down season. He was optioned to Class AAA three times before the All-Star break but bounced back in the second half to become a trusted middle reliever. In 42 appearances following his final promotion, Bergmann posted a 3.48 ERA and 10 holds.

Jesus Flores agreed to a one-year, $750,000 contract, avoiding an exchange of arbitration figures with the club. Flores, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, is coming off an injury-plagued season and faces an uncertain future. Once considered the Nationals' long-term solution behind the plate, he is not assured of recovering from right shoulder surgery in time for Opening Day. Washington signed veteran C Ivan Rodriguez to a two-year deal in December, further putting Flores' long-term status with the organization in question.

Wil Nieves agreed to a one-year, $700,000 contract, avoiding an exchange of arbitration figures with the club. Nieves, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, batted .259 with one homer and 26 RBI in 72 games last season. His place on Washington's 2010 roster could hinge on the health of C Jesus Flores, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. With C Ivan Rodriguez guaranteed to make the roster, Nieves will have to hope for the No. 2 job. Flores, though, figures to have the inside track for that spot if healthy.

Brian Bruney and the Nationals exchanged arbitration figures, with the reliever seeking $1.85 million and the club offering $1.5 million. Bruney, acquired from the Yankees in December, went 5-0 with a 3.92 ERA in 44 appearances for New York last season. He's expected to serve as RHP Matt Capps' primary setup man in Washington, with a shot at earning the closer's job if Capps struggles.

Sean Burnett and the Nationals exchanged arbitration figures, with the reliever seeking $925,000 and the club offering $775,000. Burnett, acquired from the Pirates last June, was effective in his first stint with Washington. He went 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 33 appearances following the trade and will be counted on to be the club's top left-hander out of the bullpen in 2010.

Roster Report

The Nationals lost 100-plus games for the second consecutive season but feel as if they're in a better position now than they were a year ago because they've identified a core group of long-term pieces that includes Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Nyjer Morgan, Stephen Strasburg and John Lannan. They bolstered their young roster by adding veteran C Ivan Rodriguez and RHP Jason Marquis.

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Nationals needed pitching, and plenty of it. They had the majors' highest ERA in 2009, and though they've got some intriguing young arms in John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Craig Stammen, they desperately needed a quality veteran or two in their rotation. The signing of RHP Jason Marquis to a two-year deal was the first step toward addressing that problem. Washington bolstered the bullpen by adding RHP Matt Capps and LHP Eddie Guardado. The team hopes to acquire a defensively gifted middle infielder.

ARRIVALS: C Ivan Rodriguez (free agent from Rangers), RHP Brian Bruney (trade with Yankees), LHP Doug Slaten (claimed off waivers from Diamondbacks), RHP Jason Marquis (free agent from Rockies), LHP Eddie Guardado (minor league free agent from Rangers), RHP Matt Capps (free agent after non-tendered by Pirates), INF Eric Bruntlett (minor league free agent from Phillies), 1B Josh Whitesell (minor league free agent from Diamondbacks), RHP Tyler Walker (free agent from Phillies).

DEPARTURES: RHP Saul Rivera (signed minor league deal with Indians), C Josh Bard (signed minor league deal with Mariners), OF Austin Kearns (free agent, signed minor league deal with Indians).

FREE AGENTS: 1B Dmitri Young, LHP Ron Villone, RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Mike MacDougal (non-tendered).

The Nationals didn't pick up a 2010 option on Young and will welcome the money saved by letting the veteran walk. Hernandez is the most likely of the group to return, but it would only be on a minimal deal. Villone is looking elsewhere for employment.

IN LIMBO: The Nationals would like to move INF Cristian Guzman, whose skills have diminished and who is due to make $8 million. But it will be tough to find another team willing to take on that contract, so the club might have to settle for moving the veteran to second base.

MEDICAL WATCH:

Jesus Flores (right shoulder surgery in September 2009, arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2009) will be cutting it close to be ready for the start of the 2010 season.

Scott Olsen (left shoulder surgery in July 2009) had a torn labrum repaired, and he had begun throwing off a mound by November.

Cristian Guzman (arthroscopic right shoulder surgery in October 2009) is expected to be back at 100 percent in advance of spring training.

Nyjer Morgan (broken left wrist) was hurt in late August, but he was healing nicely at the end of the season. He'll be 100 percent for spring training.

Jordan Zimmermann (Tommy John elbow surgery in July 2009) won't be ready until late 2010 at the earliest.

Craig Stammen (bone chips in right elbow) missed the season's final month but will be healed well in advance of spring training.



Philly Baseball Insider Top Stories