NL East: Marlins, Braves still chasing Phillies; long road for Nats
Adrian Beltre is a better fit at third base for the Phillies than Pedro Feliz
Is Marlins ownership willing to increase payroll in order to build a true contender?
The Braves seem likely to trade a SP (Derek Lowe or Javier Vazquez) for a bat
Breaking down each team in the NL East heading into the offseason. Teams are listed in order of 2009 finish. Check out the other division previews here:
PENDING FREE AGENTS: SP Brett Myers, SP Pedro Martinez, RP Chan Ho Park, RP Scott Eyre, OF/1B Matt Stairs, IF Miguel Cairo, C Paul Bako, SP Rodrigo Lopez.
PLAYERS WITH OPTIONS: 3B Pedro Feliz ($5/0.5M club -- declined).
PROSPECTS ON THE VERGE: SP Drew Carpenter, SP Joe Savery, SP Kyle Drabek, LF Michael Taylor.
BUILDING FOR: A third straight pennant.
BIGGEST HOLES: Third base.
TARGETS: 3B Adrian Beltre.
BREAKDOWN: Picking up Cliff Lee's $8 million option might have been the easiest decision any general manager will have this offseason. That keeps the lefty trio of Lee, Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ intact, with Joe Blanton as the fourth starter, Jamie Moyer still under contract as the fifth man and the minor leagues providing rotation depth. J.C. Romero will return from a season shortened by suspension and injury to replace Eyre. Re-signing Park would be worthwhile, as the veteran righty has excelled out of the bullpen over the last two years. The real issue is what the two-time NL champs are going to do at third base. It's not hard to blame Philly for declining Feliz's option. Though he's one of the best defensive hot cornermen in baseball, he's an out-machine on the other side of the ball, he'll be 35 in April and his World Series home run off Joba Chamberlain aside, his power has been eroding. With Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino atop the order, the Phillies don't really need Chone Figgins' speed. Rather, they should go after Beltre, who is four years younger than Feliz, his equal in the field, coming off a career-worst season that should depress his price and would likely benefit from a move to Citizens Bank Park, which favors right-handed power.
PENDING FREE AGENTS: 1B Nick Johnson, RP Kiko Calero, RP Brendan Donnelly, RP Luis Ayala.
PLAYERS WITH OPTIONS: 1B Ross Gload ($2.6M club -- declined).
TRADE ACQUISITION: RPs Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez (from Red Sox for OF Jeremy Hermida).
PROSPECTS ON THE VERGE: 1B/3B Gaby Sanchez, CF Cameron Maybin, OF Jai Miller, SP Cristhian Martinez, RP Christopher Leroux.
BUILDING FOR: Remaining in contention by consolidating gains.
BIGGEST HOLES: Third base.
TARGETS: Takers for several of their arbitration-eligible players.
BREAKDOWN: The Marlins have improved in each of the last two years under Freddi Gonzalez and finished this season with the third-best record in franchise history, but questions remain about how willing ownership will be to increase payroll in order to leverage those gains and build a true contender. The team is reportedly working on an extension for Josh Johnson, which would giving them an ace to go with superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who is signed through 2014, but the rest of the roster is living year-to-year under team control, and the organization has a well-established pattern of trading or dropping players as they reach arbitration. The Yankees hadn't even had their victory parade when the Fish flipped the arb-eligible Hermida to Boston for a pair of marginal minor league relievers. Other Marlins eligible for arbitration this winter include Johnson, 2B Dan Uggla, 1B/3B Jorge Cantu, OF Cody Ross, SP Ricky Nolasco and RPs Leo Nuņez, Matt Lindstrom, Renyel Pinto. That makes all of them potential trade bait or even non-tender candidates unless, with their new stadium finally under construction, the Marlins are finally willing to start building in earnest.
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