Next up, the NL East, the home of the NL World Series participants.
The Mets had a very exciting postseason after winning the East by seven games. With a very good rotation, they had a decent shot at winning it all, but fell victim to the Kansas City Royals and their timely sequencing.
General Manager Sandy Alderson has the luxury of a very young team and very cost controllable starting pitching staff at his disposal. As of right now, only about $95M is committed to next season, so they have the means and opportunity to land a few high priced ticket items.
Key Free Agents: RP Jerry Belvins, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RP Tyler Clippard, SP Bartolo Colon, UT Kelly Johnson, 2B Daniel Murphy, RP Eric O'Flaherty, RP Bobby Parnell, IF Juan Uribe
2B, If Murphy does not re-sign, this will be a definite need.
SS, This could be a need depending on how Wilmer Flores recovers fro mthat nasty playoff injury.
CF, Juan Lagares was fine last season, but with an 80 OPS+, this could be one possible upgrade.
OF, With Cespedes gone, this could be another option, but rookie Michael Conforto was much more than adequate after his call-up. Perhaps another outfielder to co-exist (or supplant) the going to be 35 year old Curtis Granderson might be in order.
SP: I doube Colon will be back, so some depth will be needed.
Outlook: The Mets are actually set up will for the near future pitching wise (like the Tribe) and with a decent lineup to boot. Alserson will obviously look for a better bench and arms to hopefully keep the run going.
Potential Tribe involvement: I can't see a real deal here for the Tribe unless it is really minor.
Even though the Nationals might have the best position player in the NL and arguably the best starter in the NL, their window might just be closing. 2015 was supposed to be their year, but they struggled at times and the Mets probably overachieved a year early.
Now general manager Mike Rizzo will try to keep pace with the Mets. They already lost Jordan Zimmerman to the Tigers this offseason.
Key Free Agents: SS Ian Desmond, SP Doug Fister, RP Casey Janssen, OF Nate McLouth, CF Denard Span, RP Matt Thornton, 2B DanUggla, SP Jordan Zimmerman
C, Neither Wilson Ramos or Jose Lobaton cracked a 65 OPS+ last season.
SS, With Desmond a free agent, unless they fil this internally, a shortstop must be acquired.
OF, As amazing as Bryce Harper was in 2015, neither Jayson Werth or Michael Taylor were close to league average. Matt den Dekker could be one internal option
SP, Losing both Zimmerman and Fister will hurt the depth here quite a bit. They still have Scherzer, Gonzalez and Strasburg, but depth is needed.
RP Another strong arm or two will be needed.
Outlook: It seems like there are more questions than answers heading into 2016, I could see a slippage to 0.500 or below.
Potential Tribe involvement: Here is another possible landing spot for Roberto Perez if the Nationals are interested. Bauer would also look good a s #4 here (plus he gets to bat!), but I am not sure what they could send back that is major league ready.
The Marlins enter the 2016 season with just two, yes two players with a salary more than $5M in Giancarlo Stanton and Martin Prado (although at least one player is expected to exceed that in arbitration, Dee Gordan). In fact only five players have non-arbitration contracts for 2016.
The Marlins may have placed third in the division last year, but also finished 20 games below 0.500 as well
Key Free Agents: IF Don Kelly, C Jeff Mathis, 3B Casey McGehee
3B, If Pardo is dealt like most suspect, they will need another infielder
CF, It is very unlikely that Marcell Ozuna will return in 2016 due to the anomoisity between the front office, Ozuna and agent Scott Boras. I doubt Ichiro can hang incenter all of next year at 42.
SP, Other than Jose Fernandez and Mat Latos, this rotation is wide open.
RP, the bullpen was not very good last season either
Outlook: New general manager Mike Hill has his work cut out for him. Which direction will they go, complete rebuild, or some quick wins.
Potential Tribe involvement: Ozuna seems to be the favorite LGT target, but personally if they are looking to rebuild, I'd rather target Christian Yelich. If Prado is a direction the Tribe wants to go, I could see Urshela or Yandy Diaz headed to South Beach.
It appears the mandate by the ownership group to LGFT general manager John Hart was to tank 2015 AND 2016. They obliged very well in 2015 by losing 95 games, and the acquisition of Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher from the Tribe definitely feels like a good way to start tanking 2016 as well.
Key Free Agents: RP Ross Detwiler, RP Edwin Jackson, RP Peter Moylan, C A.J. Pierzynski (re-signed)
Moves: Traded SS Andrelton Simmons and a minor leaguer to the Los Angles Angels for SS Erick Aybar, minor leaguers and cash. Traded CF Cameron Maybin to the Detroit Tigers for Ian Krol and minor leaguer Gabe Speier. Signed SP Bud Norris and RP Jim Johnson.
C, Even though Pier@#$%^&* was re-signed, he will be 39 next season and another catcher is likely needed.
OF, With an outfield of Markakis, Bourn and Swisher, all on the wrong side of 30, some insurance is needed.
SP, Any team with 95 losses could always use more starting pitching
RP, see SP.
Outlook: As noted above, I think the Braves are content to punt 2016, with the only real goal to prevent both Swisher and Bourn from vesting their 2017 contracts.
Potential Tribe involvement: Unless the Tribe can come up with a scenario where they take Chris Johnson back (virtually 100% unlikely considering the bad blood), I don't see a match here either.
The Phillies are now fully in the depths of the throes that former general manager (yes LGFT) Ruben Amaro set them up in. The good news is that they only have three non-arbitration contracts left in Ryan Howard, Matt Harrison and Carlos Ruiz. The bad news is most of the arbitration and pre-arbitration players likely will not produce enough to win now or later. Also, that Howard contract is a $23M team option in 2017, but with a ridiculous $10M buyout; ouch.
Key Free Agents: SP Chad Billingsley, RF Jeff Francouer, SP Aaron Harang, SP Cliff Lee, SP Jerome Williams
Moves: minor leaguer Sam McWilliams to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jeremy Hellickson
Lineup, With the exception of Howard and perhaps maybe 3B Maikel Franco, every other spot is open for competition and/or upgrading.
SP, There is very little left in the rotation after the departures of Lee, Cole Hamels, Harang and Williams..
RP, the bullpen was not very good and needs a lot of upgrades.
Outlook: It may take years for recently hired general manager Matt Klentak to escape the Amaro morass.
Potential Tribe involvement: magic 8-ball says, the future is nebulous.