clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What did the National League East do at the Winter Meetings?

New, comments

A look at each team's week in Nashville.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The National League East’s teams came into the Winter Meetings with lots of holes to fill and, for the most part, each team came out looking quite different than they went in. Well, except for the Marlins.

Aside from the Mets and the Nationals, the division looks to be incredibly weak next season. The Braves and the Phillies each made moves to help them not so much in 2016, but beyond. The Marlins didn’t do anything except tease the rest of the league with the prospect of trading Jose Fernandez, only to do nothing with him.

The Phillies, who finished in last place in the NL East, started to rebuild for the future under new general manager Matt Klentak by trading closer Ken Giles and infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for five young players, including Vincent Velasquez, who made seven starts for Houston. Some believe he will eventually be shifted to the pen, perhaps in a closer’s role, but for now he will start. Also acquired were Mark Appel, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, Thomas Eshelman, a pitcher and the Astros’ second-round pick in 2015, right-handed pitcher Harold Arauz, and organizational depth in Brett Oberholtzer, a starting pitcher who has battled injuries in the recent past.

The Phillies also selected outfielder Tyler Goeddel—brother of Met Erik Goeddel—in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, and signed former Diamondbacks relief pitcher David Hernandez. This was a modest Winter Meetings for the Phillies, but given their place on the win curve and their lack of tradeable commodities, this is about as well as you would expect them to do.

The Braves, on the other hand, were perhaps the overall winners of the meetings, and restocked their team not for 2016, but for when their new stadium opens in Cobb County in 2017. Along with minor moves like signing infielder Emilio Bonifacio to a one-year deal, inking backup catcher Tyler Flowers to a two-year contract with a third year option, and selecting left-handed pitcher Evan Rutckyj from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft, they made a pair of trades to help their future.

They traded the out-of-options Christian Bethancourt to the Padres for pitcher Casey Kelly, a former first-round pick, and catcher Ricardo Rodriguez. This is a minor move, but shows how the Braves, after bringing John Hart into the fold, are adamant about milking every last bit out of every asset–Bethancourt doesn’t have a place on the team, so they traded him for whatever they could get.

But the real move the Braves made was the blockbuster trade of the meetings, sending pitchers Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier to the Diamondbacks for a haul: popular AAOP target Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair, and Dansby Swanson.

Inciarte, a left-handed batting center fielder,is defensively quite strong,plays all three outfield positions, and can spray the ball all over the field. He may not be a huge offensive weapon, but he is already a nice piece and, at 25 years old, is still likely to get better.

Swanson went first overall in the 2015 Draft, and projects as a top-of-the-order bat and an above-average fielder at shortstop or second base. He is still a few years away, and likely starts the year in Single-A, but it is extremely odd to see a player of his caliber traded six months after being drafted.

Blair is a starting pitcher who will, potentially, take Miller’s slot in the Braves’ rotation. His numbers aren’t gaudy, but he has been good at every level, doesn’t walk many, and gets a lot of ground balls. For a team that isn’t expected to win a ton of games, Blair will be a serviceable part of their rotation.

While Miller is a very good starting pitcher, the haul for him and Speier is impressive, and it would surprise no one if all three of these players give the Mets fits in the future.

The Marlins, aside from some additions and subtractions during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, did nothing at the Winter Meetings. There were lots of trade talks for players like Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez, but the Marlins reportedly want an insane haul for either player, and teams weren’t biting yet.

The Nationals—in theory, the most complete team in the division, perhaps behind the Mets—shook up their bullpen, signing Shawn Kelley and Yusmeiro Petit, as well as trading for Trevor Gott and Double-A pitcher Michael Brady for infielder Yunel Escobar and cash considerations.

Despite having two bona fide closers (Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen), the Nats felt their bullpen needed an upgrade, and all three relievers they acquired will certainly help the team. It wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest if Papelbon or Storen got dealt later this winter to create an opening for some of the new additions.

Kelly, a seven-year veteran who was inked to a three-year contract worth approximately $16 million, has had success for the Padres as recently as last season. Petit, a former Mets farmhand, was a swingman for the Giants for the last few seasons, and will likely fill the same role for the Nats. Gott was a rookie last season and averages a 96 mph fastball, and will likely work middle relief for Washington.

The team still has some holes, and will likely still make a move or two, but they’ve addressed what they felt was their biggest weak spot without giving up too much in return, although the loss of Escobar might require another move as well.

As for the Mets, we all know what their week entailed: signing Asdrubal Cabrera, trading Jonathon Niese for Neil Walker, and losing Matt Bowman in the Rule 5 Draft, plus the surprise retirement Friday night of Michael Cuddyer. While they missed out on Ben Zobrist, the Mets seemingly addressed what the front office has identified as their primary concern, which is the middle infield. Rumors of a reunion with Bartolo Colon, interest in free agent relievers such as Steve Cishek (who signed a two-year contract with the Mariners) and Jerry Blevins, searching for a left-handed center fielder to platoon with Juan Lagares, and a consistent denial of interest in Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Heyward rounded out the meetings for the Mets. Expect for them to add a bullpen piece or two, an outfielder, and a veteran starting pitcher before pitchers and catchers report on February 17.

Overall, the Braves had the best meetings of the division, but none of their moves will likely improve the team much for 2016. The Nationals and Mets each addressed a need, but neither has improved their team all that drastically just yet.