WTNYJanuary 13, 2004
What's left in the NL
By Bryan Smith

Today I'll get right into it, here's what the National league needs to work on the rest of the offseason, which will help us determine where the remaining free agents will land.

Atlanta Braves

John Scheurholtz keeps making nothing out of nothing, and I keep forecasting his demise. I will do the same in 2004, but I'm sure the Braves will surprise me. Offensively, the team is week with Estrada, LaRoche, and DeRosa all demanding 500AB. They could break out, but if not, yikes. The Braves could add an infield bench player, but besides that, they look finished.

The rotation is all finished, even if it's not jaw-dropping. I'm a big fan of John Thomson in 2004, so write that down. Leo Mazzone and Bobby Cox are going to go with some interesting bullpen names, giving the huge AA combo of Alfonseca and Almanza a lot of innings. Jaret Wright, Will Cunnane, Kevin Gryboski and Jung Bong will all help complement John Smoltz. The Braves don't have much to do this offseason, but I will still be predicting them below first place...again.

Florida Marlins

Fresh of a World Championship, the Marlins have gone in a odd direction. They acquired Hee Seop Choi, and decided to give Miguel Cabrera and Jeff Conine the outfield corner spots. The catcher will be Ramon Castro, not example always being compared to Pudge. The team has Redmond, Mordecai, and Banks for their bench, but still could use replacements for Andy Fox and Todd Hollandsworth.

The rotation should be pretty good, but until A.J. Burnett comes back, Michael Tejera is plugged in the fifth hole. There have been Greg Maddux rumors, but a flyball pitcher like Rick Reed might just work here. The bullpen will have Benitz, Fox, Neu, and Tim Spooneybarger, for sure. Tommy Phelps and Tejera figure to get jobs as well, and Blaine Neal could land a spot.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are the favorites to win the AL East, and they are all finished this offseason. Yesterday's signing of Doug Glanville fills their bench with Pratt, Wooten, Polanco, Perez, Ledee, and Glanville. And for all those who don't think the bullpen is finished, I imagine it will be Wagner-Worrell-Cormier at the end, with Roberto Hernandez and Amaury Telemaco getting some middle innings. The team may want a different LOOGY than Victor Alvarez, leaving Ed Wade one more job.

Montreal Expos

In a lot of ways, Omar Minaya is hog-tied. But he must put a decent 25-man roster on the field, and has a chance at besting the New York Mets, again. They really only need a backup catcher on offense, as Ron Calloway, Juan Rivera, Henry Mateo, and Jamey Carroll cover the other eight positions. Brian Schneider has no back-up, so signing a leftie killer might be a good idea.

The pitching staff is finished, as the team will use Livan, Day, Armas, Ohka, and Vargas in their rotation. Seung Song and Josh Karp will be ready relatively quickly. The bullpen currently has Luis Ayala, Chad Cordero, Rocky Biddle, Joey Eischen, Randy Choate, Dan Smith, and T.J. Tucker. Does that need upgrading? Probably not.

Who would have guessed the Expos would just need a backup C on January 13?

New York Mets

First and foremost, they need a right fielder. They need one bad. Right now, the only two real options are Raul Mondesi and Jay Payton. Ouch. A one-year deal would be best here, as Magglio Ordonez is an attractive candidate in a year's time. Besides that, I don't see Jim Duquette making another move to help this offense.

There is talk that the team wants to send Jeremy Griffiths and Aaron Heilman to AAA, so they will sign a pitcher before Spring Training. They will likely compete with the Orioles for Greg Maddux, and drive that price up considerably. The bullpen should be finished, and Art Howe will be sorting a lot in Spring Training.

Chicago Cubs

If Jim Hendry wants to be finished, he can be. Otherwise, there is still room for a fifth starter, and a sixth right-handed middle reliever. But like I said, they already have more than 25 guys.

Houston Astros

I'll detail the Clemens signing on Friday, but with that money committed, I don't think Drayton McLane can afford to do anything else. They now have enough pitchers to fill a bullpen and a rotation, and had the people to make a bench. It's all over for the Astros.

St. Louis Cardinals

Well, there will be decisions to be had in St. Louie. For instance, do they put John Gall at first base and keep Pujols in left? Do they sign anyone besides Marlon Anderson and Bo Hart for second? I like the idea of Gall, but I'm not so high on Anderson. Signing Cuban defector Yobal Duenas would be an interesting move, but after the So Taguchi disaster, I don't even know if Walt Jocketty will make a call.

The Cardinals current rotation has Morris, Williams, Suppan, Haren, and Carpenter, and that is probably enough. Just in case, they also have Jason Marquis waiting in the wings. While I wouldn't have reccomended the signing of Julian Tavarez, it did give them a complete bullpen. Isringhausen, Tavarez, Kline, Eldred, King, Calero, and Marquis. Wow, what an improvement from a year ago.

Cincy Reds

Can I have a team to skip? Please? I really don't like this team, and probably never will. Their bench looks filled with Corky Miller, Juan Castro, Ray Olmedo, Wil Mo Pena, Ryan Freel, and some other available options in their minor leagues.

Wow, what a bad rotation. There will be Jimmy Haynes, Paul Wilson, and Cory Lidle. Aaron Harang, Jose Acevedo, Josh Hall, and Brandon Claussen will battle for the last spot. They might sign one more fringe starter, but they have enough bullpen arms to fill that area.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Jason Kendall should be gone in days, and the Pirates lineup will have Cirillo at third and Stynes at second. If they end up signing Randall Simon, and I think they will, it will be a disastrous offseason. It's time to hand some jobs to youngsters, to start re-building. Maybe Dave Littlefield isn't fit for this job after all.

Milwaukee Brewers

I really think the Brewers should trade Junior Spivey to clear a space for Keith Ginter, but I don't think Doug Melvin reads this blog. Both the White Sox and Cardinals would be interested, and would give fair value back. Could they get Neal Cotts in a deal for Spivey? If so, I see no reason why they wouldn't jump on that. The Brewers have a few bench spots to fill, so they might be picking up the leftovers relatively soon.

No one can say what the Brew Crew will do with their pitching staff, besides the fact that Ben Sheets and Doug Davis will get spots. I would add one more starter, simply because the Brewers don't really have enough guys fighting for spots. And yes, Matt Kinney really does suck. The end of the season really proved they could have a good bullpen, and they are filled in that area. Picking up the scraps, and waiting for the kids is Doug Melvin's job during the upcoming seasons.

San Francisco Giants

Unfortunately my prediction for Greg Maddux didn't work out, as Brian Sabean decided to go for the cheaper, and worse version, Brett Tomko. That's a great rotation, and the team's bullpen looks to be finished as well. In fact, Brian Sabean has left Felipe Alou with a lot of options, and I don't think the Giants will spend another dollar this offseason.

Arizona Diamondbacks

I'll never understand Steve Sparks and Shane Reynolds, but I don't have to. If those two combine with Randy Johnson, Brandon Webb, and Elmer Dessens, I'll be making fun of this team. At least give one or two pitchers under 25 a chance. I mean, they don't have much of a chance in 2004, so they might as well be developing players. The bullpen has enough, and I like Valverde and Matt Mantei finishing ganes.

On offense, all the Diamondbacks need are backups in the outfield. They have just Bautista, Finley, and Gonzalez at this point, so adding another one of two would be a good idea.

Los Angeles Dodgers

My guess? They sign Pudge, but their offense is still terrible, as they'll have a Ventura/Loduca platoon at first, Encarnacion in left, and one of the worst middles in the game. It doesn't matter at this point, the ownership situation has screwed them. They will be bad in 2004, but I remain bullish on the Dodgers in the long run, notably in 2006. They'll get back to the top, it's just going to take some time.

Colorado Rockies

After my past articles on the Rockies, there's no way I'm going here.

San Diego Padres

I would highly recommend that the team signs Jay Payton, and I would personally find that to be more important than getting Kendall, although he's a great player. The Padres lineup is going to be fantastic, giving Khalil Greene the surroundings he'll need to win Rookie of the Year. Believe me, it's very possible.

That's all I can tonight folks, I'll be back on Vlad tomorrow.