With only 23 days remaining until Marlins pitchers and catchers report to spring training, now is a good time to look back on the winter offseason and assess how things are shaping up in the NL East -- at least in terms of each team's key roster moves. Like everything else in the East, it all starts with the Phillies, who have won the division title each of the past four seasons.
The Phillies lost free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals. But that loss was more than offset by their signing of Cliff Lee, who gives the Phils arguably the best rotation in the majors, as well as potentially one of the greatest ever. Add Lee to a rotation that also includes Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, and the Phillies have far and away the best rotation. Nothing in the NL East compares, that's for sure.
Let's take a look at the other East clubs:
-- The Marlins gave up Dan Uggla in their trade with the Braves, obtaining Omar Infante and Mike Dunn in return. They traded Cameron Maybin to the Padres for relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb. They dealt Andrew Miller to the Red Sox for reliever Dustin Richardson. And they signed catcher John Buck, veteran pitcher Javier Vazquez and lefty reliever Randy Choate. They didn't make any tidal wave signings, but shored up the bullpen with a series of smaller moves.
-- The Braves, in addition to Uggla, added relievers Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill. They lost Dunn, Infante, outfielder Melky Cabrera and relievers Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito from last year's team.
-- The Nationals signed Werth to a questionable 7-year deal and signed Adam LaRoche to replace departing first baseman Adam Dunn. Also joining the Nats were reliever Henry Rodriguez, starter Tom Gorzelanny and outfielder Rick Ankiel. Outfielder Josh Willingham left to join the A's.
-- The Mets maintained a low profile under new GM Sandy Alderson. Newcomers include pitchers Taylor Buchholz, Chris Young and Chris Capuano, reliever D.J. Carrasco, catcher Ronny Paulino, outfielder Scott Hairston and infielder Chin-lung Hu. Gone are catcher Henry Blanco, relievers Pedro Feliciano and Hisanori Takahaski and pitcherJohn Maine.
Based on all that, has any club done enough to knock the Phillies off their perch? And have the Marlins done enough to improve on their 80-82 record and become a viable postseason candidate? Let's hear your opinion.
There will be no arbitration acrimony involving the Marlins and any unsigned players in February.
The team on Tuesday signed their two remaining arbitration-eligible players, with starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and reliever Clay Hensley working out 1-year deals. Sanchez agreed for $3.7 million and up to $50,000 in performance incentives. Hensley agreed for $1.4 million, plus incentives worth up to $50,000.
Had the Marlins not reached agreement with those players, the sides would have exchanged salary proposals, with an independent arbitrator choosing one or the other following a hearing in February.
Two down, two to go.
The Marlins on Monday avoided arbitration with two of their relievers by signing Leo Nunez and Edward Mujica to 1-year deals. Nunez will receive $3.65 milion plus peformance bonuses based on games finished. Mujica will get $800,000.
That leaves the Marlins with two arbitration-eligible players, starter Anibal Sanchez and reliever Clay Hensley. If the team is unable to work out deals with the two pitchers before noon Tuesday, they''ll exchange figures and go to arbitration to determine their 2011 salaries.
Nunez will enter spring training as the team's closer while Mujica is a key piece in the bullpen rebuild, obtained with fellow reliever Ryan Webb in the Cameron Maybin trade with San Diego.
It's been an extremely quiet past few weeks for the Marlins, who made most of their offseason noise in November and early December. But, with just about a month to go before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, they're still tweaking things.
They've agreed to terms on minor-league deals with four players with big-league experience -- outfielder Dewayne Wise, infielder Joe Thurston, catcher Clint Sammons and infielder Jamie D'Antona -- in deals that were first reported by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
Wise is the most intriguing member of the group, and could serve as either outfield insurance and/or a lefty bat off the bench. He plays all three outfield positions and has hit .308 as a pinch-hitter over his career. Wise is probably best known for a spectacular ninth-inning catch with the White Sox that preserved Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
Thurston, who plays a variety of positions, last played in the majors with the Cardinals in 2009 when he appeared in 124 games for St. Louis. Sammons had brief stints with the Braves from 2007-09. D'Antona spent the past two seasons in Japan.
Could it have turned out any better for Dan Uggla? I mean, the guy was traded to within a horseshoe's throw of his Tennessee home AND became the highest-paid second baseman in major league history by refusing the Marlins' contract offer and being traded to the Atlanta Braves as a result. Uggla's reported deal with the Braves is five years and $62 million.
Based on average annual salary, Uggla won't be receiving much more from the Braves ($12.4 million/year) than what the Marlins were prepared to pay him ($12 million/year). But the key was the extra year -- a guaranteed fifth year -- that the Marlins refused to concede to the slugger. It's hard to fault their reasoning. Uggla turns 31 in March and will be 35 when he gets to that fifth year. Will Uggla be the player then that he is now? Historical evidence suggests no.
But it's also hard to fault Uggla and agent Terry Bross for playing hardball with the Marlins and holding out for that fifth year. This is his one and only chance to cash in on his record-book success (he's the only second baseman in major league history to hit at least 30 home runs in four consecutive seasons), and why wouldn't he demand a premium? Some have speculated that in refusing the Marlins' final offer, what Uggla really wanted was out -- out of South Florida. But when we spoke with him after the trade, he sounded genuine when he said he was comfortable here. I don't think he wanted out as much as he wanted fair market value through the 2015 season. He knew that, one way or the other, some team would grant him that, even if the Marlins wouldn't.
-- Had a quick text exchange this afternoon with catcher John Baker, who is trying to work his way back from Tommy John surgery. Baker said he has begun throwing -- "25 to 45 feet. Threw yesterday. Went great!!" Baker said he planned to begin catching bullpens after he returns to Florida on Jan. 22. "Throwing will depend on how I respond to this protocol. So far so good." The Marlins have tentatively penciled in Baker as a potential lefty bat off the bench, with either Brett Hayes or Brad Davis tabbed for backup catching duty behind John Buck.