In 2011, NL East will look very different

Back at it this morning after dealing with a nasty cold yesterday. I can confirm it was from general fatigue and not from the Packers laying an egg against the hapless Detroit Lions -- though that certainly didn’t make the day better (seriously, when you’ve blown enough close games this season to let an inferior team waltz past you for the division lead, and put yourself in a spot where you’re fighting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a playoff berth, how do you come out that flat against the Lions?).


Anyway, I wanted to take a quick look at the NL East this morning. In short, it’s already clear the division will look quite a bit different in 2011 than it did in 2010.

First, a rundown of the moves each team has made so far this offseason:

Phillies: They lost outfielder Jayson Werth to the Nationals in free agency, and signed a handful of nondescript free agents.

Braves: Their deal for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla was the big early splash in the division. They sent utilityman Omar Infante to Florida in the deal, lost Matt Diaz in free agency and will have to find a new first baseman to replace Derrek Lee. But they added George Sherrill to their bullpen and signed Eric Hinske to be their fourth outfielder.

Marlins: Florida received Infante and reliever Michael Dunn in the Uggla deal, and signed pitcher Javier Vazquez over the Nationals, who were also in the running for him. They also added catcher John Buck in free agency, and have improved their bullpen by trading off both pieces of the Miguel Cabrera deal - Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin - for relief help.

Mets: They haven’t made any high-profile moves this offseason, but that’s been partially by design, as new GM Sandy Alderson tries to steer the team away from the bad contracts that marked Omar Minaya’s tenure.

Nationals: The Werth signing made waves around baseball, but the Nationals also lost Adam Dunn in free agency, and still haven’t come up with the pitcher they believe they need for 2011.

In total, every team but the Mets has either added or lost a big piece of their core (or, in the case of the Marlins and Nationals, done both). And the Mets hired a new GM and manager. It adds up to an NL East that will have a different look in 2011 - and to add to it, many of the moving parts found new homes within the division.

So how will that shake out on the field? There’s still more to be done before the end of the offseason, but it’s still hard to see anyone taking down the Phillies in the division. They’ll miss Werth, but their Roy Halladay-Cole Hamels-Roy Oswalt trio still might be the game’s best 1-2-3 punch in the rotation.

The team to watch might be the Marlins, who have as deep a rotation, one through five, as any team in baseball and have significantly improved their bullpen. They’ve got enough young, improving hitters in the lineup to make up for Uggla’s departure. The Braves should be tough again, though Uggla’s defense won’t do them any favors and they’ll have to adjust to life after Bobby Cox.

Unless the Nationals make another move or two, though, it’s tough to see them competing for anything but fourth place in the division. This is becoming a pitching-rich division, especially at the top, and Washington simply doesn’t have it. That might be a different story in 2012, but it’s almost impossible to see them adding enough before Opening Day 2011 to make much a move in the division.

There are going to be big changes for just about every team, though, and even if the results aren’t any different on the field, the new names and faces will make for some interesting stories.