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NL Offseason’s Biggest Losers


Baseball front office execs across baseball’s Senior Circuit have spent the last three months sketching out their blueprint for the upcoming season. Some teams’ blueprints include a rebuilding plan (Cubs, Marlins, Mets, Padres, Rockies) while others have designs to win now. A few general managers decided to open their wallets wide (Dodgers, Nationals) while several teams clamped their purse strings tight over the winter (Cardinals, Giants.) Regardless of what wheeling and dealing has taken place as we head into Spring Training, one thing is clear: The National League has been dominant as of late. Hoisting the last three titles and four out of the last five World Series champions, the NL is crushing pitches and taking names when it matters most - October. We know the teams that had a great offseason: The Dodgers, Reds, and Nationals all upgraded and look better going into 2013. So let’s examine the other end of the spectrum and deliver the offseason’s biggest losers from the National League:

3. Padres – The Friars know that despite their recent struggles, they still have one of the game’s best managers in Bud Black. That’s why in November, the Padres front office picked up Black’s option years which will keep him in San Diego until 2015. Unfortunately, that’s where the Padres smart offseason moves came to a screeching halt. Their terrifying quiet winter included the minuscule signings of Travis Buck, Rene Rivera, Cody Ransom, and swapping with the A’s to land pitcher Tyson Ross. If you haven’t heard of any of these guys, trust me… you’re not alone. The Padres’ new ownership group seems extremely reluctant to expand their payroll and have adopted a very cautious approach to their spending. That’ll make life in the NL West pretty difficult this season, considering the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have both made significant upgrades while the Giants come in as the defending World Series champs. General Manager Josh Byrnes has still yet to make a notable splash in the major leagues, even during his time with the Arizona Diamondbacks. And at last for the next few seasons, it doesn’t look like he’ll get a chance to show his worth since his hands are tied behind his back by ownership. But despite not making a whole lot of changes to the team on the field, the Padres made some changes to the field itself. In October, the team announced they’ll be moving in the fences at Petco Park between 10-12 feet in left-center, right-center, and right field. It’s doubtful the new dimensions will give this dismal offense some new life. The one bright spot that does give the Padres hope is their farm system, which most pundits currently have ranked amongst the Top 10 in all of baseball. Once those prospects become big-league ready, then San Diego will rise back to relevance in the ever-so tough NL West.

2. Brewers – No lead was safe last season for the Brew Crew, thanks in large part to the Milwaukee bullpen. Their relievers combined for a horrific 4.66 ERA (worst in the NL) and 29 blown saves (most in the NL,) forcing Bob Melvin to make a serious effort this winter to reconfigure their relief corps. And that’s exactly what he did, signing the likes of Burke Badenhop, Tom Gorzelanny, Kelvin Escobar, and Mike Gonzalez just to name a few. Badenhop put together some nice numbers last year for the Rays and will be an innings-eater for Milwaukee. Gorzelanny put in some solid relief work last season for the Nationals and provides some nice veteran leadership. Gonzalez will be a decent left-handed specialist out of the pen. But overall, none of the additions to the bullpen can be considered major upgrades. Plus, there is still a ton of uncertainty surrounding the closer role and John Axford. Gone are Shaun Marcum, Manny Parra, Kam Loe and Francisco Rodriguez. And even though improvements needed to be made to the starting rotation, none were made. They failed to bid on Ryan Dempster and never really took time to pursue Kyle Lohse. That means Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada are the only two starters with experience to speak of. As far as the offense goes, the assumption is that their power-packed lineup does not need to be tweaked…right? Guess again. Yes, Milwaukee crushed 202 home runs and scored an eye-popping 776 runs last season. But if you take a look under the hood, they rank in the middle of the pack in batting average and on-base percentage. Not to mention slugging first baseman Corey Hart is having knee surgery and will miss the first two months of the season. Melvin didn’t spend much time or money on the offense as their sole offensive acquisition was Bobby Crosby. With a payroll that is shrinking more and more by the day, it’ll be up to Manager Ron Roenicke to properly handle the cards that he’s dealt and the pitchers he has been given.

1. Phillies – In 2011, “It was Always Sunny” for Phillies fans. They had the best rotation in baseball, a strong bullpen, and the best defense in the game backing them up. But things suddenly went from bright to gloom n doom in 2012, as the Phillies failed to reach the postseason for the first time in six years. General manager Ruben Amaro was forced with the task to make a significant amount of upgrades to keep up with division rivals like the Nationals and Braves. Talk about an uphill climb, trying to upgrade a roster whose positions players are the oldest in all of baseball by a year. Amaro’s first move was acquiring seven-time All Star infielder Michael Young. Although Young had some stellar years in Texas, his numbers last season (.277, 8 HR, 67 RBI) clearly demonstrate his abilities are not what they once were. And ironic enough as it is, Young does not make the Phillies any younger… he turns 37 this year. Then just a week later, Amaro agreed to sent starting hurler Vance Worley to Minnesota in exchange for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. It’s expected that Revere and shortstop will be penciled in at the top of manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup card as the table-setters for this offense. The 24-year-old Revere does bring some youth and put up excellent numbers in his time with the Twins. But considering how much of a slap-hitter Revere is, a great deal of that success can be attributed to playing half of his games at the spacious dimensions of Target Field. The jury is still out on whether Revere can continue to rack up the hits in the much more compact confines of Citizens Bank Park. And with the recent departures of Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre, Amaro went out and signed ex-Tiger Delmon Young to a one year deal. The Phillies say they plan to make Young their everyday right fielder, a position he has not played since 2007. And let’s not forget the fact that Delmon is also coming off of ankle surgery, so there is a chance he may have to start the season off on the disabled list. The depth behind Young and Revere in the outfield is bleak, as is the depth in the infield behind the likes of Howard, Utley, and Michael Young. The worst part for the city of Brotherly Love is that the future looks extremely dim. Their farm system has been completely depleted and many prognosticators are claiming they have one of the worst 5 farm systems in all of baseball. It goes without saying the Phillies still have one of the best starting staffs around, but that may be the only light that’s left at the end of a very long and dreary tunnel.



By Kreg Miller Staff Writer