It looks like it's time for a change, both for some teams and the division. Atlanta's ridiculous reign on the NL east is all but over with the New Kings on the Block winning not only the battle of the back pages in NYC, but the division. Philly could contend, but with a new GM who wants to his mark on the team, and a woefully performing squad with little heart, it's time for change. Florida is doing what we have grown to expect after a World Series, having a changing of the guard. The young squad, composed of many Futures Game graduates, is exciting to watch. With all major salary concerns shed, Florida should stand pat for the most part.
New York - Buy
Needs: New York is desperate for pitching, especially with Martinez, Zambrano and Bannister on the DL - how much do you think they wish they could reverse the ill-fated Kazmir trade? There has been a lot of talk about acquiring Hernandez, which would help, but also cost a ton. If the Mets want to stand a chance against the AL, they need a more potent offense and could stand to improve by upgrading LF or RF with a power hitter, perhaps Soriano if the Mets can put together enough in return, but it's not their biggest need. With the over hyped Reyes hurt, the Mets would be better with some power at SS (Lugo?), even if it meant shifting Reyes back to 2nd upon his return, which would strengthen the IF production offensively and defensively.
Chips: Lastings Milledge will be the asking price for any team the Mets talk to. Beyond that, the system is pretty barren after off-season trades. Heilman could be of use and some teams still see him as a #3 or #4 starter, and Nady is still pretty young with solid power potential. The Mets best bet for a trade is taking on unwanted salaries.
Philadelphia - Sell
Needs: Philly needs to sack up and sell - this team needs a complete overhaul from the top on down. There is a chance they could contend for a Wild Card, but that has been the case for several years with the same result - the Phillies don't have the heart to compete and are far too content to lose (as phormer-phil Wagner noted recently). Philly needs pitching, preferably pitchers that don't beat their wives and then get trotted out to pitch the next day (this also illustrates the need for change throughout the organization). The bullpen is okay, but they need to drop Rhodes down to lower-leverage innings. They could use a catcher with Lieberthal a perennial DL tourist. On paper, this team looks good though, so it's mind boggling that they consistently underperforms expectations. This team needs heart, passion, and competitive drive.
Chips: Philly should put everyone on the market except Howard, Utley, Floyd, Gordon, Howard, and Rollins. The Phillies won't get talent back for Abreu and Burrell without eating money, which will be hard to justify since they are largely footing the bill for an MVP candidate (Thome) to play elsewhere. Cormier is having a great season, and there will be contenders in dire need of a solid lefty BP arm; I would imagine the Phillies could get a solid catching or OF prospect for Cormier, possibly even a pitcher. Dellucci is a solid player that could help teams in need of a 3rd or 4th OFer and a good bat off the bench. The Phillies can sell BP arms to contenders, as they almost always fetch more in return than they are worth.
Atlanta - Sell or Hold
Needs: Some of the best analysts out there say Atlanta will be a buyer, but I just don't see it. This is a team out of the division, and 7.5 back in the Wild Card - that doesn't sound like a buyer to me. Combine their mandate to pare payroll, an already-young team, and futile playoff hopes, and I expect that some of their veterans will be available for the right price. The biggest need of this team is experience, with so many 1st, and 2nd year players in integral roles. The underperformance of LaRoche and Giles in the IF has been part of the reason for Atlanta's struggles, but don't need replacing since they are both relatively young with decent upside. Langerhans has had some youthful trouble as well in LF, and pitchers seem to be using Francoeur's aggressiveness against him. The rotation is average, but the bullpen is absolutely brutal and allows teams to approach a game with the intent to get through the starter and attack the bullpen.
Chips: There has been a lot of talk about Smoltz being moved, but the price will be high, and rightfully so. Atlanta needs a top pitching prospect to part with any of its starters. Though the rumors aren't fully heated up about Hudson, he could fetch quite a ransom with a track record in the AL and an incredibly cheap deal - though the asking price would dissuade all but the most talent-rich teams and moving him would be quite the blockbuster deal. Jones is a free agent after next season and a top centerfielder who has struggled having to carry the bulk of the offensive weight this year. Like Hudson, he's signed to a bargain and would only be involved in a blockbuster - which is a nice way of saying I don't see it happening unless a team like the Dodgers or Angels are willing to part with prized prospects.
Florida - Hold
Needs: Florida needs experience right now, with the majority of their roster still wet behind the ears. The Marlins could use some help in CF and LF down the line, and should target appropriate prospects should they make any moves. The rotation is young, but average, and should improve with seasoning. The bullpen and infield are strengths.
Chips: Willis is the big chip most talked about, though the Marlins aren't in any rush to move him. They will not move him without extracting some serious talent in return and have continually suggested talks will only start if they are offered a pitcher as good as Willis, but cheaper and younger. Which is to say, it's not going to happen. None of their young arms will be moved, but veterans Herges and Borowski are having solid seasons in the bullpen and could be moved to a contender. Back-up corner IF Helms should be available if there is any interest.
Washington - Sell
Needs: Washington's 2005 season is similar to KC's 2003 season - it probably did more harm than good by convincing the Nats that they were ready to compete. This team needs to get healthy, with nine Nats on the DL (including and incredible EIGHT pitchers). They have several starters who should be bench players or worse, including their SS (Neither Guzman, on the DL, or Clayton should be starting), CF (Jackson is a career back-up), and Guillen. The Nats' back-ups should be in AAA or lower. Schneider, while superior defensively, is decidedly lacking with the bat in 2006. The rotation needs an overhaul beyond the workhorse Hernandez.
Chips: Soriano is talked about daily by teams needing some added pop in the line-up, but the Nats are asking for top pitching talent in return for a rental. The Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels could certainly use him, among other teams. Hernandez has also been thrown around by any team needing pitching (Read: every contending team). Chad Cordero has been a solid closer and could help a contender in the same role, or as an above-average set-up man. Mike Stanton has had a mid-season change of address 4 times in his career and would be of interest to a team looking for a lefty out of the pen. Majewski has been good, but I don't know if the Nats would be willing to move him. Previous to his DL stint, Armas, Jr. had been scouted by several teams looking to bolster their rotations, and may switch teams depending on his performance upon returning.