1st Place: Philadelphia Phillies- I'm gonna start off with a quick, easy prediction here-- the Phillies will win the NL East and be the best team in the National League. Now that that's out of the way, let's take a look at their offseason. The best pitching staff in baseball (a 3.02 ERA in 2011) should stay about the same in 2012. However, it may dip a bit with the losses of Roy Oswalt and Ryan Madson. However, they helped compensate for the loss of Madson by building their bullpen a bit with acquisitions of Jonathan Papelbon (right)(4-1/2.94/87) and Chad Qualls (6-8/3.51/43). They didn't do a whole lot for their 13th in the league offense-- just small acquisitions like Jim Thome (.256/15/50), Ty Wigginton (.242/15/47), and Laynce Nix (.250/16/44). Expect the Phillies to be among the league's best in 2012.
2nd Place: Washington Nationals- I am a huge fan of what the Nationals did this offseason and I think that for the first time since they moved to Washington, they could be a contender. Their offense (24th in 2011) is still a bit shaky, the only real acquisition being Mark DeRosa (.279/0/12 in 47 games). Their pitching was already 7th in the league in 2011, and in 2012 it should be among the league's best in 2012. Acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez (left) (16-12/3.12/197) and Edwin Jackson (12-9/3.79/148) should bolster the pitching rotation while Ryan Perry (3-5/3.59/45 in 2010) and Brad Lidge (0-2/1.40/23) should bolster the bullpen. Expect the Nationals to move from a .500 team to a potential wild card team.
3rd Place: Atlanta Braves- Under normal circumstances, I would place the Braves ahead of the Nationals after they went 89-73 and just missed the playoffs in 2011. However, they did nothing this offseason. Honestly, the only move they made that could affect the roster at all was signing Adam Russell (right)(1-2/3.03/13) to help out their bullpen. However, they could be helped by some young arms coming up from AAA, Randall Delgado (7-7/3.88/135 in the minors) and Julio Teheran (15-3/2.55/122 in AAA) should spend time with the Braves. Expect the Braves to be a solid team, but not a true contender.
4th Place: Florida Marlins- The Marlins went through a stunning change in character this offseason-- usually a quiet team, they made several big splashes in the offseason. Most teams don't just go from 72-90 and last place to a contender, but the Marlins will make a run. They really helped out their pitching rotation by acquiring Mark Buehrle (13-9/3.59/109), Wade LeBlanc (5-6/4.63/51) and Carlos Zambrano (9-7/4.82/101). They also helped out their bullpen by acquiring Heath Bell (3-4/2.44/51) to be their closer. They didn't do a whole lot for their offense, but what they did was big-- acquiring shortstop Jose Reyes (left)(.337/7/44, 39 steals) and moving Hanley Ramirez to third. Expect the Marlins to be a part of the Nationals, Braves, and Marlins who will be battling for second place in 2012.
5th Place: New York Mets- The Mets are a bad team, and they didn't do anything to improve in the offseason. They have no payroll space, as it is being eaten up by bad contracts for Jason Bay, Johan Santana, and David Wright. The only real move they made this offseason was trading Angel Pagan to the Giants for reliever Ramon Ramirez (3-3/2.62/66) and outfielder Andres Torres (right)(.221/4/19). Also to bolster their bullpen, they acquired Jon Rauch (5-4/4.85/36). Finally, they acquired Ronny Cedeno (.249/2/32) in a move to cover the shortstop position. The Mets are essentially a lock for last place in an NL East that should be a good division.