Some Familiar NL East Faces

The Phillies’ closest competitors in the NL East — the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins — tried to enhance their chances to catch the Phillies for the division crown by making some trades today before the 4 PM deadline. The Braves re-acquired Adam LaRoche and the Marlins received Nick Johnson from the Washington Nationals.

Here’s a quick look to see if each team should expect improvements heading into the last two months of the regular season. The projection of choice is ZiPS, easily found at FanGraphs on the player pages, and the fielding metric is UZR/150 also found at FanGraphs.

I’ll list each player’s offensive projections for the rest of the season. That will be followed by their UZR/150 so far this season (defense is hard to project).

Atlanta Braves

  • Casey Kotchman: .357 OBP/.436 SLG; 5.8 UZR/150
  • Adam LaRoche: .349 OBP/.503 SLG; -3.4 UZR/150

Both Kotchman and LaRoche have been worth two wins above replacement (WAR) since the start of 2008. Kotchman doesn’t hit as well as LaRoche, but is a notably better fielder. Overall, the Braves didn’t upgrade their team by too much but their offense has been, literally, average (both their RPG average and the league average is 4.43). Adding some offense at the expense of defense is a good idea for a mediocre-hitting team.

Florida Marlins

  • Jorge Cantu: .330 OBP/.453 SLG; 0.6 UZR/150
  • Nick Johnson: .416 OBP/.450 SLG; -7.8 UZR/150

Like Kotchman and LaRoche, Jorge Cantu and Nick Johnson have been worth exactly the same in WAR this season at 1.2 apiece. Cantu plays about average defense while Johnson has been terrible, negating the huge gap in offense between the two.

The Marlins are a poor-fielding team with a -2.7 UZR/150, so adding a fielder as bad as Johnson isn’t going to help the already poor fielders around him. The Fish already had a slightly above-average offense, so this trade is break-even at the most optimistic.

Elsewhere, the Mets added no one besides Jeff Francoeur earlier in the month.

All told, none of the NL East teams made a significant improvement to their teams to make them more of a concern to the Phillies, who added last year’s AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee. If the Phillies can play .500 baseball the rest of the way, they will be in good shape to win their third straight division title.