Looking at Miami and Atlanta’s Off-Seasons

The Phillies’ off-season so far has been a mixture of incredible anxiety and tedium. Questions asked in early November included, “Will Jimmy Rollins come back?”, “What will the Phillies do with the bullpen?”, and “What is the future of Domonic Brown?” The Phillies answered those questions slowly and rounded out the roster with the addition of veterans such as Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, and Dontrelle Willis. We have a very clear idea of what to expect with spring training on the horizon.

With the Phillies’ issues more or less settled, let’s take a look at two of their competitors in the National League East, the Miami Marlins and the Atlanta Braves. I caught up with each team’s Sweet Spot blog, Dave Gershman for the Marlins and Ben Duronio for the Braves. Gershman runs Marlins Daily and you can follow him on Twitter @Dave_Gershman. Ben writes for Capitol Avenue Club and you can follow him on Twitter @Ben_Duronio. Let’s start with the Marlins.

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Miami Marlins

1. Letter grade your team’s off-season so far. Why do you give it that grade?

The Marlins off-season on paper looks pretty solid. They filled four integral needs on their roster by adding one of the best shortstops in baseball, a solid, injury-free starter, a closer & a number four, albeit Zambrano is an atom bomb waiting to happen. That said, quality over quantity is the key and I’m not sure it’s fair to say the Marlins totally succeeded in that sense. They overpaid for Heath Bell and might’ve done so as well in the case of Buehrle, and that’s one of the few reasons I’d give them a B for winter. The addition of Jose Reyes could be huge for the Fish, and quite possibly an NL East impacting move.

2. Are there any players, free agent or otherwise, you wish your team had pursued more heavily?

If his price and yearly demands were slightly lower, I thought Edwin Jackson would have been a nice fit for the Marlins, especially if the left-field fences are as deep as expected. Jackson isn’t amazing by any means, but he’s a quality pitcher who has found success over the past few years. Also, I would have much rather had K-Rod on a 3/21 deal or something like that than Heath Bell and his 3/27. Not sure if that was ever possible (considering Rodriguez accepted arbitration, but he was on my list of players I wanted to see the Fish acquire. Speaking of that list, last but not least, I thought Grady Sizemore made some sense for the Marlins. It’s hard to see Emilio Bonifacio being anywhere near as successful this year as was last, and even a Sizemore not at 100% could eclipse that.

3. What needs still remain for your team and how do you think your team should go about addressing it?

If the Marlins still do have some money to spend, center-field and the bullpen are some obvious choices for an upgrade. The ‘pen still seems a bit thin and the aforementioned Bonifacio isn’t a starting center-fielder, in my opinion. I thought Coco Crisp would have been a decent option for the Fish, and although it’s unclear whether or not they were in on him, it’s a shame they didn’t pursue him more aggressively. The Marlins usually find success in their minor league signings, but aside from Chad Gaudin they weren’t as active in that market this year. Yesterday, the Twins inked about ten cheap former major leaguers to minor league deals who I totally would have hopped on if I were Larry Beinfest. The list featured the likes of Luis Perdomo, Jared Burton, Daryl Thompson and Jason Bulger. Not great, but those are the kind of guys the Marlins have found success in previously. See Brian Sanches, for instance.

4. What prospects should we keeping an eye on going into the 2012 season?

Ah, my favorite question regarding the Marlins. The minor leagues are my specialty. I spend most of my time watching minor league baseball during the season and was lucky enough to see some decent Marlins prospects last season. The system is rather strange, considering most of the talent is not only two or three years away, but also because it has star power and raw guys with tons of upside. There’s really no “in-the-middle” guys. That said, the prospects I’m highest on are Noah Perio, Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez and J.T. Realmuto. Not neseccarily in that order, but those are my favorite four. All have a chance to greatly impact the Marlins in some way.

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Atlanta Braves

1. Letter grade your team’s off-season so far. Why do you give it that grade?

So far I would give the Braves a B+. They have not done much, except rid themselves of Derek Lowe, Alex Gonzalez, and a few bullpen arms. The Lowe trade was fantastic and exactly what the team could have hoped for. The grade will likely be altered once Jair Jurrjens is traded, but their ability to be patient and wait for the correct transactions to make is why I have given them such a supportive grade.

2. Are there any players, free agent or otherwise, you wish your team had pursued more heavily?

I wanted them to pursue Angel Pagan a bit more than they did, and I wish the team traded for Brendan Ryan to play shortstop. I see him as an incredibly undervalued player who would be an improvement over what the team got from the position last season. With rookie Tyler Pastornicky expected to take the starting role, the team is placing a lot of faith in a prospect who does not dazzle with the glove nor the bat. The high expectancy of Ryan producing similar numbers as he has over the course of his career would have been more comforting than the risk the Braves are taking with Pastornicky being handed the job before Spring Training.

3. What needs still remain for your team and how do you think your team should go about addressing it?

It is understood that the team is looking for a starting left fielder, and the trade rumors have indicated that to be a reality. They do not necessarily need to do so, with Martin Prado the incumbent at the position. I would be fine with the Braves going with Prado in left field if they acquire a solid fourth outfielder, but it is expected that they will look to acquire a bigger bat sometime this offseason.

Other than that, the only position on the Major League roster that is available is utility infielder. Non-roster invite Drew Sutton could eventually be that player, but Wren seems intent on acquiring a legitimate backup shortstop rather than go with the uncertainty that is Sutton.

The farm system could also be improved, which is what I personally label as a “need.” Jair Jurrjens is the piece that could acquire a group of prospects that can improve the outlook of the position players in the system. Martin Prado could also be moved to accomplish this task.

4. What prospects should we keeping an eye on going into the 2012 season?

As mentioned before, Tyler Pastornicky will be starting for the Braves unless something drastic occurs before opening day. The hope is that Pastornicky plays about average defense and has an average bat for a shortstop, which is fine from that position. Other than Pastornicky, most of the interesting prospects the Braves have are on the mound.

Julio Teheran could be in the rotation full-time when Jurrjens is traded, and Randall Delgado will be the sixth starter in that event. Both should see time in the rotation for large portions of the season, and fellow top pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino will be a bullpen arm for the big club. Vizcaino has the stuff to be a dominant back-end reliever, which should give the team one of the best bullpens in the game once again.

Players to follow in the minors that will not see the majors this year include Edward Salcedo, Sean Gilmartin, Christian Bethancourt, and Zeke Spruill to name a few.

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Thanks to Dave and Ben for taking the time to talk about their teams. Make sure to visit Marlins Daily and follow @Dave_Gershman for your Marlins-related news and analysis, and Capitol Avenue Club and @Ben_Duronio for Braves intel.