Predicting the 2013 Opening Day Lineups for Every NL East Team
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As the 2012 MLB season nears its end, only two teams in the NL East can say they're in the thick of the playoff race.
But, there's hope for the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins. The offseason will be here before they know it, and each of those three teams will get a chance to spend in free agency to try to make its team better.
The Nationals and Braves are expected to do the same, although probably not with as much money.
Taking free agency and minor league players into account, here is a look at my projected Opening Day lineups for each team in the division.
The Braves have a good thing going for them with (from left) Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla all in their lineup.
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- CF Michael Bourn
- 3B Martin Prado
- RF Jason Heyward
- 1B Freddie Freeman
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Dan Uggla
- LF Nick Swisher
- SS Andrelton Simmons
- P Tommy Hanson
There may be some that say that Bourn will not re-sign with the Braves. However, here are a few reasons why I think he will.
First, Chipper Jones is retiring, so that's $13 million off the books right away. Then you have $10 million for Derek Lowe and $1.25 million for Nate McClouth that the Braves paid other teams.
The Braves will also likely take off $1 million for Jack Wilson, $2 million for Matt Diaz and $5.5 million for Jair Jurrjens, assuming they can trade him.
Totaled up, that's $32.75 million the Braves should be able to play with, although that's not figuring in the arbitration dollars players like Heyward, Hanson, Jonny Venters, Kris Medlen, Cristhian Martinez and Eric O'Flaherty will get.
But, there's still room for the Braves to re-sign Bourn at around $11-12 million. Plus, they can go after a free agent left fielder like Swisher and give raises to the players mentioned above.
Tim Hudson is also a wild card, as he has a $9 million team option for 2013. If the Braves don't pick it up, they'll be on the hook for only $1 million for Hudson and save $8 million in the process.
Paul Maholm also has a $6.5 million team option for next year. Should the Braves not exercise it, they'll have even more dollars to play with.
With Julio Teheran slated to join the rotation next year, my guess is that Maholm or Hudson will be gone. But, that also depends on whether the Braves trade any of their young guns for a left fielder, instead of trying to sign Swisher.
Relatively speaking, the Braves have a lot of flexibility this offseason.
Jose Reyes was the big offseason acquisition for the Marlins last year. This offseason, however, will likely be a little different for the team.
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- SS Jose Reyes
- CF Emilio Bonifacio
- RF Giancarlo Stanton
- 1B Carlos Lee
- 3B Zack Cox
- LF Justin Ruggiano
- C John Buck
- 2B Ryan Theriot
- P Josh Johnson
Boy, what a difference half of a season makes.
What once was thought of as a team that would contend for the NL East title is now relegated to the bottom of the barrel again.
But that's what happens when you have an owner that overpays for players and then trades them when they don't perform up to their salaries.
The Marlins will still look good at the top of their lineup with Reyes and Bonifacio putting pressure on opposing defenses with their speed. Stanton and Lee (who will be re-signed) are good power guys in the middle of the lineup.
After that, it's a toss up.
Cox is still unproven but is going to get his chance, while the Ruggiano and Buck aren't great at the plate.
The one place at which I think the Marlins do sign a free agent is second base, and they will try to get another veteran presence in the clubhouse. Theriot may not be a sexy move, but it would be a good stabilizer for the bottom of the order.
How long do Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Reyes stay in town? It will be interesting to see what happens on that front.
After an offseason in which the Marlins went crazy with their money, this offseason will be relatively quiet.
New York Mets
Mets fans will be happy to know that David Wright isn't going anywhere this offseason.
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- CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis
- RF Cody Ross
- 3B David Wright
- 1B Ike Davis
- LF Jason Bay
- SS Stephen Drew
- C Josh Thole
- 2B Daniel Murphy
- P Johan Santana
Wright isn't going anywhere. I know that's something Mets fans were worried about coming into this season, but I believe he'll re-sign with the team.
Nieuwenhuis will get his chance once again to be the leadoff guy. Davis and Bay will keep the fourth and fifth spots in the order.
The bottom of the order will again consist of Thole and Murphy, who have been pretty good, all things considered.
Although the Mets won't go on a crazy spending spree this offseason, they'll still bring in veterans Ross and Drew.
Drew has a mutual option with the Diamondbacks, but I don't think both will pick it up. Ross, on the other hand, is a straight-up free agent who's had a lot of success over the last few years. He'll be a nice addition at the top of the Mets lineup.
The only real question marks in the lineup will be Bay and Santana because of their health concerns. If they aren't able to be back to full strength, the Mets will make other moves to solidify their lineup and rotation.
The Phillies are aging and will have to get an infusion of young talent to stay competitive.
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- SS Jimmy Rollins
- CF B.J. Upton
- 1B Ryan Howard
- 2B Chase Utley
- C Carlos Ruiz
- RF Domonic Brown
- LF Delmon Young
- 3B Freddy Galvis
- P Roy Halladay
There are only two things certain about Philadelphia's lineup: Brown is guaranteed an outfield spot, and Rollins, Howard, Utley and Ruiz will continue to age at their positions.
Other than that, the Phillies have a lot of openings they'll have to fill this offseason.
With a lot of money to spend (as usual), the Phillies will make a run at Bourn but will come up short. Instead, they'll opt for Upton, who will fill in nicely in center field and in the No. 2 spot in the order.
I also think the Phillies will sign free agent Delmon Young to play left field and should get him at a good price.
With Placido Polanco aging, I don't believe the Phillies will re-sign him, instead opting to move Galvis to third from second.
And, of course, the rotation will continue to have three of the best pitchers in baseball.
But what good is that when you have no offense?
What else can you say about the phenom Bryce Harper? He's helped lead the Nationals to the top of the NL East.
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- SS Ian Desmond
- CF Shane Victorino
- RF Bryce Harper
- 3B Ryan Zimmerman
- 1B Michael Morse
- LF Jayson Werth
- C Jesus Flores
- 2B Danny Espinosa
- P Stephen Strasburg
Let's just call it like it is: There is nothing sexy about the Nationals lineup, but they manage to get the job done.
The Nats will make runs at some free agents this year and will end up with Shane Victorino. He will be a nice fit in the leadoff or No. 2 spot for the Nats.
Other than that, the Nationals lineup will look pretty much the same as it does this year.
Where they'll concentrate is on solidifying their bench, which has been a slight weakness this year.
With that said, the Nationals are going to be competing for division crowns for many years to come because of their young core of players.
Each year they'll have to tweak only a little bit of their roster, and they'll be in contention all over again.