News broke on Thursday that the Washington Nationals traded for Oakland A's pitcher Gio Gonzalez. He did not come cheap for the Nationals, as they gave up four prospects, including three prized pitchers.
Those four prospects include Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone and Derek Norris. The first three were ranked third, fourth and ninth according Baseball America's recent list of the Nationals' top prospects.
With the addition of Gonzalez, the Nationals just went from pretenders to contenders. Keep reading to find out why the NL East is now the best division in the MLB.
I'll start off with the one team in the NL East that has no shot at making a run for the division crown, the New York Mets. The Mets have never been the same since blowing their seven game lead in the division a couple years back with only two weeks left to play, which allowed the Phillies to win the division.
The Mets finished the 2011 season with an atrocious 77-85 record and 25 games behind division leader, Philadelphia Phillies.
Along with a lack luster performance last year, they also shipped off one of their best run producers in Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline. This proved the Mets were trying to rebuild because they knew their window of opportunity had closed for the 2011 season.
The unfortunate series of events continued this offseason when their All-Star shortstop, Jose Reyes, agreed to a six-year, $102 million deal with division foe Miami Marlins.
Where does this leave the Mets? Well it leaves them as the lone cellar dweller of the NL East for the 2012 season, if not longer.
I feel bad putting the Nats as the fourth place finishers but that's the reality of the toughness of this elite division.
With the addition of pitcher Gio Gonzalez, the Nationals' staff appears to consist of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonalez, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan and Ross Detwiler. This is a very strong pitching staff, however it doesn't appear it will be stable enough to shut down the hitters of the NL East.
Also, the Nationals have a lot of holes in their offense. They are lead by the over paid and over rated Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse. After these three, there is a steep decline in talent.
Although, look for Danny Espinosa and Roger Bernadina to turn heads in the division this season.
Also, look for the Nationals to be right in the running until the last couple weeks before the big boys of the division take over.
Although many think the Braves will finish second in the NL East, they could easily trip on their own feet and choke just like they did at the end of the 2011 season.
The Atlanta Braves dominated this division for the entire 1990's, now they are taking a back seat to the team from the City of Brotherly Love. Also, they have made close to zero moves this offseason to make their team better.
They got ride of their pricey ace in Derek Lowe and acquired a reliever in the Rule 5 draft. That is minuscule compared to the moves the Phillies, Nationals and Marlins have made thus far.
That being said, they do have arguably the best offensive catcher in Brian McCann who belted 24 home runs last season, which is the most in his career.
Jair Jurrjens missed significant time the last two seasons with injuries, Chipper Jones is still one of the best in the game, but he is only getting older and multiple teams are interested in trading for Martin Prado.
If both Jurriens and Jones get bitten by the injury bug and Prado gets traded, look for the Braves to join the Mets at the bottom of the NL East.
The new look Miami Marlins are going to give the Phillies a good run for their money, not only in the 2012 season, but also into the future.
New name, new uniforms, new stadium, new coach and new players. That all means one thing for the fish; business.
Look for skipper Ozzie Guillen to lead this organization in the right direction. Look for new additions Jose Reyes and Heath Bell prove that they are worth their expensive contracts. Most importantly, look for the Marlins to show they are ready to compete for a World Series championship again.
I still think they will fall short to the too-powerful Phillies, but they will still make the race for the NL East championship interesting.
The Marlins could sneak into the playoffs this year since there are two wild card teams. If that happens, don't count them out to make noise in the playoffs.
And your 2012 NL East champions will be the Philadelphia Phillies. Although the division has improved greatly from last year, the Phils will still be the champs come October.
It's really quite simple, they have arguably the best pitching staff in the entire MLB, great leadership and guys who know what it takes to win.
They added veteran Jim Thome who will be a big help while Ryan Howard is out. Also, they upgraded in the bullpen adding star closer, Jonathan Papelbon and Dontrelle Willis.
They upgraded in their bats off the bench also by adding Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and Laynce Nix. Look for Carlos Ruiz and John Mayberry to have All-Star worthy years.
The Phillies are still favorites to not only win the NL East but also the World Series, however it won't come without a little pressure from the Nationals, Braves and Marlins.