The NL East’s Offensive Arms Race


Well that stove heated up quickly – after a relatively quiet offseason, the NL East has come to life as the Marlins have signed Wei-Yin Chen and extended Dee Gordon; after the Nationals signed Daniel Murphy and Stephen Drew (just kidding) and traded for Ben Revere; and the Mets added Asdrubal Cabrera, Neil Walker, and have made the biggest splash by adding Yoenis Cespedes. Overall, the NL East arms race has led to the stockpiling of good (but not great) talent, and has gone from historically bad, to pretty good – no thanks to a rebuilding Phillies and Braves. So how does the 2016 Marlins offense stack up against their division rivals?

Building in projected development, the Marlins offense is loaded with controlled talent who are collectively growing into their prime. Headlined by a premiere outfield trio in Sir Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna (for now); on top of a solid infield group that includes Gordon, Adeiny Hechavarria, and J.T. Realmuto – all for at least three more years. The offense is rounded out by one more year of Martin Prado and a question mark on whether Justin Bour can duplicate his 2015 success. Sure there was plenty of regression in 2015, but the core is still very young – and if Winter Storm Jonas has taught me anything, it’s that I’m looking forward to April and the (perhaps unfounded) optimism that comes with it. Bonus: A Justin Bour/Chris Johnson platoon, though perhaps premature, may be a great way to stack lineups causing bullpen headaches for Dusty, Terry, et al. in 2016.

While the Marlins are certainly not a top five offense in baseball, I’d still take their lineup against most NL teams’, including – by a hair – the upgraded Mets lineup, which will feature: Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Walker, David Wright, Curtis Granderson, Cabrera, and Travis d’Arnaud. If I’m a Mets fan, I’m praying Cespedes takes the reported opt out after the first year of his contract (which would be compensation eligible) – despite the world beater power he displayed over 250PAs in New York against historically weak competition (a lot of tanking Braves, Phillies, Marlins, Rockies in that stretch). Cespedes, now entering his age 30 season, has put up OBPs of .294, 301, and .328 in the last three seasons – more in depth look here. That is well below league average, and when coupled with what is likely to be below average center field defense, it is underwhelming production for a player making a reported $25m AAV (unless he miraculously maintains that .604 slugging) – full disclosure, Fangraphs disagrees with me. Then again, the Mets are on the hook for Wright’s continued decline to the tune of $87m over the next five years (are we still viewing opt outs as not team friendly?). Bonus: Lucas Duda is merely a rich man’s Bour (this is more a compliment for Bour, than a knock on Duda).

The Nationals on the other hand, boast a solid and deep offense featuring: Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Murphy, and Revere. Harper, the reigning MVP, headlines this group and is possibly the best player in baseball (I was at his three homer game against the Marlins back in May, wowza!), and Rendon and Werth are no slouches either despite coming off an injury-plagued year. While the addition of Murphy and Revere largely cancels the loss of Yunel Escobar and Denard Span – looking forward to seeing Trea Turner post All-Star break too! Bonus: Zimmerman is my pick for bounce back of the year, slashing .311/.372/.652 in 156 PAs post all-star break, after a less than stellar first half (obligatory small sample size alert).

The Marlins have the offense to compete with their division rivals and are considerably younger and cheaper. Unfortunately for the fish, offense is only half the game – and both Nats and Mets (Mats?) boast rotations orders of magnitude better than the Marlins, St. Jose Fernandez and the addition of Chen notwithstanding, but that is a post for another day. Still, I wouldn’t swap offenses with any team in the division, especially over the next 3-4 years – though by then we’ll likely be competing against a revamped Phillies and Braves.

THE CERBERUS Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
THE CERBERUS Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /