Yesterday, we broke down the outlooks of the Braves and Marlins in 2013. Today, it'll be the reigning champion Nationals and Mets put under the microscope.
Washington Nationals: The Nats didn't make any huge splashes like the Braves this offseason, but the moves they did make were effective. Denard Span, who should lead off Opening Day, was brought in via trade and Rafael Soriano will take over the ninth inning. Though Michael Morse was shipped to Seattle, Adam LaRoche, more importantly, was resigned to anchor first base for the next two seasons.
But for this D.C. club, it all starts with the rotation, which will challenge the Phillies' fivesome as the best in the NL East. Stephen Strasburg is primed for his first full big-league season and shouldn't be shut down on the cusp of the postseason again. Gio Gonzalez, though his NL-best 21 wins were back by great run support (6.68 per game), still posted career bests in ERA (2.89), WHIP (1.1) and K/BB (2.72:1). Jordan Zimmermann has improved for two straight seasons. Newly acquired three-time All-Star Dan Haren, still just 32, could be a stud if healthy. Ross Detwiler is as solid a fifth man a team could want.
The bats aren't slacking either — the lineup will be productive from top to bottom. A lot depends, though, on LaRoche and Ian Desmond replicating their breakout performances of 2012, when each bashed a career high in homers: LaRoche (33) passed 30 for the first time since 2006, and Desmond (25) had hit just 22 in his first two-plus years combined. If those two don't regress, Ryan Zimmerman stays healthy and Bryce Harper gets even better, they'll be just as dangerous in 2013 as they were a season ago.
New York Mets: R.A. Dickey — the Mets' best story of 2012 — is now gone and prospect Travis D'Arnaud, the main piece the club got from Toronto in return, isn't likely to step in to a big role just yet. The biggest offseason move was extending David Wright eight years. Other than that, the Mets didn't do much. This team was bad last season and the forecast doesn't look much brighter in 2013.
The Mets' lineup isn't all that improved from a year ago, when they averaged just over four runs per game and had the 12th-most productive offense in the league. We all know Wright will produce, and Daniel Murphy (.302 average, .344 OBP since 2011) can get on base, but after that it's a bunch of question marks. A key could be Ike Davis, who hit 32 homers but batted just .227 last season.
New York's one "big" free agency signing was Shaun Marcum, who finished 7-4 with a 3.70 ERA in Milwaukee in 2012. He'll fill out the middle of a rotation topped by Johan Santana, who's back from shoulder surgery, and Jon Niese and rounded out with Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee. Frank Francisco (5.53 ERA, 23 saves in 2012) is back as closer. And familiar face Pedro Feliciano should make his fair share of appearances when the lefty-heavy Phillies roll into town.