As the 2014 season kicks off, let's take a look at the best newcomers for each National League team. In this list you'll find the most important addition to every team in the National League whether it be by trade or free agent signing. Now that you know what's in this piece, let's PLAY BALL!
Atlanta Braves – P Ervin Santana - The Braves are concerned and with good reason. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are having Tommy John surgery. A top 15 pitcher in the AL last year, Santana comes to Atlanta on a one-year deal having to once again prove himself. A late signing in March, Santana was a necessity for Atlanta if they hope to contend in 2014, making him one of the most important signings in Major League Baseball this off-season.
Miami Marlins – C Jarrod Saltalamacchia – In 2013 the Marlins’ catchers and infielders hit a combined .223/.280/.310. So upgrading these positions was paramount to continuing to improve a club that was deconstructed so famously. Enter Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The catcher for the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox brings veteran presence to a very young team and his deal didn't break the bank either (3 yrs, $21 million). Miami made marginal upgrades at other positions but Salty was the biggest haul in the 2014 off-season.
New York Mets – OF Curtis Granderson – Granderson moves from one New York team to another in 2014, joining the Mets. Granderson got the biggest contract the Mets handed out this winter, agreeing to a four-year, $60 million deal in December 2013. Oft-injured in 2013, Granderson and the Mets look forward to a healthy and productive 2014. If he can stay healthy, the deal could end up being one of the shrewdest moves in recent team history.
Philadelphia Phillies – P A.J. Burnett – Before the signing of Burnett, arguably the best move the Phils had made this off-season was signing 36-year-old Marlon Byrd. Burnett is no spring chicken either, but he is a much more proven commodity and should earn a spot in the Phillies starting rotation. With the retirement of Roy Halladay in December, Burnett fills a real need.
Washington Nationals – P Doug Fister – The Nats acquired Doug Fister in a trade with the Detroit Tigers, a proven commodity, and only had to give up a utility player, lefty bullpen pitcher, and a minor league pitching prospect. That's not a slight to the players that the Nats traded, it's more of a nod to Fister, who joins a solid rotation in Washington. Assuming he stays healthy, Fister will fill the #4 starter role for a Washington team that hopes to compete for the NL East crown in 2014.
Chicago Cubs – Manager Rick Renteria – I know, I know. The Cubs technically did sign some free agents this off-season. New closer Jose Veras and reliever Wesley Wright are the best signings. Neither of those signings however, will make the Cubs significantly better in 2014, and both are likely to be traded before the season ends (both are on one year deals). New manager Rick Renteria, however, could make a real difference. Formerly having spent eight years in the minor leagues in the Marlins’ and Padres’ systems as well as managing Team Mexico in last year’s World Baseball Classic, Renteria will be tasked with developing the Cubs' young talent and maximizing the skill sets of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. If he's successful he'll make a major difference in 2014 and going forward.
Cincinnati Reds - UTIL Skip Schumaker – Yikes! While technically the biggest addition to the 2014 Reds will be speedster Billy Hamilton, if we are talking strictly off-season additions, then Reds fans are cringing that a utility player is the best player the organization added. Hamilton is the Reds' top prospect and figures to slot as an everyday leadoff hitter and center fielder. However since he's been in the organization for years, we have to look at the former Cardinal and Dodger, Schumaker. Schumaker can play middle infield and corner outfield. To make matters worse it looks like he'll start the season on the disabled list.
Milwaukee Brewers – P Matt Garza – The Milwaukee Brewers are betting on Matt Garza and they are betting big (4 yrs, $50 million). Despite recent stints on the disabled list and struggling to pitch to his potential, Garza could be a gamble worth taking. He's a very emotional, energetic pitcher with good stuff. If he can put it all together, he will make a huge difference for the Brewers. In a division filled with teams that didn't make a whole lot of big moves this off-season, the Brewers took a chance, and I like it.
Pittsburgh Pirates – P Edinson Volquez – The Pirates are a team coming off of their first winning season in over 20 years. They will try to replace A.J. Burnett in 2014, partially with Edinson Volquez, who's had a rough spring. The bigger story for Pittsburgh is when/if the team decides to call up top prospects Jameson Tallion and Gregory Palanco. When looking at off-season additions however, the Pirates probably took a small step back and taking a one year flier on Volquez isn't a bad move.
St. Louis Cardinals – SS Jhonny Peralta – The Cardinals have one of the best farm systems in all of Major League Baseball, meaning that they can let quality players leave and sign others to fill holes in the current roster. That's exactly what St. Louis did this off-season letting Carlos Beltran and Fernando Salas walk, trading David Freese for Peter Bourjos, and upgrading at short massively by adding Peralta. Peralta brings hitting to a position that was weak in 2013 and he's still an above average fielder at 31 years old. The Cardinals addressed pretty much all of their concerns this off-season and should be the favorite to win the NL Central.
Arizona Diamondbacks – OF Mark Trumbo – Trumbo moves to the more hitter friendly Chase Field in 2014 and now serves as protection for Paul Goldschmidt in the lineup. Addison Reed will help the bullpen, but Trumbo will have a greater impact in 2014. Yes he will be an adventure as an everyday defender, but his bat should more than makeup for his occasional fielding blunders.
Colorado Rockies – P Brett Anderson – Many people who follow baseball would probably consider Justin Morneau the best Rockies' off-season acquisition of 2014. I would disagree. Maybe others would cite LHP Boone Logan. Again, I disagree. Other than unfortunate injury issues, Brett Anderson, formerly of the Oakland A's has been known for one thing; ground balls. When you're penciled in as the No. 3 or No. 4 starter in Colorado, you need to keep the ball down to be successful. I think the Rockies trade to acquire Anderson could pay off big as soon as this season. Anderson was a top lefty prospect and he can be successful in Colorado.
Los Angeles Dodgers – P Dan Haren – The Dodgers continued to show a commitment to spending to win in the 2014 off-season, extending many of it's top players and adding more. The top addition should be Dan Haren. Haren struggled with Washington last year and is probably on the back side of his career, but as a No. 4 starter on a loaded L.A. team, he should be good. The Dodgers also added Paul Maholm among other new faces, but Haren stands out as the best acquisition on an already strong roster.
San Diego Padres – P Josh Johnson - If Josh Johnson can remain healthy enough in 2014 to recapture the form of his (Florida) Marlins days, he could be the anchor of playoff pitching staff. It's a low risk/high reward move and I'm a huge fan of these type of deals (1 yr, $8 million). Johnson has teased baseball fans with flashes of brilliance throughout his career and there is hope that pitching in pitcher friendly Petco Park could help to bring those flashes out more often.
San Francisco Giants – P Tim Hudson – The Giants had a busy off-season in 2014, re-signing many of the team's better players. While not adding a lot of new players, one very notable addition is 38 year old SP Tim Hudson. Hudson was having another good season in 2013 before suffering a season-ending broken ankle. The move to a more pitcher friendly AT&T Park in San Francisco should help Hudson as his stuff declines with age as well. If the Giants get the Tim Hudson that is a proven commodity in Major League Baseball, and it looks like they will, San Francisco will have one of the better rotations in the league.