Skip to content

The NL East just got even tougher

Dec 14, 2010, 3:27 PM EDT

Wait, Cliff Lee signed with … the Phillies? For only five years?

That kind of came out of nowhere, huh? (Not that anyone saw Jayson Werth coming to Washington for seven years, of course.)

Still, the news that broke early this morning was quite a punch to the gut. For the Yankees, who assumed their money would trump all else. For the Rangers, who thought they had a good chance of keeping Lee. And, of course, for the Nationals, who never honestly believed they were going to land the top prize on the free agent market but also never thought they'd lose out to their NL East nemesis.

It's one thing to lose the Cliff Lee Derby. It's quite another to lose it to those reviled Phillies, who have ruled this division for four years now and show no signs of surrendering their place anytime soon.

Honestly, how are the Nationals (or the Braves, Marlins or Mets) supposed to compete with a rotation of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels? Any one of those four pitchers would start Opening Day for probably 20 other major-league clubs. Never mind the All-Star lineup of Jimmy Rollins, Placido Polanco, Chase Utley,Read more ยป

  1. Steve M. - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    The Nats need to stick with their plan of upgrading. The Phillies now have to move Blanton so they don't financially implode. Any injury to one of their big arms and they are sunk.

  2. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:39 PM

    Philly is going all in. They probably have a 3-4 year window because after 2013 they will be an old team. They see their window and are taking their best shot. Too bad the Lerners wouldn't spend in years past. Guys like Lee want to win now. Not in 2-4 years.

  3. Phil dunn - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    The only plus I see in this is that the Phillies have become an old team at nearly every position. It's going to take some very deep pockets to keep their ponzi like scheme going for more than another year or so.

  4. Carl in 309 - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    Shock and awe from South Broad Street–I guess we knew that Philadelphia wasn't going to go quietly into the night (at least some of us get to enjoy watching the Yankees take a hit to their over-sized gut).The Phillies will certainly have the starting rotation to envy throughout MLB. But as Keith Law, ESPN, wrote in the wee hours this morning, the Phillies are not bullet proof on offense. Their team is aging and a couple key members of that offense have had injury problems (were only we to have some of these "problems," I concede, the Nationals would be better off still!).Whatever happens this year, the Nats need first to be competitive in overall division play–after all, as the Red Sox have proven, appearing in the playoffs can be about being the second best in the strongest division. So it isn't so much that we need to beat the Phillies 10 out of 18 times (much as I would dearly love that) but whether we can consistently beat Atlanta, New York, and Florida–and that is looking promising (if we can just fill a couple more holes in our line-up!).And let's let someone else compete for Mr. Blanton. One Jason Marquis is definitely enough!

  5. Bowdenball - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:48 PM

    Let's not get carried away. This announcement basically locks away the NL East for two years. The Nats didn't expect to contend in 2011 anyway, so no loss there. So essentially this probably reduces the number of playoff spots available to the Nats in 2012 from 2 to 1.After that? Consider the Phillies' state of affairs for 2013 and beyond.Oswalt and Halladay will turn 36 that season, Cliff Lee will turn 35. I'd be surprised if more than one of them maintains anything close to their current performance level at that age.Hamels will be a free agent, and possibly gone considering their current payroll obligations. If he stays, it's because he's fallen off and can be had on the cheap. Either way it's a loss for the 2013 Phils. Same goes for Rollins, who will likely be leaving after this coming season. Utley will be a 35 year old free agent. Expensive, and likely having rapidly declining production. Victorino will also be a free agent and will be 33. Ibanez, same deal.There is nothing special in their farm system. They were ranked 17th last year, and that assumed that Domonic Brown was a stud and that the prospects they got back from Cliff Lee were good … neither of those things appears to be the case thus far. They'll likely be towards the rear of the rankings when they come out next year.What this is, is an all-in for the Phils in 2011 and 2012, and possibly in 2013 if they get REALLY lucky in the fight against Father Time and pick up some spare parts. After that, the Phillies dynasty is over. Just in time to make way for the Zimmerman/Strasburg/Harper/Zimmermann Nats.And if you think the Phils will find a way to restock because their front office is so great, consider this: They traded away Cliff Lee in 2009 and got nothing in return except some faltering prospects. In exchange, they had to bid on him in the open market, probably costing themselves tens of millions over the cost of re-upping with him in 2009, and now have to ship their first round pick to the Rangers this year as well. Not really the savvy forward-thinking moves of an organization that is planning for the future.

  6. upperdeck4 - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    I wouldn't worry about Blanton. It appears that he's going to the Bostons.

  7. Pete - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:51 PM

    http://www.nooooooooooooooo.com/

  8. NatsJack in Florida - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Bowdenball… Excellent analysis… The Phillies realize that they have this limited window and HAVE TO WIN at least one World Series in the next two seasons for it to be considered a success. After that, the bottom falls out.

  9. Doc - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    There's no FA pitchers out there, beyond the Joe Blanton types, and we don't need any more of those kind of retreads and has-beens. As you say Mark, 'been there-done that' with Marquis.Besides Rizzo's success with trading/signing MLB experienced starting pitching talent, is comprable to the Mendoza line of hitting! Joe Blanton can win games for the Phillies, maytbe, but not too many other teams.Trading for Greinke and/or Garza, all the Nats will be doing is creating holes in other parts of the lineup.This should be the era of develop, develop, develop for the Nats. The Phillies' position players are starting to show their age, and as expperiencd as their STs are, their stats will soon start to ressemble this year's Yankee staff. The stats of regression to the mean will soon kick in.

  10. DCJohn - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Let's assume we are NOT going to get that top flight starter. So, let's do the next best thing and make the effort to improve our defense by signing a grade A first baseman who is a great glove. Our starters pitch to contact and we now have three guys in the infield with great range. Need that fourth glove. Also, need Nyger Morgan to realize that he can be the league's MVP, if he can channel his emotions. He certainly has the intelligence and athletic ability to be MVP. Lastly, we need an authentic closer. The challenge is to play smarter, keep the games close, and let our bull pen pull it out. We're closer to winning than we realize.

  11. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    Bowdenball; Good analysis. There is nothing wrong with going all in when you have an aging team with no great prospect of maintaining the same level of play beyond their current crop of regulars. The danger in their strategy is that there is great potential for them to have multiple regulars on the DL for long stretches. They should win the east easily regardless because of the relative weakness of all the other teams but when their window closes they will still have huge contracts to swallow which in turn could keep them on the bottom for many years.

  12. pdowdy83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    I'm glad to see other people aren't going off the deep end on here. I really thought the commenst were going to be doom and gloom today. Really like everyone else has said, this is a move that doesn't hurt us but so much this year. We are probably looking at 75 wins this year, maybe 78,79. If we play well again against the braves and mets and can even things out against the marlins we will still be respectable within the division. Add a firstbasemen and see if you can trade Willingham and Clippard to the Rays for Sheilds and maybe Zobrist. This would give us a pitcher who is solid with big game experience and some lineup flexibility and insurance if espinosa isn't ready. Maybe we have to kick in some cash but I think that might be a pretty fair trade.

  13. Tcostant - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    All in all I think this is good for baseball. Lee went somewhere he liked before and showed the Yankees that you shouldn't spit on players wifes, as this cab hurt your free agent overturns.I never really viewed the Nationals as real contenters the next two years, so this will make the Nationals try hard to get ahead. The Phils cliff (no punn intended) seems to be about 2013-2014, based on these aging player in the post steroids era.

  14. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    The Phillies covet Willingham…the Nats need a pitcher and a first baseman…and lefty bat. I believe Philly has a stud first base prospect that is blocked by Howard. Look for the Nats to make a deal for either Blanton or Kendrick which includes swallowing Ibanez's contract but getting the Phils first base prospect (and Blanton/Ibanez). This kind of deal could include Clippard or another relief pitcher the phils would need.

  15. HHover - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:12 PM

    Let's not get carried away Mark–Blanton is no ace, as you say, but he's better than Marquis. His peripherals (Ks and BBs/9) are better, and his 2010 xFIP was much better than his ERA–4.06 vs. 4.92. That doesn't make him a top of the rotation guy, but it makes him better than Marquis, and equal to or better than many of the other pitchers whom we've heard linked to the Nats. Blanton's core 2010 #s are in the same ballpark as Pavano's, and he's 5 yrs younger. And the Phillies are reportedly prepared to eat part of Blanton's contract.None of that may matter, since the Red Sox appear to have the inside track on Blanton. The Nats may sign someone cheaper, but they're not likely to sign someone better.

  16. Feel Wood - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    "Those dreams of a 2012 pennant race in D.C. — with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and maybe even Bryce Harper leading the way — just became a lot tougher to visualize."Who needs a pennant race? There's still a wild card race. Maybe even two of them by 2012. Just ask the Marlins (twice), the 2000 Mets, the 2002 Giants, the 2004 Red Sox, the 2005 Astros, the 2006 Tigers or the 2007 Rockies if you need to win a pennant chase to end up in the World Series.

  17. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    "Also, need Nyger Morgan to realize that he can be the league's MVP, if he can channel his emotions."Will this be before or after all the swine in the world go airborne?

  18. N. Cognito - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Feel Wood said… "Who needs a pennant race? There's still a wild card race."The wild card race is part of the pennant race.

  19. Steveospeak - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    I don't know Mark, if they are basically giving Blanton away I don't have a problem with the Nats adding him. He has never had a WAR under 1.9. And he actually pitched well in Citizen's Bank Park (though for some reason did worse on the road). He is far from an ace, but he is an upgrade over most of the Nats #3's. He might be a slightly better Marquis, but the Nats need that. Next year both Marquis and Livan will be free agents and there aren't any better options on the open market next year.If the Nats don't need to give up anything significant, then I'm alright getting Blanton.

  20. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    Lots of good analysis this morning… I'm joining those of you who are arguing against trading prospects and young developing talent for top-shelf pitching. But I also agree with those of you who want a good 1B and as good a pitcher as the Nats can get for a resonable price. I would love to see them sign LaRoche (1B). I think the pressure will be on to do just that now (upgrade offense). But I would also argue for signing Pavano even if that means more years and money than the Nats would ordinarily devote to a SP like that (age, ability, etc.). An example: if the transmission goes out on my truck, I have two options. I either to pay to have it fixed, or I walk. If the Nats don't acquire Pavano, they're walking. If they do the reasonable thing and fix the problem, they pay for the fix. I think Pavano is the bridge to 2012 (Strasburg's return and maturing talent). He just hit the jackpot thanks to Lee and our situation. Go for LaRoche and Pavano. Pay for the fix. That is just one opinion, not the Gospel. I hope what I have said is building on what the rest of you have said so well.fpcsteve

  21. The Great Unwashed - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    DC John,Nyjer Morgan does not have the intelligence to be an MVP, as he routinely gets picked off first, doesn't make good reads on balls hit in front of him, and also routinely misses the cutoff man. On top of that, he's not a good hitter and can't even work the count. That doesn't sound like an MVP to me.Having said that, the Phillies know they have an aging line up and their strategy has shifted toward winning with pitching. The Giants are doing the same thing with younger pitchers but the mindset is the same. I think this will be a good formula for the Phillies for probably three years or so.And no to a Blanton trade. The Nats have too many 4-5 starters as it is.

  22. Kenz aFan - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM

    Unless you mean Jonathan Singleton, who's playing in A ball, the Phillies don't have anyone in their system that's currently being blocked by Howard.The Phillies wont eat most of Ibanez contract, because doing so would defeat the purpose of them trading him. Remember, they want to save money to better be able to afford Lee's contract. Their payroll is now almost $170 million, and they have 8 players earning $10 million plus. Also, why would the Nats want to acquire a player who will turn 39 next season?If the Phillies want anyone to eat a contract, they will have to give up at least two top prospects in the deal to make it worthwhile for whichever team they trade with.

  23. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    "I think Pavano is the bridge to 2012 (Strasburg's return and maturing talent)"The Nats can't assume Strasburg will be back as an SP in 2012. They need to build a team that can succeed without Strasburg, putting all the eggs in the Stras basket got the team in its current situation.

  24. Jimmy - Dec 14, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Well, when the Phillies come to town and we (the Nats) wearing the same uniform, we can dream and think we are cheering our team!

  25. pdowdy83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Ken, I think he meant we'd have to swallow Ibanez's contract, not the Phils. Though you are correct on them not really having a blocked prospect at 1b.

  26. Feel Wood - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    "The wild card race is part of the pennant race."Not exactly. If a team such as the Phillies gets off to an incredibly hot first 2/3rds of the season, there could conceivably be no pennant race at all in the NL East. But depending on the records of teams who are in pennant races in the the other divisions, a second NL East team could be in the wildcard race to the very end without ever being in a pennant race. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but there's a reason you don't see pennants flying in stadiums saying "Wild Card Winner". The pennant and the wild card are two different things.

  27. Section 215 Row A - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    It's nice to be positive about the Phillies aging but our big FA acquisition ain't gonna be any younger in 2 years either. The most encouraging news is to take a look at history of $100 million pitcher signings. Adam Kilgore has an interesting breakdown in the Nationals Journal today.

  28. raymitten - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    I think Lee helps the Phillies less than any other team. What's the difference between Lee and Blanton…5 to 7 games? This really doesn't affect the Nats except for the swagger of the ignorant visiting masses from the Delaware Valley. I'd rather have Werth than Lee, I think his presence will affect more games positively for the Nats than Lee will for the Phillies. Bowdenball did an excellent analysis of their lineup. What is refreshing is that Lee left $40 mil on the table to pitch where he wanted to be. I wish Adam Dunn would have left a 4th year ($14 mil) on the table to return to where he professed he wanted to be.

  29. raymitten - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    I should add that I am relieved that the Nats didn't get Lee at the price it would have taken to get him here. He seems primed for a rapid decline. Ask the Giants.

  30. Slidell - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    The picture is fairly clear— Rizzo should labor in the vineyards the next 2 years; build up the weak spots while maintaining our strengths, with the objective of having the team ready to be meaningful by 2013.I too say "no" to Blanton. Also, I am hopeful that Nyjer will be a fading memory by then.

  31. JD - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    No way this Philly team's window is 3 years; there is no one not named Dominic Brown who is under 30; Rollins and Utley spent huge chunks of time on the DL last year with injuries that may as well be called 'aging'. When you add Polanco, Howard, Ibanez and Victorino to this senior citizen mix you have to figure that they will be exceedingly lucky to play any stretch of games with their full 'A' lineup. They should easily be good enough to win the NL east because of their rotation but between Oswal, Halladay and Lee what's the over/under on DL time? what are the odds of at least one arm (elbow,Shoulder) injury? On top of all of that players don't get better in their mid 30's so there is absolute certainty that the team will decline quickly. I put their window of opportunity at 1 to 2 years.

  32. Section 223 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM

    I certainly don't mind a trade for good starting pitching, but he better be on the right side of 30. If not, rent Pavano for an extra year. It's only money (and not mine, though the New Castle concession does mangage to get its fair share). Go an extra year on LaRoche as well. Again, only money. We can always flip them when we need to.

  33. NatinBeantown - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    You are all wrong. Matt Stairs puts us over the top.

  34. NatinBeantown - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    Has the "expert consensus" ever been this wrong about how the FA market would play out? Werth to Boston (nope, Nats). Crawford to Anaheim (nope, Boston). Lee to New York (nope, Philly). It's been pretty hilarious to watch the news and then the rationalization/spin by the Rosenthals of the world, who really are just spitting out "content."

  35. Bowdenball - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    Section 215 Row A:Obviously you're right that Werth will be old by the time the Phils start to show their age. The difference is that we have a ton of under-30 talent to supplement Werth as he ages. I think even a Phillies fan would agree that the Nats have far more young talent than the Phils. So it basically becomes a waiting game. We wait and hope that both teams age rapidly, with our youngsters improving while their 32 and up team deteriorates. They dominate the NL East in 2011 and probably 2012 and then search for the Fountain of Youth.

  36. Section 223 - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    Well, Stairs is four years younger than Jamie Moyer.

  37. Sunderland - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:32 PM

    Bowdenball, kudos for the nice post.HHover, taking Marquis's 2010 and comapring it to anything is unfair and unrealistic. DCJohn "Also, need Nyger Morgan to realize that he can be the league's MVP, if he can channel his emotions. He certainly has the intelligence and athletic ability to be MVP"If Nyjer is a candidate for MVP, you'd have to also agree that several hundred other NL players also have "the intelligence and athletic ability to be MVP."

  38. Ernie - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    Now that I see that Brian Bruney signed somewhere else, guaranteeing that we cannot pick him up again out of desperation, I declare that this has already been a successful winter.

  39. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    The Nats still have young guys with "stuff" and some potential. It starts with Jordan Zimmermann but continues with Ross Detwiler and especially Garret Mock. In 1 year Sammy Solis, Stephen Strasburg and Danny Rosenbaum should join the staff. In TWO years perhaps AJ Cole and Robbie Ray. McGreary is also rehabbing from TJ surgery that lefty might prove to be a potential top of the rotation starter? PLUS they have another draft with three picks at the top. The Phillies just lost their #1 by signing type A Cliff Lee but gained a high second rounder when the Nats signed Werth. And then? There's Espinosa, Desmond, Norris, Harper, Perez, Ramirez, Lombardozzi and perhaps Burgess, possibly Marerro. There's Hague, Hood, and Bloxom. In terms of the future 2 years out the Nats could look far, far better than the Phillies if as Mark put it, things fall into place. If they could somehow get a Shields or a Greinke without literally giving away the farm? It really IS NOT as bad as it looks in 2012. The Phillies will be aging rapidly. The Nats should be getting better and younger. Which would you choose?

  40. Wally - Dec 14, 2010 at 5:58 PM

    (a) Forget Blanton, but the Nats should try for Oswalt, especially if it is mostly about money. If he was a FA, wouldn't you sign him for 2/$30m?(b) still need significant lineup improvements, and pitching just seems cost prohibitive, so they should focus on lineup. Would love to see them use organizational depth at C, MI or bullpen to get a young, cost controlled position player, like OF or 1B. Storen or Desi/Espy for Alonso or Sanchez?(c) If they fill 1B through a vet, Lee=LaRoche=Overbay (imo), and we shouldn't expect all that much from any of them. Not more than 2 years.(d) Trade either Desi or Espy. They both have value, perhaps more than we realize, because they can provide major league average play (or better) at SS for $400k for a few years, where the requirements for hitting are much less. Playing the other one at 2B lessens their value, so we ought to trade the one with the most value to fill out a lineup hole elsewhere.(e) With pitching so highly values right now, can we really not turn one or more of Stammen, Detwiler, Atilano, Martin, Martis, Chico, … into a useful role player or C prospect, at least? For what possible reason do we need all of those guys? Some yes, but all?

  41. DC Tom - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    I am both a Cub and Nat fan, so I'm used to hating the Phillies, back to hating Mike Schmide the old NL East days. But I have to respect what they're doing, it is instructive and even enlightening to see a team learn from past mistakes.The Phillies core of Utley, Howard and Rollins really started to fall into place in 2004 — but it took the franchise three years before they made the playoffs. The Philly weakness was their pitching, which was a parade of league-average starters:2004 Rotation: Eric Milton, Brett Myers, Kevin Millwood, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, with a smattering of Cory Lidle2005: delete Eric Milton, add Jon Lieber and more Cory Lidle. Game changers!2006: delete Padilla, bank on Cole Hamels debut (ERA>4), with some Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madsen-as-starter experiment mixed in as contingency plans.2007: Re-Tool! Add Jamie Moyer, Adam Eaton, Kyle Kendrick and Kyle Lohse! So much depth you can put Myers in the bullpen and make the playoffs. Whoops, you get swept in the LDS.Only in 2008 did the team blossom, when Hamels emerged as a marquee starter in 2008 and the team added Lee, then Halladay, Oswalt. One could argue that with the core of Rollins, Utley and Howard, the Phillies should have been the dominant team in the NL East for seven years running how, had they not been fooling around with run-of-the-mill pitching from 2004-2007.Other teams make the same mistake. The Brewers have a nice, young core of Fielder, Weeks, Braun and JJ Hardy and exactly one playoff win to show for it — and now their window has closed.

  42. N. Cognito - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Feel Wood said… "The wild card race is part of the pennant race."Not exactly. If a team such as the Phillies gets off to an incredibly hot first 2/3rds of the season, there could conceivably be no pennant race at all in the NL East."A pennant is a League Championship, not a Division Championship.

  43. JamesFan - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    I don't know why we're even playing the games next summer in the NL East. Lee to Phillie is depressing. The Nats had better get some offense.

  44. HHover - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    Sunderland – Marquis obviously had a bad year last year, but the scary thing is that even if you disregard his W-L and ERA, his K/9 and BB/9 weren't that far out of line with his performance over the past 3-4 years. In that sense 2010 wasn't so unrepresentative a year, and there's only so much of a bounce-back that's "fair and realistic" to expect in 2011. Blanton has better career #s than Marquis, and he had an off year last year as well, and so it's reasonable to expect at least a moderate bounce-back for him. Ultimately, they're both middle of the rotation guys. That's basically what seems to be left on the market (including any realistic trade market), and Blanton at a discount on his $17M for 2 years looks like a better and more certain bet than Pavano. Odds are, the Nats get neither, but that leaves them with a pretty bleak looking rotation on Opening Day.

  45. Steveospeak - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    @ Wally:Sorry the Phillies aren't trading Oswalt, but Blanton is on the market.I'd like to see them keep both Desi and Espy. I'm not sold yet on their other middle infield prospects. If they start to develop than you can trade someone next year or at the deadline. Right now though I'd keep them. I do like the idea of trading for a young positional guy, though I prefer a CF. Outside of Detwiler none of those guys have much value. Maybe they could be thrown in as a filler piece, but that is about it (though they could maybe be used to trade for Blanton. Say Jason Maxwell and Atilano for Blanton and $3 million).

  46. Wally - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    @SteveoI know that 'Blanton available' is being reported, but here is my theory (admittedly nothing more) – Oswalt makes maybe 2 starts in the playoffs for them, so he can't be critical to their playoff success. It is really about Halladay/Lee pitching 4 games in each series. So do they need him to get in? Maybe, but doesn't seem likely. He is insurance against injury, but that is a lot of money for insurance, isn't it? And what does either guy bring back? Blanton brings almost nothing back talent wise (your trade, for instance), and the Phils have to eat salary too, most likely. Oswalt could bring back their remaining needs in bullpen and OF platoon for Brown, plus they get the other guy to take all the salary.Probably doesn't work for the reasons that you are saying, but it is worth a conversation.

  47. DFL - Dec 14, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    The Nats are more likely to have a rotation with five fifth starters(until he can prove himself, Jordan Zimmerman is still no better than a fifth starter). Look for the likes of Craig Stammen, J.D. Martin and Matt Chico in 2011. It appears that a 60 win season is in the cards next year with the Phillies winning about 15 out of 18 against the NL East permanent doormat. But at least attendance will be very good for Phillies games at Nats Park.

  48. N. Cognito - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:30 PM

    A theory has some basis in fact."Off-the-wall remark" might be a better description of an Oswald trade.

  49. JamesFan - Dec 14, 2010 at 7:58 PM

    No on Blanton. He's on the downhill side and not the top starter we're looking for. Plus, the image of taking a Philly cast-off pitcher is terrible. Get a 1st baseman. Trade for pitching if the price is not too high, but don't panic.

  50. Bowdenball - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    DFL:If you think Jordan Zimmermann is a #5 starter and that he hasn't shown anything, you really might as well not say anything else. You've shown us that you have no idea what you're talking about. In 2009 he had a K/BB ratio over 3 and a HR/9 rate under 1. He was frankly one of the better pitchers in the game. His Wins Above Replacement Value probably put him in the Top 100 or so for the season even though he only threw 90 innings. If he'd duplicated those numbers over another 90 innings he would have ranked in the Top 20 or so in the league.

  51. sec3 my sofa - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    The Phillies are doomed, doomed I tellya. Now, *every game* will be a reverse lock against them. They have no chance against those odds.

  52. pdowdy83 - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    There is nothing wrong with Blanton. His career has been up and down but he has been consistent enough to be better than Livan and he strikes out more batters than Marquis and Lannan.Here is an interesting comparison between Carl Pavano(Who so many people seem to want) and Joe BlantonJoe Blanton Career – ERA – 4.30 K/9 – 5.82 BB/9 – 2.51 HR/9 – 1.02 K/BB – 2.32 FIP – 4.21Carl Pavano Career – ERA – 4.34 K/9 – 5.72 BB/9 2.26 HR/9 – 1.01 K/BB – 2.54 FIP – 4.15The major difference is Blanton is 5 years younger and has pitched 175 innings or more each of the last 6 season, topping 190 5 of those times. Pavano has only hit 175 innings twice in that same time frame. Also Blanton wouldn't cost much player wise if the Nats took on most of his salary. If the Phils ate 2 million a year on it he would only cost the Nats 6.5 million per season where Pavano is going to take around 10 million and an extra year probably. You make the call.

  53. Anonymous - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    It seems to again to boil down to Zimmermann, Mock, Detwiler and then Yuniesky stepping up. That could potentially be a very young, more than decent rotation. The operative word is still unfortunately "potentially". If Zimmermann develops into a Matt Cain type pitcher you have your #1 starter. If Mock can ever discover how to manage and dispel his inner demons? He seems to have more than a bit of Hanrahan in him? By the end of the year Solis and Rosenbaum should be ready. Lannan should really be the #5 starter instead of Marquis and/or Livan Hernandez. Next year Strasburg returns. Thompson might finally get going as well.There are still glimmers of hope. And there is June's draft as well.

  54. DFL - Dec 14, 2010 at 8:38 PM

    Jordan Zimmerman, Mr. Bowdenball, allowed 17 earned runs and eight home runs in 31 innings for a 4.94 ERA last season. The home run totals are especially troubling as he allowed only ten in 91 innings in 2009. Has he lost something since his Tommy John surgery and can he get it back again? In 16 games in 2009, Zimmerman's ERA was 4.63. Until Zimmerman can regularly log 180 innings a season with a sub-4 ERA, he is still a young pitcher with plenty of potential who belongs on the back end of a rotation until he can prove otherwise.

  55. Noirelune - Dec 14, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    I don't really trust Mr. Pavano. He has stuff, he has potential but, my God, he is often, very often injured. That is why I would not put my bucks on him. 2010 was a great year for him. He pitched a lot of innings, so you can say that he'll spent a part of 2011 season on the injury list, with a big contract in his pocket. Beware, beware…As you see, english is not my natural language…

  56. Anonymous - Dec 15, 2010 at 5:16 AM

    You guys are funny. You're counting on the Phillies getting old in 3 or 4 years for you to feel good about your chances. As if the Phillies haven't shown they're willing and able to make moves to improve their club… as they've done every year since winning the Series. They signed Ibanez (who's much older than 30) to replace Burrell, and he had only the best season of his career, making the AllStar team. They went to the WS in 2009, and went out and traded for Halladay and signed Placido Planaco. Now they've signed Cliff Lee after winning their 4th straight division. And if you really think the Nats are going to be contenders in two years I can only say good luck with that. And good luck with paying a guy 126 million for hitting .126 with runners in scoring position.

  57. Anonymous - Dec 15, 2010 at 5:23 AM

    Oh no! If one of their aces get injured they're done! They'll only have three! Just like when they only had two aces for most of the season and finished with the best record in baseball! You can't win a division with only three aces!

  58. Bowdenball - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    DFL:31 innings? Really?Really?And who said anything about a sub-4 ERA? You called him a #5 starter. You were wrong. #5 starters are by definition in the bottom 20% or so of regular starters in baseball. Even Zimmermann's numbers over that ridiculously small sample size are closer to league average than the bottom 20%.

  59. DFL - Dec 15, 2010 at 3:53 PM

    Until Zimmerman can prove himself a winner, he is no more than J.D. Martin, who has more wins and a better Major League ERA than Zimmerman. I'm rooting for him. He might become an ace.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 57 46 --
ATLANTA 58 48 0.5
MIAMI 52 53 6.0
NEW YORK 51 55 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 46 60 12.5
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter