1 – Philadelphia Phillies
Goodbye Lee, hello Halladay. The Phillies completed the biggest trade of the winter when they sent July signing Cliff Lee to Seattle, in order to make room for Roy Halladay from Toronto.
There may be some question of why the Phillies ended up giving up 7 of their top prospects, including the four sent to Cleveland to initially sign Lee, to eventually get Halladay. All signs suggested they could have taken Halladay for any four of those players in July, but that is a problem for another year, as the Phils launch into a clear Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwin nowÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ strategy.
They have been the powerhouse of the NL East in recent years, representing the Senior Circuit in the World Series in both of the last two seasons, and look to be the team to beat again this time round. That none of the major cogs in their recent success have defected, the addition of Placido Polanco and a re-jigged bullpen bodes well for another good season at CitizenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Bank Ballpark.
2 – Atlanta Braves
The Braves were good last year, but not quite good enough. This year may well be very similar for them. They lost Javier Vazquez to the Yankees, in return for Melky Cabrera, who should provide an upgrade in the outfield. Billy Wagner is in as closer and will be a big coup if he can stay away from the DL.
Offensively, we can expect more of the same Ã¢â‚¬â€œ nothing outstanding on average or power, but simply consistent. Troy Glaus should give them a bit of pop, and looks to be a good signing on the terms the team have given him ($1.75m plus performance bonuses).
They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look to have enough talent to overturn the Phillies, barring some really outstanding individual performances, but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t count them out of the Wild Card.
3 – Florida Marlins
Over the winter, owner Jeffrey Loria was essentially shamed into spending more of the substantial revenue-sharing payments the Marlins have been pocketing. Shortly after public comments from Bud SeligÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office, and the players union, they inked ace Josh Johnson to a four-year $39m deal.
Johnson is one of the few highlights on the defensive side of the ball, along with second starter Ricky Nolasco. Unfortunately, the MarlinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ defense is terrible, and despite a few cosmetic changes, doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look to get much better in 2010. The same story goes for the bullpen.
Hanley Ramirez and reigning Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, coupled with some interesting prospects, could set the Marlins up for an interesting season, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just as likely to fall back from last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second place finish.
4 – New York Mets
Has someone put a curse on Roosevelt Avenue? Blowing sizeable leads in the playoff races in 2007 and 2008 on the final day of the season was bad, but after moving across the parking lot to Citi Field last year, things got ridiculous. With star after star heading to the disabled list, the Mets slumped to fourth place, winning just 70 games, a shocking return from a $135m payroll.
Mets fans would have thought 2010 could only get better for them, but early signs are not promising. The latest revelation that Jose Reyes may miss the first month of the season with a newly-diagnosed thyroid problem, will have New Yorkers burying their heads in their hands once again.
Jason Bay is a welcome addition to last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s anaemic offense, but with Carlos Beltran also likely to miss at least the first month, and questions remaining over the bullpen, the Mets look to be heading for another season of struggle. GM Omar Minaya has so far weathered the storm of criticism aimed at him, but this year will almost certainly be his last chance.
5 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Washington Nationals
The Nats will have a big breakout year eventually. It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t likely to be this year though.
There is plenty of hype around whether last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top draft pick Stephen Strasburg will make the Opening Day roster, but the reality of the situation is that he would make little difference to their fortunes. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d probably give them a few leads, but whether the bullpen would hold on to them is another story altogether.
With the bat in their hands, the Nats are below average, which is at least a step above awful (youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll find that next to Ã¢â‚¬ËœSan Francisco GiantsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ in the thesaurus) They are beginning to pull together the makings of an interesting line-up, but until pitching prospects like Strasburg and Drew Storen are really ready, they are going to struggle to get out of that NL East basement.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news