NL East Notes: Phillies, McDowell, Johnson, Marlins

Don't count the Phillies out in 2014, cautions Dan Szymborski of ESPN in an Insider-only piece. Szymborski points out the similarities between the Phillies and Red Sox at the end of the 2012 season, noting that the Red Sox elected to pursue an intricate rebuild while the Phillies stood pat. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. can restore his team's status as a contender if he's bold this offseason, writes Szymborski, adding that with Roy Halladay off the books, the team has the wherewithal to do just that. Szymborski lists Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann as impact additions Amaro could make and also wonders if the team could pry David Price away from the Rays with a package fronted by Jesse Biddle and Maikel Franco. Here's more out of the NL East…

  • Roger McDowell's name has come up frequently in the Phillies' search for a pitching coach, but Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that McDowell will remain with the Braves as their pitching coach (Twitter link).
  • As part of their pitch to keep McDowell, the Braves erased his one-year contract and awarded him a two-year deal, according to Dave O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (on Twitter).
  • While there's yet to be a formal announcement, O'Brien tweeted yesterday that he expects the Braves to exercise their $1.6MM club option on Reed Johnson. Johnson's contract comes with a $150K buyout, essentially making it a $1.45MM decision for Atlanta GM Frank Wren.
  • In his primer for the upcoming offseason, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro writes that the Marlins will look to upgrade at catcher and third base, with an eye on getting more power into the lineup. The team's payroll isn't expected to be drastically different from last year's $38MM now that they failed to land big fish Jose Dariel Abreu, but the team will have some flexibility to pursue bargain free agents. Frisaro expects the Marlins to address catcher via trade, as they're no longer sure that Rob Brantly is their future at the position. At third base, he thinks that a one-year stopgap is likely, with 2013 first-rounder Colin Moran expected to be ready for the position in 2015. Some candidates for such a deal (and this is my own speculation) would include Wilson Betemit, Casey McGehee (who had a big season in Japan), Mark Reynolds and Kevin Youkilis.

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