We covered the American League’s 15 teams earlier today, so now let’s check in on how the National League’s 15 members have done (to date) in fixing their biggest problem positions from the 2022 season. Baseball Reference’s position-by-position bWAR breakdown is our guide through last year’s numbers….
Braves (Left Field, -1.4 bWAR): The lowest total of any outfield position in baseball, left field was a glaring weak spot in an otherwise very strong Atlanta lineup. Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna will look to bounce back from down years, but the Braves have otherwise only tinkered rather than overhauled the position, adding depth pieces like Sam Hilliard, Eli White, and Jordan Luplow to the mix. One can never rule Alex Anthopoulos out for making a bigger acquisition, and the Braves are one of the many teams asking the Pirates about Bryan Reynolds. However, with these many options on board and a lot of strength elsewhere on the roster, Atlanta might opt to stand pat in left field for now, and only pursue help if nobody steps up during the season.
Brewers (Catcher, 0.9 bWAR): Speaking of big Braves trades, the Brewers got themselves involved in the huge three-team blockbuster that brought Sean Murphy to Atlanta. The deal brought Milwaukee its own catcher of the future, as William Contreras has already delivered on his hitting potential with an All-Star performance in 2022. Contreras will join Victor Caratini behind the plate, and with Omar Narveaz and Pedro Severino departing in free agency, Payton Henry was also acquired from the Marlins as a depth move.
Cardinals (Catcher, 0.4 bWAR): Both Contreras brothers will be in the NL Central, as William’s big brother Willson Contreras jumped from the Cubs to the Cardinals on a five-year, $87.5MM free agent deal. St. Louis led the majors in non-pitcher bWAR in 2022, though catcher was the weak spot, as injuries hampered Yadier Molina’s farewell season and backup Andrew Knizner didn’t provide much during fill-in duty. With Molina hanging up his cleats, the Cards will now replace Molina with another established star backstop.
Cubs (Center Field, -0.1 bWAR): Cody Bellinger’s offense has badly fallen off since his 2019 MVP season, but his glovework remains very strong. In signing Bellinger to a one-year deal worth $17.5MM in guaranteed money, Chicago is hoping that his defense alone will shore things up in center field, but naturally the Cubs would love to see Bellinger recapture his old batting form. First base (0.1 bWAR) was another weak point for the Cubs, and a veteran addition like Eric Hosmer might yet be added, but Chicago is also planning to give breakout prospect Matt Mervis a long look at the MLB level.
Diamondbacks (Relief Pitching, -4.4 bWAR): For comparison’s sake, the Pirates’ -0.8 total was the second-worst bullpen bWAR number, giving you an idea of just how little Arizona received from its relief corps. The D’Backs inked Scott McGough to a two-year/$6.25MM deal, with McGough making his return to the majors after a very successful four-year stint in Japan. McGough could be something of a hidden gem, and he joins several other new arms (Miguel Castro, Cole Sulser, Miguel Vargas, Zach McAllister, Austin Brice, Sam Clay, and more) as the bullpen options the Diamondbacks will sort through during Spring Training.
Dodgers (Pinch-Hitting, 0.8 bWAR): The Dodgers’ 61.4 total bWAR led all 30 teams, even though both center field (1.5) and left field (1.6) were relative weaker links among the everyday positions. Even the lower pinch-hitting total wasn’t exactly bad, even if Los Angeles did have a bit less depth than in recent years. With the Dodgers almost exactly slated to meet the $233MM luxury tax threshold, it remains to be seen if L.A. will exceed the threshold again or perhaps look to reset its tax penalties, which might limit what the Dodgers can do in amassing more depth. Youngsters like Miguel Vargas, Michael Busch, and James Outman are being groomed for larger roles in 2023, so the Dodgers might first see if they can fill some holes from within. Veterans like Jason Heyward, Bradley Zimmer, and Steven Duggar have also been signed to minor league contracts.
Giants (Designated Hitter, 0.1 bWAR): The platooning and lineup-juggling that worked so well for San Francisco in 2021 backfired last year, as catcher was the only lineup position with a collective bWAR above the 1.2 mark. The DH spot was at the bottom of the list, and such frequent designated hitters as Tommy La Stella and Evan Longoria are already gone. Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto figure to boost the DH spot when they’re not in the outfield, but by and large, the Giants will keep cycling multiple players through the DH role to keep everyone healthy.
Marlins (Right Field, -0.7 bWAR): Despite signing Avisail Garcia to a four-year, $53MM deal winter, the Marlins still got sub-replacement numbers out of the right field spot, as Garcia battled hamstring injuries and had a dreadful year at the plate. Miami has enough money committed to Garcia that there isn’t much to do except hope for a rebound, which isn’t out of the question given that Garcia has alternated between good and bad seasons over the last six years. Center field is the more pressing outfield position for the Marlins, and first base (0.0 bWAR) and catcher (0.1 bWAR) are also problem areas.
Mets (Pinch-Hitting, 0.0 bWAR): With the Carlos Correa signing not yet official, we’ll wait before declaring that Eduardo Escobar will be an overqualified backup for the Amazins’ next season. However, the Mets might be more likely to keep Escobar than trade him to a team that can offer more playing time, since the Mets will want plenty of depth to keep its World Series push from being waylaid by injuries (especially given whatever concerns New York has about Correa’s health). Among everyday positions, the Mets only got 0.1 bWAR from the catching spot, but James McCann was traded to the Orioles and Omar Narvaez was signed. With Narvaez, Tomas Nido, and star prospect Francisco Alvarez ready for the majors, the Mets are expecting a lot more from behind the plate.
Nationals (Starting Pitching, -4.8 bWAR): If the Diamondbacks were feeling bad about their lackluster bullpen, here come the Nats with an even bigger gap between last and second-last place in a single position. The Tigers were 29th in the majors with a cumulative 1.7 rotation bWAR, making Washington the only team with sub-replacement performance from their entire starting pitching corps. Trevor Williams was signed to a two-year, $13MM deal to provide some help, but since the rebuild is on, D.C. will be limited to similar veterans on modest deals rather than any big splashes. The Nationals are counting on youngsters Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, and Cade Cavalli to take some steps forward in 2023, and getting any kind of rebound from Patrick Corbin or good health from Stephen Strasburg would be immensely helpful to the Nats’ efforts.
Padres (Pinch-Hitting, 0.4 bWAR): The DH spot was next on the list with 1.2 bWAR, adding to the Padres’ overall goal of building more depth. Josh Bell, Wil Myers, Brandon Drury, and Nomar Mazara have all signed elsewhere, but San Diego’s blockbuster signing of Xander Bogaerts shuffled around the everyday lineup to the extent that Fernando Tatis Jr. now looks slated for the outfield when his suspension is over. Matt Carpenter was also signed to aid the DH mix, and since president of baseball operations A.J. Preller is nothing if not aggressive, any number of trade possibilities are still open for the Padres to further bolster the position player ranks.
Phillies (Right Field, 0.4 bWAR): Bryce Harper’s torn UCL limited him to DH duty for almost the entire season, leaving Nick Castellanos handling most of the action in right field. Unfortunately for the Phils, Castellanos struggled both offensively and defensively, delivering a subpar -0.1 bWAR in his first season in Philadelphia. Since Harper will be out until at least midseason while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Castellanos will have to hold the fort, though he might get more DH at-bats on days when Matt Vierling or Dalton Guthrie are used in the outfield. The Phillies got 0.6 bWAR from both the center field and shortstop positions in 2022, but center field might’ve already been addressed by the midseason trade for Brandon Marsh, and the Phils upgraded at shortstop in a major way with their signing of Trea Turner.
Pirates (First Base, -2.1 bWAR): Pittsburgh had low bWAR scores over most positions, with right field, the bullpen, pinch-hitter, and catcher also clocking with negative figures. With first base standing out as the biggest issue, the Bucs swiftly moved on from Yoshi Tsutsugo and Michael Chavis by signing Carlos Santana and swinging trades for Ji-Man Choi and Connor Joe. Santana and Choi figure to essentially split first base duty, and Santana in particular could be in line for a bounce-back year given how heavily opposing teams have used defensive shifts against him in recent years. With the new rules restricting the use of shifts, Santana figure to improve on his roughly league-average offense from 2022.
Reds (Catcher and Center Field, -0.8 bWAR): Like their NL Central brethren in Pittsburgh, the Reds are another rebuilding team with needs all over the diamond, including four positions that had sub-replacement bWAR totals. Curt Casali and Luke Maile were signed to play catcher, but getting a healthy year from Tyler Stephenson (even if Stephenson sees additional time as a first baseman or DH) will be Cincinnati’s biggest boost in that regard. If Nick Senzel can stay healthy, he’ll still be the Reds’ top choice in center field, but the club has been looking around for help in center and might even be willing to trade from its surplus of young shortstop prospects to land an equally promising young outfielder.
Rockies (Catcher, 0.1 bWAR): There hasn’t been much buzz about the Rox getting involved in the catching market, so it seems likely the team will just run it back and hope for better results from Elias Diaz and backup Brian Serven. Diaz signed a three-year, $14.5MM extension in November 2021, and followed up that long-term pact by hitting only .228/.281/.368 over 381 plate appearances. Given the lack of MLB experience on the catching depth chart, the Rockies will probably sign at least one veteran backstop to a minor league deal, if for no other reason than to provide Serven with some competition in Spring Training.