Former Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden has led a pretty busy career since leaving the team during the 2009 season. In addition to appearing regularly on his radio show, one of his current roles has him doing a fairly extensive amount of writing over at ESPN.com – though admittedly, his words and ideas still ought to be taken with a grain of salt (to be blunt, some of his trade proposals/suggestions over the course of this winter were just downright idiotic).
With Spring Training starting up across Florida and Arizona today, Bowden has taken the opportunity to examine the offseasons of all 30 MLB clubs, handing out grades based on how each team has improved themselves heading into the 2012 season. His thoughts on the National League can be found here, though I should note the article is behind ESPN’s Insider wall.
Washington received the 4th highest grade awarded by Bowden this year, a solid B+. His take largely centers on the vast improvements made to the pitching staff:
"After five years of building their farm system into the game’s best, the Nationals weren’t afraid to deal some of that talent to acquire Gonzalez from the A’s. Combined with the undervalued signing of Jackson, the Nats have put together a strong enough starting rotation to compete for the playoffs. The young rotation led by Stephen Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann should allow the Nats to be contenders for at least the next five years."
For those curious, Bowden gave the Marlins his top grade for the offseason, calling them legit contenders for the division after dramatically changing the atmosphere of the team’s clubhouse with their latest additions. He has the Phillies right in the middle of the pack, giving them a B for upgrading their bench and adding depth in case there are injuries to overcome.
The Braves (Grade: D+) and Mets (Grade: D) close out the list. The Braves made the fewest changes of any team in baseball this winter, but should still be a threat in the NL East thanks to a talented roster and a strong farm system. Let’s not forget, that team has a boatload of talented young MLB-ready pitching. The Mets did upgrade their bullpen and bench, but they still don’t have the offensive talent to be a serious contender this year.