Teams such as the Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies, among others, have made moves with the hopes of improving their standing with the NL and the Phillies. I still think the Phillies are the cream of the NL and thats mostly because of their pitching. Their major free agent signing was Jonathan Papelbon from the Boston Red Sox and they have also added several options for outfield and 1B, including Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix and Scott Podsednik.
The pitching staff should be fine, led by Roy Halliday (19-6, 2.35), Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40) and Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79). Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01) was solid as a rookie in 2011 and will see his role increase. Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.01, 11 G, 8 S) is looking to return to form when it was a given that he'd win 12-16 games a season. That is mostly contingent on him being healthy. Kyle Kendrick, who has been a fixture in the rotation but a swingman last season, is still around to help whereever needed.
Papelbon (4-1, 31 saves, 2.94, in 63 games) anchors the bullpen and is a more game breaking closer than Ryan Madson. Problems could exist if Papelbon is not lights-out as Madson was more than adequate as the closer last season. Chad Qualls (6-8, 3.51, 77 with San Diego) will be the 8th inning guy with help from Antonio Bastardo (6-1, 8, 2.64, 64) and Michael Stutes (6-2, 3.63, 57). Jose Contreras (0-0, 3.86, 17 games) looks to return after missing most of 2011 due to arm injuries. Journeymen such as Scott Elarton, David Bush, Raul Valdes and David Purcey have realistic chances of contributing to the bullpen though the latter has been sent to minor league camp. Joel Pineiro and Dontrelle Willis have been given their outright release.
The Phillies have some vulnerability as Howard (.253, 33, 116) misses the start of the season due to ACL surgery. Chase Utley (.259, 11, 44 in 103 games) was not the same after missing some time recovering from hip surgery to start last season and will miss the start of this season due to recurring knee problems. The Phillies have brought in several adequate players, but they will not be the same until Howard and Utley return to the lineup. They added Hunter Pence last season from Houston. Pence (.314, 22, 97) is their best offensive player and is hoping to get off to a good start to offset some of the loss of Howard and Utley. Shane Victorino (.279, 19, 61, 16 3B) and Jimmy Rollins (.268, 16, 63) look to perform at their best and provide some leadership. John Mayberry Jr (.273, 15, 49) will almost be playing everyday splitting time between LF and 1B. Carlos Ruiz (.283, 6, 40) hits well enough and does a great job with the pitching staff. Placido Polanco (.277, 5, 50) had a very good first half, but struggled both on the field and with nagging injuries in the second half. Polanco could see some time at 2B with Utley out.
Thome (.256, 15, 50, 604 career HR) returns to Philadelphia and will see some time at 1B. Wigginton (.242, 15, 47) should see time at 1B, 3B and in the OF. Pierre (.279, 2, 50) played in 158 games last season but only had 19 SB. Podsednik (.297, 6, 51) and Nix (.250, 16, 44) at the very least give the Phillies an extremely deep bench. Wigginton is the only one in this group who could play 3B or 2B, with Michael Martinez and Freddy Galvis likely to play some 2B in Utley's absence.
Vegas has the Phillies at 93 for their over/under. I think they will finish over at 94-68, first place in the NL East and best record in the National League. The Phillies won 102 games in 2011, so I see them falling short of that. I think the pitching staff will be too strong, with Halliday and Lee. Hamels is on a contract year, so there is a good chance he will be at his best this season with the hopes of either extending with the Phillies or breaking the bank with another team. I think the offense will hold it together until Howard and Utley return. The main reason I see the Phillies having the most wins in the NL is simply other teams have not bridged the gap enough and IMO, the Phillies still have the most talent in the league.