The NL East was the most competitive division in baseball in 2019 with four teams finishing .500 or better, while no other division had more than three. They’re host to the reigning World Series champions, and they didn’t even win the division. With four legitimate playoff contenders, this division will be one of the most exciting to watch. While there might not be a 100-game winner that comes out of the NL East, that will be a result of the top four teams beating up on each other. But don’t be fooled by the record, as whichever team ends up coming out on top will be more than capable of making a deep playoff run. Oh, and the Marlins are here, too.
One of the most intriguing parts about the NL East is that all of the rosters have seen some sort of significant shakeup from last season. The Braves are no different, losing third baseman Josh Donaldson and his 6.1 WAR to the Minnesota Twins, but bringing in outfielder Marcel Ozuna to fill his spot in the lineup. Although Ozuna is a step below Donaldson, he is a proven major league bat who has had All-Star seasons in the past. They strengthened their rotation by adding veteran Cole Hamels, who at age 36 is going into his 15th season in the MLB, returning to the NL East after spending 2006-2015 in Philadelphia. They’ve got a young superstar in Ronald Acuna Jr., longtime Braves star Freddie Freeman and NL Rookie of the Year runner up Mike Soroka – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This team is going to be scary.
Anthony Rendon agrees to seven-year, $245 million deal with Los Angeles Angels, leaving World Series champion Washington Nationals https://t.co/XkpoGp2K8X
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) December 12, 2019
Now it’s time for the reigning World Series Champions, and if I’m being honest, they’re probably my pick right now to finish in third or even fourth in the division. The biggest reason is they lost Anthony Rendon, who over his seven years in Washington transformed into a bona fide superstar, finishing in third in the NL MVP race last year with an OPS of 1.010. Now having teamed up with Mike Trout, the Nationals are going to have a serious hole to fill, and they haven’t done much to try. They spent most of their free agent money this offseason on resigning Steven Strausburg, and while yes that keeps one of the best three-man rotations in baseball of Scherzer, Strausburg and Corbin intact, they’re now in line to have Asdrubal Cabrera starting at the hot corner. Cabrera is fine, but he’s no Rendon. They’re still a really good team with that top-end rotation and stars like Juan Sota and Trea Turner, but they’ve gotten worse.
They weren’t even the best team in baseball last year; they just got really hot at the right time, and it’s going to be a lot harder to do that again without Rendon.
New York Mets
While it wouldn’t be the craziest thing to pick the Mets to win the division, I’m going to try to remove all bias and pick them to finish second (with wild card positioning), yielding the top spot to Atlanta. After an offseason filled with turmoil, the Mets look to be going into spring training with a problem that many teams would love to have: too much depth. Their rotation, even though they lost Zack Wheeler, is still better than it was going into last season. I’d take deGrom, Syndergaard, Stroman, Matz and Porcello/Wacha over deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz and Vargas in a heartbeat. They have improved their bullpen by adding Dellin Betances, but mainly seem to be counting on bounce-back seasons from Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia because they just can’t be worse. On top of all that, their bench is extremely crowded, with J.D. Davis, Dom Smith and Yoenis Cespedes all in line to fight for playing time at left field, and that’s not even mentioning Jed Lowrie who may or may not exist. They (knock on wood) should be set up well for when they’re eventually hit by the injury bug.
The Phillies took a big swing last offseason when they signed Bryce Harper away from the Washington Nationals, and it didn’t work exactly as they hoped. Harper had an okay year, but a .882 OPS is not what they pictured when they gave him $330 million. So they took another, slightly smaller but still decently sized swing this year and signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. While Wheeler has never put up ace numbers, he’s always shown the potential to, being compared to Gerrit Cole and the jump he took from the Pirates to the Astros. They also added DiDi Gregorious to be their starting shortstop, reuniting him with new manager Joe Girardi, giving their infield depth. While their lineup might not be the best in the league or the division, it’s stil really solid, which is a microcosm of what I expect the Phillies to be. Good, not great.
And yes, now we’re here. I’ll keep it short, because we all know their deal. The Marlins have the second smallest payroll in the league. If not for $10 million in dead cap that’s going to Wei-Yin Chen, it would be the smallest. The Marlins are part of the problem. They’re not even trying to compete, so I’m not going to waste my breath.
And there you have it. Six divisions. Thirty teams. One offseason outlook for every franchise. My 2020 prediction right now? Unbiased: Dodgers over Yankees. Biased: Mets over whomever #LFGM.