Our roundtable series continues today with a look at the NL East division. The Nationals and the Mets have been two of the more aggressive clubs this offseason. Washington added Patrick Corbin to a rotation that already includes Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The Mets picked up Robinson Cano and one of the best closers in the game in Edwin Diaz added them to a mix that already includes Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom.
The Phillies have been relatively quiet so far but are threatening to spend “stupid money” and are favorites to land one of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. All of that brings us to today’s question. Where do the Braves stand currently in an NL East division that appears to be improved?
The NL East has been active this offseason, where do you think the Braves stand?
Ivan: Right now, and in a vacuum, I think the Braves have a pretty good shot (say 60 percent) of making the playoffs. But, in the division, on paper, the Nationals are the clear forerunner, and I think the Mets have a fair bit of an edge as well. The latter will probably deteriorate over time just on the basis of the Mets-ness, but the former won’t. The Braves might be able to close the gap with the Mets if they make moves of their own; the Phillies might leapfrog them if they really do start spending stupid money. Overall, as constructed, I think the Braves have like a 20 percent chance of winning the division right now.
Eric: I still think the Braves are the favorites in the NL East, but the margin is really slim. The Mets have gotten significantly better, but they are still banking on an incredibly talented rotation that has had basically zero success in staying healthy for any length of time over the last few years. Their offense will be better though which makes them far more competitive. The Nationals being a factor will be determined by whether or not they re-sign Harper. Their rotation was already good and they will be a good team in 2019, but I am not sold that they can be prohibitive favorites when the rest of the division got better and it is entirely possible they could be worse (aging players, question marks on the roster at the moment) even with the signing of Corbin. The Phillies are still a terrible defensive team and that is a real problem for them even as much as I love some of their pitchers, most notably Aaron Nola. That said, they were contending until the last month of the season and they could snag one of Harper or Machado which is a big deal. I just see the Braves being better in the rotation (younger guys having experience, possibly subtracting Julio), bullpen (even without a big addition, having young arms with upside in there has to be better), and the lineup combined with still being a really good defensive team still makes them the team to beat.
Gaurav: There’s no denying the serious upgrades that we have seen throughout the NL East with the Nationals adding significant pieces including a really good Patrick Corbin. On paper the Nationals probably continue their run of dominance with a roster that is filled with stars throughout it. For the Phillies - the acquisitions of Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen play a huge role for that team as they no longer have to wait for JP Crawford to develop and Rhys Hoskins will no longer be completely out of his element in the outfield - so those two really help the team. Like Dansby, the Phillies need Kingery to take a substantial step forward otherwise they’ve signed themselves into a bit of a pickle with him. As for the Mets - Wilson Ramos, Robinson Cano, Todd Frazier, and Edwin Diaz are all wonderful additions to the team and they might have helped themselves the most this offseason. As a whole the NL East outside of the Marlins got significantly better and we are in for quite the battle.
Scott: A lot depends on where Harper and Machado sign and what the Braves end up doing, but I feel the Braves, Mets and Nationals are all fairly close right now with the Phillies slightly behind. If I had to pick today I’d say the Nationals win the division by a few games, although we’ve all seen them fall short of preseason expectations in previous years. It’s going to be a grind for six months.
Demetrius: If the Nationals somehow get Harper back, they’re the favorites again. They’ve basically been adding to their roster in anticipation of losing him, so they’re going to be good without him and if they get him back then that should be enough to make them solid contenders to win the division again. I think the Mets have done well this offseason with their additions and on paper they should be solid as well. You also have to keep in mind that they’re still the Mets and it just feels like they’re really snakebitten so I’m taking a “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach with them. You obviously have to hope that the Phillies strike out on both Machado and Harper because if they get one or both, watch out. They’ve already had a good offseason and if they cap it off by picking up one or both of those guys, then they’ll be the favorites then.
Either way, the Braves picked a fantastic time to actually win the division, huh? It figures that just when the Braves are finally getting good, the rest of the division (outside of Miami) decides that they want to compete as well. The good news is that the other teams are doing this to keep up with the Braves, so Atlanta’s in a position of power. The rest of the division is good, but the Braves have what it takes to fight and defend the divisional title.
ABsinceWayBack: I think the NL East is shaping up to be much more competitive this year (but really how could it not). I am more concerned about the Braves’ starting pitching options for 2019, but not so much for the years afterward. The rotation will sort itself out and be quite good, but this year will may be the time that the logjam of internal options works itself out. The Braves will be set up better for 2020 and beyond, but this year might be a challenge.
Dillon: Despite being the reigning division champs, I tend to agree with the Vegas projections that were released a week ago, in that Atlanta probably sits behind Washington right now by a fair margin. The Phillies and Mets have made upgrades, much like the Nationals, but they still have more work to do in my opinion. Washington is the clear favorite at the moment given their starting rotation with the addition of Patrick Corbin, and their offense with the addition of Brian Dozier. With Bryce Harper still unsigned, and rumors swirling around both the Nationals and Phillies for his services, the power balance in the division could certainly swing quickly, and not in a way that favors the Braves in either case. If they are unable to make a significant addition in the outfield, they will essentially be fighting for a Wild Card spot unless they acquire one in-season. That’s how large the gap is at this time, at least in my opinion.
Wayne: On paper, the Nationals may be the favorite with their Big Three, but I think you still have to give the nod to the Braves as defending champs. There’s a strong possibility that Soto, Robles, and Eaton is the starting outfield and that is a ton of question marks. The Mets got much better, but remain one of the biggest, “What ifs” in baseball, as in, “what if this is finally the year that rotation stays healthy?” I like the Segura and McCutchen moves by the Phillies as those are solid veterans, and McCutchen’s leadership for the younger guys is huge, but I don’t know if the pitching is as deep as some of the other teams. Braves-Nats-Mets-Phils-Marlins with the top four all 80+ win teams.
Doc: The NL East been a very busy division - almost alarmingly so - and this will make for some very interesting baseball in 2019. It’s easy for fans to get frustrated when looking at every move that the Braves’ rivals have made since the Donaldson and McCann signings, and wonder why there has seemingly been a freeze on organizational activity, but let’s not forget that the pulse of this team comes from its youth. In 2018, the youngsters who showed what they can be when they’re on. Even with the Phillies making multiple strong additions (and still carrying the lingering threat of “stupid money”), the Mets making some intriguing moves, and the Nationals seemingly getting better without Bryce Harper, I still think the Braves are well-suited defend their division title without any major upgrades. With that said, I am nearly positive an acquisition happens that makes the Braves the clear-cut favorites to take home the crown again next year.