The World Series champions came from the National League East in 2019, when the appropriately named Nationals took home their first-ever title. It has been an active few months in the division since then. Even the notoriously low-budget Marlins have gotten in on the act, having added multiple veterans in an attempt to climb out of the gutter in 2020. Odds are that the Marlins still won’t be in the race, though, so who’s the front-runner among the other four to win the division this year? It appears they’re all legitimate candidates.
Although the Nationals just won it all, they did so by getting into the playoffs by way of a wild-card berth, not an NL East title. That honor went to the Braves for the second year in a row. The Braves still have not been victorious in a playoff series since 2001, and they lost their No. 1 free agent, third baseman Josh Donaldson. However, even in the wake of Donaldson’s departure, they still bring a formidable roster to the table. Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., first baseman Freddie Freeman, second baseman Ozzie Albies and right-hander Mike Soroka haven’t gone anywhere. They’re now complemented by free-agent additions in outfielder Marcell Ozuna, lefty Cole Hamels and reliever Will Smith, among others.
Like the Braves, the Nats lost their marquee free agent, another third baseman in Anthony Rendon. There’s no easy way to replace him, though the team does have Asdrubal Cabrera on hand as a stopgap until standout prospect Carter Kieboom is ready to assume the reins. Rendon’s exit hasn’t deterred Washington from trying to go for a second straight title in 2020, as the club has re-signed righty Stephen Strasburg, to name one of several players, and picked up first baseman Eric Thames, second baseman Starlin Castro and reliever Will Harris from outside.
The Mets and Phillies were the next best teams in the division last season, and both clubs have new managers (Luis Rojas for New York, Joe Girardi for Philadelphia). They also have different-looking rosters compared to then. The Mets lost righty Zack Wheeler to the Phillies, whose $118MM guarantee ranks among the richest of the offseason. They still boast a quality rotation, though, with Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz and the newly signed Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha in the mix to complement back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. They also continue to feature a solid lineup headlined by the powerful Pete Alonso, last season’s NL Rookie of the Year, as well as Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil.
The Phillies did far more heavy lifting last offseason than this winter, but they’ve still been aggressive with the signings of Wheeler, who should give them a true No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola, and shortstop Didi Gregorius. On paper, they look like a better team than the one that finished an even 81-81 a season ago.
Philly was a fourth-place squad in 2019, but it may be in line to push for a division title this year. However, it’ll have to overcome three strong clubs in the Braves (97-65), Nats (93-69) and Mets (86-76). The offseason isn’t over yet, but as of now, which team do you think is the favorite?
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