We are less than one month away from Opening Day. Soon we will see how teams fared in the off-season and who to keep an eye on throughout. For now, we're going to breakdown some key teams in the NL East division race this season and figure out who could make some noise.
This division has a chance to be a juggernaut and a four team race in 2020. The defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals have had themselves a somewhat busy off-season.
The main flaw was losing superstar third basemen Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels after he signed a 7-year/$245 million-dollar deal. Washington couldn't afford to bring back Rendon on that contract after they decided to give World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg the same exact deal as him, but who could fault them there. Those two decisions were the biggest of Washington's moves this year.
Along with that they brought back postseason hero Daniel Hudson for the bullpen and also added around him with the signing of Will Harris from Houston. Harris was the second best available reliever on the market according to 2019 WAR.
An under the radar pick up for the Nats was bringing in power bat Eric Thames on a 1-year/$4 million-dollar deal. Thames provides them another option in the outfield. In 2019 he slashed .247/.346/.505 with 25 home runs in 149 games.
If there is anything to take from the Nationals off-season, the bullpen is solid along with a good starting rotation of Scherzer-Strausburg-Corbin at the top, and we will have to keep an eye on how they want to go about the third base situation with no more Rendon on the hot corner. We could see a combination of Asdrubal Cabrera or new signing Starlin Castro. They could possibly move top prospect Carter Kieboom over too if wanted. Everything else about Washington looks relatively the same as in 2019, but I would have to assume they are coming into 2020 with a lot more confidence and I would not expect a bad start to the season like last year.
Next, the Atlanta Braves. Your 2019 NL East Champions had some new faces come and old faces go after last season. Atlanta lost All Star, 37 home run hitting third baseman Josh Donaldson this off-season after he signed a 4-year/$92 million dollar deal with the Minnesota Twins.
The Braves look very familiar to last season but have acquired a few key pieces for a run in 2020. Atlanta needed a starting pitcher coming into the off-season and got just that as they signed 36 year old vet Cole Hamels to a 1-year/ $18 million-dollar deal. This came after letting Julio Teheran walk as he inked a 1-year/$9 million-dollar deal with the LA Angels.
Along with that, they signed catcher Travid d'Arnaud to a 2-year/$16-million dollar contract to pair him and Tyler Flowers up as somewhat of a platoon most likely. Then in late January Atlanta announced a deal with former Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna to a 1-year/$18 million-dollar deal. Ozuna is a solid pickup but not a huge impact bat, he is coming off a season where he slashed .241/.328/.472 with 29 home runs.
The Braves have to feel pretty good coming into this season, coming off a division championship with a team that is built almost the same way. One thing to keep an eye on is another season of Mike Soroka on the hill, he is going to be a key part in the 2020 plans to get another division crown and we will see if he can continue his dominance.
Next we will run down the Philadelphia Phillies. Philadelphia went into 2019 with high hopes after inking Bryce Harper to a 13 year/$330 million-dollar contract while also acquiring the best catcher in baseball, JT Realmuto, from Miami. After bullpen injuries and rotation depth derailed the season they ended up winning 81 games.
One of the biggest pick ups wasn't a player, but manager Joe Girardi being the new guy at the helm. Going from inexperienced manager Gabe Kapler to well respected World Series champion is a big upgrade. Not only that but Philadelphia upgraded their hitting and pitching coach position adding Bryan Price and Joe Dillion.
This off-season the Phillies added multiple pieces while avoiding going over the luxury tax. The biggest move made was signing free agent starting pitcher Zack Wheeler to a 5 year/ $118 million-dollar contract after division rival Mets let him walk. Wheeler is a solid #2 guy to put next to Ace Aaron Nola in the rotation. According to FanGraphs, Wheeler was tied for 13th most valuable starting pitcher in 2019 based on WAR at 4.7.
Along with Wheeler, the Phillies signed shortstop Didi Gregorious to a 1 year 'prove it' deal worth $14 million dollars. Coming off tommy john surgery, Didi is getting back to his former self. The organization and Gregorious are hoping Citizens Bank Park will be the perfect place for him to regain his power and produce good numbers in the hitter friendly park.
The Phillies have a lot of bullpen depth this season, multiple guys coming off of injuries and a bulk of young talent they are working with Spring Training. Second half of 2019 the Phils were limited in bullpen pieces and the depth they have this season should make fans optimistic. Even though Philadelphia doesn't have any really big names in the pen, they have solid guys who can produce such as Hector Neris, Adam Morgan and if Seranthony Dominguez comes back healthy that was would huge.
The organization is also hoping for power hitting top prospect Alec Bohm to come up very early in 2020 to play third base. That along with veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen projected to come back within the first month they are hoping to make a good run at that division crown.
New York Mets
Lastly we breakdown the New York Mets. The Mets finished up 2019 with a lot of eyes on some young studs. With the rise of power bat Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil New York has a lot to look forward to.
One of the big moves made by NY was bringing in Dellin Betances from the Yankees to bolster the bullpen on a 1 year/$10.5 million-dollar deal. Betances is one of the best arms in baseball for a bullpen when healthy. Last season with the Yankees he had a partial achillies tendon tear, if he can stay healthy this season the Mets got themselves a stud to pair with Edwin Diaz.
The Mets roation is now filled out with the signing of Michael Wacha. New Yorks rotation is deadly this season, at the top they have Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom along with Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman. If everybody can stay healthy this team has a chance to make some noise.
This division is going to be a dog fight throughout the 2020 season. Between the four teams listen I think anybody can come out on top this year. The NL East is a division to keep an eye on going forward.