New Decade, Who Dis?: NL East Offseason Primer

So it’s November.  The World Series is over, the dust has settled, and now we begin the stressful slog of the off season.  As we turn over from the 2010’s to the 2020’s, we see teams at various types of crossroads.  Some are looking to make big moves in the near future, while others may need to take a step back.  We’ll be taking this division by division, and covering it on the Podcast as well.  First, let’s take a look at the National League East, where offense was plentiful, and bullpens were optional.

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So I should probably explain the chart a little bit here:

  • Salary Committed – Per Spotrac’s 2020 estimates.
  • Offense – Using Fangraph’s OFF statistic
  • Starters – Using Fangraph’s total pitching WAR, and separated by starters
  • Relievers – same as starters, but for relievers
  • Defense – Using Fangraph’s DEF statistic.

So that being said, let’s look at the division.

The Atlanta Braves:  The Next Generation?Image result for ronald acuna jr"

  • GREATEST STRENGTH:  OFFENSE
  • GREATEST WEAKNESS:  BULLPEN
  • POSSIBLE FREE AGENT:  Yasmani Grandal

The Braves remain hopeful that Mark Melancon and Shane Greene can stabilize the back end of the bullpen, and with a lot of that talented farm system getting closer to graduate, there’s plenty of “upside arms” in Atlanta.  What’s a great partner for a young pitching staff?  A catcher that can help them out with great framing ability.  Two of the best in the business at such a skill?  Tyler Flowers and Yasmani Grandal.  Adding a middle of the order bat to replace the departing Josh Donaldson is the icing on the cake.  The Braves payroll has some flexibility this season, so Grandal’s emphasis on AAV is something the team is ready to handle, to make sure that they “get their guy”.

The Washington Nationals:  Defending Champs

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  • GREATEST STRENGTH:  STARTING PITCHING
  • GREATEST WEAKNESS:  BULLPEN
  • POSSIBLE FREE AGENT: Stephen Strasburg

It’s good to be the champs.  What’s not so good, is having to make the decisions that come with that.  The team is watching as not one, but two of its cornerstone players test free agency.  While many early reports seem to suggest that both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg could return next season, a bidding war could make them take a side.  With prospect Carter Kieboom on his way up the minors, one could suggest that side could land on the reigning World Series MVP, Strasburg.  There are some foundational issues with this roster, most notably in the bullpen, so maybe someone like a Pedro Strop could be on their radar, but ultimately, the big money spent will be to KEEP players in their colors, rather than add new ones.

The New York Mets:  Win Now Mode.. Take Two.

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  • GREATEST STRENGTH:  STARTING PITCHING
  • GREATEST WEAKNESS:  BULLPEN
  • POSSIBLE FREE AGENT:  Will Smith

When Brody Van Wagenen took the General Manager’s post with the Mets organization, he was given a “win now” mandate.  He took that and ran with it, most notably acquiring Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, taking on some significant financial weight in the process.  Unfortunately, the deal fell on its face and the Mets were left holding the bag for an aging star and an underperforming reliever.  Despite those shortcomings, Van Wagenen doubled down and acquired Marcus Stroman, a ground ball pitcher from the Blue Jays, despite putting a team behind him that struggled defensively.  The Mets are a bit hamstrung financially after taking on so much additional money this past season, so one wouldn’t look for any major additions, but maybe some complimentary pieces like Will Smith to help strengthen the back of the bullpen, and offer some matchup options in case Diaz continues to struggle.   It will be another interesting Season in New York, if nothing else..

Philadelphia Phillies:  Have They Considered “Smart Money”?Image result for Phillies Jake Arrieta"

  • GREATEST STRENGTH:  DEFENSE
  • GREATEST WEAKNESS:  STARTERS
  • POSSIBLE FREE AGENT:  Madison Bumgarner

It was just this past season when Phillies owner John Middleton declared the Phillies were intending to spend “stupid money” to make the team a winner.  Like their division rivals the Mets, that didn’t exactly work out.  The additions of Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto and Jean Segura seemed to yield positive results, but didn’t address the structural issues that the team is facing.  A starting rotation built on upside fell flat, and their bullpen couldn’t stay off the injured list, and as the dominoes began to fall, it was clear that the Phillies lacked the depth on the mound needed to compete.  Now, hopefully the addition of a brand name front-end starter like Madison Bumgarner to compliment Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta will help quell those concerns, and give the Phillies some ammo to compete in the minefield that is the NL East.

Miami Marlins:  Nowhere to go but Up… Right?

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  • GREATEST STRENGTH:  STARTING PITCHING
  • GREATEST WEAKNESS:  OFFENSE
  • POSSIBLE FREE AGENT:  Kole Calhoun

If you’re a Marlins fan, well… there’s reason to be hopeful!  The team seems to have hit on some young starting pitching this season, and there’s reason to believe that young stars like Caleb Smith and Jordan Yamamoto could deliver on their high upside.  The bullpen was pretty awful, but that’s fixable in the grand scheme of things.  The real issue here is the offense, and it is…. offensive.  The Marlins produced the worst lineup in baseball this season, and without a free agent acquisition, there’s not a lot of hope that it will get better.  Who would want to play in the depths of Miami though?  Kole Calhoun could be a perfect fit as a corner outfielder coming off a decent year (108 OPS+) that could add some pop to the middle of the lineup, while still fitting in financially.  The veteran leadership factor can play here as well, look for maybe a two year deal with an option  for a third as the team begins to find its identity.

 

The NL East is going to be a bear of a division next season, and with some key additions to each team, one can’t help but think that the road to the World Series doesn’t just go through the defending champs, but that the entire division could play a role in shaping the NL Pennant.

 

 

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