The Mets have had an active early offseason, but their division rivals have hardly been resting on their laurels. With just six weeks until Spring Training, let’s take a look at where each team stands.
2018 record: 90-72 (1st)
Notable departures: Nick Markakis, Kurt Suzuki
Notable arrivals: Josh Donaldson, Brian McCann
A first place team built largely on home-grown, cost-controlled talent shouldn’t necessarily need a splashy offseason and, barring an unexpectedly exciting January, the Braves have held true to that. They have every reason to expect that their young position players will continue to blossom and have focused on short-term deals to fill specific positions of need. Josh Donaldson was a solid get on a one-year deal and even the age-diminished incarnation should provide stability in a potentially dominant lineup. Brian McCann is coming off the worst season of his career at age 34 and won’t be the threat at the plate he was during his peak in his first stint in Atlanta, but is a serviceable backstop in an era when even that is hard to find.
The Braves’ biggest potential weakness as currently constructed is front-end pitching. They thrived on a breakout year from Mike Foltynewicz, but regression from him would leave them vulnerable. If they have any moves remaining up their sleeves, it might be Dallas Keuchel. Either way, they’re in a good position to repeat their division title, with or without a big offseason.
2018 record: 63-98 (5th)
Notable departures: the home run sculpture
Notable arrivals: Pedro Alvarez, I guess
Someone has to be last in the division and the Marlins are leaning into it big time. Having already traded every other living, breathing player last offseason, the Fish have dedicated themselves to trying to acquire a cheaper version of Mike Trout for great-but-let’s-not-go-crazy J.T. Realmuto and it’s going about as well as you might expect. This endeavor has kept them in the headlines consistently, but there’s little reason to expect that the 2019 Marlins will look any different from the 2018 edition. Their biggest concern going forward is that they might miss out on the number one draft pick, but I wouldn’t count on it.
2018 record: 80-82 (3rd)
Notable departures: Carlos Santana, Justin Bour
Notable arrivals: Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Jean Segura
The 2018 Phillies saw glimpses of success as they work to emerge from their recent rebuilding phase, but ultimately fell short and they have no intention of repeating their mistake. They’ve been major players all winter, making significant improvements to their lineup, defense, and bullpen. Coming into the offseason, they projected out as the poor-man’s version of the Braves, with a largely home-grown team that hasn’t quite had the same run of breakouts, but with huge growth potential. They’ve brought in a solid crop of highly regarded free agents, most recently seemingly ageless reliever David Robertson on a very reasonable deal. But there’s no indication that they’re done for the year, showing persistent interest in both Harper and Manny Machado. If they actually pick one of them up, it could be an all-out dog-fight for the division (one that the Mets would likely find themselves on the outside).
Like the Braves, the Phillies’ main area of concern at the moment is in the rotation. Aaron Nola is still expected to be an ace, but unless Jake Arrieta has a major bounceback, there’s not much depth behind him.
2018 record: 82-80 (2nd)
Notable departures: Bryce Harper, Tanner Roark
Notable arrivals: Patrick Corbin, Anibal Sanchez
The Nationals are at a big turning point for their team, with franchise cornerstone Bryce Harper departing for free agency. They have significant young talent coming up behind him, though, and have kept themselves busy all offseason adding major pieces to try to keep their window of contention open. Patrick Corbin was the best free agent pitcher available and they wasted little time signing him to a six-year deal (backloaded as per usual). They go into 2019 with the only rotation in the division that could match, or top, the Mets’ (though like the Mets, things get a little dicey once you’re past the top three).
The lineup, however, is potentially volatile. Trea Turner has yet to recapture the magic of his 2016 breakout, but the potential there is enormous and he shares the field with teenage hitting sensation Juan Soto. If both can reach their peaks, the Nats could be a force to be reckoned with. If one or both stumbles, it could be a brutal season. Not a team to shy away from aggressive moves, they may still be open to offensive upgrades, especially as free agent prices drop.