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‘Borrowing’ a player from each NL East rival: A review

Did we covet the correct rival players?

New York Yankees v Atlanta Braves - Game Two Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

With the 2020 regular season in the rearview mirror, we can now reflect on all of the choices that were made. Perhaps no choices were less meaningful than when we chose which player we would like to “borrow” from each rival NL East team for the 2020 season. Let us now look back, with the benefit of hindsight, and review those choices.

Atlanta Braves

My pick: Ronald Acuña
Poll result: Ronald Acuña

Acuña lived up to the pre-season hype with a fantastic season, but he was arguably overshadowed by both Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna. Freeman had perhaps the most impressive season of his potential Hall of Fame career, as his .341/.462/.640 slash line and 3.4 fWAR make him a lock to win the NL MVP. So he’s the choice in hindsight, right? Well, not if you (over)think about it. If we had chosen to borrow Freeman, his playing time would have come at the expense of Dominic Smith, who had a phenomenal season in his own right. While the Mets would have been better with Freeman, this hypothetical selection would have stunted the development of someone who is now among the team’s best hitters. The player who would have added the most value would have been Max Fried, who had the breakout season many were predicting, pitching to a 2.25 ERA over 56 innings. Fried would have given the Mets a second rotation anchor, allowing them to easily sail into the playoffs and be a legitimate contender in October. Not on the ballot was Travis d’Arnaud, who hit a spectacular .321/.386/.533 with nine home runs. The upgrade that he would have provided at the catcher position would have almost certainly led to a playoff berth.

Retroactive pick: Max Fried

Miami Marlins

My pick: Brian Anderson
Poll result: Brian Anderson

We knew that at least one Marlins pitchers would probably break out, but weren’t sure which one, so we went with the safe choice of Brian Anderson. Anderson was about as good as could have been expected, as his .255/.345/.465 slash line was within a few points of his 2019 line. Miguel Rojas surprisingly hit .304/.392/.496 and ended up as the Marlins’ best position player, but any of Pablo López, Sixto Sánchez or Sandy Alcántara would have given the Mets a bigger boost at a greater position of need. Sánchez has the highest upside, but López, who pitched to a 3.61 ERA over 57.1 innings, is the one who would have provided the most value this season.

Retroactive pick: Pablo López

Philadelphia Phillies

My pick: Aaron Nola
Poll result: J.T. Realmuto

Realmuto had exactly the type of season one would have expected: great defense and base running to go along with a .266/.349/.491 batting line and 11 home runs. His addition would have transformed the already deep Mets lineup into arguably the best in the league. Bryce Harper also had a fantastic season, hitting the ball harder than ever, but predictably fell off a bit after the first month of the season. Nola returned to form as a top-of-the-rotation stud; he pitched to a 3.28 ERA over 71.1 innings, and his 96 strikeouts were third in the NL behind only Jacob deGrom and Trevor Bauer. Like Fried, his addition would have positioned the Mets to be a legitimate playoff contender. Because of that, I’m sticking with Nola as my pick, but I’ll concede that it’s basically a toss up between him and Realmuto. Zack Wheeler had a great season too, and is the type of pitcher that Mets fans would love to see their team acquire.

Retroactive pick: Aaron Nola

Washington Nationals

My pick: Max Scherzer
Poll result: Max Scherzer

Scherzer had a relatively disappointing season, in that he was merely very good and not a Cy Young contender. Juan Soto completely lived up to and even surpassed the lofty expectations set for him, winning the NL batting title with a ridiculous .351/.490/.695 line, to go along with 13 home runs and a 2.4 fWAR. Trea Turner staked his claim to being the game’s best power/speed threat, with a .335/.394/.588 line to go with 12 home runs, 12 stolen bases and a 2.7 fWAR. This is the toughest decision; the upgrade in the pitching staff would have been so incredibly valuable, so Scherzer is probably still the smart choice...but it just feels wrong to pick a guy whose 3.74 ERA was his highest since 2012, over two of the top ten position players in the NL. It’s basically a toss-up, but I’ll give the edge to Turner, as the upgrade at shortstop would have been far more valuable than the boost Soto would have provided to a crowded situation at corner outfield and designated hitter.

Retroactive Pick: Trea Turner