The last two seasons, the Mets had the National League East title well within reach late in the season, and both times they let it slip away to the Braves. For the second straight offseason, the Mets responded to that disappointment by spending a bunch of money on very good players. They enter the year with a slightly improved and much more expensive roster looking to finally take home that elusive NL East crown for the first time since 2015.
But the Mets weren’t the only team in their division making sizable additions. In fact, the division was possibly the most active one in baseball this winter. So with pitchers and catchers set to report this week and the bulk of the offseason well behind us, let’s size up the Mets’ NL East opponents for this season and take a closer look at each team, how their offseasons went, where they improved or got worse, and how likely they are to get in the way of the Mets’ run at the division title this year.
- C Sean Murphy
- RP Joe Jimenez
- RP Lucas Luetge
- SS Dansby Swanson
- RP Kenley Jansen
- RP Luke Jackson
- OF Robbie Grossman
Offseason summary: The Braves return mostly the same 101-win team from 2022 with one key change: Dansby Swanson has departed for Chicago, leaving Vaughn Grissom as the team’s presumed shortstop. Evaluators are not entirely sure whether Grissom can play shortstop defensively, or if if he’ll continue to hit at the big league level. Even if he does, he has a ways to go to match Swanson’s 6+ WAR campaign from last year.
The only other major change the Braves made was trading William Contreras to the Brewers in a three-team deal to net Sean Murphy, one of the best catchers in baseball. Murphy is more likely to be really good in the coming years than Contreras, so it’s a move that makes sense over the long-term, but given Contreras’s strong offensive output in 2022, the room for improvement from last year to this year there is limited.
Other than that, the Braves just made their usual shrewd bullpen moves, with Joe Jimenez and Lucas Luetge forming an alliterative pair to join the ever-stout Braves bullpen.
Do they pose a threat to the Mets? If we’re being honest, the NL East has been the Braves’ division since about 1995, outside of a few lean years here and there. With their core locked up until the heat death of the universe and with one of the strongest player development systems in baseball, the Braves will be a threat to win 95-100 games for many years to come. So, in a word, yes.
The Braves and Mets are set up to duke it out once again at the top of the division, with a strong chance it could come down to the last week of the season again. The Mets could have made themselves clear favorites by locking up Carlos Correa, but they did not. The Braves, likewise, could have made themselves clear favorites by signing a star shortstop, or a left fielder, or another starter to shore up their questionable fifth rotation spot. But they chose to dink and dunk the offseason instead, and now the division figures to be a dogfight.
- SS Trea Turner
- SP Taijuan Walker
- RP Craig Kimbrel
- RP Gregory Soto
- IF Josh Harrison
- SP Kyle Gibson
- SP/RP Zach Eflin
- SP Noah Syndergaard
- IF Jean Segura
- RP David Robertson
- OF Matt Vierling
- IF Nick Maton
Offseason summary: The reigning NL champs certainly went for it again this offseason, inking Trea Turner to one of the biggest deals of the offseason and giving Taijuan Walker a surprisingly large contract. Turner adds another dynamic to their already potent offense, and Walker shores up the bottom of the rotation, which gave the Phillies lots of problems last year.
However, it goes without saying that the lineup looks a lot less scary without Bryce Harper in there. The 2021 MVP is set to miss the first half of the season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, and the Phillies might’ve done well to add another bat to lengthen their lineup a bit without him. The top four of Turner, Schwarber, Hoskins, and Realmuto is as fearsome as they come, but it drops off a bit after that. Roster Resource projects their Opening Day lineup to be rounded out by Nick Castellanos, Darick Hall, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, and Brandon Marsh. All of those hitters, except for Hall, had below average offensive seasons last year, and Hall is a lefty platoon bat himself. While the upside certainly exists for all of those hitters to perform beyond what they did last year on the whole, that’s a lot of uncertainty for a team trying to get back to the World Series.
The additions of Gregory Soto and Craig Kimbrel fill out a fairly potent Phillies bullpen, which looks solid even with the losses of Robertson and Eflin. Of course, a back-end of Jose Alvarado, Soto, and Kimbrel will probably be heart attack city for Phillies fans, even if it generally gets the job done.
Do they pose a threat to the Mets? They’ve certainly closed the gap. Last year, the Phillies finished 14 games behind the Mets and Braves. Without Harper for half the season, it seems less likely for them to completely catch up to those two teams, but they’re not going to be walked over. The days of the Phillies being a paragon of mediocrity are over, and they should be playing October baseball again this season.
- SP Johnny Cueto
- IF Jean Segura
- IF Luis Arraez
- RP Matt Barnes
- 3B/OF Brian Anderson
- SP Pablo López
- RP Richard Bleier
Offseason Summary: The Marlins had the third-worst offense in baseball last year by runs scored and knew they had to add to their offense. And they did! Sort of. Jean Segura adds another league-average bat, which they were missing last year, and Luis Arraez is the reigning AL batting champion. Adding those two and potentially having Jazz Chisolm Jr. around the whole year should at least improve things for the Miami offense.
However, this lineup wasn’t two decent hitters away from being fixed, either. Avisail Garcia, Jorge Soler, Joey Wendle, and Jacob Stallings are all still lined up for starting jobs here, none of whom mustered even league average seasons last year, while Garcia and Stallings were sub-replacement level. The Marlins, always on a tight budget, traded a good pitcher in Pablo López to get their biggest offensive addition because they ostensibly couldn’t afford one otherwise, even though they obviously needed way more.
As such, the Marlins’ pitching will be what drives them once again. Sandy Alcantara might be the best starting pitcher in baseball, and Johnny Cueto, Jesus Luzardo, and Edward Cabrera are fine pitchers to round out the rotation, though it is missing a clear-cut number two starter without López. The Marlins seem content to let Trevor Rogers try to win the fifth starting spot out of spring training, and with Max Meyer out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, they lack the high-upside depth in the minors that they’ve had in recent years.
Do they pose a threat to the Mets? Not particularly. They’ll surely be an annoying lineup to navigate, with several high-average hitters that’ll grind out tough at bats, and you’ll count your blessings any time you can miss facing Alcantara in a series. But the Marlins finished 32 games behind the Mets last year and made up for only a handful of those wins with their moderate additions. The Fish are a team built with the goal of lucking their way into an 84-win Wild Card berth, and that’s only if things go really well for them.
- OF Corey Dickerson
- 3B Jeimer Candelario
- 1B Dominic Smith
- SP Trevor Williams
- DH Nelson Cruz
- IF/OF César Hernández
Offseason summary: Dom Smith and Trevor Williams are here! That should be fun.
Do they pose a threat to the Mets? No. This is a Major League Baseball team in name only.
The Mets’ path to the NL East runs as it seemingly always does: through the Phillies and Braves. Last year, the Mets handled the Phillies with aplomb while they failed to beat the Braves when it mattered most. This year, they face each division foe six fewer times, so there’s less of an emphasis on the division opponents, but it’s still vital to win the season series. The Phillies should prove a tougher test this year, while the Mets and Braves battles are still more likely to decide the division in the long run. The Mets just have to take care of business against the Marlins and Nationals to stay in good shape.