$20 to the reader who can explain to me how in the world the National League East was both the worst and most interesting division in baseball in 2018. I mean this should have been a painfully dry year for the East in the Senior Circuit, with the Nationals’ big bankroll leading to another monotonous division title. Behind them, the Mets, Phillies and Braves should have finished in whatever order but with no chance of catching the leader after June. And the Marlins should’ve sputtered to potentially baseball’s worst record ever.
We didn’t see that though. What we got instead was a shockingly fast start by the Mets, a two horse race to the finish between the Braves and Phillies, mediocrity by the Nationals, and a Marlins team who (while still bad) weren’t the worst.
But conversations about baseball in November aren’t about the past, they’re about the future. So it’s time to break down what the teams in the this division need to do this winter to maximize their potential in 2019. And keep checking back for more installments with baseball’s other divisions!
1. Atlanta Braves –
Biggest Need: Bigger. Better. Bullpen.
If you had the Atlanta Braves winning the National League East in 2018, then you are either the greatest baseball mind of our generation…or you’re totally full of shit. I mean seriously this was a team that was slated to be in “rebuild” mode for at least another few years regardless of how impressive some of their prospects seemed to look. But in 2018 they arrived prematurely, like
me at my 8th grade dance the Yankees did the year before.
With the collapse of the Nats’ stranglehold on the divisional crown, the Braves are in as good a spot as anyone to seize the reigns as the perennial powerhouse of the NL East. To stay ahead of a Philly squad willing to spend big however, the Braves are going to have to dish out a small fortune of their own to bolster an abysmal bullpen. Craig Kimbrel might be a little pricey for an Atlanta team adamantly clinging to it’s below-average payroll (22nd in 2018), but I could certainly see them wooing next tier guys like David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Brad Brach, Adam Ottavino, or Zach Britton (perhaps a combination of them).
Your lineup is deep, and your rotation is sufficient. Take a hint from the rest of baseball and get yourself a bullpen…
2. Washington Nationals –
Biggest Need: Breakup Playlist
I get the feeling that Ariana Grande released her song “thank u, next” at just the right time for one Michael Rizzo, General Manager of the Washington Nationals. After collecting 4 division crowns in 6 years with Bryce Harper, the team from our nation’s capital game up empty when it mattered most: his contract year. Legitimately the only way Bryce Harper was going to even contemplate sticking around in Washington was a trip to the fall classic. Instead though, he and his D.C. comrades spent their October sitting around doing nothing…kinda like Congress…must be a Washington thing…
Bryce Harper is so disenfranchised by this franchise that he is actually willing to take less money and change positions, just to join a pre-built contender.
So the Nationals have a pair of options now instead: either try to compete with what they’ve got, or blow it up and start over. Normally I’d be inclined to say this thing is broken and it’s time for a fresh start, but when listing off trade-able assets I encountered a dilemma. The Nats have too many stars making too much money to just mail it in yet. So instead, head into 2019 holding tight to what remains…and worst case scenario you can always pull off a fire-sale in mid-July.
3. Philadelphia Phillies –
Biggest Need: Manny Machado
I don’t know that I could spell it out much simpler than that; the only team who’d be a better fit for Machado is the Brewers and after their playoff beef something tells me that isn’t happening. The Phillies have a glaring hole on the left side of their infield despite the best efforts of youngsters JP Crawford & Scott Kingery. They also need a legitimate middle of the order guy to pair with slugger, Rhys Hoskins. This move literally makes too much sense.
The Phillies showed out in a major way for most of 2018, only burning out about half way through September. The emergence of Aaron Nola atop their pitching staff with support from starting and relieving depth has made this team surprisingly formidable. They’ve also made no secret about wanting to spend big on a push for the NL East crown. The worst thing they could do is divert attention away from the crown jewel of the offseason.
It’s simple math: Phillies + Machado = CONTENDER
4. New York Mets –
Biggest Need: Move On From 2015
Remember when the Mets began the 2018 season on an 11-1 run? Of course you do, because those precious “Ya Gotta Believers” in your life definitely reminded you of it every single day. Odds are they’re the same people who prematurely boasted about a World Series Championship in 2015, and revised that statement to read
World Series Championship in 2016 World Series Championship in 2017 World Series Championship in 2018. It’s high time that the Mets organization and their fan base realize that the all-time potential squad from a few years ago doesn’t exist anymore. And that isn’t all bad news…
Youngsters like Brandon Nimmo, Ahmed Rosario, Gavin Ceccini, and Tomas Nido have shown remarkable promise and the potential to be part of a new core for the Amazins’. But to get to that, you need to begin parting ways with parts of your past. Cy Young award or not, Jacob DeGrom has hit his peak. Time will tell if he can maintain this level of production, but selling high on him before his contract expires in 2020 and he Bryce Harper’s you is probably the best thing you can do. You’ll get back loads of prospects and assets, and be primed to contend again in the not so distant future based on past trends with the Metropolitan’s farm system development. Additionally, cut ties with unnecessary veterans better suited as role players on contenders. Guys like Todd Frazier, Jose Reyes, and Jason Vargas shouldn’t be taking up room on your roster that could be given to the next crop of stars.
thank u, next…
Wow it’s such a great song and it literally applies to so many things…
5. Miami Marlins –
Biggest Need: Stick to the Plan
About a year ago, the baseball world set their eyes on Miami as a Derek Jeter-led ownership group gave away heralded-talent to other teams like gifts on a day time talk show. Jeter & Co. gutted the Marlins like…well…a marlin…and the backlash they received from all 8 Miami season ticket holders was astounding. I came to his defense to a certain degree back then and I suppose I’m just going to have to double down on it now…
Don’t turn back now, the fire sale already happened and the best thing you could do now is continue with your master plan. As a matter of fact, I see a pair of shiny trade assets you somehow missed a year ago in the form of J.T. Realmuto and Starlin Castro. Both can get you a fair return prospect-wise from a contender in need (either now or in July), and help you build towards a brighter tomorrow. This isn’t the time to please fans with bad spending. I don’t care if you can lure Manny Machado back home to Miami, that alone won’t right the ship.
Keep doing your thing Jeter…for better or for worse…