Nationals Baseball: Quick NL East feelings

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Quick NL East feelings

The off-season is now pretty much over. There are potential trades left. Mookie Betts is a forgone conclusion at this point, but isn't going to anywhere in the NL East.  Kris Bryant is less likely, and given he's not a FA after this season after losing his grievance case, most people think the Cubs will sit on a high price no one will meet this off-season, compete this year, and trade him next possibly as part of a mini-tear down.

That leaves the NL East pretty much set now and I have opinions on the teams going into next season

Quick takes :

Braves - Should have went for it, but instead testing out SP. I get it but still, when the doors open to take the division, take it

Nationals - Ditto, but instead of testing out SP, being the Nats with smart moves to build a playoff competitor. Could have passed Braves, chose not to. But hey - Champs!

Mets - Continue to frustrate fans by trying to do a Nationals without the Nationals talent or health history. It can work (see 2015) but it's an uphill battle for them in this divison

Phillies - I don't get it. Clearly looking for a bounce back seasons. From the offense that's understandable. From the pitching that's confusing and should fail.

Marlins - Get too much flack probably but sorry Jeter. Team hasn't had a history of ownership doing what they should so despite things coming along you'll have to lump it (then prove you will do what you should when it's tim)

Atlanta Braves - Gambling on Youth.

Josh Donaldson is a Twin. Julio Teheran is an Angel. Dallas Keuchel is a White Sock. Brian McCann is retired. Jerry Blevins is a Giant. Josh Tomlin, Anthony Swarzak are still looking. Most of these guys weren't particularly good, but none were bad and they ate up a lot of innings and at bats for the Braves.  They were replaced with a different set of veterans, Cole Hamels, Will Smith, Marcell Ozuna, but really what the Braves are doing is gambling that youth will step up.

Primarily how the youth does will matter in the rotation where nearly 300 IP of 120+ ERA are gone. They have a half-dozen legit prospects or guys with good AAA stats to throw out there but the last jump can be the hardest and they have to contend with possible dropping off of other starters (look at Folty 2018 to 2019).  But it's also true that they are looking for someone to join Freeman as a star bat.  Acuna was just off that last year, a little too impatient, a little too much all or nothing. Will it be him? Albies? Riley? Dansby or Carmago pulling a Ian Desmond? The Braves should be good next year and their off-season plan understood they could probably give all these guys chances and still stay in the division hunt. But rather than go big and run and hide from the NL East they let themselves likely slip back into the pack.

Washington Nationals - Keeping on keeping on

The Nats spent the past 8 seasons putting together good teams, 90 type win teams, and seeing the season play out figuring getting to the playoffs is all that can be promised. For 7 seasons that led to heartbreak but in the 8th quantity finally paid off.  How did they respond to finally getting a run of luck? By doing nothing different. They made the sensible decision to keep Strasburg while letting Rendon go. They picked up a fair number of decent RP to cover the terribleness of last year, and a fair number of decent vet MIs to try to luck into someone having a career year while maintaining a good shot of nothing terrible happening.

The Nats have always been a team lead by their starting pitching and keeping Strasburg allows the Nats to once again have perhaps the best 1-2-3 in baseball. As long as they stay healthy that's enough to be in the playoff mix.  There's a sense that the offense has to take a step back but it's hard to see a massive drop off from the team. The biggest question may be health. There are some age questions here - Suzuki, Kendrick, Sanchez 36, Max, Zimm, acquired Will Harris 35 and the starters and key relievers got pushed extra hard last year. But the Nats are not in the same position as other years. If things fall apart this year and they have to rebuild it's ok. They won. Much like the Braves they could have went big and go for a second title, but instead they are content to be in it and see what happens and this plan let's them reasonably do that.

New York Mets -  In for a penny

The Mets can't ever really commit. Every off-season they seem to make one or two moves that portend a larger one but the larger one never comes. This off-season was no different. They loaded up on SP options, bringing in Porcello, Wacha to go along with the guys they have (DeGrom, Thor, Matz) and the late season acquired Stroman.  They tried again to fix the pen bringing in Betances. But there wasn't the corresponding offensive move. There's a chance that the Braves and Nats both take half-steps back to meet the Mets half-step forward but you have to wonder why they didn't take a full-step forward and really make themselves a contender.

Perhaps it's because ultimately the Mets season depends on starting pitching health which is a hard thing to depend on especially when your track record isn't great. So now the Mets hopes depend on two gambles. The first being the SP is healthy, which they tried to cover for a little with depth. The second is that something clicks in an offense that is just a little lacking and is just a likely to take a step back after some career seasons than another step forward.

Philadelphia Phillies - It's gotta be the manager

I don't know what the Phillies are doing. Offensively you can squint and see what they see. It was an offense built for 2019 that had the wheels come off for reasons we don't really understand. Across the board hitters like Realmuto, Hoskins, Bryce, Segura, Bruce were at least a half-step worse than they should have been for no explainable reason. So add another good bat in Gregorious change the manager and coaching staff and try again. This shouldn't be a middling offense and we should see improvement just by change in 2020 and there could be a big jump.

But the pitching, last year you could look at the rotation and based on the line-up justify it by saying you were trying to see what you had in mid20s+ guys like Eflin, Velasquez, Pivetta, Eickhoff, and you'd make adjustments in the off-season if necessary. Well the season showed that they didn't have much with these guys. It's likely one or maybe two would be back of the rotation filler (likely Eflin) but the rest were replaceable.  You also saw an Arrieta aging before your eyes.  The Phillies really needed a second ace or two reliable 2-3 starters to go along with Nola who they hoped to rebound. They got Wheeler the off-seasons cheap "maybe he'll be an ace" option and nothing else. So now the Phillies have to have everything go right starting pitching wise. Nola or Wheeler have to be an ace and the other one a worthy companion. Arrieta or Eflin has to be a good #3. Two of the others have to be decent filler. It's a stretch and it's more likely that even if the offense improves as is likely they'll be a big bat no pitch team trying to bash their way into the playoffs. That may work in other divisions but the NL East has three teams with better plans.

Miami Marlins - Quietly amassing pitching and guys to trade for pitching

The Marlins aren't winning in 2020, or 2021 for that matter. So the middling signings they made make sense. If a Dickerson or Cervelli or Joyce or Kintzler break out they deal them and get something back to add to the system.  Meanwhile Sandy Alcantara is joined by three other pitchers 24 or younger to see if they can uncover a gem, while better shots like Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera start to appear. Depending on the Nats health and the Braves development they could have a top rotation in the NL East come 2022/2023.

Of course that's only half the game and while they have a lot of guys in the pipeline the current offensive prospects haven't quite worked out. They hope Alfaro develops beyond a usable catcher, which is something but not a cornerstone. Brinson is a washout. Isan Diaz's tryout went poorly. Someone will develop out of the guys they have but they are only adding to the likes of Alfaro and Brian Anderson which leaves a lot of holes and no stars. Come 2022/2023 the question will be if the Marlins pay out for the bats they need to take the next step. Just two years ago they had the offense set with Stanton, Realmuto, Yelich, Ozuna, but realized they had no pitching and bailed on the team rather than pay out. To prove anything is different they'll have to buy in when it's time. But that's for a later.  2020 will just to be seeing if they can finish 4th over whichever NL East team has the worst luck. 


coolsny said...

I'm glad you said "White Sock" instead of cowering, changing the flow of the sentence, and changing to "on the White Sox". Thank you for your service.

Anonymous said...

Wow...Dodgers are a serious juggernaut now...

Mr. T said...

@Anon: Yeah, and they were a juggernaut last year too.


Ole PBN said...

A lineup that looks something like Betts/RF, Muncy/1B, Turner/3B, Bellinger/CF, Seager/SS, Taylor/LF, Lux/2B, Smith/C is pretty ridiculous. Add a rotation of Beuhler, Kershaw, and Price with bullpen of Jansen, Treinen, Baez, and Kolarek makes them a juggernaut for sure.

I love the Nats depth and think Rizzo did a superb job this offseason. I still contend that leaving Soto completely exposed in the middle of the order.

SuburbanSteve said...

Juggernauts are still....beatable! #worldserieschamps

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I don't necessarily think the Dodgers wanted to make this move. But their fanbase all but forced the issue after failing in the postseason once again. They have to give the appearance that they are doing everything they can to win, even if it means giving up some young talent in Verdugo, Pederson, etc for 1 year of the 2nd best player in baseball. From a front office perspective, this trade is DUMB. But when your the dodgers, you do what you have to to live up to the expectations of your extravagant fans

Anonymous said...

No matter how big a juggernaut, there are no guarantees in the baseball post season. This ain't the NBA. Baseball has a huge element of randomness.

Take last season for example. This pesky team with a really bad bullpen and over the hill vets got hot and won it all.

JE34 said...

Will Dave Roberts manage himself out of a job by November 2020? I would put money on it.

Anonymous said...

The Dodgers will certainly win the West and likely have the top seed in the NL playoffs. Their talent level makes them the WS favorite. Unfortunately, their odds of winning the WS even as the favorite is 25%. You would still bet the field vs the Dodgers at even money.

Ole PBN said...

Been hearing rumblings of moving Trea out of the leadoff spot. I'm open to it. I think he's proven himself to be a decent hitter. Any other ideas/objections to this Opening Day lineup?

1. Eaton, RF
2. Castro/Kendrick, 2B
3. Turner, SS
4. Soto, LF
5. Thames/Zimmerman, 1B
6. Robles, CF
7. Suzuki, C
8. Kieboom, 3B
9. (pitcher)

JE34 said...

This is interesting. Did Alex Cora help blow the whistle on himself?

G Cracka X said...

Most notable thing to me is the comps: Juan Soto's comp is Griffey Jr., Scherzer's comp is Kevin Brown, Stras' comp is Orel Hershiser, and Corbin's comp is Tom Glavine.


Mike k said...


G Cracka X said...

@Mike k I know! I liked that one too. There was also 'Kiebrera'

DezoPenguin said...

Carter Kieboom shows up at #21. I certainly hope that Longenhagen is right about him; phrases like "30-homer power," "middle-of-the-order bat" and "if you've enjoyed watching Keston Hiura hit" are the kind of things that if they end up describing Kieboom's actual MLB performance that it'll make the loss of Rendon hurt a lot less. I'll be ecstatic if he ends up a four-win player at 3B, let alone better.

Oddly, I'm really not very worried about 1B. So long as they don't get injured (always a risk given not only age but the history of the two players, though having Kendrick as the obvious replacement for either helps) and Davey sticks to a straight platoon, it's downright probable that "Thammerman" will put up 30+ HR out of the position.

Mr. T said...

@OlePBN--ugh, Turner is not a #3 hitter. You'd think it might help him to hit ahead of Soto, meaning he'd get more pitches to hit--but until he shows patience they're still gonna throw him junk. On the other hand, who else would you stick in that spot?

Unless Robles and Kieboom take big steps forward, that lineup does not scare.

Mr. T said...

Also, you guys, this Astros press conference is killing me. "We didn't wear buzzers, that's a 100% lie"--yeah, and that's what you said about banging on trash cans before it was proven! These guys act like it's so unfair that we don't trust their word. As if our being told--by the new manager they just hired who had nothing to do with it!--about an "emotional meeting" they had behind closed doors is gonna make us think better of these a$sholes!

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