The NL East was a pretty disappointing division in 2021 and that certainly helped the Atlanta Braves stay within striking distance despite an underwhelming start of the season. The Braves of course retooled their roster at the trade deadline and finished strong winning the World Series.
The New York Mets and Miami Marlins were aggressive in advance of the lockout adding some significant pieces to improve their standing in the division. The Phillies and Nationals didn’t do much before the lockout, but expect Philadelphia to be aggressive when the offseason resumes. Below is a look at where each team stands currently.
Additions: Manny Pina C, Kirby Yates RHP, Jay Jackson RHP
The Atlanta Braves have won four straight NL East titles and capped that stretch off with a World Series win in 2021. They have one large question mark remaining in Freddie Freeman’s free agent status, but will otherwise return a solid core along with potential MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. They struck early adding veteran catcher Manny Pina on a two-year deal to back up Travis d’Arnaud. They also added Kirby Yates on a two-year deal and acquired right-hander Jay Jackson from the Giants as bullpen depth. Yates is coming off of Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season. The Braves also locked up d’Arnaud and veteran starter Charlie Morton with extensions during the season to keep them in the fold for 2022.
The Freeman situation still hangs over everything surrounding the Braves’ offseason. The expectation is that he will ultimately return, but if he does sign elsewhere, the team will be forced to pivot quickly. There is also questions in the outfield, and particularly who will play centerfield on a regular basis. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Atlanta add another veteran starter to the mix, but they could also opt to go with their young internal options.
The Freeman situation aside, this is still a good team that is coming off of a championship season. They have to address first base and need some clarity in the outfield. They could also stand to add some positional depth but otherwise they are in pretty good shape.
New York Mets
Additions: Max Scherzer RHP, Eduardo Escobar 3B, Starling Marte OF, Mark Canha OF, Nick Plummer OF, Antonio Santos RHP
The New York Mets were one of the more active teams in advance of the lockout and made a series of splashy moves including adding veteran right-hander Max Scherzer on a record three-year, $130 million deal. The Mets rebuild their outfield with the additions of Starling Marte and former Oakland outfielder Mark Canha. They also added infielder Eduardo Escobar who is currently slotted in at third base, but could theoretically fill in all over the field. There have been rumors that New York may shop infielder Jeff McNeil and first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith so expect them to continue to be active once the lockout is over.
Perhaps the biggest moves the Mets have made came in the front office with the addition of Billy Eppler as the team’s new GM and veteran manager Buck Showalter. The GM search was a much maligned process as many targets either turned down the job or pulled their name from consideration. Showalter was an easy pick given his track record.
Steve Cohen’s first year as the team’s new owner didn’t go as planned as the Mets wilted down the stretch and watched a significant division lead slip away. Expect the Mets to continue to be aggressive and as of now look like Atlanta’s biggest threat in the division.
Additions: Jacob Stallings C, Louis Head RHP, Joey Wendle INF, Avisail Garcia OF
The Miami Marlins were also active early in an effort to supplement their young core. Miami picked up catcher Jacob Stallings, who should pair nicely with their young pitching staff, in a trade with the Pirates for right-hander Zach Thompson. The Marlins also acquired utility man Joey Wendle and RHP Louis Head from the Tampa Bay Rays and signed former Brewers outfielder Avisail Garcia to a four-year, $53 million contract. Garcia slugged 29 home runs and had a 115 wRC+ in 2021 for Milwaukee. Miami also locked up starter Sandy Alcantara with a five-year, $56 million extension.
Given their young pitching, the Marlins look like a team that poised to make a jump in the near future.
Additions: Garrett Stubbs C, Nick Nelson RHP, Donny Sands C, Corey Knebel RHP, Johan Camargo INF, Ryan Sherriff LHP, Scott Moss LHP, Kent Emanuel LHP, Yoan Lopez RHP
One team that was surprisingly unaggressive before the lockout was the Philadelphia Phillies. Philadelphia did lock up reliever Corey Knebel on a one-year, $10 million deal but beyond that, made what should be characterized as fringe roster moves at best. They picked up catcher Garrett Stubbs in a minor trade with the Astros and made a variety of waiver claims. They also signed infielder Johan Camargo to a one-year, $1.4 million deal after he was non-tendered by the Braves.
There is still work to be done here. Knebel helps the ever present hole in their bullpen but the Phillies still need a centerfielder and most of the top line options are already off the board so a trade may be in order.
Additions: Alcides Escobar INF, Cesar Hernandez INF, Lucius Fox INF
The Nationals appear to be in a holding pattern with their roster and could be entering a rebuild. They re-signed infielder Alcides Escobar, who was solid in 75 games for them in 2021, and added infielder Cesar Hernandez on a one year deal. They also claimed infielder Lucius Fox off of waivers from the Orioles. The one thing to really keep an eye on here is the situation around Juan Soto who is under club control through 2024. Will the Nationals explore a record extension with Soto or will he become available sometime in the next two seasons?