The MLB offseason is winding down with less than two weeks before Mets pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. However, when the New York Mets report down to Port St. Lucie to begin their campaign, they might find their divisional opponents to be a bit more competitive than they have been in recent memory.
Every team in the National League East has had a major offseason acquisition that will greatly lessen the disparity between the top and bottom of the division. While the Braves, Marlins, and Phillies won’t likely be competing for the league pennant, they will make the road much tougher on the Nationals and Mets than they did with their teams last year.
2016 Divisional Finish: 5th
The Braves are looking to continue their play that they ended the season with last year. Their offense surged late in the season behind Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte, and Matt Kemp and will look to continue that in the upcoming season. The major difference between this year’s team and last year’s for the Braves will be the pitching.
They signed veteran arms in R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon that will help solidify their otherwise young rotation. In addition to the veteran free agent signings, the Braves traded for former Cardinal left-hander Jaime Garcia. Simply the acquisition of major league talent by the Braves will make the road to winning the division much tougher.
2016 Divisional Finish: 4th
The Phillies have had a very productive offseason, both in free agency and the trade market. The most notable free agent signing for the Phillies this offseason was Michael Saunders. Despite slowing down in the second half of the season last year, Saunders had a solid first half of the season and was an All-Star for the American League. Saunders will definitely garner attention from pitchers around the division when the season starts.
In the trade market, the Phillies made competitive acquisitions that will vastly improve their team. They traded for Clay Buchholz, Howie Kendrick, and bullpen help in Pat Neshek. If all of their young players stay on an upwards trajectory, the Phillies won’t be a complete pushover in the division. But, on a positive note as a Mets fan, thank God Ryan Howard is finally out of the lineup.
2016 Divisional Finish: 3rd
The main issue for the Marlins in the upcoming season will be if their starting pitching can hold up without their ace Jose Fernandez. As a result, the Marlins Front Office has focused primarily on solidifying their rotation with the free agent signing of Edinson Volquez and the trade with Cincinnati for Dan Straily.
While the pitching is a major key, a lot of their success is on the shoulders of slugger Giancarlo Stanton and whether or not he can stay healthy. If he can, it is scary every time he is in the batter’s box and can change the outcome of any game with his bat.
New York Mets:
2016 Divisional Finish: 2nd
In the 2017 season, the Mets primary focus will be on simply staying healthy. If the starting pitchers can pitch like they did in 2015 on their run to the World Series, then the Mets are right in the mix of the best teams in the league. The big move of the offseason for the team was retaining the services of slugger Yoenis Cespedes—the one player that the team could just not do without. With crowding and competition at multiple positions, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you see manager Terry Collins start following the mantra of “If you hit, you play” that appeared throughout last year’s season.
2016 Divisional Finish: 1st
The biggest story concerning the Nationals’ offseason was their failure to get a big name starting pitcher or closer. The Nationals were in the running for multiple big names through trades and free agency including Chris Sale, Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. The team is still in dire need of a closer before the season starts, but filled their catching vacancy with known Met-killer Derek Norris, and completed a block-buster trade for centerfielder Adam Eaton. Despite a few holes in their roster right now, if the Nationals stay healthy, they will likely prove to be a formidable force in the division once again.