There isn’t much intrigue to speak of here. The Nationals will probably have the division all but locked up by the all-star break. As a whole, the NL East comes down to groups of teams trending rapidly in opposite directions. The Nationals added the top free agent pitcher available, The Marlins locked up Giancarlo Stanton for 68 years and 984 billion dollars, and picked up some productive pieces in Dee Gordon, Mike Morse, and Dan Haren. The Mets didn’t add a ton apart from Michael Cuddyer, but the healthy returns of Matt Harvey, David Wright, and Bobby Parnell, figure to help. And then there’s the other guys…
The Phillies are looking to…they’re in a…they should probably… Ok, let’s just call it what it is. If Ruben Amaro had a shred of sense, he’d have gotten what he could for aging slugger Ryan Howard, still productive veteran Chase Utley, and now injured hurler Cliff Lee last year, or at the latest, this off-season. I don’t know that trading your best pitcher is ever the answer, but if it was, Cole Hamels would also fetch the best return of prospects.
Then there’s the Braves. I’m not sure they needed to blow everything up, but at least they committed. Out with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, and in with… Shelby Miller and a bunch of guys they hope to see in a couple years. While the future may be brighter for one of these teams, this season figures to be a long one for fans of both.
Projected Winner: The Nationals. I get angry at weird things sometimes. I don’t know why. I just do. Last year, the Nats had a pitcher win 15 games and sport a sub-3.00 ERA. Moreover, his fielding independent pitching (FIP) supported those numbers being reflective of excellent pitching, rather than luck. And he isn’t good enough to crack their rotation. What. The. Fudgesickles? My point is this. If Tanner Roark isn’t good enough to crack your starting rotation, you either have an embarrassment of riches in starting pitching, or you have no clue who he is. So the Nationals will win this division. Because they have a guy who could secretly trade places with Zack Greinke and very few people would notice… and he’s not good enough to make their rotation. Ridiculous.
Is there a Wild Card, perhaps?: If you asked me this question and no form of bet hedging was an option, I’d say yes. I think the Marlins have done enough to improve the roster to be in the conversation, and if Jose Fernandez successfully returns from TJ surgery in June, I think they have enough to make a run. I also think Christian Yelich is an all-star this year. You heard it here first. Unless you heard it somewhere else first, in which case you heard it here second. The Mets might also be a part of the conversation, but ultimately I think they’ll fade.