Phillies, Braves play waiting game on top free agents while Mets strike out

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Matt Weyrich
·3 min read
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State of NL East: Phillies, Braves play waiting game on top FAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The NL East is going for it in 2021.

It’s rare in today’s era of Major League Baseball to see all five teams in a division trying to compete in the same season. Particularly now, when teams across the league are shedding payroll and tearing down rosters that made the postseason just four months ago. There aren’t many divisions with even three teams preparing to make a run at the World Series this season.

Yet the NL East appears to be the exception. The reigning division champion Atlanta Braves went into the offseason with one of the deepest rosters in the sport and improved their rotation with the signings of Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly. Washington is only a year removed from winning the World Series, intending to make another playoff push after acquiring Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber and Jon Lester.

The New York Mets, backed by new billionaire owner Steve Cohen, traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco to boost their chances of contending. Dave Dombrowski is the new president for the Philadelphia Phillies, bringing with him a reputation for mortgaging the future in order to win — and being successful at it. The Miami Marlins, while mostly quiet this winter aside from hiring GM Kim Ng, are coming off their first playoff appearance in 17 years and have a bevy of young pitching.

Much like a majority of the league, several NL East teams have spent the offseason waiting for the top free agents to choose their next destinations. The Mets were reportedly in on George Springer before he signed a six-year, $150 million pact with the Toronto Blue Jays. Meanwhile, the Phillies have a reported offer worth about $110 million on the table for J.T. Realmuto. Marcell Ozuna’s market has reportedly “begun to solidify” and the Braves are among the teams interested.

These are important free agent decisions that will leave the Phillies and Braves with obvious holes in their rosters should Realmuto and Ozuna, respectively, opt to sign elsewhere.

While a slow-moving market should leave serviceable options available to them in the event that happens, there aren’t many players of the Realmuto’s or Ozuna’s caliber. The Phillies’ starting catcher right now is Andrew Knapp while the Braves have the light-hitting Ender Inciarte and top prospect Cristian Pache slated to play alongside Ronald Acuña Jr. in the outfield. Without Springer, the Mets are expected to stick with Brandon Nimmo in center field despite him having played only one full season.

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None of the teams in the NL East appear to be done tinkering just yet, however. Even outside the top free agents, just about all of them have other needs to address. New York has been connected to lefty reliever Brad Hand. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies could all use some bullpen help as well. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Washington to upgrade at third base, either. The Marlins would benefit from adding a veteran bat to the middle of their lineup.

The trade market also includes names such as Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Sonny Gray, Mike Moustakas and Kevin Kiermaier, all of whom make sense on at least one or two NL East rosters.

While there are still many factors relevant to the 2021 season not yet determined, such as the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs, one fact is clear: The NL East race is going to be a tight one. Even as teams like the Phillies and Braves wait for their top targets to sign, it’s anyone’s guess as to who finishes the season atop the standings.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Philadelphia
+110--
Toronto
-130--