Reese Kaplan -- The Top Division Rivals Improve, Too


While the Mets have improved for 2019 through the additions of Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos, everyone acknowledges that they still have some work to do to compete with the big boys.  So how have the other division heavyweights been doing?

The upstart Atlanta Braves on the backs of some 20-somethings became the NL Eastern Division Champions in 2018.  Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies were fighting neck and neck for Rookie of the Year Honors (which eventually went to Acuna).  In addition they got solid seasons out of Ender Inciarte in CF and some decent power out of former Cincinnati Red Adam Duvall.  Freddie Freeman provided his usual solid offensive output as well.

Not content to stand still, the Braves took a very expensive roll of the dice on oft-injured Josh Donaldson to take over at 3B this season on a one year $23 million free agent contract.  They also brought back catcher Brian McCann to end his career where it began.  He’s on a one-year $2 million contract with Tyler Flowers backing him up should last year’s offensive stumbles prove to be age-related decline.

Number one starter Mike Foltynewicz finally put together the kind of year they’d been expecting ever since receiving him in trade for slugger Evan Gattis.  He finished the year with a 13-10 record with a 2.85 ERA.  The trick will be finding out if this level of performance is sustainable. 

After that comes Kevin Gausman, below .500 and 3.92 ERA.  Next up is formerly top prospect Julio Teheran who was .500 with a 3.94 ERA.  Sean Newcomb is SP4 with a 12-9 record and a 3.94 ERA.  Converted reliever Touki Toussaint is penciled in for SP5 but his control may make it difficult for him to keep that role all year.  Starting pitching isn’t showing much intimidation factor for other teams.

The bullpen is not filled with a lot of high profile names but they were quietly effective headed by new closer Arodys Vizcaino and veterans like Darren O’Day and Jonny Venters in support roles.

In the city of Brotherly Love, the Phillies have not stood pat this season either.  The big headline trade to Seattle sending Carlos Hernandez to where weed is legal, brought SS Jean Segura, RP James Pazos and reliever Juan Nicasio.  The big free agent acquisition is 32 year old former Pirate Andrew McCutchen.  The former All Star is coming off a substandard year yet managed to wrangle a lucrative $62 million deal for four years from the Phils.  It’s somewhat backloaded which means that this first year is only costing them $10 million but by year three it pays $20 million and he will be virtually unmovable. 

Arguably even a bigger addition to the Phillies this off-season has been new reliever David Robertson who will work alongside 2018 closer Seranthony Dominguez.  James Pazos also should help reinforce an otherwise lackluster pen that also features unheralded but highly effective Pat Neshek. 

The starting rotation is headed by Cy Young contender Aaron Nola and former ace Jake Arrieta.  After that it gets a bit murkier with a number of unproven arms which desperately could use some reinforcement. 

The Marlins are not worth analyzing unless they suddenly turn around to trade JT Realmuto for a huge bundle of major league ready talent. 

The Mets look as if they have their work cut out for themselves.


Tom Brennan said...

Good portrayal of two division rivals. The Mets better be clear-eyed about it and be aggressive. And,of course, there is still Max Scherzer's boys...Max will want his Cy Young award back next year.

Mack Ade said...

One of the rags out there has the Mets now finishing second in the division and making the Wild Card. Interesting.

I just got back from walking my dog, Maggie May.

I always run into a neighborhood friend of mine who is a big Georgia and Cubs fan. We always spend a new minutes discussing the Clemson Tigers. Bulldogs, Cubbies, and Mets.

He asked me if the Mets had improved at all this off season (he's upset that the Cubs gave up on Daniel Murphy and some infielder that was their best pinch hitter last season).

I told him about the addition of Cano, Diaz, Familia, and Ramos.

He asked if it cost us any of our rotation pitchers and I said no.


Interesting outside perspective from someone with no knowledge of chips or the fact that they are worth nothing until they excel at the major league level.

Robb said...

right now every division team is improved except the nationals and the are improved considerably except you dont know about Harper's replacement. If he comes back they a definitely improved. The Braves made some really smart moves and Kimbrel might end up there. The phillies are better, but unless they get 1 or the 2 big guys I think gabe kaplers team self destructs at some point.

I think every team is improved significantly except the marlins. While I hate the Cano trade, there is no doubt for 2019 the mets will be a better team because of it.

Mike Freire said...

The Braves won the division last year with 90 wins, which isn't a crazy number (thankful we are not in the AL East).

The Mets are better (on paper), as are the Phillies and the Braves should still be a contender. Washington will also
be in the mix, so you have four teams with a chance to win the division, IMO. That "parity" will likely keep a lid on the
number of games it will take to win the division, since the four teams will likely beat the hell out of each other.

I see the current Mets' edition in the mid-80's for wins (with the improvements so far), so there is work to do if 90 is
your target.

Another lefty in the bullpen and a better CF'er could do the trick.

Tom Brennan said...

Mike, we don't need 90, the target should be how do we get to 95?


The Mets' home field remains a disadvantage - I have an article on that in the days to come. The Mets enjoy shooting themselves in the foot.

Mack's Mets © 2012