Division Roundup: Checking in on the NL East


Sep 16, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder

Bryce Harper

(34, in hat) celebrates a victory against the Atlanta Braves with teammates at Turner Field. The Nationals defeated the Braves 3-0 to clinch the National League eastern division championship. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the 2014 season, the Washington Nationals were widely considered favorites to not only win the NL East title, but also to win the World Series. And while they fell short of earning the Commissioner’s Trophy in October, they did win the NL East – their second division title in three years – and they won it rather easily.

Despite a rather sluggish start to the season, the Nationals finished the year with an NL-best 96 wins. While they narrowly edged the Dodgers for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, they paced every other team in the division and were the only NL East team to make the postseason.

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The Nationals’ strongest challengers for the title were the Braves, who stayed neck-and-neck with Washington for most of the summer. Towards the end of the season, however, the Braves imploded and the Nationals ended up winning the division by a whopping 17 games.

The Nationals never saw a significant challenge from the Mets, Marlins or Phillies, but a late-season surge by the Mets earned New York a second-place tie with Atlanta. Overall, the NL East was a weak division last year. Many expected the Nationals and Braves to battle it out all season long, but in the end, the Nationals were the only playoff-calliber team and were the only team to finish the season over .500.

Here’s how the NL East looked at the end of last season:

z-Washington Nationals9666.59351-3045-36
Atlanta Braves7983.48817.042-3937-44
New York Mets7983.48817.040-4139-42
Miami Marlins7785.47519.042-3935-46
Philadelphia Phillies7389.45123.037-4436-45

Now, with the 2014 season behind us and Opening Day just a few months away, the Nationals will once again enter the season with monumental expectations and everyone will expect them to win the division title for the third time in four years.

On paper, the Nationals are easily the most talented ball club and it shouldn’t be too hard for them to defend their title. But, as we saw last season with the Braves, things don’t always go as planned. Baseball is an unpredictable game, and over the course of a 162-game season, anything can happen. Injuries, trades and free agent acquisitions, along with all the other unpredictable aspects of the game, can dramatically change the course of a season.

While the Nationals are clear favorites to win the division again in 2015, it’s impossible to know what will happen until it happens. For all we know, the Phillies could shock everyone and come out on top in the NL East next season. Unlikely? Sure. Impossible? Of course not.

For this reason, it’s important to keep track of news from all NL East teams during the offseason, regardless of how good they’re expected to be in 2015. After all, while championship teams are built over the course of a season, the foundation of those teams is set by their respective front offices during the offseason. If the Nationals are going to win the division for the second year in a row, a lot of it will depend on what they and the other teams do this offseason.

The Braves began making their offseason moves before the regular season even ended, cutting ties with general manager Frank Wren in late September. Under new President of Baseball Operations John Hart, the Braves have had a busy, rebuilding offseason that has included trading big-name players, such as outfielders Jason Hayward and Justin Upton, in exchange for projects that will, ideally, help them return to dominance in the future.

The Marlins have made the most noise out of any team in the NL East. The team started the offseason by signing outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to the most expensive contract in baseball history – 13 years, $325 million. Miami didn’t stop there, however, and they’ve made several moves that could help them rise to the next level. Based on what they’ve done this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Marlins are the biggest threat to the Nationals’ NL East hopes in 2015.

The Phillies have also made some noise this offseason, most notably trading long-time shortstop Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers. But the Phillies are still an aging team that needs to trade away a bunch of veterans and bring in some quality prospects if they want to have any chance of competing in the next few years.

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The Mets have probably had the most disappointing offseason out of any NL East team. Most thought this winter would finally be the time when the Mets would start spending some money and bringing in quality free agents for positions of need, most notably shortstop. Instead, the Mets went out and signed Michael Cuddyer – and haven’t done much else.

That said, the Mets still have a great pitching staff and may very well contend in 2015. But with the offseason that they’ve had, anything better than a third place finish would be surprising.

The Nationals won the division with relative ease in 2014, and they may very well do it again next season. It won’t be easy, however, as the NL East should be much more competitive than it was last season and the Marlins and Mets are on the verge of contention.

Here are some NL East links from around FanSided to help you keep up with news from the division:


Tomahawk Take: Atlanta Braves most definitely playing Moneyball

Tomahawk Take: The Atlanta Braves Continue To Make Deals…Trade For a 17-Year-Old


Marlin Maniac: Contract Extensions Not A Priority At the Moment

Marlin Maniac: Miguel Rojas – Donovan Solano Battle for Marlins utility infield role


Rising Apple: Sandy Alderson on shortstop: “I believe we will have what we currently have”

Rising Apple: Is Terry Collins capable of leading the Mets back to contention?


That Ball’s Outta Here: Luke Putkonen a Possible Phillies Option

That Ball’s Outta Here: Cole Hamels: Six Suitors