On Sunday, the San Diego Padres decided to culminate their very impressive offseason with another big move. They were able to acquire Craig Kimbrel, the Braves closer who was regarded as one of the best in the game. While they did have to take on the contract of Melvin Upton Jr., this is a major deal for San Diego in terms of their playoff implications.
As for the Braves, they got outfielders Carlos Quentin and Cameron Maybin along with prospect pitcher Matt Wisler, 20-year outfield prospect Jordan Paroubeck, and the 41st pick in this year’s draft. It was known that Atlanta was in a transition mode for the 2015 season, but not to this level with the Kimbrel trade. Atlanta did add one of San Diego’s best pitching prospects in Wisler, but this is clearly a move to make the Braves better when they move into the new ballpark in 2017.
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So, how does this effect how the Washington Nationals will finish in the NL East? Either way, the Nats are still the favorites, but they still do not have to see Kimbrel in the ninth inning 19 times a season, which is huge. Kimbrel has a career 1.79 ERA against Washington, including 14 combined saves in 16 chances over the last two seasons.
Go back to last season when Washington had 95 wins and were the NL East champions. Even in that successful of a season, Washington still struggled with the likes of the Braves and Phillies. In fact, the Nats are 14-24 over the last two years against the Braves (8-11 a season ago). This is in contrast to the Nats being 15-4 against the Mets and 13-6 against the Marlins last year.
Now, no two seasons are alike and the games aren’t played on paper. However, if you consider Washington struggled with Atlanta and Philly last year and you buy into the regular season prediction for this season, this is a schedule that Matt Williams squad needs to take advantage of. This Braves team looks a lot more beatable than the ones that have had the upper hand on the team from DC.
Even in a month that will be filled with some transition for Washington with the injuries to their offense, they do have a series with the Braves at the end of the month (April 27-29) at Turner Field. When we get to that series, facing Jason Grilli or Jim Johnson in the ninth inning is going to look a lot more daunting than going up against one of the best closers, if not the best closer in the game today.