At 42-36, the Mets are the lone team in the division above .500. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies are all 4 games back. Does anybody really want to win this division? The one apparent certainty is that no wild card will come from the NL East. As I address each team below, bear in mind the draft is during the All Star break next week and the trade deadline is July 30.
New York Mets—They are in first despite injuries to Syndergaard, McNeil, Conforto, Davis and Nimmo. It’s also despite Francisco Lindor’s very disappointing season at the plate. They have a $201M payroll, giving them $9M of space below the luxury tax threshold. I have them in the buyers category, if they don’t slump this month. Of course, having this guy on the mound every 5 days is huge:
Atlanta Braves—Are they buyers or sellers? For each of the second place teams in the division, I don’t know—and I don’t think they do either yet. If they buy, they have needs in center field and the bullpen. This week they play the Marlins and Pirates—they need to take advantage of that as after the All Star break (and before the trade deadline) they get the Mets, Padres, and Rays (and Phillies).
Washington Nationals—They remember how far back they were in 2019 before being hot the whole second half and winning the World Series. That experience will make them reticent about selling. Kyle Schwarber appeared to be putting the whole team on his back, smashing 16 homers in 18 games…and then injuring a hamstring that will have him out “for an extended time.” Max Scherzer is in the last year of his contract. Much of his salary for this year is deferred. The Nationals have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Ie, if the Nationals choose to sell, a team with a deep farm system (*cough* Rays please *cough*) could have him without a large dollar investment.
Philadelphia Phillies—They invested heavily in relief pitching over the winter…and need more. They also have a $206M payroll, so roster flexibility is a problem. They’d love to offload Didi Gregorius, but his -0.5 WAR means he won’t bring back anything of worth.
Miami Marlins—They were a surprise playoff team last year but are not a surprise to be 8.5 games back this year. They’ve already moved Corey Dickerson. Who else will go? Starting Marte will draw interest from multiple teams, as will Jesus Aguilar.