Atlanta Braves Ronald Acuna Jr.

NL East 2020 preview: acquisitions, losses, and takeaways

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Miami Marlins
  • New York Mets
  • NL East
  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Washington Nationals
By Michael Flores March 11, 2020 0 Comment
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Previewing the key acquisitions, losses, and takeaways of the NL East, leading up to Opening Day of the upcoming 2020 MLB season.

Atlanta Braves:

Record: 97-65

The Atlanta Braves won the NL East for the second year in a row. Also, for the second year in a row, they were eliminated in the NLDS.  A 100-win season is on deck for this young team. As a result, this team should be in the playoffs again this year. Look out for Cristian Pache (Braves #1 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s #11 overall prospect) to get his first taste of The Show this year.

Key Acquisitions:

Will Smith – Free Agency (2019 San Francisco Giants) – 3-Year deal

IP ERA K K/9 Saves
65.1 2.76 96 13.22 34

Cole Hamels – Free Agency (2019 Chicago Cubs)

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
141.2 3.81 143 9.08 2.5

Marcell Ozuna – Free Agency (2019 St. Louis Cardinals)

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% BB%
.241/.328/.472 29 89 11.3 20.8

Key Losses:

Josh Donaldson – Free Agency (Minnesota Twins) – 4-Year deal

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI BB% fWAR
.259/.379/.521 37 94 15.2 4.9

Julio Teherán – Free Agency (Los Angeles Angels) – 1-Year deal

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
174.2 3.81 162 8.35 1.6

Key Takeaways:

– Julio Teheran was signed by the Braves in 2007, at the age of 16. He made his Major League debut in 2011, but was also sent down and called up multiple times throughout the season. He was a very serviceable pitcher, owning a 3.67 ERA in 1360 IP in his career with the Braves, but did not live up to the hype of #5 overall prospect that MLB Pipeline had ranked him in 2012. As a result, the team decided to buy out his option for the 2020 season and let him enter Free Agency.

Dallas Keuchel signed with the Braves on June 7th and saw his first Major League action of the year, June 21st. He ended up making 19 starts for the year.  While he was brought in to help this team make a run in the playoffs, it was more of a tryout for a real contract this offseason. He did well enough, pitching to a 3.75 ERA in 112.2 IP. For that reason, he was able to secure a 3-year $55.5MM contract with the Chicago White Sox.

Shane Greene was a hot target at the deadline, due to his first-half dominance. Greene had a 1.18 ERA and 22 saves before being traded. Braves desperately needed a closer, so they were more than willing to trade their 2013, and 2016 first-round picks. Braves finally found their closer, or so they thought. Greene struggled with the Braves. His second half saw him pitching to a 4.01 ERA, and only managing one save. As a result, he was replaced by Mark Melancon. If he can regain his 1st half 2019 form, the tandem of Greene and Melancon could be very dangerous.

– The Braves were looking for a #4 and a #5 starter this offseason. So they decided to take some chances on two often injured pitchers, but very good when healthy, in Cole Hamels and Félix Hernández. Cole Hamels was coming off a season with the Chicago Cubs, where he was once again battling injuries and was not the pitcher that he was in the second half of 2018 when they traded for him. Unfortunately, due to injury, he may miss the first month of the season. Hernádez has not been King Félix for several years now. Consequently, after 15 years, the Mariners decided to move on. He is projected to make the Braves rotation and looking to regain his crown.

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Miami Marlins:

Record: 57-105

Miami Marlins finished last in the NL East for the second year in a row. Miami has now lost 203 games in the first two years in the Derek Jeter era. There is no clear game plan for the Marlins, besides shedding payroll. As a result of this, it seems as if they are trading away all their big names and signing aging veterans.

Key Acquisitions:

Jonathan Villar – Traded from Baltimore Orioles

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI SB fWAR
.274/.339/.453 24 73 40 4.0

Corey Dickerson – Free Agency (2019 Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies) – 2-Year deal

*Limited to 279 AB due to injuries*

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI wRC+ fWAR
.304/.341/.565 12 59 127 1.0

Key Losses:

Starlin Castro – Free Agency (Washington Nationals)

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.270/.300/.436 22 86 16.4 1.3

Key Takeaways:

Matt Kemp, Matt Joyce, and Francisco Cervelli were all added this year on 1-year deals, the former two on minor league deals. All are projected to be backups if they make the team out of Spring Training. They are all at the tail end of their respective careers, but they could all be a great veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Jesús Aguilar has not been able to find a permanent home, making stops for three different teams in his short career. Since his debut in 2014, he has only been able to accrue just over three years of service time. It appeared as if Aguilar was going to finally break out in 2018 when he made his first All-Star team, but he eventually cooled off in the second half, hitting only .245. If he is lucky, he will be the everyday first baseman, but do not be surprised if he splits time with Garrett Cooper.

Sterling Sharp was picked up by the Marlins in the Rule-5 draft from the Washington Nationals. He has to stay on the Major League roster for the entire season. Otherwise, the Marlins have to offer him back to the Nationals for half his $100K draft price. He has yet to pitch above AA, so this may be a risky move, but Miami knows they are not competing this year.

New York Mets:

Record: 86-76

After being ten games under .500 in the first half, the Mets decided not to be sellers at the trade deadline. Instead, they made what seemed to be a questionable move. They traded for Marcus Stroman. They ended up going 46-26 in the second half. The Mets finished in third place in the NL East, and just missed the second Wild Card spot by three games.

Key Acquisition:

Dellin Betances – Free Agency (2019 New York Yankees) – 1-Year deal

*2018 Stats (New York Yankees);  Due to injured 2019 season only had 0.2 IP*

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
66.2 2.70 115 15.53 1.7

Key Loss:

Zack Wheeler– Free Agency (Philadelphia Phillies) – 5-Year deal

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
195.1 3.96 195 8.98 4.7

Key Takeaways:

– After a 2018 season that saw him finishing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting, in only 225 AB, Jeff McNeil was an All-Star in his first full season. He slashed .318/.384/.531 with 23 HR, which was good enough for a 143 wRC+ and 4.6 fWAR. If he can raise his walk rate, he will be even more dangerous. He is expected to be the everyday third baseman going into the 2020 season. While third base is the position, he has played the least of since making his debut, but as a super-utility man, there should not be an issue.

Pete Alonso won NL Rookie of the Year by a landslide but was a single vote short of being unanimous. To say he was terrific on offense would be an understatement. Alonso broke the single-season rookie home run record, with 53, and was also only 10 RBI away from tying the NL Rookie record, with 120. If he can improve on his 26.4K%, he will continue to get great pitches to hit.

– The Mets pitching staff was the definition of the team of two halves. In the first half of the season, they had a 4.86 ERA and, as a result, were the 21st ranked team. The Mets quickly turned that around in the second half with a 3.48 ERA. As a result, they ended the 2nd half as the 4th best pitching staff in the league.

Jeurys Familia and Edwin Díaz are typically guys that you could call upon and feel comfortable with to pitch in any situation. Last season was a different story, as they both had an ERA well north of 5.00. If the Mets want to compete in 2020, these are two guys that need to regain their pre-2019 forms.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Record: 81-81

After trading for J.T. Realmuto and signing Bryce Harper, the Phillies were positioned to take charge of the NL East. Instead, they finished .500 and 4th place. With the division only getting better, the Phillies needed to make more moves to be able to compete.

Key Acquisitions:

Zack Wheeler – Free Agency (2019 New York Mets) – 5-Year deal

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
195.1 3.96 195 8.98 4.7

Didi Gregorius – Free Agency (2019 New York Yankees) 1-Year deal

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.238/.276/.441 16 61 15.4 0.9

Key Losses:

Corey Dickerson – Free Agency (Miami Marlins)

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.304/.341/.565 12 59 20.1 1.0

César Hernández – Free Agency (Cleveland Indians)

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.279/.333/.408 14 71 15.0 1.7

Key Takeaways:

Maikel Franco once had a lot of promise, as he was once ranked as the #17 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Instead of being the stud he was projected to be, he has been, at best, a role player. Franco has hit at least 20 HR in 3 separate seasons. Meanwhile, he just does not get on base. His career .302 OBP does not help his case to be a starter. Instead of giving him shot to be a bench bat, the Phillies decided his time with the team was over and non-tendered him.

– The Phillies needed another solid Starting Pitcher, so they went out and added Zack Wheeler. Because he pitched his second straight season of a 4+ fWAR and sub 4.00 ERA, he was able to earn himself a 5-year deal. Also, they were able to take him away from their NL East rival, the New York Mets.

– The Phillies were able to sign the biggest Free Agent from the 2018 class in Bryce Harper, stealing him from their NL East rival.  He was signed to a monster 13-year $330MM deal, so expectations for him were very high. As a result, the Phillies were heavy favorites to take the division and run through the playoffs. Instead, the Phillies finished with a .500 record and did not make the playoffs. Overall, Harper had a good season, hitting 35 HR and 114 RBI. He slashed .260/.372/.510 and had a 4.6 fWAR. It would have been a very respectable year, except everyone expected a huge season to match the huge contract.

Odúbel Herrera was picked up in the Rule-5 Draft in 2014.  He played well for the next four years. In June of 2019, it was found that he violated the Domestic Violence policy when his girlfriend was found to have many visible signs of injury on her body. Consequently, he was suspended without pay for the rest of the season. Also, in January of 2020, he was designated for assignment.

Washington Nationals:

Record: 93-69

The Washington Nationals started the season 24-33 through the end of May. After a rough start, the Nationals finished with 93 wins. As a result, the Nationals finished 2nd in the NL East and were also able to secure the second Wild Card team. After making their way through the Brewers, the Dodgers, and the Cardinals, the Nationals were in the World Series. After taking the Astros to 7 games, the Washington Nationals were finally World Series Champions!

Key Acquisitions:

Will Harris – Free Agency (2019 Houston Astros) – 3-Year deal

IP ERA K K/9 fWAR
60.0 1.50 62 9.30 1.1

Starlin Castro – Free Agency (2019 Miami Marlins) – 2-Year deal

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.270/.300/.436 22 86 16.4 1.3

Key Losses:

Anthony Rendon – Free Agency (Los Angeles Angels)

AVG/OBP/SLG HR RBI K% fWAR
.319/.412/.598 34 126 13.3 7.0

Key Takeaways:

– Anthony Rendon had a career year in 2019 and was also a big part of the World Series run. As a result, he was projected to be one of the hottest Free Agents. Unfortunately for the Nationals, they were not able to retain him. Instead, Rendon ended up signing a 7-year $245with the Los Angeles Angels.

– Also becoming a Free Agent, this offseason was World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. Luckily, the Nationals did not have to also look for his replacement. Washington was able to re-sign Strasburg to a 7-year deal after he opted out of his remaining four years. The Nationals were also able to re-sign Howie Kendrick and career National Ryan Zimmerman.

– The Washington Nationals were finally able to be called World Series Champions for the first time since moving to D.C. in 2005. Consequently, the jokes about the Nationals not being able to win a playoff series are dead.

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Born on the South Side of Chicago. Manage 2 dynasty teams and a yearly redraft team, also a Little League team. Follow me on Twitter @mpflores90

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