NL East Hinges on Remaining Free Agents

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While the lockout has put a stop to essentially all Major League Baseball activities, it provides the unique opportunity to pause, mid-offseason, and take an in-depth look at the state of the National League East. The Mets grabbed all the headlines prior to the collective bargaining agreement’s expiration, adding four quality major league pieces to a team that finished third in the division last year. On the other hand, the Phillies and Braves have lost some key contributors and have yet to make a splashy addition.

Starting Pitching

At this point in time, the three NL East competitors all feel fairly evenly matched in this department. The Mets one-two punch is better than any other in baseball, but the depth beyond that is a bit of a coin flip. The Braves boast the combination of Fried/Morton/Anderson, all of whom are less proven than the Mets aces, but were the driving force behind the Braves 2021 World Series win. The Phillies, after years of questionable starters beyond Wheeler/Nola, may actually have the best rotation on paper. With the sudden dominance of Ranger Suarez and the acquisition of Kyle Gibson, they now have a very reliable one through four. All of these teams will likely be on the hunt for additional pitching when free agency returns, likely hunting the same names including Yusei Kikuchi, Tyler Anderson, or Zack Greinke.

Relief Pitching

Once again, it seems to be a relatively level playing field halfway through the offseason. The Phillies are the only team to make a significant addition with Corey Knebel but lost Hector Neris, and their bullpen seems cursed to be a disaster no matter what they do. The Braves, meanwhile, have not lost any key relievers. While their bullpen had an up and down 2021, they absolutely shut down the competition in October. The Mets had a fairly reliable relief corps last year but have lost Aaron Loup and Jeurys Familia. On the bright side, New York has retained Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, and Seth Lugo. The depth behind them is certainly lacking, and once again all three teams should look to make significant additions here, circling names like Andrew Chafin and Ryan Tepera.


Here is where the difference lies. All three of these teams entered the offseason with massive holes in their lineup, and only the Mets have moved to feel them. They have added three major league quality bats and may not be done yet. At the very least, the Mets already have the pieces in place to field a competitive lineup if opening day was tomorrow. On the other hand, the Braves need at least one outfielder and currently have a black hole at first base where cornerstone Freddie Freeman once stood. In even worse shape are the Phillies, whose left side of the infield can neither hit nor field, and whose outfield consists of 2021 NL Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper, Matt Vierling(???), and a half-filled bucket of baseballs.

The Braves’ primary focus is at first base, seemingly locked in a battle with the Yankees and Dodgers over Freeman and Matt Olson. If the Braves wind up the odd man out it could spell disaster, as they would have to substitute a mediocre player for their former best hitter. The Phillies meanwhile are searching high and low, with rumors connecting them to Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and Kris Bryant. Here is where things could get interesting though, as the Mets have also been heavily linked to Bryant as their final offensive addition heading into 2022.

Ultimately, these three teams all have significant additions to be made once free agency resumes. Interestingly, they may have many of the same targets in mind, which could give Mets owner Steve Cohen an opportunity to further use his wallet to push the Mets up the standings.

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David Murtha is an MLB writer covering the New York Mets as well as general baseball news. He is a lifelong Mets fan born and raised in Queens. He is also currently a student at Stony Brook University studying biology, and has previously written for other online publications.