The calendar has flipped to 2021 and spring training is (probably) only five short weeks away. Hopefully MLB and the MLBPA can put their differences aside and get spring training and the regular season started on time, though I fear I'm being overly optimistic.
Throughout the offseason my fellow CBS Sports MLB scribes and I will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated whether the Padres have done enough to catch the Dodgers. Now we'll break down the NL East race.
Are the Mets now the team to beat in the NL East?
R.J. Anderson: They're getting close if they're not already there. The Braves have some potential exposure in their rotation that concerns me -- how will Mike Soroka return?; can Drew Smyly and Kyle Wright keep up their turnarounds?; can Charlie Morton stay healthy? -- and they still need to add an outfielder or third baseman. Who that proves to be -- a Marcell Ozuna reunion is still possible -- and who else the Mets add the rest of the winter will dictate it for me. But I think it's fair to favor the Mets based on the current rosters.
Matt Snyder: I'm going with yes, though the Braves are right there. The Mets were already a good offensive team and there are plenty of reasons to believe they'll be better this time around without even mentioning the trade for Francisco Lindor. Jacob deGrom is probably still the best pitcher in baseball while Carlos Carrasco and Marcus Stroman are very good 2-3 types. Let's not forget Noah Syndergaard is probably going to be back for the second half. Further, I don't think the Mets are going to let up. Even if the Braves do something like sign Ozuna or trade for someone like Kris Bryant, the Mets will stay aggressive and looking at the potential with that playoff rotation (deGrom, Carrasco, Stroman, Syndergaard), they could be pretty scary in October.
Dayn Perry: Yeah, I lean Mets at this point. The Lindor addition is obviously a true needle-mover, and James McCann also addresses a weakness. As others have noted, the rotation behind deGrom is looking potentially strong, especially after Thor gets back. I don't buy the Nats just yet, and I think the likely losses of Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto will significantly diminish the chances of the Braves and Phillies, respectively. The Marlins seem ripe for regression. Basically, it's a case of the Mets investing in their own roster and nobody else in the division doing that so far.
Mike Axisa: I lean Mets ever so slightly at this point. I'm not a big James McCann believer, but the Mets did make two significant upgrades in Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman qualifies as an upgrade as well seeing how he did not play last year. Considering how thin the rotation was behind Jacob deGrom last year, and how underwhelming the Mets have been at shortstop since Jose Reyes was at his peak, I don't think it's crazy to think Lindor, Carrasco, and Stroman equal 10 additional wins in 2021.
That said, I don't think the Braves are done. They say they're committed to Austin Riley at third base, and fine, I'm willing to believe that, but there's still room for another outfielder. Bringing Marcell Ozuna back would be ideal, particularly if the universal DH becomes permanent, but someone like Michael Brantley or Joc Pederson would do just as well. Also, I think the Braves have another bullpen move coming, even if it's just re-signing Mark Melancon. Of course, the Mets could more than negate anything Atlanta does with a George Springer signing, or possibly even a Jackie Bradley Jr. signing. I lean toward the Mets right now. It's close though.
(For what it's worth, the ZiPS projection system has the Mets as a true talent 91-win team following the Lindor and Carrasco trade. The system has the Braves a tick better at 92 wins.)
Katherine Acquavella: Yes, the Mets' recent offseason additions give them a slight edge in the NL East race. New York had a pretty good offense prior to adding Lindor, but now, and the Mets could end up having one of the best lineups in the baseball next season. Stroman and Carrasco help add stability to the rotation, Trevor May is a fine addition to the bullpen and McCann finally fills the catcher hole for the Mets. And, who's to say they're done? There could very well be one (or two) more big moves if Steve Cohen is willing to keep spending.
As for the rest of the NL East, the Braves aren't too far behind the Mets. However, the potential loss of Ozuna and some unknowns re: their rotation (when will Soroka return? how will Anderson perform in year two?) could make them vulnerable. The Nationals will have a healthy Stephen Strasburg along with a few lineup upgrades (Josh Bell, Kyle Schwarber) that might be enough to make this division a three-team race. In Philly, they've got a new baseball ops president in Dave Dombrowski, but that won't mean much if they let Realmuto walk in free agency. The Marlins young rotation will likely impress again in 2021, but they'll ultimately be at the bottom of the pack.