An injury-marred Braves team disappointed in the postseason, unable to make it past a Cardinals team that was clearly less talented. Thus, they never had the opportunity to face off against the eventual World Champion Nationals, a team that the Braves went 11-8 against in the regular season and finished four games above in the division.
The Nationals felt like a team of destiny last season, and we don’t know what would have happened if the Braves advanced. However, oddsmakers are favoring Atlanta over Washington to represent the National League in the World Series, only behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A lot of this likely has to do with Washington losing Anthony Rendon. They still have a solid lineup, but now lack a real cleanup hitter and protection for Juan Soto. Their signings of Starlin Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera help fill the gaps, but this most likely – despite what they might tell you – takes them out of the running for Josh Donaldson. And with reports of Minnesota’s pessimism surrounding signing the Bringer of Rain, it appears rather likely he returns to Atlanta, which the oddsmakers may very well already be taking into account.
The Braves, if they do not sign Donaldson, would have a similar issue. However, they are the overwhelming favorites, and Donaldson is giving them the final call on any deal he is offered. Another thing that sets these two teams apart is the Braves have the assets to make a trade if they have to pivot, and the Nationals have sparse assets outside of Carter Kieboom.
Both teams have improved their bullpens this offseason, but there is no doubt Atlanta’s relief core is light years better. The Nationals have the best rotation in baseball, but the Braves’ should still be one of the better staffs in the league. This division may come down to one signing, which hopefully will happen any day now.
The Nationals loss of Rendon is a dagger. They won their World Series, but it time for the Braves to get hungry and seek more than a third straight NL East title. Vegas is smart, so it’s good to see they are giving the Braves the second-best odds to make it out of the N.L. Not to mention, they have the pieces to make a push at the trade deadline if needed. Something tells me this is the season the playoff drought comes to an end.