Braves: NL East named toughest division for 2021 according to

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This past weekend was quiet (again) for the Braves, though as usual, there was some activity concerning the rest of the division, especially the Phillies. Philadelphia’s signing of catcher JT Realmuto was made official on Friday, plus the team inked veteran righty Ivan Nova to a minor league deal, while the Mets also made another move, signing left-handed pitcher Aaron Loup on Sunday. 

Another weekend with nothing coming from Atlanta, though. 

And although it was probably suspected by most (but certainly doesn’t make Braves Country feel any better), this past weekend, pegged the NL East as the toughest division in baseball, a pretty logical claim when considering the number of moves made by several teams within the division. 

As of Tuesday, February 1st, collectively, all five teams in the NL East have made 21 major league signings (counting qualifying offers) and 11 trades overall, with the former totaling roughly $295 million in total salary (via FanGraphsRoster Resource). Transactions by the Phillies make up over half of that division-wide FA spending (51.6% to be exact), thanks to their decision to re-up with Realmuto for five years and $115.5 million. 


 2021 NL East moves (as of Tuesday)

  1. Phillies — 4 signings ($152.5M) / 3 trades
  2. Mets — 5 signings ($79M) / 4 trades
  3. Nationals — 6 signings ($29M) / 1 trade
  4. Braves — 4 signings ($28.25M) / 0 trades
  5. Marlins — 2 signings ($5.85M) / 3 trades

I haven’t run the numbers yet (maybe a future write-up), but perhaps it’s safe to presume that the Mets have added the most value so far this winter, given the team successfully extended a qualifying offer to Marcus Stroman, not to mention the big trade with Cleveland that netted both shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco. Those three players alone are expected to provide 10.2 fWAR in value this coming season, according to ZiPS projections. 

Unfortunately, while the division is no doubt set up to be the toughest in years, so far, Atlanta has seemingly done little to keep up. Of the Braves’ four big-league signings, only two are expected to make any substantial contributions to the team in 2021 — Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton (two deals that took place almost 3 months ago). No offense to hitters Abraham Almonte and Ehire Adrianza, but Atlanta certainly should have done much better with the $28.25 million they spent so far. 

I’m not saying the Braves inactivity should lessen the excitement regarding 2021. Freddie Freeman‘s coming off an MVP campaign, three-fifths of the starting rotation are expected to be filthy, and most of the bullpen remains, plus there are the wild cards like Dansby Swanson appearing to figure things out at the plate, and the fact that the lineup will be looking for a bounce-back from Ozzie Albies. Sure, Atlanta could’ve made more deals this offseason, and if the roster still sits as is come Opening Day, there will be an understandable amount of frustration throughout Braves Country. But toughest-division or not, the NL East is still Atlanta’s to lose. 


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