The NL East was the most competitive division in baseball last year, and it’s primed to be the class of the MLB again in 2023. It had two 100+ win teams, sent three to the postseason, and one made the World Series. Coming off those incredibly successful seasons, the clubs aren’t being complacent.
The Mets signed Brandon Nimmo and Justin Verlander; the Phillies nabbed Trea Turner, and the Braves are primed to make a big move before the end of the winter. Even if Atlanta doesn’t re-sign Dansby Swanson, Alex Anthopoulos will allocate those resources elsewhere to upgrade the roster, whether that be on another shortstop, a left fielder, the bullpen or starting rotation.
With the Braves rattling off five straight division crowns, the Mets and Phillies are hungry for the NL East. However, Atlanta isn’t going to just roll over, no matter how much money Steve Cohen and John Middleton spend on free agents. And MLB insider Jon Morosi still believes the Braves have the best roster in the division even after the Mets and Phillies marquee free agent signings.
Morosi does acknowledge the elephant in the room for the Braves — the shortstop position. Dansby Swanson could very well sign elsewhere because it’s become evident Atlanta won’t have the most lucrative contract on the table. Alex Anthopoulos will not be a prisoner of the moment and get into a bidding war; he has a number and likely won’t eclipse that figure, regardless of the player.
If the Braves decide to move on from Swanson, Morosi points out that Vaughn Grissom will become one of the most closely watched players in the MLB. And I don’t think that’s hyperbole. Taking over for arguably the greatest shortstop in franchise history while the team has World Series aspirations is almost too much pressure for a kid with 41 games under his belt. However, the reliability of Atlanta’s everyday players gives them the edge, according to Morosi.
Regardless of who the Braves trot out to shortstop on Opening Day, the roster is as talented as any in baseball and is a shoo-in for the playoffs, despite the loaded division. Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider aren’t just the best young players in the National League; they’re two of the best players at their respective positions, period. Ronald Acuna Jr. is one year further removed from his ACL injury. The club’s rotation and bullpen are loaded, and the lineup is one of the deepest in baseball.
The NL East is the Braves’ division to lose, and Jon Morosi agrees, pointing out the incredible differences in payroll between the Mets and Braves. New York is paying Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer nearly $87 million, while Atlanta is paying Austin Riley, Matt Olson, Ronald Acuna Jr., Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Max Fried $300K less. Every team in the league wants the core the Braves have under contract. They’ll be perennial contenders for the next 5+ seasons.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire
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