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Mar 19, 2024 6:01 pm

NL East capsules: Phillies seek to close gap on Braves in division

Bryce Harper

2024 NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST CAPSULES

Atlanta Braves
2023 record: 104-58 (1st place, NL East)
KEY MOVES
He gone: OF Eddie Rosario, SS Vaughn Grissom, LHP Brad Hand, RHP Kirby Yates, RHP Michael Soroka, RHP Kyle Wright
New faces: LHP Chris Sale, OF Jarred Kelenic, OF Adam Duvall, RHP Reynaldo Lopez, LHP Aaron Bummer, INF David Fletcher
Biggest question entering Opening Day: Can seven-time All-Star Chris Sale, who has made only 31 starts over the past four seasons, stay healthy for a full season? Sale, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Vaughn Grissom deal, started 20 games with the Red Sox last season and has looked good this spring, so there’s reason for optimism that the soon-to-be 35-year-old lefty can be a productive member of the rotation.
2024 Outlook: World Series champions in 2021, the Braves have lost to the rival Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series the past two postseasons. That said, with a stacked lineup and a solid pitching staff, there’s no reason to think that they won’t be in the mix to compete in another Fall Classic. Unanimous NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. heads a lineup that in 2023 led the major leagues in five major categories, while 20-game winner Spencer Strider is the unquestioned ace as the Braves vie for their seventh straight NL East title.

Miami Marlins
2023 record: 84-78 (3rd place, NL East)
KEY MOVES
He gone: DH Jorge Soler, 1B Garrett Cooper, LHP Steven Okert
New faces: SS Tim Anderson, OF Nick Gordon, INF Vidal Brujan, C Christian Bethancourt
Biggest question entering Opening Day: With ace Sandy Alcantara out for the season after Tommy John surgery last fall and Braxton Garrett and Max Meyer still working their way back, who will fill the open rotation spot? It appears it’ll be A.J. Puk. After an impressive season out of Miami’s bullpen, Puk could become a valuable trade chip if he thrives in his new assignment. Moving him into this role costs Miami a key late reliever but could be a boon to a talented rotation. As for the front office, it has a whole new look with former Tampa Bay Rays general manager Peter Bendix running baseball operations after Kim Ng’s departure. Bendix overhauled a staff that oversaw a playoff run in 2023. Will that backfire on the Marlins, or will a fresh, new outlook push the franchise forward?
2024 Outlook: The Marlins will try to make the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time in team history, although losing Alcantara to injury and Soler to free agency will be tough to overcome. However, a rotation led by Jesus Luzardo remains a strength, and with the addition of Anderson, the lineup — featuring 2023 National League batting champion Luis Arraez — should not see a drop-off.

New York Mets
2023 record: 75-87 (4th place, NL East)
KEY MOVES
He gone: Manager Buck Showalter, RHP Carlos Carrasco, DH Daniel Vogelbach, INF Luis Guillorme
New faces: RHP Luis Severino, INF Joey Wendle, LHP Sean Manaea, LHP Jake Diekman, RHP Adrian Houser, CF Harrison Bader, OF Tyrone Taylor, 1B Ji Man Choi, RHP Jorge Lopez, RHP Shintaro Fujinami, RHP Michael Tonkin, RHP Yohan Ramirez, INF Zack Short
Biggest question entering Opening Day: Pete Alonso is slated to be a free agent after this season and has said he wants to stay. With no deal imminent, will the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year and three-time All-Star sign an extension? “I definitely have envisioned myself of being a lifelong Met,” Alonso said at camp. “And I love New York. It’s a really special place for my family and I. I’ve definitely thought about the idea. I’ve definitely welcomed the idea, but I can’t predict the future.”
2024 Outlook: With new faces in management (president of baseball operations David Stearns) and in the dugout (rookie manager Carlos Mendoza) following last season’s collapse, the Mets had a quiet offseason and figure to be at best a third-place team. All-Star closer Edwin Diaz returns after he missed last season with an injury, but starter Kodai Senga — the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up – is out at least a month and the Mets are relying on progression from young hitters Francisco Alvarez, Brett Baty and Mark Vientos.

Philadelphia Phillies
2023 record: 90-72 (2nd place, NL East)
KEY MOVES
He gone: RHP Craig Kimbrel, 1B Rhys Hoskins, RHP Michael Lorenzen
New faces: OF Whit Merrifield, LHP Kolby Allard, RHP Spencer Turnbull
Biggest question entering Opening Day: Having let Craig Kimbrel leave via free agency, who will close games for the Phillies? It appears Jose Alvarado is first in line to be the full-time closer, but Gregory Soto, Seranthony Dominguez, Jeff Hoffman and Orion Kerkering also could receive save opportunities. Soto was an All-Star with the Tigers in 2021 and ‘22, but his chances could be limited behind fellow southpaw Alvarado. Dominguez looks to rebound from a down season, while Hoffman and Kerkering, who played in key spots in the postseason, likely will be used in other relief roles, barring injuries.
2024 Outlook: On the cusp of a title in the past two postseasons, the Phillies once again are poised to be a title contender, and with several players in their prime — namely Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and J.T. Realmuto — anything short of a World Series ring likely would be viewed as a disappointment in Philadelphia. The pieces are in place, so barring any major injuries, the Phillies have a legitimate shot of overtaking the rival Braves in the NL East en route to winning it all.

Washington Nationals
2023 record: 71-91 (5th place, NL East)
KEY MOVES
He gone: 1B Dominic Smith, RHP Carl Edwards Jr., INF Michael Chavis
New faces: 1B/OF/DH Joey Gallo, OF Eddie Rosario, INF Nick Senzel, OF Jesse Winker, RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Derek Law
Biggest question entering Opening Day: Will the Nationals’ up-and-coming young players and prospects give fans hope for the future? Right-hander Josiah Gray earned his first All-Star bid in 2023, but it remains to be seen if left-hander MacKenzie Gore and shortstop CJ Abrams, who both came over in the Juan Soto trade to the Padres, can take the next steps in their progression. Outfield prospects James Wood and Dylan Crews — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 draft — may push their way into the majors this season and provide fans with a glimpse into a bright future.
2024 Outlook: Coming off four straight last-place finishes following their World Series title in 2019, the Nationals aren’t expected to contend, but with heaps of young talent throughout the system, they should continue to progress in their rebuilding process. Playing in a division that boasted three playoff teams in 2023, a lot would have to break in the Nats’ favor for them to even come close to finishing .500.

–Field Level Media

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