The NL East’s top four teams have all been improving this off-season with signings that have ratcheted up the team WAR. When one punches, the other counter-punches. It got so hot this past week after the Mets signed former-Nats catcher Wilson Ramos that the Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen declared, “Internally, we can argue that we’re the favorites in the division right now.” FanGraphs says otherwise Mr. Van Wagenen. After that bold proclamation by the Mets G.M., it was the Nationals G.M.’s time to throw a haymaker when Mike Rizzo signed right-hander Anibal Sanchez.
So far Mike Rizzo has inked some impressive deals through trades and free agent signings. Rizzo has added Kyle Barraclough, Trevor Rosenthal, Kurt Suzuki, Yan Gomes, Patrick Corbin, Matt Adams, and Anibal Sanchez. Two of the players, Suzuki and Sanchez, were key parts of the 2018 Braves division winning team. But it was when the Braves got Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann in quick order that the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell went on a rant and an over-reaction with this, “Nats owners better warm up the Lerner check book. Braves & Phils, both young and rising, are pushing their chips to the center of the table __all in.” So far no team except the Nats seem to have pushed their chips into the center of the table as they have committed well in excess of $200 million. The Phillies owner John Middleton vowed that his team would spend a little bit stupid, “We’re going into this [off-season] expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
While the Phillies have interviewed Manny Machado and spoken to Scott Boras about Bryce Harper, they did not even come close to out-bidding the Nats on Patrick Corbin. Actions speak louder than words and the Phillies are not the only team trying to sign those players. They have acquired Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen, but they have also traded off Carlos Santana. Next to the Nationals, the Mets have made the most improvement of the other NL East teams. Most of the teams appear to be waiting on bargains while Mike Rizzo is being proactive.
This is what FanGraphs projects for the NL East as of today after the Anibal Sanchez acquisition:
As you can see, they project the Nats at 91 wins, the Mets at 85 wins, the Braves at 82 wins, and the Phillies at 79 wins. Even if the Phillies sign Machado or Harper, the net effect might only be 4 extra wins because of the way the calculations work. After the Sanchez signing, the Nats win total did not change even though he added around a net of +0.6 WAR. FanGraphs uses expected runs scored by the offense and given up by the pitching to determine wins and losses using differential — and they expect the Nats to have nearly a +97. With the addition of Corbin and Sanchez you might expect the Nats to have the lowest projected staff ERA, but FanGraphs gives a small edge to the Mets with the Indians at 4.00 runs per game followed by the Nats. These are overall numbers that include all pitching so the #5 starter matters as does the bullpen.
The reason the Nats are projected ahead of the Mets in wins is because the Nationals offense is expected to score 75 more runs on offense. Pythagorean uses the same types of formulas using run differentials to determine how many games you should have won versus how many a team actually does. Some say that is where a manager comes into play. Some say it is just luck while others say you have to make your own luck — and maybe that is what Mike Rizzo is doing this off-season.