The manager carousel made its usual run through the league after the season, and the NL East was no exception as the Mets and Phillies both make changes with their dugout skippers. Carlos Beltran is the Mets new manager and Joe Girardi got shutout of the Cubs job and settled for the Phillies opening. As both managers look to fill their staffs, it is possible that Nats assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon could head to Philadelphia as their hitting coach. While the Marlins chose to retain Don Mattingly reportedly at a lesser salary, they did make changes on their coaching staff. What did not change was general manager positions in the NL East.
Let’s look at each of the teams in the NL East on personnel. It is too early to project team WAR or wins and losses at this point, but we can see the departing players and the Phillies have the least amount of WAR turnover.
2019 finish: 93-69 (.574), 2nd place, won the World Series against the Astros
Free Agents: 3B Anthony Rendon, 2B Howie Kendrick, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B Brian Dozier, 1B Ryan Zimmerman (option declined), 1B Matt Adams (option declined), C Yan Gomes (option declined), OF Gerardo Parra, RHP Stephen Strasburg (opted-out), RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Daniel Hudson, RHP Fernando Rodney, LHP Jonny Venters
Offseason needs: Middle of the rotation starter, primary catcher, 3rd base, 2nd base, 1st base, back of the bullpen set-up man, build the bench
2019 finish: 97-65 (.599), 1st place, lost in NLDS to the Cardinals
Free Agents: 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Matt Joyce, C Brian McCann (retired), C Francisco Cervelli, LHP Dallas Keuchel, RHP Josh Tomlin, RHP Chris Martin, LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Anthony Swarzak, RHP Julio Teheran (option declined), CF Billy Hamilton (option declined)
Offseason needs: Middle of the rotation starter(s), catcher, 3rd base, back of the bullpen set-up man, middle of the bullpen, lefty bullpen arm, build the bench
New York Mets
2019 finish: 86-76 (.531), 3rd place
Free Agents: 3B Todd Frazier, 2B Joe Panik (assignment declined), OF Rajai Davis, C Rene Rivera, RHP Zack Wheeler, RHP Brad Brach, LHP Luis Avilan, LHP Donnie Hart (assignment declined), CF Juan Lagares (option declined)
Offseason needs: Middle of the rotation starter, 3rd base, back of the bullpen set-up man, build the bench, decide on future of Yoenis Cespedes ($29.5 million salary in final year).
2019 finish: 81-81 (.500), 4th place
Free Agents: OF Corey Dickerson, OF Odubel Herrera (DFA), 1B Logan Morrison, UT Sean Rodríguez, UT Brad Miller, LHP Drew Smyly, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP Nick Vincent, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Pat Neshek (option declined), LHP Jason Vargas (option declined), RHP Jared Hughes (option declined)
Offseason needs: Top of the rotation starter, back of the bullpen set-up man and closer, build the bench
2019 finish: 57-105 (.352), 5th place
Free Agents: 2B Starlin Castro (option declined), IF Neil Walker, IF Martin Prado, OF Curtis Granderson, C Bryan Holaday
Offseason needs: Top of the rotation starter, corner outfielder, centerfielder, 2nd base, 1st base, back of the bullpen set-up man and closer, build the bench
There is a reason that no team has won back-to-back World Series championships since the year 2000 with the New York Yankees. Since PED testing began in the MLB with penalties in 2004, there has not been one World Series repeat champion. Bouncing back from playing that extra month is very difficult. It changes the rest schedule that players have had in their careers, and the 2018 winning Boston Red Sox saw their ace, Chris Sale, struggle to begin the season and Nathan Eovaldi succumb to injuries. Some teams have used analytics to encourage their pitchers to move their off-season workout schedules back by several weeks and start their Spring Training at a much slower pace. The Boston Red Sox went 84-78 in 2019 and finished in 3rd place.
General manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez need to figure out what their offseason plan will be for returning players to avoided the dreaded post-World Series flop. The Dodgers could provide the guidance for how they have consistently been to the postseason every year since 2013 including back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017-2018.
The San Francisco Giants won World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 and lost in the NLDS in 2016. They had the “even year” thing going and finished in either second place or third place in those odd years in between.
These past results are not to throw shade over the 2020 season — rather it is a good lesson in past results with a dose of reality. Of course the Nationals want to emulate the 2000 Yankees or at least make the postseason in consecutive years like the Dodgers. First off, Mike Rizzo has to build a postseason roster, and the analytics need to guide the players to get their rest. The Nationals have moved their offseason fanfest known as Winterfest back to January 11th which should be a welcomed sign to the players who are under contract that they will not need to be bothered much until then.
Just like at the start of the 2019 season, the early 2020 MLB futures according to mytopsportsbooks.com predict a close four-team race in the NL East. The Nationals have the best World Series odds among the quintet at +1300, but they are closely followed by the Braves (+1500), Phillies (+1700), and Mets (+1800). Only the still-rebuilding Marlins (+40000) are considered out of it.
For those who are into early season projection, Fangraphs has started to populate their site with 2020 projections. Here is one of them from one of the eight projections that they post on their site and this is from DepthCharts which needs some work as they are already thinking Mike Trout is going to play in 163 games in the regular season.