After so many heavy moves, the NL East looks very strong

That’s how fun the NL East was last season: The Braves chased the Mets all summer and finally caught up with them for the division, even after both teams finished with 101 wins. You know what happened next. It was the Phillies who ended up reaching the World Series, where they were defeated by the champion Astros.

The division could get even better next year. And it could get even more interesting than it already is during what has been an offseason like few others, both in the NL East and the rest of the major leagues.

You know the Blue Jays are going to try to snap at the Yankees’ heels in the AL East. The Padres will do the same with the Dodgers in the NL West, where the Giants just added Carlos Correa. But even with all that–and with the great Bryce Harper recovering from Tommy John surgery–the National League East looks like the most exciting division to watch.

The Mets added Justin Verlander to replace Jacob deGrom and signed Japanese star Kodai Senga, before losing Chris Bassitt (Blue Jays). They also bolstered their bullpen with a left-handed and a right-arm and were apparently well-interested in Correa before the Puerto Rican shortstop signed with the Giants. And the Braves? While we all wait to see what happens to Dansby Swanson–the last hotspot shortstop available on the market–they just completed a trade in which they acquired mask Sean Murphy from the A’s.

Even if Swanson ends up signing elsewhere, it’s worth remembering that the Braves are going to have Ozzie Albies back after injuries limited him to just 64 games in 2022. Albies had just recovered from a foot injury. when he broke his little finger in September, ending his season. And you know the Phillies added star shortstop Trea Turner to a team that made it to the Fall Classic, reuniting him with Harper–his former teammate at the Nationals–when Harper returns to join Philadelphia’s lineup.

The NL East looks exciting, right?

I asked Dave Dombrowski, Philadelphia’s president of baseball operations who just watched his fourth team reach the World Series, about the division.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Dombrowski declared.

The executive later added the following, after adding Turner and right-handed starter Taijuan Walker, who won 12 games for the Mets last year:

“There are still a few moves to make.”

Dombrowski never rests. You know what he did with the Phillies last summer. When the Mets and Braves were taking over the division, the executive did not give up and looked for a way to put the Phillies in the fight. He acquired Brandon Marsh and Noah Syndergaard from the Angels and David Robertson from the Cubs, and Harper’s elbow healed enough for him to contribute as DH. He narrowly led the Phillies to their first title in 14 seasons.

Now the Phillies are looking to do more than just win a Wild Card. They’ll try to fight one-on-one from the start, especially with the Mets, owned by Steve Cohen, who has been more aggressive than any owner in the game since his team was eliminated in the Wild Card Series by the Padres. And that was after giving up the top spot in the NL East to the Braves in the final week of the regular season.

“Our division,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said, “is going to be one not for the faint of heart. But as a couple of my coaches told me via text message the other day, it’s the same motto: ‘Let’s go all out.’”

The Mets seized the divisional top early in 2022 and led by more than 10 games. But the Braves, who have won the National League East title five years in a row and were trying to defend their own World Series crown, never gave up.

But then they met with the Phillies in October, when Philadelphia went on fire. The Phillies swept the Cardinals in the Wild Card Series, then dispatched the Braves in four games in the NLCS and then lost just one game to the Padres in the NLCS. That was before taking on the Astros. In fact, the Phillies led the World Series, two games to one, before Houston won three in a row to win.

And here we are. The Phillies made noise with the Turner signing. The Mets, once deGrom left for Texas, moved to acquire Verlander and put him at the top of the rotation alongside Max Scherzer, with whom he formed a successful partnership in Detroit. The Braves just acquired Murphy and will likely continue to strengthen. They definitely aren’t ready to cede the East without putting up a fight.

“It looks like a very exciting year,” Dombrowski noted, “with quality teams.”

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After so many heavy moves, the NL East looks very strong