The NL East saw plenty of disappointment and a major surprise in 2020.

The disappointment stems from sub-.500 seasons from the likes of the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals, all of whom boasted postseason aspirations.

The major surprise comes in the form of the Miami Marlins who not only went 31-29 in the regular season but also swept the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in the Wild Card round before running into a stout Braves club in the NLDS – a team that won the NL East once again in 2020.

While the Marlins did well to take advantage of the truncated season and expanded postseason, their fortune likely would not have lasted through a normal, 162-game campaign.

While they managed to go two games over .500, their -41 run differential – worst in their division and 11th out of 15 NL clubs – gave them an expected win/loss of 26-34, a good eight games under .500.

While their starting pitching has put teams on notice, the Marlins will be in tough against the remainder of the division in 2021 and it will be interesting to see if 2020 was indeed a fluke, and how big of one, as we look ahead to the 2021 season.

Now, let’s take a look at the NL East offseason outlook including odds, needs, free agent targets and value ratings for all five clubs!

*Odds courtesy of BetOnline

Atlanta Braves

  • Last Season: 35-25 (1st in NL East)
  • Playoffs: Lost NLCS vs. Dodgers (4-3)
  • 2021 World Series Odds: +1200
  • 2021 National League Odds: +675

Offseason Needs

Starting Pitching

The NL East didn’t have the best injury luck on the starting pitching front as the Braves’ rotation was decimated throughout the season. Mike Soroka went down with a torn Achilles in just his third start of the season, Cole Hamels pitched all of 3.1 innings due to shoulder fatigue and Mike Foltynewicz saw a drastic dip in velocity before being designated for assignment. Youngster Touki Toussaint also failed to make strides with an ERA well over 7.00.

Despite an ace-type season from Max Fried and a big-time debut from young right-hander Ian Anderson, the Braves finished 28th with a 5.51 starters ERA in 2020, not exactly characteristic for a team that finishes 10 games over .500 and was on pace for a 94-win season.

With Fried, Soroka and Anderson set to go for next season, the rotation is in fine shape at the top. Still, there’s not much underneath with Kyle Wright, Toussaint and the likes of Bryse Wilson, Huascar Ynoa and Tucker Davidson not providing inspiring competition for the bottom two spots.

I would look for the Braves to fortify that rotation with a reliable starter than can help carry the load for what we hope will be a full schedule again next season.

Ozuna Replacement

I’m simply going with this heading as opposed to left field/DH/middle-of-the-lineup bat. Ozuna spent most of his time as the team’s DH last season, playing just 162 innings in the outfield. With Nick Markakis also a free agent alongside Ozuna, the Braves could certainly use some outfield help with Adam Duvall, Christian Pache and Ender Inciarte the outfield options alongside Ronald Acuna Jr while Johan Camargo is the primary DH at this point.

Duvall is essentially a below-average defender and would make the most sense at DH, which has us arriving at left field again as the team’s biggest area of need on offense as Pache and his elite glove will get a shot in center, as he did in the 2020 postseason.

Acuna was an above-average defender in 333.1 innings in left in 2019, so a corner outfielder with power makes the most sense for the Braves heading into free agency.

Free Agent Targets

Starting Pitching

Although we’ll see far less money dished out in free agency this winter than we have in past offseasons, the Braves are in a position to spend.

According to Spotrac, the Braves’ $88,909,375 in 2021 payroll commitments at this time is about $11M below league average. To me, this allows them to pursue the top free-agent starters on the market in the form of Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman and Charlie Morton. Of course, Morton’s shot-term contract outlook is attractive to more than just the Braves, but all three of those names should be in the cards.

If general manager Alex Anthopoulos feels the Soroka/Fried/Anderson trio is going to be good enough to handle the load at the top, then a wider net will be cast. That said, after Soroka threw just a hair over 20 innings and Anderson just 51 between the regular season and playoffs, asking for a full 180 innings or so out of either of them seems like a risky proposition.

At a minimum, I’d expect the Braves to shop in the second tier of starters, which would see them taking aim at the likes of Jake Odorizzi, Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintana, Rick Porcello, Taijuan Walker and Matt Shoemaker. There are others who can help in the 4/5 spots, but for a team that once again boasts World Series aspirations and will have to fend off some fairly stiff competition in search of their fourth straight division crown, I would expect impact arms to be on the Christmas list this winter.

Ozuna Replacement

As they should be on the starting pitching front, the Braves could be big-game hunting to replace Ozuna in the form of George Springer, arguably the top name on the market alongside Bauer and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Of course, bringing Ozuna back isn’t out of the question, either, but his market is far more dynamic this winter than it was 12 months ago when he ended up settling on a one-year deal with the Braves.

That said, the Braves will face stiff competition to grab either of those names, especially if they break the bank for Bauer or Stroman. Unfortunately, the outfield market isn’t strong outside of Springer and Ozuna. Joc Pederson would make sense as a platoon option in left with Adam Duvall. Another left-handed bat, Michael Brantley, makes sense as well, albeit at 34 years of age, as he was actually a plus defender in limited time in left last season. He and Duvall could share the left field/DH duties as veterans 32 and over.

Other options would be Adam Eaton and Yasiel Puig, the latter of whom the Braves appeared close to signing before a positive test wiped that notion out, although once again I’d like to see the Braves shopping near the top of the market which I believe the aggressive Anthopoulos will end up doing.

Outlook

I have the starting pitching need over the Ozuna replacement as the Braves ranked first with a .355 wOBA last season. Sure, Ozuna and his NL-leading 18 homers was a big part of that, but let’s keep in mind they still have the likely NL MVP in Freddie Freeman while Acuna remains arguably a top-five player in the league. Add in a supporting cast featuring catcher Travis d’Arnaud, shortstop Dansby Swanson, second baseman Ozzie Albies and a player in Austin Riley with huge offensive upside and I don’t exactly see the Braves’ offensive spiralling out of control.

Should they add any of Springer, Pederson or Brantley – or bring Ozuna back – it will certainly ease the blow and the Braves will remain a supreme offense.

I’m also aware the Braves lost – so far – the trio of Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Josh Tomlin from a bullpen that was among the best in baseball last season. Still, Chris Martin, Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter and Luke Jackson are all excellent arms. Sure, like every other team, the Braves will add bullpen help but it’s not at the top of the team’s checklist this winter.

I believe the rotation, offense and bullpen are in good shape despite likely losing some significant contributors from last season, and while the Mets and Phillies are likely to give them a stiffer run for their divisional money next season, I don’t see the Braves falling off their perch atop the NL East with solid value in both their World Series and National League Pennant odds.

Futures Value Rating: 7/10

Miami Marlins

  • Last Season: 31-29 (2nd in NL East)
  • Playoffs: Lost NLDS vs. Braves (3-0)
  • 2021 World Series Odds: +6600
  • 2021 National League Odds: +2800

Offseason Needs

Bullpen Help

The Marlins are completely built on starting pitching with Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Sixto Sanchez and Elisier Hernandez all 25 and under with excellent big-league results so far and monstrous potential ahead. If only they could complement that young group with a bullpen capable of holding up their end of the bargain.

The Marlins’ rotation worked to a 14th-ranked 4.31 ERA last season, but the bullpen was brutal in turning in a 26th-ranked 5.50 ERA and 29th-ranked 5.65 FIP, 5.39 xFIP and -1.4 fWAR.

Moving forward, it would be in their best interest to not allow their excellent young pitching to go to waste and keep in mind closer Brandon Kintzler is now a free agent after posting a 2.22 ERA last season, albeit with a 5.00 FIP and 4.98 xFIP, as is Nick Vincent and Brad Boxberger, leaving the team without three of their top four innings-eaters from a season ago.

Right Field

I believe pitching wins in the playoffs which is why I have the bullpen as the biggest need so the team can at least attempt to sport one of the top all-round pitching staffs in baseball.

However, the offense needs to improve as well after tying for 21st with a .308 wOBA last season, but also 28th with a .141 ISO and 26th with a 3.5 fWAR. With the team retaining Starling Marte by way of picking up his 2021 option, the team is set in center while Corey Dickerson should log the bulk of reps in left field.

Dickerson has just 25.2 career innings played in right field and none since playing 13.2 right-field frames in 2016. So, it would appear right field is the biggest need here as Garrett Cooper is penciled in for the bulk of reps, but he is better suited to play first base with Jesus Aguilar taking over DH duties.

Lewis Brinson remains and top prospect JJ Bleday could debut in 2021, but Brinson’s inconsistent offense makes him a better fourth-outfield option and pinch runner. A full-time right-fielder would help the Marlins’ offensive pieces fall better into place.

Free Agent Targets

Bullpen Help

While the list of free-agent relievers is long in both quality and quantity, I’d like the see the Marlins step up and grab at least one of the high-end names on the market. That market includes Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal. Along with Yates, Roberto Osuna and Ken Giles will look to sign on with a team in hopes of getting over elbow problems that had both them missing all of the 2020 season.

Others with high-leverage experience include, Brandon Workman, Shane Greene, Pedro Baez, Tyler Clippard, Melancon, Trevor May, Alex Colome, Anthony Bass, Ian Kennedy, Sean Doolittle, Greg Holland and Jeremy Jeffress. A former Rockies duo – Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw – will look for redemption outside the extreme hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field.

I’d like to see them nail down one of the top names, or at the very least grab at least a couple of arms from the second-tier group in hopes of better supporting that excellent young pitching in 2021.

Right Field

As noted earlier, the right field market is slim after Springer. I don’t see the Marlins opening up the purse strings for a 31-year-old right fielder at this stage. Rather the likes of Eaton or Puig make sense while the 22-year-old Bleday continues to develop after a tough first season at the plate at High-A ball in 2019 and a lost 2020 season all together.

If the Yankees don’t bring back Brett Gardner he could be an option while Pederson and Robbie Grossman could all make sense.

Teams with outfield needs will also certainly look into the trade market given the thin crop of above-average outfield options on this year’s open market.

Outlook

Almost every team in baseball is envious of the Marlins’ young starting pitching. It’s a great future building block, to be sure. But even with the team’s solid rotation results last season, the Marlins’ offense and bullpen struggled mightily en route to an expected record that resembled a 70-92 team in a full season.

Improvements are mandatory if the team will attempt a return to the postseason in 2021, especially in that bullpen that could probably use an injection of as many as four reliable arms from a reliever crop that has plenty of them.

If they don’t end up with Springer, Pederson, Eaton or Puig in right, then the trade market needs to be explored.

I love the starting pitching, but as it stands right now, I don’t like the outlook. Not nearly enough offensive upside at the moment and we’ll wait and see what Derek Jeter’s club does to address the bullpen needs.

Let’s monitor that situation as it evolves, but I’m not getting giddy enough over their fortunate postseason appearance in 2020 to start hammering their 2021 futures at this juncture.

Futures Values Rating: 3/10

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Last Season: 28-32 (3rd in NL East)
  • Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
  • 2021 World Series Odds: +2000
  • 2021 National League Odds: +1400

Offseason Needs

J.T. Realmuto

A specific need indeed, but it would appear to be a major failure for the Phillies if they aren’t able to bring back Realmuto despite the far-reaching market he’ll have this winter.

League wide economics will limit the deals given out in free agency, but I don’t believe Realmuto will feel that crunch after Yasmani Grandal – widely regarded as the second-best all-round backstop in baseball behind Realmuto – landed a four-year, $73M deal with the White Sox last winter, thereby setting the value for elite catchers.

Let’s also keep in mind the Phillies included Sixto Sanchez in the deal to acquire Realmuto prior to the 2019 season and now get to face him within the division for many years to come.

Also, without Realmuto, Andre Knapp and his projected 0.0 fWAR is set to handle the bulk of catching duties with the Phillies. Considering the lack of impact catchers on the open market behind Realmuto and the Phillies’ major need for catching help, whoever is calling the shots in the Phillies front office after the departure of Matt Klentak needs to make every possible effort to bring back the 30-year-old backstop by the time next season begins.

Bullpen Help

Of course, a team that ranked dead last with a ghastly 7.06 bullpen ERA last season could probably use a little bullpen help this offseason. This is especially true given both Workman and Heath Hembree – two mid-season acquisitions from 2020 – are both free agents at the moment, as is Tommy Hunter who was a lone bright spot with a team-leading 24.2 innings of 4.01 ERA/3.31 FIP ball.

Given their desperate need for bullpen help, many have the team going big-game hunting with Liam Hendriks the popular choice to land with the Phillies. Nonetheless, Hendriks’ presence won’t be nearly enough for a team that had 24 different relievers make appearances last season, but only two of which threw more than 14 innings with the club.

Needless to say, some consistency and reliability from that bullpen would be welcomed for next season.

Center Field

With Andrew McCutchen in left and Bryce Harper in right, the Phillies appear set in the corner outfield spots. What they don’t have is a center fielder capable of consistency productivity on either side of the ball. Roman Quinn is projected to see the most defensive innings in center, but he was awful with that bat (54 wRC+) in 2020 and was worth -2 Defensive Runs Saved with the glove in center, according to FanGraphs.

Adam Haseley is second on the depth chart, and the 24-year-old has more offensive upside than Quinn with a strong minor-league track record of offensive productivity. Still, the tandem is less than inspiring while Haseley works better as a fourth outfielder.

Also, keep in mind Haseley is currently projected to see the most plate appearances at DH, should the universal DH continue into next season. If the Quinn/Haseley platoon is satisfactory and center field falls well behind Realmuto and the bullpen – which to me, it does – the team could simply add a DH and cover that base all together.

Free Agent Targets

J.T. Realmuto

Realmuto is one of the biggest must-haves of the offseason for any free agent target around the league. Anything else will be a major disappoint, especially after Harper has publicly lobbied for the club to bring the all-world catcher back rather than letting him walk in free agency.

The best fall-back option on the market is James McCann and the club could even try and bring long-time Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina to town should they fail to land Realmuto.

That said, it’s Realmuto or bust as the fan base would not appreciate anything less.

Bullpen Help

There’s a reason why Hendriks and the Phillies have been commonly connected this offseason. He’s by far the best reliever on the market and the Phillies were by far the worst bullpen in baseball a season ago.

Of course, it’s going to take more. As noted above, there’s a ton of options on the market, and should they fail to land Hendriks, the likes of Hand, Rosenthal, Yates, Greene, Baez, May, Melancon, Doolittle etc. make a ton of sense. All of those names have high-leverage experience and many are current or former closers.

Otherwise, there’s a wealth of middle-relief options or specialists in Tomlin, Justin Wilson, Oliver Perez, Clippard, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Jake McGee and more. Nailing down exactly who the Phillies should target – outside of Hendriks – is a tough task given the long list of names available, but the Phillies absolutely need a bullpen makeover and shouldn’t be afraid to spend in doing so.

Center Field

Outside of Springer, the team should absolutely be looking into Jackie Bradley Jr. as an option to hold down the center field spot for immediate and short term.

At the very least, you’re getting Gold Glove defense. That said, you’re also getting pop at the plate and speed on the basepaths as Bradley homered seven times and stole five bases in the shortened 2020 season. His 1.4 fWAR from last season matched his mark from all of 2019, but he also hit 21 homers that year and swiped another eight bags. His shortened 2020 season was the second-best of his career, and he should have plenty of suitors as a result.

If the Phillies want to simply add a DH, that list is headed by Nelson Cruz, but could also feature Marcell Ozuna if the top wants a major offensive splash. Michael Brantley makes sense there too, and Edwin Encarnacion could be had a on a cheap, one-year deal coming off a down season with the White Sox, although he still homered 10 times and posted a strong .220 ISO. He would certainly make sense if the Phillies wanted to take a flier and lengthen a lineup that’s largely disappointed over the last couple of seasons in the Harper era.

Outlook

It’s difficult to know what to make of these Phillies. A case can be made that the talent on board is more than enough to get the job done, but there’s also some holes to be patched as well.

Their offseason grade will largely depend on whether they’re able to retain Realmuto. If not, they should absolutely look into Springer as a center field boost or a Bauer/Stroman type to enhance a rotation that already consists of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

Adding Bradley and a DH such as Brantley, Encarnacion or even Yoenis Cespedes would help the defense and offense at the same time while the Phillies could put their main resources into adding big names to a bullpen that honestly cannot be any worse than it was last season.

Again, it need to start with bringing Realmuto back and working on that bullpen, first and foremost.

Until I see the moves roll in, however, I’m not a fan of the futures. This team just hasn’t shown enough in any facet of the game – offense, starting pitching, bullpen – to have me all the sudden reaching for value when there just isn’t much there.

I’ll monitor the situation, but count me out for Phillies futures until the front office begins the patchwork.

Futures Value Rating: 3/10

New York Mets

  • Last Season: 26-34 (4th in NL East)
  • Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
  • 2021 World Series Odds: +2000
  • 2021 National League Odds: +1400

Offseason Needs

Catcher

The Mets decided to decline Wilson Ramos’ $10M option for 2021, leaving a big hole at the catcher position. Such a circumstance should have Phillies fans biting their nails as the sale of the Mets to new owner Steve Cohen – now the wealthiest owner in the league and one that didn’t incur the same financial setback the other 29 owners did in 2020 –  is complete and the team is going to spend this offseason.

So, it appear Realmuto is a main target for this club as well, but as noted, the Mets and Phillies won’t be the only clubs checking into his services.

With Tomas Nido set for the bulk of catching work, it’s fair to say any upgrade would be welcomed. He’s still just 26 and hit well in a minuscule 26 plate-appearance sample last season, but has appeared in just 96 big-league games in parts of four seasons and doesn’t have much of an offensive track record throughout his minor-league career and owns an awful 46 wRC+ in 270 MLB plate appearances.

Starting Pitching

Jacob deGrom is an NL Cy Young finalist for the third straight season, only this time he isn’t likely to win over Bauer or Yu Darvish, but he remains arguably the top pitcher in the game and has been for some time.

However, Marcus Stroman is a free agent and Noah Syndergaard won’t return from his Tommy John surgery until mid-season. He’s also a free agent after next season while last winter’s depth additions in Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha current free agents.

As a result, it appears the Mets should flex their financial muscle and pony up for Bauer and/or Stroman this winter knowing that they could lose the elite arm of Syndergaard at season’s end.

As it stands today, it’s Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, David Peterson and Robert Gsellman slotted in behind deGrom to start the season with Syndergaard likely returning in the July-August range. While it could be his last tour with the Mets, a rotation headed by deGrom and Bauer would see a major mid-season addition with Syndergaard’s return and give the team a scary 1-2-3 punch in the postseason.

Offseason Targets

Catcher

I’ve mentioned targets in the needs portion of this breakdown, but of course the main target at this position is Realmuto.

Should the team not sway him away from the division rival Phillies, they could look into adding a left-handed bat to platoon with Nido who, given his age, should probably get some increased looks in 2021. After all, he’s posted a career .200 ISO and 100 wRC+ against lefties, so the righty-swinging Nido could lock down the work against left-handed pitching next season.

In terms of left-handed backstops on the free agent market, you’re looking at a pair of veterans in Jason Castro and Alex Avila. Both walk a lot and have some pop in their bats despite sitting in their mid-30s. Keep in mind that the team signed left-handed-hitting catcher Bruce Maxwell to a minor-league deal on Nov.4, but Maxwell hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since logging 58 plate appearances in 2018 and has largely struggled at the plate in his big-league tenure before mashing in the Mexican league in 2019.

Matt Wieters and Sandy Leon are switch-hitting catchers that could be a last resort, perhaps also on minor-league deals.

Starting Pitching

The main target is going to be Bauer. I don’t see how the Mets don’t aggressively pursue him given their ability to outbid any and all suitors in this market.

Or, perhaps the target is Stroman given his familiarity with the organization. Both players are going to see big markets as the two players who will lock down the most lucrative, long-term deals.

After that, it’s the same gang in the second tier of starting pitchers. Odorizzi, Tanaka, Quintana and Porcello. Jon Lester is an interesting name on a one-year deal with loads of postseason experience while, of course, Morton fits that bill as well.

You also have Adam Wainwright, Brett Anderson, Hamels and Anibal Sanchez as low-cost veterans with postseason experience, all likely to be had on one-year deals given their age.

My guess would be Bauer to the Mets, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Outlook

I didn’t include bullpen here as the Mets return much of their bullpen from last season, a group that saw closer Edwin Diaz return to form. The team also has the likes of Dellin Betances, Jeurys Familia, Miguel Castro and Chasen Shreve as relievers with back-end experience and potential.

Sure, they’ll add to the bullpen as the league’s other 29 teams will do. They might even spend up to do so and aim high as they should elsewhere in search of offseason upgrades. Still, I would suggest Realmuto and Bauer as the biggest targets, bar-none.

May I also interest you in a Francisco Lindor trade? The Indians have stated their intention to trade him prior to the 2021 season so any takers would get a full season out of the shortstop before he is scheduled to hit free agency prior to the 2022 season. The Mets may look to explore a deal there and use their financial strength to immediately sign him to a prior-agreed-upon extension as an upgrade to Amed Rosario who would almost certainly go the other way in any Lindor deal with the Indians.

Regardless, this a Mets offense that raked to the tune of a third-ranked .347 wOBA last season. Only the Braves and Dodgers were better. That same group returns in 2021.

Add in the likelihood of a Realmuto/Bauer type of offseason along with a potential Lindor deal and I am digging these Mets futures about as much as any other team in baseball.

Futures Value Rating: 8.5/10

Washington Nationals

  • Last Season: 24-36 (5th in NL East)
  • Playoffs: Did Not Qualify
  • 2021 World Series Odds: +3500
  • 2021 National League Odds: +1800

Offseason Needs

Infield

Save for Trea Turner at short, the Nationals’ infield situation is in shambles. Veteran Starlin Castro remains, but he’s projected as the team’s utility infielder as he didn’t impress with the glove or at the plate as the team’s primary second baseman last season.

Not only that, but the Nationals lost a bevy of infielders to free agency with Asdrubal Cabrera, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames and Brock Holt all hitting the open market. That has left names like Jake Noll, Luis Garcia and Carter Kieboom in position to start at various infield positions, and Kieboom will do so – likely at third base – looking to shake off his dismal 165 MLB plate appearances so far in which he’s hit .181 with an ugly 54 wRC+ and -0.8 fWAR. He’s still just 23, but hasn’t looked anything like a reliable regular to this point.

Whether it be first base, second base or third base, the Nationals would appear needy of some big-time upgrades, and you might as well throw the DH spot in there too as there isn’t currently a difference-making bat in that group but rather a cast of mostly anonymous players looking to crack the big-league roster.

Bullpen Help

After they finished 29th with a 5.68 bullpen ERA in 2019 but yet somehow managing to win the World Series, the Nationals improved to a 4.68 mark last season, but that still ranked just 23rd league wide.

Also, former closer Sean Dootlittle is now a free agent and while Doolittle struggled in the shortened 2020 season before landing on the IL, the 34-year-old has largely been a reliable reliever in his career and shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a new home on the open market.

Tanner Rainey, Daniel Hudson and Will Harris are set for much of the heavy lifting this season and while the team has some decent depth arms, here’s a team that really needs to ensure its pitching is as strong as possible.

Of course, the rotation is in good hands as long as Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin at the top, and there appears to be far too many holes to fill on this offense for it to be considered a major need at all of those infield positions and even catcher where Yan Gomes is now the full-time starter with Kurt Suzuki also hitting free agency.

Rather, the best bet is to complement that dynamite starting pitching trio with a stout bullpen that is capable of holding leads and preventing runs with the best of em’. The Nats aren’t going to outscore a whole lot of teams this season, so bolstering their pitching staff seems like the best bet to get back into competition within this NL East.

Free Agent Targets

Infield

There’s not a ton of high-end infielders on the open market, but there’s help for sure. Assuming Kieboom gets another crack at the third base job, we’re more so looking at the right side of the infield.

In terms of second base options, the top of that market reads DJ LeMahieu who should be priced out of their market. That would leave a pair of 2020 Gold Glove winners in Kolten Wong and Cesar Hernandez as well as a power bat in Jonathan Schoop who was a Gold Glove finalist himself after making good on a one-year deal with the Tigers last season, both at the plate and in the field.

In terms of difference-makers, that’s your quartet at the keystone.

The first base market has some notable names on it as well with Carlos Santana leading the way. Santana struggled at the plate last season, but also walked more than anybody in the game and could fit well hitting behind Trea Turner and ahead of Juan Soto given his high-OBP ways. He’s also hit 23 homers or more in four straight years before 2020, so the power should improve in 2021.

Also worth a look will be another former Tiger in C.J. Cron who brings plenty of power to the table while Mitch Moreland remains productive against right-handed pitching at the plate and still graded out as a quality defender at first base at the age of 35.

Bullpen Help

The trio of Rainey, Hudson and Harris all have plenty of high-leverage experience, but it wouldn’t hurt for the Nats to perhaps acquire a new closer or at least another late-inning option, and we’ve been over the names in that area.

Hendriks, Hand, Rosenthal, Yates, Melancon and Greene fit that bill. I don’t imagine the Nationals have a ton of money to spend after investing so heavily in Strasburg and Corbin in back-to-back offseasons, so perhaps an injury-induced flier on Giles or Osuna makes sense. Tyler Clippard has long been reliable and Joakim Soria, Baez, May, Colome, Sergio Romo, Perez, Wilson, Kintzler and Jeffress all have back-end abilities themselves.

It’s wildly difficult to nail down the exact relief help the Nats will end up with, but there’s a bevy of useful arms that can hopefully net the Nationals a bullpen they can hang their hat on.

Outlook

The Nats didn’t get any from Strasburg last season, but the outlook did not look pretty from the outset. I suspected the loss of Anthony Rendon to the Angels in free agency would hurt more than many would think, and it did. The Nationals’ offense was a shell of its former self while his defense at third was dearly missed as well. This is one of the best all-round players in baseball, after all.

Turner and Juan Soto are about the only two names you can bet on to produce next season, at least on offense. The infield is in disarray after several departures to free agency while the team waits on former top prospect Victor Robles to find his stroke at the plate, albeit with supreme defense and base running as part of his tool set.

The Nats will also look for improved health from not only Strasburg but also Scherzer who is now 36 and posted a 3.74 ERA in 2020 that tied his worst mark since posting that same figure with the 2012 Tigers. Remember, he also battled a bad back down the stretch of 2019 and into the postseason.

To me, there’s just not enough there despite how good the rotation can still be. The bullpen still has big questions marks and the infield is simply one of, if not the worst in baseball at this juncture.

They’ll add, but there’s just too many spots to fill with adequate replacements and I don’t believe their budget will allow them to go big-game hunting. Count me out for the 2021 Nationals.

Futures Value Rating: 2.5/10

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