Around the NL East: What Braves’ rivals have done this offseason

When the 2021 MLB season begins, so will the Braves’ pursuit of a fourth consecutive National League East title. They went 35-25 during the shortened 2020 season, winning the division by four games over the surprising Marlins.

But the big-market trio of the Mets, Nationals and Phillies hope to surge past the Braves, who seem primed for their next great run of postseason berths. Despite hype surrounding the division entering last season, the Braves and Marlins were its only members to qualify for the expanded postseason, so the others had work to do this winter.

While the Braves’ offense will remain a question mark until they add another bat, signing veterans Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly fortified the rotation. They should be considered the favorites until they’re unseated, but one of their rivals has built a lot of momentum with a busy offseason.

Catching up with the NL East:

Miami Marlins: The Marlins hired Kim Ng as their new general manager. Ng, who became the first female GM in MLB history, is overseeing a young team that overachieved during the shortened 2020 season, making the postseason and even advancing beyond the first round by defeating the Cubs twice at Wrigley Field. The Braves swept Miami 3-0 to end the Marlins’ season in the division series.

The Marlins haven’t made any game-changing roster moves this winter (they did designate Braves nemesis Jose Urena for assignment — he’s in Detroit now). They’re more focused on internal development, hoping their impressive rotation and young position players continue building the franchise back to relevance. Miami still needs to upgrade its offense, be that with external additions or further improvement from its own core, but it’s heading in the right direction.

New York Mets: The Mets have quickly emerged into the Braves’ greatest threat, both in the present and future. New owner Steve Cohen is the biggest hero Queens has seen since Peter Parker. He has re-energized the organization, and it seems the Mets’ culture is already shifting.

Roster-wise, Cohen’s Mets gave starter Marcus Stroman a qualifying offer, signed catcher James McCann and recently made the biggest splash of the offseason, acquiring shortstop Francisco Lindor and starter Carlos Carrasco from the Indians. They don’t seem to be finished, either. They’ll probably add another outfielder.

As excited as Mets fans are, it needs to translate to the field. The Braves should be considered the team to beat until they’re bested, but the Mets — be it in 2021 or later — are coming for them. has the Mets (+150) favored over the Braves (+180) for the division crown.

Francisco Lindor answers questions during a virtual news conference Monday, Jan. 11, 2021, introducing him as the New York Mets new shortstop. (New York Mets via AP)

Credit: HONS

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Credit: HONS

Philadelphia Phillies: Surprisingly, the Phillies have had a quiet offseason. They still haven’t re-signed catcher J.T. Realmuto, and what happens with him likely will make or break their winter. They did acquire the hard-throwing Jose Alvarado from Tampa Bay to aid their bullpen, but that unit still needs more help.

The biggest news in Philadelphia came with the front office. Veteran executive Dave Dombrowski took over as president of baseball operations, once again reminding us that despite the recent lackluster results, the Phillies are in win-now mode. Nonetheless, they’ll need further improvements to realistically contend, starting with retaining Realmuto and improving the bullpen.

Washington Nationals: The Nationals have been busy, adding sluggers Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to a lineup desperate for more juice. They could use a back-end starter, another reliever and perhaps a catcher. They also could add another bat, with the team recently linked to Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez.

Last season was a nightmare for last-place Washington. The Nationals should be much improved this time around, closer to the 2019 World Series champions than the 2020 doormat. The rotation staying healthy will be paramount as always. If that happens, and the offensive additions prove impactful, the Nationals should be back in the playoff mix.