The Nationals are obviously the class of the NL East. Most stars, best lineup, best rotation, much better bullpen than they opened 2017 with.
There's still a lot of offseason to go, but after the Phillies' Carlos Santana signing and Stage 1 of the latest Marlins fire sale, the Phils on paper measure up well with the other three teams in the division.
There still could be a trade in the Phillies' near future that turns an outfielder into a starting pitcher. If the Phils didn't have such a glaring need for starting pitching, one could see them entering 2017 with all three of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr in addition to LF Rhys Hoskins and figuring out the playing time based on hot/cold streaks and injuries. That need for arms to fill out the rotation, though, makes a trade more likely.
Knowing what we know now, let's take a trip around the NL East, excluding the clear favorites in Washington. This takes into account projected opening day lineups as of the first week of January. The Mets, for example, have Michael Conforto coming off shoulder surgery and Steven Matz recovering from elbow surgery. Neither is likely for the start of the season.
Phillies: 1B Carlos Santana, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Maikel Franco
Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman, 2B Ozzie Albies, SS Dansby Swanson, 3B Johan Camargo
Marlins: 1B Justin Bour, 2B Starlin Castro, SS J.T. Riddle, 3B Brian Anderson
Mets: 1B Dom Smith, 2B Wilmer Flores, SS Amed Rosario, 3B Asdrubal Cabrera
Freeman is by far the best player among these 16. Santana is next.
The Phillies have the best infield of this quartet, with above-average on-base skills at three positions and power at two.
Phillies: CF Odubel Herrera, LF Rhys Hoskins, RF Nick Williams/Aaron Altherr
Braves: CF Ender Inciarte, LF Nick Markakis, RF Ronald Acuña
Marlins: CF Christian Yelich, LF Martin Prado, RF Derek Dietrich
Mets: CF Juan Lagares, LF Yoenis Cespedes, RF Brandon Nimmo
The Marlins have the best centerfielder.
The Mets have the best leftfielder (though Hoskins could have something to say about that in Year 2).
Right field is between the Phillies and Braves. Acuña is a very intriguing 20-year-old who hit .325 with 21 homers, 31 doubles and 44 steals last season across the three highest minor-league levels.
In totality ... again, you have to give this edge to the Phillies. On-base skills at two of three outfield positions and power at two.
Phillies: Jorge Alfaro/Cameron Rupp/Andrew Knapp
Braves: Tyler Flowers
Marlins: J.T. Realmuto
Mets: Travis d'Arnaud
Realmuto is the stud of this group, an underrated catcher who's hit .290/.337/.440 the last two seasons with averages of 31 doubles and 14 homers. He also has good wheels for a catcher. He or Yelich would be next if the Marlins make another trade.
Alfaro has potential but a lot to prove, offensively and defensively. Still, he's not far behind the injury-prone d'Arnaud or longtime backup Flowers.
Phillies: Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively
Braves: Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir
Marlins: Dan Straily, Wei-Yin Chen, Jose Ureña, Dillon Peters, Justin Nicolino
Mets: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo
First off, I'd be shocked if that is the Phillies' opening day starting rotation. At the very least, they'll grab one veteran with a better short-term upside than Pivetta or Lively.
Second ... this is clearly a drastic edge to the Mets. Everything — everything — went wrong for their pitching staff last season.
If the Phils add a decent No. 2 or No. 3 starter, they'd be on par with the Braves. Atlanta has more proven commodities, but let's not act like McCarthy or Kazmir are locks to make even 25 starts.
Bullpen (key arms only)
Phillies: Hector Neris, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Luis Garcia
Braves: Arodys Vizcaino, Jose Ramirez
Marlins: Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough
Mets: Jeurys Familia, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Jerry Blevins
Advantage goes to the Phillies after the offseason additions of Hunter and Neshek, two solid setup men you can pencil in for ERAs between 2.00 and 3.00. With the emergence of Garcia, the Phillies have a strong core four in the bullpen. They just still need a good lefty. (Can Adam Morgan carry a strong second half into 2018?)
The Mets have a solid back-end with Familia and Ramos, but the bullpens of the Braves and Marlins will likely struggle this season.
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The Phillies' additions of Santana, Hunter and Neshek make a ton of sense when you look at the non-Nationals landscape of the NL East and consider the number of games there to be won — 57 in total against the Braves, Marlins and Mets.
The Phils went 39-37 against the division last season. That number should grow closer to the mid-40s in 2018.