NL East offseason grades: Which teams will improve in 2022?

Max Scherzer, Nick Castellanos and Matt Olson

The NL East was a busy division this offseason, shelling out over $600 million combined in free-agent signings as all five teams worked to improve their on-field product from a year ago.

All eyes are looking up at the Atlanta Braves, the reigning World Series champions. They were the only team to make the playoffs from the division last year. However, the NL East will enter the 2022 season looking much stronger than it did when four of its teams’ seasons ended in early October.

Which clubs improved the most? With Opening Day less than two weeks away, here are offseason grades for all five NL East teams

Atlanta Braves

2021 finish: 88-73, won World Series

Additions: 1B Matt Olson, RP Kenley Jansen, OF Alex Dickerson, RP Tyler Thornburg, RP Collin McHugh, RP Kirby Yates, C Manny Piña, RP Jay Jackson

Subtractions: 1B Freddie Freeman, OF Jorge Soler, OF Joc Pederson, SS Ehire Adrianza, SP Drew Smyly, RP Chris Martin, RP Jesse Chavez, OF Cristian Pache, OF Terrance Gore, 3B Johan Camargo, RP Richard Rodríguez

Free agents returning: OF Eddie Rosario

The defending champs lost the face of their franchise this offseason with Freddie Freeman departing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They made a blockbuster deal to replace him, shipping off a hefty package of four players to the Oakland A’s for Matt Olson. Atlanta then immediately signed Olson to an eight-year, $168 million extension to ensure he didn’t leave in free agency after 2023.


Olson is a marginal upgrade over Freeman due to his stellar defense, while the rest of the lineup should see a boost with the returns of Ronald Acuña Jr. (injury) and Marcell Ozuna (suspension) in addition to NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario. The Braves’ bullpen also looks downright scary, with Kenley Jansen taking over as closer and Kirby Yates slated to return from Tommy John surgery in the second half.

While the Braves could’ve used another veteran starter for the back-end of the rotation, Mike Soroka (Achilles) should be back around midseason. This is the most complete roster in the NL East and, even with the loss of Freeman, the Braves are among the favorites to win their second-straight championship.

Grade: B+

Philadelphia Phillies

2021 finish: 82-80, missed playoffs

Additions: OF Nick Castellanos, OF Kyle Schwarber, RP Corey Knebel, RP Jeurys Familia, RP Brad Hand, C Garrett Stubbs, 3B Johan Camargo

Subtractions: OF Andrew McCutchen, SS Brad Miller, SS Freddy Galvis, RP Archie Bradley, RP Ian Kennedy, RP Hector Neris, SP Matt Moore, OF Roman Quinn, C Andrew Knapp

Free agents returning: OF Odúbel Herrera, RP Cam Bedrosian (minors)

The Phillies’ offense improved this offseason, there’s no doubt about that. The signings of Nick Castellanos (five years, $100 million) and Kyle Schwarber (four years, $79 million) will add some serious power to a Philadelphia lineup that already had Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins in the middle of it. The thing is, they needed more than just bats.

Defensively, the Phillies were among the worst teams in baseball last season. It’s hard to see either Castellanos or Schwarber helping them much in that department. Their bullpen was also a disaster and they addressed it with some patchwork signings of Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand, a strategy they’ve employed for years that still has yet to work out for them

Their rotation was perhaps the best area of their roster last year, but the depth drops off quickly after Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. The Phillies are counting on Ranger Suárez building on his small sample of success and Kyle Gibson pitching more like he did in Texas last year (2.87 ERA) than Philadelphia (5.09 ERA). This team is going to need some production from unlikely places to take a step forward in 2022.

Grade: C-

New York Mets

2021 finish: 77-85, missed playoffs

Additions: SP Max Scherzer, SP Chris Bassitt, OF Starling Marte, OF Mark Canha, 3B Eduardo Escobar, RP Adam Ottavino

Subtractions: SS Javier Báez, SP Noah Syndergaard, OF Michael Conforto, SP Marcus Stroman, SS Jonathan Villar, RP Dellin Betances, RP Jeurys Familia, RP Aaron Loup, SP Rich Hill, RP Heath Hembree, OF Kevin Pillar, RP Brad Hand, RP Robert Gsellman

Free agents returning: None

The Mets threw a lot of money around this winter, but how much did they improve?


Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt are an upgrade over Marcus Stroman and the ghost of Noah Syndergaard in the rotation, a group with considerable depth that likely will be tested given the Mets’ annual struggle to stay healthy. Closer Edwin Díaz had a sneaky good season last year as well and now he’ll have Adam Ottavino alongside Trevor May and Seth Lugo handling set-up duties.

New York handed out intriguing contracts to Starling Marte (four years, $78 million), Mark Canha (two years, $26.5 million) and Eduardo Escobar (two years, $20 million), three underrated veterans that don’t fully make up for the losses of Javier Báez, Michael Conforto and Jonathan Villar but do give the Mets a longer lineup than they’ve had in years past.

The big question for these Mets is whether the offense, which ranked 27th in runs scored last season, can live up to expectations. Bounce-back years from Francisco Lindor, James McCann and Jeff McNeil would go a long way, but the Mets set themselves up for success in 2022 even if they suffer a few injuries.

Grade: A-

Miami Marlins

2021 finish: 67-95, missed playoffs

Additions: OF Jorge Soler, OF Avisaíl García, C Jacob Stallings, 2B Joey Wendle, RP Louis Head

Subtractions: OF Lewis Brinson, C Sandy León, 2B Joe Panik, RP Austin Pruitt

Free agents returning: None

Miami wasn’t the most active team this offseason, which may have cost the club Derek Jeter’s presence in their front office. It did, however, sign World Series MVP Jorge Soler (three years, $36 million) and Avisaíl García (four years, $53 million) coming off a 29-homer season to revamp the outfield. This lineup is still a light-hitting group, but perhaps Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesús Sánchez can take it to the next level.

The Marlins barely touched their pitching staff and they really didn’t need to. Their rotation will consist of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Trevor Rogers, Elieser Hernández and Jesús Luzardo with Sixto Sánchez on the mend and Edward Cabrera moving to long relief. The bullpen certainly could’ve used another arm or two, but that’s something that can be addressed at the trade deadline.

In all, this is a Marlins team that looks like the fourth-best club in the NL East but is clearly on the rise thanks to its young pitching. Sooner or later, Miami is going to have to find a bigger bat for the middle of its lineup. Until then, the Marlins look like fringe contenders that are still one or two major pieces away from being legitimate threats in the division race.

Grade: C

Washington Nationals

2021 finish: 65-97, missed playoffs


Additions: DH Nelson Cruz, 2B César Hernández, 3B Ehire Adrianza, RP Steve Cishek, RP Sean Doolittle

Subtractions: 1B Ryan Zimmerman, SS Jordy Mercer, C Alex Avila, RP Wander Suero, RP Ryne Harper

Free agents returning: SS Alcides Escobar, OF Gerardo Parra (minors), RP Luis Avilán (minors)

The Nationals’ grade has been taken in the context of what they’re trying to accomplish. While the Mets, Phillies and Braves showed serious intent to compete for the NL East title in 2022, Washington is going to need a lot to break its way to sneak into the playoffs. Rather, the club brought in a few veterans to complement a roster built around young, unproven players.

Nelson Cruz was a great addition for the Nationals, lengthening their lineup and providing a veteran presence for their clubhouse. They’re hoping for a bounce-back year from César Hernández (.308 OBP in 2021) so that he can take over the leadoff spot while Ehire Adrianza takes over Josh Harrison’s super-utility role. Steve Cishek is a strong candidate for save opportunities and they’re buying low on Sean Doolittle with hopes that his rediscovered velocity translates on the field.

Perhaps the most notable thing about all these players is they’re signed to one-year deals. If they prove not to be contenders, the Nationals will be able to flip at least a few of them at the trade deadline. While there’s really no such thing as a bad one-year deal, none of their moves did much to push the needle in their big picture of building a long-term contender either.

Grade: B