The Nationals won an NL-best 96 games last season and had the top rotation by virtue of a 3.04 ERA, well ahead of the Dodgers. So what did Washington do as its premium offseason upgrade?
They gave $210 million to free agent Max Scherzer.
As long as they're going to need five starters, the Nats figure they might as well fill those five spots with as much talent as possible, and money clearly was no object. Scherzer had a 3.52 ERA in five seasons with the Tigers, so expect that number to drop significantly as he moves over to the National League.
Opposing teams won't have much room to breathe as Scherzer joins Jordan Zimmermann (14-5, 2.66 ERA), Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14), Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41) and Gio Gonzalez (10-10, 3.57) for the deepest rotation in the sport -- without even including Tanner Roark (15-10, 2.85).
The Scherzer deal also gives the Nats some flexibility to deal a starter during the season for another piece they might need, even though they look pretty set at the moment. Washington was third in the NL in runs scored (686) thanks to a lineup with both power and speed. The other East clubs just can't hang with the balanced Nats.
Losing Zack Wheeler was a stunner, even if the Mets are getting way too much experience handling their many Tommy John cases. Matt Harvey is back to being an ace again, and Jacob deGrom has shown no regression from his Rookie of the Year season. The Mets should have plenty of rotation depth, and new hitting coach Kevin Long already is making an impact. The bullpen is worrisome, though.
If the Marlins can stick around long enough for Jose Fernandez to get back from TJ surgery -- and he's expected to return at the All-Star break -- they could be well-positioned for a second-half run. Giancarlo Stanton is the most feared slugger in the NL and many see Christian Yelich as a future batting champion. Miami is on the rise.
Seems as if the Braves are scheduling their rebuild to coincide with the opening of the new Sun Trust Park in 2017. They brought in former Indians GM John Hart, who traded away lineup pillars Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis. The only major free-agent signing was giving Nick Markakis a four-year, $44-million deal. Good thing they still have two seasons left to pack up Turner Field.
Last one out, turn off the lights. GM Ruben Amaro has hung an "Everything Must Go" sign on this franchise for the 2015 season.
Best of the NL East
EVERYDAY PLAYER: Anthony Rendon, Nationals
OVERALL HITTER: David Wright, Mets
POWER HITTER: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
IN THE CLUTCH: Freddie Freeman, Braves
INFIELD ARM: Andrelton Simmons, Braves
OUTFIELD ARM: Juan Lagares, Mets
CATCHER: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies
STARTER: Matt Harvey, Mets
RELIEVER: Mike Dunn, Marlins
CLOSER: Craig Kimbrel, Braves
GM: Mike Rizzo, Nationals
MANAGER: Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
STADIUM: Citizens Bank Park
UNIFORMS: Mets (home pinstripes)