With teams like the reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers (+425) taking the top spot, followed by the New York Yankees (+550), and Atlanta Braves (+1000), the Nationals would certainly seem to have a tough task ahead of them.
Firstly, any shot at the playoffs, much less the World Series, will require Washington to play excellent baseball this season if for no other reason than how good and intriguing the National League East should be. The cream of the crop in the division is still Atlanta, while the New York Mets seem likely to make moves to be competitive; if the Philadelphia Phillies can get bullpen help, they might even make a run at the division. Even the Miami Marlins will play the role of thorn-in-the-sides of the rest of the division.
Having a look at two of the major sports books, Draft Kings and FanDuel, the Nationals have about middle-of-the-road odds, with the DK number coming in at +3500 and the FD number coming in at +3200. That puts them in between teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels or Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies, depending on the book.
As disheartening as it might be, Draft Kings’ odds put the Nationals as the fourth likeliest NL East team to take the crown, ahead of only the Marlins. These numbers, of course, are based on the current makeup of the Nationals’ roster, which we know will see changes before the season begins in the spring. The big question is whether or not the Nationals can significantly improve their odds by making additions through free agency.
In many cases, players might be too cost prohibitive for the Nationals, while the trade market won’t yield any fruit because of the depleted state of the organization. The Nationals will try to supplement their stars, like Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg, but it will be a difficult journey to try to put together a formidable team, especially in a division that may be as difficult as the East looks like it’ll be. It might be another story if Washington was in a different division — one with less competition — like the NL Central.
All that to say, the Nationals won’t be bad this year, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the team finishes fourth in the division. That’s the struggle of playing in a good division. A record near .500 might still place a team behind three other clubs. The Nationals are a long shot, certainly, but if you decide to put down $10 on them, you’ll be rewarded with a few hundred dollars if the club is somehow able to make that leap to the Fall Classic.