In contrast with my “woe is Nationals” takes as of late, Jim Bowden, now writing at The Athletic, had positive musings regarding the state of the 2021 Washington Nationals. In a February 4 article titled, “6 teams that had a great offseason and are now World Series contenders,” the Nationals were listed as the sixth team.
Bowden propped up all of the major moves the club has made over the winter, including the addition of Josh Bell from Pittsburgh, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester, and Brad Hand. He even made proclamations that Bell could regain form in a new environment, how Schwarber will be a good power bat and even a decent defender, how Lester’s “championship makeup” will make a difference in the clubhouse, and how any perceived regression for Hand among all of his good stats were likely an aberration due to the “truncated season.”
Indeed, while some may claim I’ve trudged along in doom and gloom, Bowden has painted a sterling picture of the Nationals’ offseason acquisitions. I’ll grant this: The whole of the acquisitions appears to be greater than the sum of its parts. There was nothing overly splashy coming out of DC this offseason, but I did find myself thinking, “Oh, that could be a good pickup” every time a new headline came out about what the Nats were doing.
I won’t waste space here delineating exactly why I fear the future in Washington because at this point it’s unnecessary. These additions have assuredly gone a decent way in attempting to ensure that the Nationals are contenders within the division, though I’m reluctant to give them a World Series nod.
It should be noted that Bowden ranked the New York Mets second, granting them an “A” offseason rating (Nationals received a B+).
Without a doubt, the National League East is the deepest division in baseball. While the division might not have the best team in baseball, it’s got three teams that nobody is much interested in facing. It might not be to the caliber of the 2015 National League Central, but this division will be menacing to the rest of baseball. You have to wonder whether or not attrition will take its toll on the ultimate victor. For reference, the top three records in the National League were housed in the Central that year (‘15); none of them made it to the World Series.
Nonetheless, the makeup of the East will serve as an intriguing backdrop for the 2021 season. How it goes is anybody’s guess, but nobody will ever say that it wasn’t interesting.