Two of the division races in the National League are pretty wide-open and the first of them is the NL East. The reigning champion Atlanta Braves have the shortest price, but the reigning World Series champs and the best third-place team in 2019 also reside in this division.
On one hand, these types of divisions are nice because everybody is available at a plus price. On the other hand, these types of divisions are tough because you aren’t going to find any really big plus prices that you can sink your teeth into like you can in the AL East or the AL West.
There also isn’t a clear “winner of the offseason” in this division. The Braves lost Josh Donaldson, but picked up Marcell Ozuna and signed the best free agent reliever in Will Smith. The Nationals could be considered a loser because they lost Anthony Rendon, but they also managed to retain Stephen Strasburg when he opted out of his contract. The Mets have a new manager and also made a few moves to strengthen the bullpen and the depth of the roster, but also lost Zack Wheeler.
Offseason transactions frequently shape the market and shape the viewpoints of those betting into the early MLB futures market. As far as the three most likely contenders go in this division, nobody really stands out. That is true of how the offseason went and true of the odds as well.
Here are the odds to win the NL East per 5Dimes Sportsbook as of February 20, 2020:
Washington Nationals +255
Philadelphia Phillies +385
The poor Miami Marlins. We can scratch them off the list. In my estimation, we can also scratch the Philadelphia Phillies off of the list. There is very little upside with that team relative to the other three top dogs in the division. That is a team that just doesn’t stack up in my humble opinion.
In all honesty, it is a little bit of a surprise to see the Braves lined the way that they are. They won the NL East last season, but became an afterthought because of a first-round playoff exit. They became more of an afterthought when a division rival won the World Series as a Wild Card, becoming the first team to do that since the 2014 San Francisco Giants.
The Braves also overachieved per their alternate standings metrics. The Nationals were actually 5.5 games better than the Braves per 3rd Order Win% and five games by BaseRuns.
While I personally do like the Braves, I couldn’t bet them as a favorite. The Nationals could also be subject to a World Series hangover and also have the production of Rendon to replace.
The team right there to take advantage is the New York Mets. Admittedly, I do wish the price was bigger than +335 because the Mets are a flawed team in their own right. Most of their flaws are on the health side, so this is really a question of whether or not this team can stay healthy and really make a big push. They do have a big gap to overcome from where their alternate standings put them, both relative to the Braves and the Nationals, while not having added much of consequence to the roster.
With a lot of different ways that things could play out in the NL East, there just isn’t enough line value to really take any of the teams in this division, but the Mets at +335 would be the closest one for me. This is one where we can definitely shop around as the season approaches and possibly find a better number.