If MLB plays the season divided into Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, you can start throwing dirt on the Miami Marlins and New York Mets hopes for 2020.
The NL East was already going to be MLB’s toughest division this season.
However, under the radical realignment plan MLB was reported by USA Today to be considering to get the 2020 season underway safely, the Eastern division just became even more challenging for the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets.
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If not insurmountably so.
Again, the NL East was already a monster. The world champion Washington Nationals. The Ronald Acuna led Atlanta Braves. The Bryce Harper-led Philadelphia Phillies.
And then you have the Marlins and the Mets. Two teams in very different situations, but alike in not being on the same level as the rest of the division.
The Miami Marlins are in Year 3 of a full rebuild but were heading into the season worried more about winning than cementing draft position. Quality free agents were signed, a respectable and young starting rotation was poised to take strides. Escaping the division cellar might still have been the ceiling, but MLB punchline? The days of that kind of losing were going to be over.
The New York Mets actually finished third in the division last season, thanks largely to what will almost certainly be the best season of Pete Alonso‘s career. Well that, and terrible injury luck and coaching for the Phillies. The Mets were hoping to carve out a path to a Wild Card berth, stretching out their rotation and bullpen, and looking forward to a full season from deadline acquisition Marcus Stroman.
But both teams can forget those 2020 plans if the Grapefruit League East becomes a thing.
With divisions decided based on geographic proximity, this is how the new-look East would shape up. The Nationals stick around- all they did was win the World Series last year. So do the Marlins and the Mets. So, three-fifths of the division stays the same, with the Braves and Phillies being swapped out.
Swapped out for the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.
It kind of sucks the fun out of kicking last year’s division champion out when you replace them with two other division winners. Both of which are arguably better teams than the Braves, and categorically better than the Marlins and the Mets.
The Astros were the best team in baseball last year record-wise and made the World Series. The Cardinals handled the Braves in the playoffs before running into the Nationals buzzsaw. Bottom line, that’s three teams that played deep into October headlining just one division. With baseball’s best hitting offense among them.
Trash cans aside, the Astros and Nationals are automatic locks for postseason play. That leaves the Mets with needing to outmaneuver the Cardinals and the rest of the Grapefruit League for the last Wild Card berth and doing so without Noah Syndergaard. Even if the postseason field is expanded, the Mets would still be facing some extremely long odds.
As for the Marlins, that leaves them being knocked right back down to struggling to avoid a franchise futility record. Even player development could take a hit on the pitching side, with that much elite offense to faceoff against.
It’s a tough break for both organizations. Every team has a chance in spring, but if the Grapefruit East comes to pass, that’s some serious deck stacking against the Marlins and Mets.