Prior to the arrival of new GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets largely operated like a mid-market team these last few years. It didn't help the Phillies much in their head-to-head matchup, with the Phillies going 50-82 against the Mets the last seven seasons.
It did, however, make the Mets less of a threat in the division race. The same can't be said now after the Mets added Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos, brought back Jeurys Familia and watched Zack Wheeler transform in the second half of 2018 into a legit top-of-the-rotation starter.
Suddenly, the Mets can talk themselves into a wild-card spot or perhaps even an NL East title if things break right. There is just a major advantage to having Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wheeler, two very good late-inning relievers and a deeper lineup.
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Wheeler is a major key to this. You know how amazing deGrom is. You know how unhittable Syndergaard is most of the time. Did you know that Wheeler went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and .195 opponents' batting average in his final 15 starts last season? He was basically Aaron Nola from the midpoint of the season. Sometimes, it all clicks for a pitcher when he figures out how to perfectly spot his fastball. It looks like that has happened for Wheeler.
Philly fans love to hate the Mets, but as of the final days of 2018, it would require some major hometown goggles to call the Phillies a better team than their rivals from New York.
Therein lies the problem. The Mets are better. The Braves are ascending, with the best bat in the division in Freddie Freeman and maybe the best overall player in Ronald Acuña Jr.
The Nationals will lose Bryce Harper, but Patrick Corbin isn't a bad consolation prize. Between deGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler and Max Scherzer-Corbin-Stephen Strasburg, the two best rotations in the National League are probably both in the Phillies' division.
As of this exact date, the Phillies have the fourth-best roster in the NL East. They need at least one more upgrade in the lineup, one more upgrade in the rotation and one more upgrade in the bullpen to realistically push for the 90 wins required for a playoff spot.
If the Phils can add Manny Machado, Zach Britton and a veteran starting pitcher via trade, then they can call themselves the division favorite. But outside of that? It's going to be tough.
The Phillies' front office likely banked on the Braves adding a difference-maker of Josh Donaldson's caliber and the Nationals finding a way to remain in contention despite losing Harper. It's hard to believe they foresaw the Mets making the impact moves they made.
There were many ways this offseason could have played out in the NL East and many ways it still can play out. If the Phils land one of the two free-agent superstars, it will help to nullify the additions made by their top competitors.
If they can't, then this offseason will have resulted in one of the worst-case scenarios for the Phillies, despite solid pickups like Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.
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