The National League East is an arms race, at least with the Nationals and the Mets.
The Nationals, who missed the postseason in 2018, traded Tanner Roark and added Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez to a rotation led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
And, as good as the Nationals rotation is, the Mets rotation has fewer questions. The Mets’ offseason focused on fixing their bullpen.
Atlanta didn’t add to a rotation that helped the Braves win the division next year. The Braves might use a six-man rotation to avoid wearing out young arms.
The Phillies rotation has two solid pitchers and three with questions.
The Marlins are growing their rotation.
Here is what’s up in the NL East:
ATLANTA: The Braves’ top two starters are RHP Mike Foltynewicz and LHP Sean Newcomb. Foltynewicz emerged as the staff ace, finishing with a 2.85 ERA and 232 strikeouts. Newcomb, 25, in his first full season, pitched 164 innings with 12 victories and a 3.90 ERA. He slowed in the second half (4.58 ERA). ... Former Oriole Kevin Gausman was 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA after arriving in a trade from Baltimore. Gausman says he was helped by the Braves’ analytics department. He had 73 strikeouts and 23 walks. ... The No. 4 starter is going to be either RHP Julio Teheran, once a top-of-the-rotation guy, and likely prospect RHP Touki Toussaint, who has nasty stuff. ... The Braves might also use a six-man rotation so pitchers such as Max Fried, Kyle Wright and Mike Soroka will get chances.
MIAMI: The Marlins’ starter on opening day will likely be RHP José Ureña, who followed a six-game suspension with a six-game winning streak to end the season. Ureña’s September ERA was 1.20 and his six consecutive wins are the most by a Marlins starter since Alex Fernandez won eight consecutive in 2016. ... The rotation will also have RHP Dan Straily and LHP Wei-Yin Chen, 33, who was limited by injuries to 33 innings in 2017. Last season, former Oriole Chen posted a 4.79 ERA in 133 1/3 innings with 111 strikeouts and 47 walks. ... Straily, 30, in his third year with the Marlins, was taking aim at a third consecutive season of at least 30 starters before an oblique injury ended his season in September. ... The Marlins’ rebuilding effort will depend on how well their young pitching develops. Other candidates for the rotation include Pablo López, Trebor Richards, Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara. ... With RHP Kyle Barraclough, their most experienced bullpen pitcher, traded to the Nationals, that leaves RHP Drew Steckenrider and LHP Adam Conley, a converted starter, to battle for the closer’s role. ... Marlins manager Don Mattingly says he might use a closer-by-committee approach. ...
NEW YORK: The Mets had one of the worst bullpens in the National League last season, but they brought back RHP Jeurys Familia, 29, and traded for RHP Edwin Díaz, 24, to toughen up the back end. A year ago, the Mets bullpen allowed a league-leading 82 home runs and its 4.96 ERA was second worst in the NL. Familia had 83 strikeouts in 72 innings combined for the A’s and Mets last season and he saved 18 of 24 games. Díaz had a 1.96 ERA with 124 strikeouts, 17 walks and 57 of 61 saves for Seattle in 2018. ... The Mets rotation, to no surprise, is a strength. It is led by RHP Jacob de Grom, who won the NL Cy Young last season with a 10-8 record, a 1.70 ERA and 269 strikeouts. RHP Noah Syndergaard, bothered by nagging injuries, finished with a 3.03 ERA in 2018. ... RHP Zach Wheeler has a chance to build on the final two months of last season when he had a 1.68 ERA in his final 11 starts. ... LHP Stephen Matz is healthy and will be expected to make 30 starts this season. ... The No. 5 guy is the inconsistent Jason Vargas.
PHILADELPHIA: The Phillies have a beefed-up bullpen with the addition of free agent RHP David Robertson, and given the questions in the Phillies rotation, they are going to need all the bullpen pitching they can get. ... Robertson, 33, and RHP Seranthony Dominquez, who saved 16 of 20 games last season and struck out 74 batters in 58 innings, will share the ninth-inning closing duties. Robertson pitched in the last World Series game in Philadelphia, in 2009, for the Yankees. He had 91 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings last season for the Yankees. RHP Héctor Neris is also in the mix as part of the big three at the back of the bullpen. ... The rotation, though, has questions, if the second-half performances of 2018 is any indication: RHP Jake Arrieta, 32, slipped to a 5.04 ERA while young guys Nick Pivetta (5.05), Vince Velasquez (5.68) and Zach Eflin (5.76) all had their troubles after the All-Star break, the biggest reason the Phillies fell out of contention, finishing behind Washington. ... The Phillies’ best starter is Aaron Nola, who finished third last season in the NL Cy Young voting.
WASHINGTON: LHP Patrick Corbin, 30, and Sánchez, 35, are new in the rotation that’s led by Scherzer and RHP Stephen Strasburg. ... Corbin, signed as a free agent, had a breakout season with Arizona in 2018 after giving up more hits than innings pitched in each of the two previous seasons, 177 hits in 155 2/3 innings in 2016 and 208 in 189 2/3 in 2017. His stability came when he started throwing his slider at various speeds more than half the time. The question is whether he can sustain that and how will opponents adjust. ... Sánchez, who has transformed into a command pitcher, had a 2.83 ERA last season with the Braves after his ERA spiked to 5.87 and 6.41 in two previous years with Detroit. Can the resurgence continue? ... Scherzer, who finished second in the 2018 NL Cy Young voting, is coming off a season with 300 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA. ... Strasburg made 22 starts with 130 innings last year and his lack of fastball velocity will be a spring story. ... The Nationals made a late offseason signing of RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who pitched poorly for the Orioles in 2017, but was solid for the Nationals in 2018. Manager Davey Martinez was reluctant to use Hellickson for more than two times through the opposing batting order. Hellickson is excellent depth. ... RHP Joe Ross, who had Tommy John surgery in July 2017, made a healthy impression in September, but how many innings can he pitch? ... Prospects such as Austin Voth and Erick Fedde will battle for the No. 5 spot along with RHP Henderson Álvarez, who had a 2.65 ERA for Miami in 2014, but since then has been limited to seven big-league starts because of injuries. ... The key to the bullpen will be the return of RHP Trevor Rosenthal, an All-Star in 2015 with the Cardinals who had Tommy John surgery in August 2017, and Barraclough, who struggled with second-half fastball command last season for the Marlins. ... RHP Koda Glover has electric stuff, but is still unproven. ... The lefty setup guys are Matt Grace and Sammy Solís, who is coming off a down year. ... The closer is LHP Sean Doolittle, who was sidelined a portion of last season with a broken foot.