Two years ago, the Atlanta Braves finished 10 games ahead of the Washington Nationals. (Since this happened on Frank Wren’s watch, the new Braves’ front office will say it didn’t really count.) At the All-Star break last season, the teams were tied. The Nats would lap the Braves over the second half, finishing 17 games in front. That could be the closest the Braves come to first place in the National League East in a while.
The team that, according to Buster Olney of ESPN Insider, already had the best rotation in the majors has just landed Max Scherzer, the best pitcher on the market. (Barry Svrluga and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post broke the story.) The Nats now have six good-to-excellent starting pitchers: Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez.
There’s widespread belief that Zimmermann will be traded to make financial space for Scherzer, who’s signing for more than $160 million over seven seasons, but still. It wasn’t so long ago that the Braves owned the Nats, but last season’s September flop begat a winter sell-off, and here’s a scorecard on what the teams have done with their offseasons: The Nats have landed a Cy Young winner; the Braves have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis.
The cynics in baseball — it won’t surprise anyone to know that there are many — will see Scherzer-to-Washington and say, “Of course! He’s a Scott Boras client! And Scott Boras runs the Nats!” That has been the rap for a while now, and Boras does represent Strasburg, Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa. (Counting Scherzer, that’s almost one-third of the 25-man roster.)
The Nats are loading up to win a World Series, which they haven’t yet done. The Braves are trying to look presentable by 2017, when they move to Cobb County. These teams are no longer peers. One’s a have; the other’s a hope-to-have.