The Nationals spent years chasing down the Phillies in the NL East and took legitimate pride in dethroning the five-time division champs last season. Philadelphia, though, is anything but the Nats' most significant concern heading into 2013 and beyond.
The road to the NL East title now bypasses the City of Brotherly Love altogether. It starts on South Capitol Street and runs due south through Atlanta.
Yes, the Braves are far and away the Nationals' toughest competition this season, a team that already posed a strong challenge last year and has now made some of baseball's boldest moves this winter to improve an already impressive roster.
The boldest move of them all came today with the completion of a seven-player trade that brings Justin Upton and third baseman Chris Johnson to Atlanta and sends Martin Prado and prospects to Arizona. Combined with November's signing of B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75 million deal, the Braves suddenly boast as talented an outfield as there is in the National League: the Upton brothers plus Jason Heyward.
Add the offseason addition of flame-throwing reliever Jordan Walden and the projected return of starter Brandon Beachy from Tommy John surgery in June, and Atlanta has made some major moves to upgrade what was already a 94-win team last season.
Nats-Braves rivalry getting serious
Nats Insider | Jan 24