1. Phillies can continue to haunt Braves
The Atlanta Braves were the best regular-season team in baseball last year. After 104 wins and several record-setting moments, however, their run ended in the NLDS once again. The culprit, for the second straight season, was Philadelphia. There's a non-zero chance the National League is represented by the team that emerges from the NL East bloodbath next season. The Braves made moves to improve, but the Phillies can one-up them with a major addition in the weeks leading up to spring training.
One has to believe the Braves would be slightly bummed out if their trade for Chris Sale is followed by the Phillies signing Jordan Montgomery. The Braves traded for Jarred Kelenic and made moves to sand over the warts in their lineup, but if the Phillies simply add Cody Bellinger to the mix, it's hard to say Atlanta "won" the offseason in its own division.
Before the Braves can compete with the Dodgers and aim for their first World Series victory post-Freddie Freeman, they have to exorcise their Philly-based demons first. The Phillies simply have the Braves' number these days. Atlanta's historic offense unraveled in the playoffs. Their pitching staff should be stronger this time around, but the Phillies clobbered Atlanta's best arms in October. It's an ongoing concern.
The Braves are better on paper, but the game isn't played on paper. If the Phillies can add another high-level free agent — especially Bellinger or Montgomery, both of whom have thrived under the postseason lights before — it puts Atlanta in a difficult position. Even if the Braves cruise through the regular season again, the Phillies will be waiting to turn up the heat in the playoffs.