Though the offseason isn't complete and there's been some fairly decent personnel turnover, the 2023 National League looks pretty similar to the 2022 National League -- at least in terms of which teams will matter, which teams might have at least mild impact and which teams aren't contenders.
Non-contenders who don't seem to be trying for 2023
The Nationals, Reds and Pirates haven't done much to escape their status as 100-loss teams. Perhaps some internal improvements are coming -- you'd sure hope so -- but largely these teams are not really trying to contend for playoff spots in 2023. They are going to be bad and it's by design.
Not good enough
12. Rockies - After a 68-94 season, the roster remains mostly unchanged. Kris Bryant was their big splash last offseason and injuries limited him to just 42 games played in 2022. A full season of Bryant certainly gives them some internal improvement and while it's possible for other players to have better seasons than 2022, there just isn't much reason to believe a leap forward is coming.
11. Marlins - There's big upside in the rotation behind Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara and Pablo López (if he doesn't get traded). Full seasons from Jesús Luzardo and Edward Cabrera will help and maybe Trevor Rogers pitches more like he did in 2021 than last season. Still, the offense that ranked last in the league in runs scored, last in slugging and 14th of 15 in OPS looks pretty similar. Maybe a full season of Jazz Chisholm helps along with bounce-back efforts from the likes of Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, but you can't convince me this is a contender.
10. Cubs - I'll hold off on an over-arching takedown for the time being, as there's still time left in the offseason. I'm not sure how they can salvage it, though. They were well-positioned to have a huge offseason and break into the group of contenders and instead have been one of the main reasons this column idea happened. The big moves have been to acquire Jameson Taillon and Cody Bellinger while having lost Willson Contreras.
9. Diamondbacks - A promising core of young position players -- starting with Corbin Carroll -- and an ace in Zac Gallen anchor this team, but they haven't yet shown that they are looking to go all in on contention in 2023. I don't think they are that far off, but they probably aren't a contender yet.
8. Brewers - William Contreras and Jesse Winker could help solidify the middle of the order and that rotation should once again be stout behind aces Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff. The lineup is still a bit thin and the bullpen isn't very deep at all, but we've seen what the Brewers can do with marginal talent and there's no reason to believe they'll fall out of contention early. They remain relevant.
7. Giants - A step backward from 107 wins wasn't surprising, but the Giants fell all the way to 81 wins in 2022. Ross Stripling is a nice signing for the rotation and Sean Manaea adds depth, but the loss of Carlos Rodón -- at least for now, as he remains available -- stings. The offense was mediocre last season. Out are Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt and in are Mitch Haniger and -- the man of the hour! -- Carlos Correa. Those are upgrades. In all, I'm not sure the Giants are a ton better than last year, but they have potential to impact the playoff race. At least they are trying (hello, Cubs).
6. Phillies - They were the worst of the six NL playoff teams last season and made that into a World Series run. They figure to peak late again, as Bryce Harper might be out until the All-Star break after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Trea Turner signing makes their lineup a lot more well-rounded, while it's possible to expect the bottom third of the lineup to be a significantly more productive. Taijuan Walker and another full season of Ranger Suárez in the rotation help and the bullpen is much more settled now. They'll be better, eventually.
5. Cardinals - Adding Willson Contreras to the position-playing core of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan gives them a very strong nucleus that trickles on down to the likes of Tyler O'Neill, Nolan Gorman and Juan Yepez. The lineup is deep. The rotation certainly has questions, but it's very likely good. As things currently stand, they are the easy pick to win the NL Central again.
4. Dodgers - I could probably have separated out the top four here, because I feel like they are a step above the Phillies and Cardinals. I'll stick with my easy and overarching premise that it's the status quo, though, with this Big Six.
As for this team that won 111 games last year, depth has been one of the Dodgers' calling cards for years. They don't look to have nearly as much right now. There looks to be a big drop off after Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith in the lineup. If Clayton Kershaw gets hurt, they have three legitimate starters, right? And Dustin May still doesn't have a full season since his Tommy John surgery.
Of course, the Dodgers are still great and I wouldn't even argue with someone ranking them first.
3. Mets - It's funny that they've been so active but the team isn't really all that different. Out goes Jacob deGrom, in comes Justin Verlander. Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz were re-signed. Out goes Chris Bassitt and in comes Kodai Senga. Out goes Taijuan Walker and in comes José Quintana.
They look better, though. The bullpen has been a bit reshaped. There's an argument to be made that every pitching substitution mentioned above was an upgrade, and Verlander making more starts than deGrom seems like a sure thing.
Plus, that Mets team last year won 101 games. It was good enough to win the World Series and things just didn't break right. Maybe this mix of personnel will be better. It's a strong mix. I actually went back and forth a lot with these top three teams.
2. Padres - The Padres only won 89 games last year and then got hot enough in the playoffs to make the NLCS. Hopefully the Phillies sitting at number six here is proof enough that I'm not overreacting to that run. No, these Padres are a lot better. Last year they had 52 games of Juan Soto (the worst stretch of his career, too, and he's still only 24 years old), zero games of Xander Bogaerts and zero games of Fernando Tatis, Jr. They'll get full seasons from those three (mostly full for Tatis, who still has 16 games left on his suspension). Along with Manny Machado essentially in a contract year thanks to his opt-out, this could well be the best four-man nucleus in baseball. The bullpen is well-built and the rotation looks top heavy right now, but I'm betting A.J. Preller fills it out. Regardless, the Padres are stacked, even if not that deep -- and remember, the Dodgers don't look too deep, either.
1. Braves - After a slow start last season, the Braves were outrageously good in 2022. There are reasons to believe Ronald Acuña, Jr. (another full season past his knee injury), Michael Harris (not a rookie anymore), Matt Olson (more settled in Atlanta in his second year), Ozzie Albies (only 64 games due to injury) and several others will be better. The bullpen remains loaded. Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Kyle Wright is a nice big three in the rotation and will Mike Soroka be back? The trade for Sean Murphy to become the top catcher was huge, too. They could still bring Dansby Swanson back, but if not, there's no reason to doubt their ability to make Vaughn Grissom a productive replacement, given their track record.
If this seems familiar, it should be. Go back to what I said in the introduction and notice that these are sorted into essentially the exact-same tiers they were last season. The six strong contenders are the six holdover playoff teams. The two fringe contenders were the only other two teams that had chances at playoff spots for the majority of the season. The non-contenders from last year remain non-contenders.
We've seen a lot of player movement, but the relevant teams in the National League remain relevant while the irrelevant teams haven't done much to change the calculus. Status quo? It sure seems that way heading toward 2023 in the National League.