The Philadelphia Phillies have handed Bryce Harper the richest contract in MLB history and now they are gunning for glory in a ferociously competitive NL East division.
<div data-legacy-message-id="1695cad01e404562" data-message-id="#msg-a:r-211213863190493372"><div><div><div id=":oa"><div id=":ob"><div dir="ltr"><p>The Philadelphia Phillies have been installed as the new favourites to win the NL East after tying up the biggest signing of the off-season. Legendary slugger Bryce Harper joined the franchise on a 13-year, $330 million contract after Philadelphia passed on the chance to sign Manny Machado. Fans were ecstatic with the news and a feel-good factor has returned to the Phillies, who last won the World Series in 2008, ending a long trophy drought for all Philadelphia sports teams. Since then the Eagles have won the Super Bowl, the 76ers are blessed with an exciting team featuring the talents of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmon and Jimmy Butler and Philly is emerging as a sporting powerhouse once more.</p><p>The Atlanta Braves topped the NL East last year with a 90-72 record. The Washington Nationals were second at 82-80, with the Phillies third at 80-82. The Nationals and the Braves were the favourites to finish top of the pile this year, but Harper’s signing is a game changer. The former Nationals player was the 2015 MVP, he is consistently ranked among the top 10 players in the league and his arrival has galvanised his teammates.</p><p>However, it will be a ferociously competitive division, as the New York Mets also have enough firepower to contend for the playoffs. The Mets have snapped up five recent All-Stars in Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jed Lowrie, Jeurys Familia and Wilson Ramos. “This is probably going to be the stiffest competition in a division race in my career,” said Nationals star Max Scherzer said at spring training. Washington spent $140 million to add Patrick Corbin into a formidable rotation that already featured Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.</p><p>Atlanta also signed third baseman Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, so they will be strong once again. There is no clear favourite and you can find value on the Phillies, Nationals, Braves and Mets. The Nationals may have lost their most famous star, but the team is not going to sink into mediocrity for that reason alone. They arguably have greater depth than the Phillies and they will be desperate to finish above Harper’s new franchise.</p><p><a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=bf7f64f4-cd67-4904-9b00-6ded1d41fd18" target="_blank" title="Bet365">Bet365</a> has 9/5 (2.80) on the Phillies winning it, 5/2 (3.50) on the Braves, 3/1 (4.0) on the Nationals, 10/3 (4.33) on the Mets and a laughable 200/1 (201.0) on the Miami Marlins. That makes is the most competitive division in the MLB and it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds. Given the longer odds on the Nationals, that looks like a very tempting bet right now, although the Phillies are the most popular choice with punters right now, followed by the Braves. If you believe the Braves can pull it off, <a href="https://a.oddsmarket.com/record/v?c=150&a=a710bfac-73c1-4a57-b441-2caf1b9f397b" target="_blank" title="William Hill">William Hill</a> has 3/1 (4.0) on them winning it once more.</p></div></div></div></div></div></div>