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These NL East players are indispensable

August 23, 2018

Every team in baseball has that one indispensable player.The guy who carries a massive presence in the lineup, the rotation or the clubhouse. The guy who if he suddenly left the organization today would cause the team's entire fan base to swallow hard and wonder where exactly the team goes

Every team in baseball has that one indispensable player.
The guy who carries a massive presence in the lineup, the rotation or the clubhouse. The guy who if he suddenly left the organization today would cause the team's entire fan base to swallow hard and wonder where exactly the team goes from here. It is not always the most talented player on the team, but quite often it is.
Here is a look at the most indispensable player on each team in the National League East:

Braves: Freddie Freeman
Manager Brian Snitker's easiest job every day is pulling out a blank lineup card and writing Freeman's name into the No. 3 spot. Freeman has held that spot every game this season, and everything has flowed around him as the Braves have started to gain ground over the Phillies and Nationals atop the NL East. It's a comforting feeling to have a hitter like Freeman in the same spot every game. Every player hitting ahead of him knows if they get on base, they have a chance to score. Every player hitting behind him knows a big inning is just one swing away. Few players in baseball can give hitters up and down the lineup that feeling. Freeman is one of them.
In fact, Freeman has been so good that he might be the favorite to win the NL Most Valuable Player Award.

Marlins: J.T. Realmuto
Realmuto has had his finest overall season in not exactly the easiest or best of circumstances. The Marlins traded away most of their top talent in the offseason, leaving Realmuto largely unprotected in Miami's lineup. But he has hit, and he has been a stabilizer on the field and a leader in the clubhouse.
It is why teams in need of catching help are expected to take another run at Realmuto in the offseason. He would be a huge addition to any team, which is why the Marlins' asking price remains sky high. Catchers who can do a little bit of everything don't come along often. You don't just give a guy like Realmuto away.

Mets: Jacob deGrom
If the Mets have any chance at competing next season, they will need a dominant starting pitcher to lead the way. deGrom is that guy. He is having the most dominant season of his career and he has a legitimate chance to win the NL Cy Young Award.
If the Mets don't have deGrom in their rotation -- certainly teams will call the Mets in the offseason asking about his availability -- it is hard to picture how they would have any real chance at surprising people in 2019. Quite simply, deGrom gives the Mets hope. He gives them a chance.

Nationals: Bryce Harper
Harper has not had his greatest season, but there is no question he remains one of the most feared hitters and biggest stars in baseball. Harper not only is indispensable because of his talent and presence in the Nationals' lineup, but because of what he represents to the organization and the city. He is the face of the Nats.
The Dodgers reportedly claimed Harper off revocable waivers recently. It might have made sense for another team in another situation to consider dealing a star player like Harper, who could sign the largest contract in baseball history in the offseason. But if the Nationals traded Harper, they know it would be impossible to re-sign him. It will be difficult anyway, but a chance is better than no chance for a franchise player like him.

Phillies: Aaron Nola
A great argument could be made for Rhys Hoskins, but the Phillies' strength this season has been their pitching, and nobody has been more valuable to them than Nola. Former Phils president and general manager Pat Gillick said earlier this month that he was one of many people inside the organization who projected Nola as nothing more than a solid No. 3 starter. But Nola not only has exceeded those expectations, he has developed into a legitimate ace.
Nola should receive more than a few NL Cy Young Award votes following the season. It would not be a surprise to see him win the award in the future, either. Nola might not have a high-octane fastball like other starters, but he can locate and change speeds with the best of them. Most teams would love him on the mound on the final day of the season to get them into the postseason. Nola is that good.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.