By DAVID MURPHY
The Phillies say they are unlikely to make another significant move before spring training. That means the lineup will be something similar to what you see right now. How does that compare to other contenders in the National League? We'll take a look at that question in the coming weeks as we get ready for spring training, which is now just 30 days away.
First, let's compare the Phillies lineup to that of the Nationals, who finished 17 games ahead of the Phillies in the NL East last season. The numbers for each player are his averages per 162 games over the last three seasons. The salaries are the Average Annual Value of the current contract.
|Ryan Howard, Phillies||$25 million||.256||.339||.483||.822||35||125||87|
|Adam LaRoche, National||$13 million||.255||.323||.462||.788||29||101||78|
ADVANTAGE: Phillies, although LaRoche was the superior player last season as Howard never was able to shake off the effects of an offseason lost to Achilles surgery. Howard is also twice as expensive as his counterpart in Washington.
|Chase Utley, Phillies||$12.1 million||.264||.367||.433||.800||21||83||96|
|Danny Espinosa, Nationals||$500,000||.239||.315||.411||.727||21||65||80|
ADVANTAGE: Phillies, and it would be a huge advantage if Utley could stay on the field for all six months of the regular season. Thanks to the offensive dropoff they experienced with Utley on the disabled list for the first three months, Phillies second baseman finished 2013 hitting .255/.325/.411 with 17 home runs. Nationals second basemen hit .250/.314/.384 with 14 home runs.
|Michael Young, Phillies||$6.0 million||.299||.341||.430||.771||14||91||92|
|Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals||$16.7 million||.292||.363||.460||.843||26||96||97|
ADVANTAGE: Nationals, especially when you consider that Zimmerman is in the middle of his prime at 28 years old, while Young, at 36 years old, enters the season attempting to prove to naysayers that he is not washed up. Regardless of age, Zimmerman has a strong edge in power, base-reaching ability, and defense.
|Jimmy Rollins, Phillies||$9.5 million||.255||.325||.405||.729||20||73||100|
|Ian Desmond, Nationals||$3.2 million||.271||.313||.417||.730||16||70||73|
ADVANTAGE: Phillies, although you can certainly make an argument for the other side. My thinking goes like this: Prior to Desmond's huge season last year, he had hit .262/.304/.387 in his first 329 games in the majors. I'm gong to need to see more than one big year before I give him the benefit of the doubt. Of course, you could argue that Desmond's upside makes him the preferred option. I'll stick with the veteran hand, at least for now. Any way you look at it, the two teams are close at this position.
|Darin Ruf, Phillies||$500,000||.333||.351||.727||1.079||41||135||54|
|Bryce Harper, Nationals||$2 million||.270||.340||.477||.817||26||69||114|
ADVANTAGE: Nationals, and it should be noted that Ruf's huge three-year numbers are composed solely of the ones he posted in 12 games last season, his first experience as a pro. If he manages to do it over the course of an entire season, than he'll have the advantage over pretty much every player in the National League, because he will be Albert Pujols. That being said, Harper has the better tools and the bigger sample size, and thus as the clear advantage at this position.
|Ben Revere, Phillies||$500,000||.278||.319||.323||.642||0||41||82|
|Denard Span, Nationals||$3.25 million||.271||.334||.367||.702||5||54||90|
ADVANTAGE: Nationals, although you can see what the Phillies were thinking when they traded for Revere shortly after Washington traded for Span, the two of whom were teammates on the Twins (Span played center field). At 28 years old, Span has likely reached his ceiling, at least when it comes to the maximizing of his tools. The Phillies can at least hope that Revere ends up developing into something more than a slap-hitter. For now, though, Span's marginal power gives him the advantage over Revere's non-existent pop.
|Domonic Brown, Phillies||$500,000||.236||.315||.388||.703||13||64||63|
|Jayson Werth, Nationals||$18.0 million||.271||.365||.456||.821||22||73||91|
ADVANTAGE: Nationals. I'm curious to see what Brown would do over the course of an entire season, but we already know what Werth can do. And while his production over the past couple seasons has not matched the production we saw out of him here in Philadelphia, it's still far better than what anybody in the Phillies outfield has proven capable of on a consistent basis.
|Carlos Ruiz, Phillies||$4.6 million||.303||.388||.454||.852||14||72||66|
|Kurt Suzuki, Nationals||$4.25 million||.238||.295||.361||.655||14||67||62|
ADVANTAGE: Phillies, and it is probably their biggest advantage at any position. It won't be as big if Wilson Ramos can return from major knee surgery and produce at the level he did as a rookie, when he hit .267/.334/.445 with 15 home runs. And it won't be as big for the first 25 games of the season, when Ruiz serves a suspension for a positive test for amphetamines.
OVERALL: Clearly, the advantage goes to the Nationals, although if you squint you can see some reason to hope things will play out differently than they appear on paper. If Utley and Howard produce at their 2010 levels and either Brown or Ruf surprises with a big season and Revere develops some power, the Phillies would be thrilled with the results. Then again, those are some big Ifs, and the Nationals have plenty that can go right for them too.