Projecting Philadelphia Phillies' 2014 Batting Order
Well, for starters, the Phillies signed outfielder Marlon Byrd in early November to a two-year, $16 million contract. They then made news for the wrong reasons by re-signing catcher Carlos Ruiz to an astounding three-year, $26 million deal. After filling the team's obvious offensive holes, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. proceeded to sign catcher Wil Nieves as the team's backup backstop and trade for reliever Brad Lincoln from the Toronto Blue Jays.
But Amaro wasn't done yet. His final major league move to date this offseason came at the close of the winter meetings in Orlando, Florida, when he signed starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez to a one-year, $4.5 million deal. With most of their holes filled, the Phillies are practically set for next year in terms of fielding a roster. But will it be competitive?
That's a conversation for another time. For now, let's take a look at the Phillies' projected batting order on Opening Day 2014, taking into account the potential for trades and other free-agent signings, should they apply.
1. CF Ben Revere
Barring any other trades, Ben Revere will be starting in center field for the Phillies on Opening Day next year. The bigger question is probably whether he will bat leadoff, but it's difficult imagining a scenario in which Revere isn't hitting atop the Phillies' lineup.
Last year was an interesting one for Revere, as his April started out slow, but his May and June were extraordinary. After May 1, he batted .347, second in the majors in that timespan. Nothing could stop Revere's batting, and his speed on the basepaths was crucial to the Phillies scoring some key runs.
Then came July 13, and in the first game of a day-night double-header, Revere fouled a ball off his foot during extra innings. As it turned out, Revere fractured his foot, ending his season far earlier than anyone anticipated.
With all signs pointing to Revere being healthy for spring training, hopefully he can bounce back and continue to provide the Phillies with hitting consistency, speed and decent outfield defense.
2. SS Jimmy Rollins
No, Jimmy Rollins isn't going anywhere. Despite the rumor tweeted by ESPN's Buster Olney, even if the Phillies' purported "willing" interest to deal Rollins turned into a trade, he'd more likely than not veto it thanks to his 10-and-5 rights.
With that in mind, Rollins is around for one more guaranteed season, though with a $5 million player option available to him next year, he'll make at least that much as a Phillie in 2015. There's also a good chance that Rollins' $11 million vesting option will in fact vest for next year, which would pay him more than double the player option salary.
2013 was not a good year for J-Roll. He posted career-lows in most offensive categories, and his defense was statistically the worst it's been in his career. But can he rebound as a 35-year-old?
That remains to be seen, but it certainly is possible. If the Phillies want the most bang for their buck, they're no doubt hoping for a resurgence from Rollins too.
3. 2B Chase Utley
After agreeing to a two-year, $27 million contract extension in August 2013, Chase Utley made it clear that he wanted to be a Phillie for life and play out as much of his remaining career as he could with the only team he had ever known.
Now that that's all said and done, Utley's status as a starter is clear, and he remains one of the lineup's biggest offensive threats when healthy. Fortunately, 2013 was not a year meddled by knee injuries for Utley, though he did miss a month with a strained oblique.
Utley's 131 games played were the most since 2009, an encouraging sign for the 35-year-old. His batting average and home run counts (.284 and 18, respectively) were his best since 2009 as well, while his .823 OPS was his best mark since 2010.
Most importantly, Utley showed that he's still got what it takes to compete when he's on the field. It warranted his contract and his job with the Phillies. He'll continue to bat third until further notice.
4. 1B Ryan Howard
It's an argument that's been made many times: Should Ryan Howard continue to bat cleanup for the Phillies?
The better question might be this: Do the Phillies really have any choice?
Howard hasn't played the majority of a season since 2011, and since then, his power numbers have dropped, as have his other tallies. Although his 2013 numbers were better than those of 2012 in terms of batting average, OBP and SLG, Howard's home run and RBI totals of 11 and 43 were career-worsts in a season.
Howard's getting paid $25 million next year and for two years after that, yet he's only able to play as a former shell of himself. If he was speedy, he'd bat further up in the order. If the Phillies thought that the power potential was gone altogether, not only would he bat lower in the order, but Howard would likely not play as a starter anymore.
The situation with Howard is a messy one and will continue to be as long as he dons a Phillies uniform. And unless the Phillies eat money, whether by trading or waiving Howard, he's here to stay.
5. RF Marlon Byrd
Although new addition Marlon Byrd is wearing a Phillies uniform in the above photo, by no means is he as young as he was when the picture was taken. Now 36-years-old, Byrd was only 27 when he last played with the Phillies.
With age comes likely decline, and that happened for Byrd during the 2012 season. It led to an inability to land a major league deal last offseason, and he ended up with the New York Mets on a minor-league contract. After making the team in spring training, Byrd got off to a so-so start before heating up later in the year. And after being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in August, Byrd finished out the season in the playoffs before hitting free agency and returning to the Phillies.
Sixteen million dollars is quite the gamble on a player who was as bad as they come two years ago. But the Phillies hold out hope that Byrd can replicate his 24 home runs from last year. Can he do that? Sure. But nothing's guaranteed, and this could easily become a bad contract on the Phillies' books.
6. LF Domonic Brown
Domonic Brown should bat higher in the Phillies' order, no doubt about that. But with Rollins needed to split up the handedness in the two-hole and Howard likely batting cleanup, Brown is stuck batting sixth.
2013 was a terrific breakout year for Brown, who hit a team-high 27 home runs and made his first All-Star team. However, he is a bit of an uncertainly going forward, as most of his home runs came during a hot stretch at the end of May and beginning of June.
Brown's outfield defense is still atrocious, though his offensive upside outweighs that and warrants his presence in the lineup. His .272 batting average and .818 OPS were also career-highs, and the hope is that the upward trend continues.
All eyes will be on Brown to see if he blooms into a star or if last year was a fluke. We'll have to wait and see on that one, but he's not worth trading yet as he could be the center of a potential—and, at some point, inevitable—rebuild.
7. C Carlos Ruiz
Re-signing Carlos Ruiz was important for the Phillies. But does the cost live up to the benefits?
Ruiz is a familiar face and one of just five remaining Phillies members from the 2008 World Series team. But at 35-years-old by Opening Day, was he really worth a three-year, $26 million contract?
Most likely, the answer is no. But Ruiz did have a hot August and September to close out the 2013 season after a suspension and injury-riddled first half.
Going forward, what's to be expected of Ruiz is an enigma. There's little way to know which version of last year's Ruiz is the version that will be seen going forward. The Phillies can only hope that 2013 was a fluke when times were bad, but with Ruiz's injury history and potential inability to play more than 100-110 games in a season, this contract could turn sour quickly.
8. 3B Cody Asche
After the Phillies had fallen out of contention by the trade deadline, Cody Asche was called up from the minors after a hot season in Triple-A. His job in the majors was to make an impression so the Phillies would know what they had with him at the major league level.
Asche fared decently well for a rookie, though his batting average took a hit as the season came to a close. It ended up as .235, while his OPS was just .691. It's far from ideal for the Phillies rookie, but it could be enough for him to secure the starting job in 2014.
The good news is that Asche's glove is good and the Phillies had enough faith in him to ignore external options. The bad news is that a good spring from Maikel Franco could be all it takes to dethrone Asche from the starting job. Only time will tell on that one.