Washington Nationals Represent Philadelphia Phillies' Biggest Problem

By Sean O'Brien
Washington Nationals Jayson Werth
Brad Mills-US Presswire

For many seasons the Philadelphia Phillies long-time nemesis was the Atlanta Braves. While Fredi Gonzalez’ team remains a worthwhile adversary, the Washington Nationals clearly became the boss of the National League East last season. Heading into 2013, the “Nats” are still a far bigger problem for Charlie Manuels’ squad than any outstanding roster issues.

The Nationals threw a seven-year, $126 million contract at Phillies’ free agent Jayson Werth in December, 2010. The massive dollar amount and the length of that deal were both far too excessive for the Phillies to realistically match. Because the Nationals had a lot of payroll space, they could afford to overspend on that player.

Werth was specifically targeted for three reasons. First, he was in the prime of his career. Second, he fit the team’s then-current needs. Third, his addition also represented a Phillies’ subtraction. Their right field situation has been in flux ever since that off-season.

While the Phillies have a good closer in Jonathan Papelbon and have now added a fine set-up man in Mike Adams, the Nationals’ free-agent addition of former New York Yankees’ reliever Rafael Soriano this week should send chills down every Phanatics’ spine. He deepens a staff that was already better than the Phillies’ complete collection of mound men.

The Nationals’ projected 2013 payroll, including’s Soriano’s $7 million salary, stands at approximately $112 million (not including the salaries of minor leaguers on the 40-man roster and benefits for all players). The Phillies’ projected 2013 payroll stands at approximately $152 million.

Not only does the Phillies’ main rival appear to have a deeper roster, they also have broader financial flexibility to meet the challenges that a long season will bring.

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