Monday, October 25, 2010

The Jayson Werth Situation, Part One

I imagine that the Jayson Werth situation is something that’ll get a lot of attention over the next month or so. So lets get our discussion started on this site.

Several reports over the past few days have noted that many Phillies players expect Jayson Werth to sign elsewhere. This is not terribly surprising; the consensus opinion has figured as such for quite some time. The Phils have about $140 million committed to less than 20 players in 2011, and it’s unlikely that they’ll wish to commit another $15-$20 million/year to Werth (who, much like their other commitments, is on the wrong side of 30).

I understand this, though it’s not going to be pretty. Make no mistake, Werth was the best offensive player on the Phils this season. Yes, he hit below .200 with RISP, and that’s a problem. But in my view, that’s mostly random and could improve from year to year --- for his career, Werth has an .816 OPS (on-base plus slugging %) mark with RISP, which is pretty good.

Werth had the 6th highest OPS in the NL this year, and was the only Phil over .900. He continued to play a strong outfield and run the bases well. Finally, he’s basically the only right-handed power source in a lineup full of lefties. Anyone who saw the Giants use Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, and Madison Baumgartner to chew the Phils’ offense apart this past week should be weary of swapping Werth for Domonic Brown, yet another lefthander.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Dom Brown and I think the Phils need to start adding youth (and some cheapness) to their lineup. I just think they need to make another move in the meantime. Given his performance this year, I don’t think it’s responsible to pencil Raul Ibanez into left-field in 2011. He’ll be difficult to trade, but I’d try. I’d even be willing to eat $3-$4 million of his $11.5 million salary. And even if they can’t move him, I would like to see them add a right-handed bat to take some ABs from Raul in left. It doesn’t need to be a long-term, expensive bat, but just somebody who can produce against left-handed pitching. A quick glance at the upcoming free agent list indicates that options are limited, though there are some possibilities. Depending on what the Yankees do, Marcus Thames might be a fit. You know who else is a free-agent left-fielder who can still hit? --- that’s right, Pat Burrell. I don’t see that happening. Burrell is a very serious liability in the field and has a deeply schizophrenic bat --- something we certainly don’t need.

Given that Brown is no guarantee in right, and Ben Francisco has not upped his game to earn more time, I think it’s essential that we add depth to the corner-outfield positions.

More generally, however, I wish this wasn’t necessary. Had the Phils not 1) prematurely picked up J-Roll’s 2011 option, 2) signed Joe Blanton for 3 years/$24 million, and 3) given Ryan Howard one of the worst contracts in baseball, they’d have a lot more payroll flexibility and signing Werth would be very doable.

In my view, it makes much more sense to keep Werth for the long haul than Howard. First, Werth is a better VORP player, which is to say that the difference between him and an average right-fielder is greater (more positive) than the difference between Howard and an average first-basemen. Also, he’s a much better defensive player, a better and faster base-runner, and finally, he’s leaner and likely to age much better than Howard.

Nevertheless, the Phils can’t go back and undo past moves. Given their current situation, I would like to see a move for a relatively cheap right-handed bat in left-field. If they are able to trade Ibanez, so much the better.

Source: Photo from AFP


  1. The Blanton contract wasn't terrible. Everyone always dumps on that, but if Blanton performs to his average career numbers, the contract is fair value. The Phils didn't overpay for Blanton's services.

    The real problem is the Howard contract.

  2. I don't think it was terrible, but I certainly think the $ could have been better spent. Blanton is a solid pitcher, but given that we spend big money on our #1, #2, and #3 starters, it seems as though using young, cheap arms for #4 and #5 is the way to go. I wouldn't mind, for example, if Kendrick, Morley, and another young arm competed for the final two spots next spring.