It is not news that Jayson Werth is the best free agent on the market. It is also not news that the odds of Jayson Werth being a Phillies in 2011 vary somewhere between “slim” and “none.” The Phillies have made it clear that they have other salary and contract considerations and that they “have to draw the line somewhere.” Media sharks have placed Werth into the water and labeled him “chumfeast” so he will likely be pulled apart by teams trying to eat each other in order to get Jayson’s signature on a contract. I prefer to temper my optimism with a little market realism. What are the actual chances of Werth taking the biggest salary payoff vs. making another run as a part of the Phillies? I think that Werth may be far closer to cutting a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies than anyone in the media may think.
Let’s analyze the evidence supporting all possibilities. Werth can stay in Philadelphia for a little less than market value. Werth can hit the free agent market and hopefully get his career payoff jackpot. Werth could decide on a team or a city that he wants to play for and accept their offer. The feeling in Philadelphia is that Jayson Werth will be in another team’s lineup in 2011. Scott Boras, who is Werth’s agent, has been quoted to say that it doesn’t have to be that way. Werth and every other free agent have a decision to make. Staying put and accepting less money would be a known commodity. Hitting the open market means simply take the money and accept one’s fate.
Is it worth a few million more to play for a mediocre team in a mediocre town who understands that you are a mercenary? How did Reggie Jackson like playing with the Angels after leaving the Yankees? What if he’d stayed with Oakland? How about Carlos Beltran in New York vs. his Kansas City days? Would Dave Parker or Dave Winfield have rather stayed with their original organizations and taken a little less money? Winfield and the Yankees never did anything but San Diego played in the 1984 World Series without him. Winfield didn’t win until 1992 in Toronto at the very end of his otherwise illustrious career.
Parker left the We Are Familee Pirates for Cincinnati in 1984 but left in 1988. The Reds won in 1990 without Parker – who left to play with Oakland. Parker and Oakland won in 1989 but was in Milwaukee by 1990.
This year’s class of free agents is supposed to be led by Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Jon Garland (Dodgers), Victor Martinez (Tigers) and a cavalcade of wildcards like Manny Ramirez, Pat Burrell, Jose Bautista and Jermaine Dye. Would Werth rather make another World Series run with Philadelphia or play in Anaheim? Ask Hideki Matsui how that worked out when he left the Bronx for free agency.
The Phillies have exhausted the period of exclusive negotiating with Werth and it is not expected they will re-sign anybody else until they deal with Werth. Jose Contreras, Joaquin Benoit, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and other names have been in the news. Domonic Brown and John Mayberry have been rumored to “replace Werth” as have names such as Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez and Jeff Franceour. Even Vladimir Guerrero has been mentioned but it appears to be a smoke screen.
We have, in my mind, probably the most coveted offensive player in the free-agent market,” Boras said with regard to Werth. “Carl Crawford is a really great player, but the truth of the matter is, Werth scores as many runs, and his on-base percentage is the same. Werth is a guy that can play center field and has played center field recently and is an excellent rightfielder. Both Werth and Crawford are Gold Glove-type outfielders. Werth has 87 home runs over the last three years and Crawford has 42. Werth is really a middle-of-the-lineup guy. When he bats third, he’ll be a 110-to-120-runs-scored guy and a 100-RBI guy. Teams that are looking for a right-handed bat view Werth as a middle-of-the-lineup guy. Crawford has been a #3 hitter by default in Tampa. Anywhere else he would be a prototypical two hitter.” Teams in the mix are Boston, Anaheim, Chicago White Sox, Colorado, Texas & New York Yankees.
Unofficial sources have indicated that Werth would prefer to remain with the Phillies – and that the two sides are negotiating a deal to keep Werth in red pinstripes. Boras and the Phillies have spoken about a potential contract, although neither side will disclose specifics. Logic indicates that Werth would seek a deal similar to the seven-year, $120 million contract the Cardinals awarded Matt Holliday last offseason. If Werth can’t land a Holliday-type deal on the open market, the four-year, $66 million contract Jason Bay received from the Mets seems like a good measuring stick. Could the Phillies afford that?
The Phillies have $146.85 million committed to 16 players next season, although the Astros sent the Phillies $11 million in July to help pay the remaining $23 million on Roy Oswalt’s contract. It is unclear how much of the $11 million will offset Oswalt’s $16 million next season, but the Phillies have said that they cannot have a roster full of $15 million players, which Werth seems destined to be.
“The Yankees are a Goliath,” Boras said. “George [Steinbrenner] built them with the idea of the word best – but you have to pay for the best. The Phillies are now Goliaths. The reality of it is, they have the ability to do what they need to do to retain their players. It’s merely a matter of choice. It’s not a matter of good business, because I think everybody would agree they’ve made some really good business decisions. They’ve all proven to be fruitful economically as far as franchise value increase, future television negotiations, fans. Everything is going well. Somebody asked if they can have a $200 million payroll. Of course they could. It would be good business to do so. This is really a matter of choice for them. Tip your cap to them. It’s nice to be in a position to have those choices.”
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has said repeatedly that “we do not discuss negotiations with free agents.” However, Amaro has also been known to hint that financially speaking, the organization does have the money to do what it deems most effective. The Phillies want to bring Werth back and they want to invest in what is already a championship roster. However, that will depend on what the price is and ultimately how that will affect other possible moves to accomodate Werth.
One of the reasons the Phillies might feel they can part with Werth is that they have Domonic Brown — also a Boras client — waiting in the wings. There is a chance that the Phillies could enter the season with Brown and Ben Francisco platooning in right field, much the way Werth and Geoff Jenkins did in 2008 before Werth won the everyday job. Wouldn’t Brown be more likely to take playing time away from aging Raul Ibanez, whose productivity is on the decline? What about the right handed bat to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup? Brown and Francisco can’t provide that, nor can John Mayberry.
The Phillies usually make good business decisions. Recently they have made good baseball decisions. Make note of this proclamation: It is in the best interest of Jayson Werth and the Phillies to find a way to keep Werth in a Phillies uniform. One option is to offer him salary arbitration for 2011. A second option is to sign Werth to a 4-year deal worth approximately $65 M. None of the names bandied about have better numbers than Werth and at age 32, Werth is about to enter his prime. Werth will be a Phillie in 2011 – either by arbitration or investment. It is the best decision for Werth. It is the best decision for the Phillies. Any other outcome would be the result of Werth’s or Boras’ greed or the Phillies stubbornness regarding their self-imposed “salary cap.” Jayson Werth should be a Phillie in 2011.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org