Note: Not that any of you would call me on this, but this is an article I originally published to my old blog, The Phrontiersman, about a month ago. Some of the wording has been updated to match the signings of the past week or so.
It would probably be fair to classify the 2010 season as the beginning of a transitional period in the history of the Phillies.
One piece has already been addressed, with Ruben Amaro having traded for and signed a legitimately elite starter for the next four seasons. Another, slightly less important cog has been WD-40ed, with Placido Polanco replacing Pedro Feliz for the next three seasons. What looms in the future are more pivotal decisions that, if correctly addressed, will keep the Phillies among the National League’s elite teams for years to come.
The first such decision involves Jayson Werth’s future in South Philly. Werth, who will turn 31 in May, had a career year in 2009. Career highs in home runs, RBI, hits, doubles, walks and OPS+ shoved him through the veil of unknown and underrated players into the spotlight (that powerful playoff run he had sure didn’t hurt, either).
But Werth is no lock to continue improving. Wrist and durability issues limited his playing time in Los Angeles and Toronto, and actually cost him his entire 2006; his age 27 season. The Phillies picked him up on a light and airy $850k contract, and Werth has been paying dividends ever since.
Financially, Werth has been a tremendous bargain. Not including undisclosed performance bonuses, Werth has earned $4.55M in three seasons in Philadelphia and is set to make $7M in 2010, nearly doubling his previous earnings.
Think about what that four-and-a-half million has given the Phillies:
- A .276/.376/.494 slash line
- 68 home runs
- 128 extra-base hits
- 47 stolen bases in just 52 attempts
- Excellent RF defense in 2007 and 2008, albeit with a significant drop in 2009
Clearly, the man has outperformed the money he has been paid, and I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. The conundrum facing the Phillies front office lies in whether they believe Werth is valuable enough to retain at a more premium price. Michael Taylor is no longer waiting in the wings. Domonic Brown is at least another full season away. No other outfield prospect worth getting too excited about is even all that close to the Majors.
After the expiration of his current contract following this season, Werth will find himself amid a crop of outfield free agents highlighted by Carl Crawford and Not Really Anybody Else. He will be considered (at worst) the second-best outfielder out there, and will get quite a bit of money.
The question, then, is this: with Werth’s durability issues as close to the front of your mind as his performance in 2008 and 2009, do you find room in the payroll to give him an extension? Red flags about future costs have already been raised with the necessity to dump Cliff Lee during this offseason. Can a significant raise for Werth be afforded? On the flip side, are Werth’s health problems behind him for good? Can he be relied on to play 145+ games for every season of a new contract?
This is what’s set to happen to the payroll following the 2010 season, with Carlos Ruiz left as the only arbitration-eligible player remaining:
- Ryan Howard will get a $1M raise, from $19M to $20M
- Roy Halladay will get a $4.25M raise, from $15.75M to $20M; though, really, this is more of a $10.25M raise
- Cole Hamels will get a $3.25M raise, from $6.65M to $9.5M
- Joe Blanton will get a $1.5M raise, from $7M to $8.5M
- Shane Victorino may be due a raise, depending on details of his new contract that have yet to be published
- Placido Polanco will get a $250k raise, from $5.167M to $5.417M
- Brian Schneider will get a $500k raise, from $1.125M to $1.625M
- Ross Gload will get a $600K raise, from $1M to $1.6M
So that accounts for about $11.35M in raises (or $15.25M, depending on how you view the Halladay situation), not including bonuses. Also not included is the looming potential arbitration eligibility for pitcher Kyle Kendrick and outfielder Ben Francisco. J.A. Happ has an outside chance at eligibility, but will likely fall about 80 days of service time short of qualifying as a Super Two player with a fourth year of arbitration. As for money coming off the books, this is what’s set to go down in terms of 2010 salary:
- Werth will be a free agent after making $7M plus bonuses
- Jamie Moyer will be a free agent after making $6.5M plus a couple more million in bonuses
- J.C. Romero has a 2011 club option for $4.5M with a $250k buyout
- Chad Durbin will be a free agent following his final arbitration year
First, let’s see what kind of money Werth can expect to make, or at least demand. His average production over the past two seasons yields a line of .270/.369/.503, with 30 homers.
Werth has put up numbers similar to new Met Jason Bay’s over the past couple of seasons, but is arguably more valuable for his (typically) plus defense in a more demanding outfield position.
Considering Werth will turn 32 in May of his first season with a new club, it’s not unreasonable to expect a three- or four-year deal for him, with an average annual value in the $13-16M range. Considering Werth isn’t represented by Scott Boras, it’s plausible to think he won’t be getting Matt Holliday money; good news for the Phils, as not only is that too much for Werth, they would have no chance to afford it. A lot of this hinges on a healthy, productive 2010 campaign.
Knowing the current constitution of the Phillies, as well as their prospect situation, is it prudent to extend Werth? Can the Phillies afford him? What sort of deal do you foresee for the slugger? Let’s hear what you think.