As a Phillies fan, I’d like to talk about Jayson Werth’s free agency, how Philadephia should and could replace him, and where he’s likely to end up.
Werth, who didn’t become a full-time starter until midway through the 2008 season, has experienced a great deal of success since coming to Philadelphia from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In four seasons with the Phillies, Werth batted .282 with a .380 slugging percentage, an .863 OPS, hit 95 home runs and averaged 15 steals per season. On top of his offensive skills, Werth is a solid defender who can cover a lot of ground and has a cannon of a right arm.
Throughout the last few seasons, Werth has been called a “five tool player” numerous times, and after watching him play, it’s not hard to see why. There’s no doubt that the 31-year old right fielder is a star caliber player, so where will he end up?
The top two contenders for Werth’s services appear to be the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels, with Boston being the favorite of those two. Boston has the money to spend, and has met with both Werth and fellow free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, so they’re certainly testing the waters on both players. Boston could use Werth’s pop in the middle of the order, but would likely have to move Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, or J.D. Drew to make room for Werth in the outfield. The Angels, on the other hand, could be desperate enough to overpay one of the top two outfielders on the market after seeing their reign at the top of the AL West come to an end this past season, and will likely make a strong push towards Werth or Crawford.
Of course, there are other teams that could make a play for Werth also. Philadelphia, who some have ruled out, is still at least in the conversation when it comes to retaining their right fielder. Detroit is believed to have some interest in Werth, but has already spent big by signing away Boston’s Victor Martinez last week. The Chicago White Sox are another possibility, as GM Ken Williams doesn’t shy away from making big deals. The White Sox are also believed to be quietly shopping outfielder Carlos Quentin, although the haul they’re asking for him is likely to be enormous.
So, if Philly loses Werth, how can they replace his numbers? And, even more importantly, how will they replace his right-handed presence in the middle of the order? The Phillies have a fairly lefty-heavy middle of the order, with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez serving as the heart of the order, sandwiched around Werth the past few seasons.
Philadelphia’s in-house replacement, Domonic Brown, is one of the most highly-touted prospects in baseball and is expected to be a solid replacement, but he’s also a lefty. On top of that, the 23-year old Brown has only accumulated 62 at bats in his young career, and it’s unknown if he’s ready to handle the starting job on an everyday basis.
Sooner rather than later, Philadelphia needs to get Brown into a starting role, so this is as good a chance as any. While there is a chance the Phillies could make a trade to replace Werth, chances are that if any player is acquired, it would be to platoon with Brown in right field. Once the Phillies get a glimpse of what Brown is really made of, it should clear up a lot of questions. While Josh Willingham and Jeff Francoeur have both been mentioned as possible “platoon players” for Philadelphia, there’s a good chance that the Phillies will start out the season with Brown as the everyday starter, and will only make a move if they feel it’s necessary.
Most Phillies fans have known for quite a while now that Werth was as good as gone after this season, and who could blame him? Philadelphia already has a lot of money tied up for the next several years, and at age 31, this is Werth’s one shot at a monster contract. Frankly, it would be silly not to take the money from another team. I’m sure Jayson will miss Philadelphia and the fans, and he’ll always be grateful to Charlie Manuel for giving him a shot as a starter, but baseball is a business, and that’s what many fans seem to fail to understand. As much as we love our teams, this is their livelihood. It’s a business to them. Sure, players get attached to a city or their teammates, but at the end of the day, it’s a job, and many fans don’t seem to accept that.