Cliff Lee, Jayson Werth and the Phillies


Thumbnail image for lee 1028.jpgCliff Lee
‘s impending free agency and Jayson Werth‘s impending free agency seem like two totally separate issues, and in most respects they are. But it is evident the Phillies think Werth will be difficult to resign, which is why they have explored trading him – although I don’t see it happening if the Phillies remain in contention in the NL East.

So what happens if the Phillies keep Werth and they can’t resign him after the season? (Werth could be looking for more than $100 million on the open market.) The Phillies could use the money earmarked for Werth to make a run at Lee, although that will be difficult for a couple reasons: First, one of the reasons the Phillies traded Lee in December is because they felt he would be tough to sign to an extension. That probably has not changed. Second, the Phillies will be competing with the Yankees, Red Sox, etc., on the open market.

But Lee said today the trade that sent him to Seattle has not soured him on the Phillies.

“I’m not soured by that at all,” he said. “It’s a business. They decided that the best thing for the Phillies was to trade me to replenish the farm system. They felt like that was the best move. You can’t knock them for that. They didn’t have to trade for me to come there in the first place. Yeah, I’m not opposed to coming back to the Phillies in the future at all. I’m not opposed to playing for any team. If 29 other teams don’t want me and the Phillies are the only team that wants me, I’ll be a Phillie.”

Lee stumbled when asked if he would pursue the Phillies in the offseason.

“That’s down the road,” he said. “Right now I’m a Mariner … or a, uh … right now I’m a Ranger. Right now I’m a Ranger. I was so used to saying that, so, I’m a Ranger and I’m going to be a Ranger until hopefully we win the World Series. And when that’s over I’ll weight all of my options and see what happens. It’s really that simple.”

Lee is aware Phillies fans remain upset that he is not in the same rotation with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.

Lee gets it.

“They’ve been struggling,” Lee said. “They’re underperforming. When they’re doing that it’s easy to look back and say they should have done this or they should have done that. Anyone can do that. When you have to make those kinds of decisions it’s tough when everyone critiques you, especially when the team is underperforming. All that kind of stuff is magnified. If they were in first place by eight games nobody would say a word about it. I think their struggles are mostly due to injuries. Not because they traded me away. If everybody in their lineup stayed healthy all year they would be in a lot better spot. There’s no doubt about it.”

Werth’s agent, Jeff Borris, did not want to comment today on contract negotiations with the Phillies, although it still sounds like nothing will happen until after the season. Borris said the fact the Phillies are talking about trading Werth does not impact his willingness to resign with the Phillies.

“No,” Borris said. “Teams have to do what’s in their best interest all the time.”

Werth is having a solid season. He ranks 15th in the National League with an .881 OPS. But here is what makes him especially attractive to teams: He is a rare right-handed power bat. He has hit 49 homers since the beginning of 2009, which ranks fourth in baseball. He can run. He can play defense. He has a good arm.

“He’s one of the only true five-tool guys that are out there in the game,” said Borris, who said Werth’s free agency has not affected him at the plate like Charlie Manuel suggested. “He has no holes in his game. He has power. He has speed. He plays great defense. There’s really nothing he can’t do on a ball field.

“There’s a shortage of right-handed power bats out there. He can do everything. Think about it. There’s no reason not to believe he shouldn’t be the No. 1 premier free agent outfielder in the post-2010 market.”

Borris then pointed to Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Carl Crawford, who also will be a free agent, but said, “He’s the only other one. Different player.”

Asked to characterize where Werth’s future stands with the Phillies, Borris said, “Taking it one day at a time.”

He said “one day at a time” because Werth might not be with the Phillies at the end of the month, although I still think he will.

*

The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. My Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

8 Comments

I still don’t understand how losing Lee equals first-half struggles for Phillies. Their issue has been offense. Look at the consistent pitching of Halladay and even Moyer….when they’ve lost games, its often been due to lack of run support. Lee would be in the same boat.

hayes9: Not necessarily. Pitchers in general tend to lose games due to a lack of run support. Moyer and Kendrick have gotten support, by and large, in their games. Halladay and Hamels have not. To say that Lee would be “in the same boat” is a broad assumption.

This is from Todd’s post on the 11th:
Of the 54 qualifying pitchers in the National League, Halladay ranks 42nd in run support at 4.24 runs per game. He’s actually tied with Cole Hamels. Interestingly, Kyle Kendrick (6.24) and Jamie Moyer (5.85) rank sixth and 10th, respectively.

And, can we get off this Cliff Lee jag? The guy is gone. Get over it. You’re worse than a bunch of whining kids.

“They’ve been struggling,” Lee said. “They’re underperforming. When they’re doing that it’s easy to look back and say they should have done this or they should have done that. ” … Actually Cliff, We’ve been saying that ever since we found out the Phils traded you!

Anybody who thinks Boston will be in on the bidding for Cliff Lee has not been paying attention.

Even Cliff Lee is sick of all the Cliff Lee talk.

So tired of the free agency talk (ranks 2nd to Lee talk). These days a guy talks about (or media/fans do) their looming free agency the whole season before it actually happens – it just gets old having to hear it the whole year. I love Werth’s game (minus recent hiccups) and I’d hate to see him leave, but let’s leave that to the offseason and hopefully enjoy his fine year for the team NOW.

Our love affair with Cliff Lee reminds me of the classic Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes song “The Love I Lost….was a sweet love…” It’s interesting to note that Cliff Lee’s worse ERA has been at Rangers ballpark (along with his next start Fenway). Felt bad for him and his team getting swept by the lowly Orioles. Actually it’s just as bad as the Phils losing their series to the lowly Pirates.

What’s done is done as far as Lee is concerned; however, there’s residual resentment from the fans due to the fact that he was traded off season. Amaro says that he wouldn’t be able to make the Halladay deal without trading Lee. I accept that but give us a valid explanation why. Look, Lee just fit into the rhythm of the team. He was methodical . He also had a zest about him. He ran on and off the mound. He didn’t waste time. In my opinion, that is why he was liked. That’s why I liked him so much. He was refreshing and a pleasure to watch. It’s was like taking candy from a baby. LOL. No more candy for you. Boo Hoo!

Now, I feel that the team with the second half of the season to play, will chip away at the game defecit and get into 1st again. Polanco will be back soon and Utley will be back as soon as is reasonably do-able. If the starting pitchers hold up, we should be in better shape. Just look at what Ruiz has added to the game since he returned from the DL. Polanco will do the same. We absolutely NEED Werth as part of the total team. Trading him would be a big mistake and a blow to the team. If he is traded, you’ll also get the same amount of resentment if not more from the fans as the Lee trade.It would not bode well for a successful second half.
http://barbward.mlblogs.com

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