(Not) The Last Word on Werth
Do I think Jayson Werth will be back next season?
No, I don’t.
I don’t think the Phillies expect him back, and I don’t think Werth expects to be back. I think the writing has been on the wall for months.
Ruben Amaro Jr. has said several times he cannot have a roster full of $15 million-a-year players, which Werth aims to be. The Phillies already have roughly $145 million committed to 16 players next season. Assuming Werth lands a contract between Jason Bay‘s four-year, $66 million deal and Matt Holliday‘s seven-year, $120 million deal, I just don’t see how it fits.
The Phillies could move some players to clear salary for Werth, but I think it’s unlikely. I’ve gotten e-mails like, “Just trade Raul Ibanez. There’s $11.5 million right there.” Really? Just trade Ibanez and have a team pick up his entire salary? Just like that?
But I think the Phillies will miss Werth’s bat. Werth had an .889 OPS the past three seasons, which ranked 10th in baseball for right-handed hitters. His 87 home runs ranked eighth among right-handed hitters. He played good defense. He stole 53 bases. He had a career-high .921 OPS this season, which was best on the team. And while he struggled with runners in scoring position, I do think it’s an anomaly.
He will be tough to replace, unless Domonic Brown develops incredibly quickly. He had a 1.083 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Ben Francisco had a .901 OPS against left-handed pitchers. If Brown can hit right-handers and Francisco can hit left-handers it just might work. But after hearing Amaro express his concerns about an everyday lineup with everybody in their 30s — everybody in that lineup had subpar seasons other than Werth and Carlos Ruiz — it is a risk.
If Werth is not back, he will be missed for more than just his bat. Selfishly, he is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful guys in the clubhouse. If you needed an all encompassing quote to sum up a major moment — World Series championship, losing streak, perfect game, hitting streak, whatever — you went to Jimmy Rollins, Brad Lidge and Werth.
Werth spoke for roughly 25 minutes today. He touched on just about every subject imaginable, including the 2008 World Series celebration. Nobody had anything left to ask him, so before he got up and left I thought I’d ask him something I had been curious about (don’t ask me why some of these things interest me, but they do):
Does he still have his Hulk hand?
“It’s at home,” he said. “It’s in the trophy case.”
I should have stopped there, but I asked him one more. Is he going to stop shaving until next Spring Training?
“I don’t know, Todd. But I’ll be sure to e-mail you and tell you. I know you’re interested to find out.”
That got a good laugh.
I mentioned that some teams don’t allow facial hair. Well, just one team. The Yankees. Matt Gelb from The Inquirer then chimed in that I should grow a beard in the offseason.
“Todd can’t grow a beard,” Werth said. “No way. How old are you, Todd?”
For the record, I probably can grow a beard. Maybe.
I posted two pictures here: the photo I took of Werth’s beard the first day of Spring Training and a photo from today’s news conference. It seemed like a perfect bookend to Werth’s year.