Werth $126 Million; Now What?
Jayson Werth wore black to an October news conference at Citizens Bank Park.
The color of clothing proved prophetic.
Werth, who had become a fan favorite during four successful seasons with the Phillies, spoke like a man who knew his time in Philadelphia had come to an end. It officially ended today, when he signed a colossal seven-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals. MLB.com first reported the impending deal. CSNPhilly.com reported the Phillies offered Werth a three-year contract with an average annual value of $16 million and an option for a fourth year.
A source told MLB.com the vesting option would have increased the value of the contract to $60 million.
Even if the option had vested for the 2014 season, the Nationals offered $66 million more than the Phillies with an average annual value of $18 million.
The Phillies never had a chance.
“We felt that we offered him a significant contract such that we had a chance to bring him back,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said tonight at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. “But clearly, at the end of the day it was about trying to get the best contract he could and I think he did.”
Werth fired his former agent Jeff Borris during the season and hired Scott Boras to replace him in September.
Boras earned his keep. He landed Werth the 13th largest contract in baseball history.
“Obviously the Phillies had opportunities to sign me long term, and when that didn’t look like that was going to happen it was about the same time I hired Scott,” Werth said.
The Phillies felt for months Werth would not resign, but they never officially closed the door. But with $149.35 million already committed to 17 players next season – minus $11 million the Houston Astros included in the Roy Oswalt deal – they knew they had little chance if a team went above and beyond what they considered reasonable.
Immediate reaction at the Winter Meetings was the Nationals went well above and beyond.
The Nationals acknowledged as much.
“I think everyone is uncomfortable giving any player a seven-year deal,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said. “Sometimes you have to give the years to get the players. With that said, we feel that this is the type of guy to get a long-term deal because he takes good care of his body.”
The Phillies simply felt they could not commit that type of money to Werth. Amaro not only has discussed his concerns about the team getting older – Werth will be 38 when his contract expires – but he has other players on the horizon he also might want to sign to multiyear extensions like Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson.
So what is next for the Phillies?
They lost their only proven right-handed power bat in a left-handed heavy lineup. Werth had an .889 on-base-plus-slugging percentage the past three seasons, which ranked 10th in baseball for right-handed hitters and fifth among right-handed-hitting outfielders. His 87 home runs ranked eight among right-handed hitters and second among right-handed-hitting outfielders (Ryan Braun ranked first with 94 homers).
Werth also stole 54 bases and played solid defense.
That type of production will be difficult to replace. The smart bet from the beginning has been Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown platooning in right field. But the Phillies also are looking outside the organization for help.
Names to watch are Scott Hairston, Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur.
The Phillies like Hairston. They have tried to acquire him in the past. He has hit .278 with an .829 OPS in his career against left-handers. The Atlanta Braves non-tendered Diaz last week. He has hit .335 with a .907 OPS in his career against left-handed pitching. Francoeur, who knows Citizens Bank Park well spending most of his career with the Braves and New York Mets, has hit .299 with an .824 OPS in his career against left-handers.
But Amaro insisted the Phillies do not feel pressure to sign somebody.
“We could have our right-handed bat on our club right now,” he said. “I’ve said this a few times already, but we could have our rightfielder within our organization. We still have to assess that and see if that’s the route we want to take. Frankly, I will have to go out there and find somebody I think is worth making a move on based on we feel about Ben Francisco and possibly Dom Brown. We still haven’t made any final decisions on who our rightfielder is going to be. But obviously when there’s one guy out of the mix, we have to decide which way we want to go.”
Brown recently returned from an unsuccessful stint in Dominican Winter Ball, where he hit just .069 in nine games.
“The fact of the matter is he looked sluggish and was tired,” Amaro said. “There was no reason for him to be out there if it wasn’t going to be a benefit to him. I believe in Winter Ball as a tool, but only if the player is going to benefit from it. He wanted to get some more at-bats. It sounded like … it just wasn’t a benefit for him so we decided to get him back home and let him get ready for Spring Training.”
Because Werth was a Type A free agent the Phillies will receive two draft picks as compensation for losing him: the Nationals’ second-round pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft plus a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds.
“I’m glad for him,” Amaro said of Werth. “I’m glad for Jayson as a person. That’s part of the process and we’ll have to move on.”
Werth is moving on, but he is not going far. The Phillies will see him 18 times a year for the next seven years.
“We’ll get him out a lot. That’s what I think,” Amaro said. “Oh, I believe that we will. I know we’re going to try.”
Werth will be trying, too.
I wish Werth well. He was always good to me.