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Monday, May 10, 2010

The Phillies and Jayson Werth -- Will They Re-Sign Him?

On the one hand. . .

Werth is off to a great start, he's a 5-tool player, and he's been terrific in Philadelphia. The Phillies will free up $7.5 million after this season assuming that they don't bring Jamie Moyer back, and they'll free up an additional $24 million after next season because I doubt that they'll bring back either Brad Lidge or Raul Ibanez after 2011 (they might want to shed either of them before then, but they'll find few takers who will be willing to take on their full salaries). So far, so good, and that could mean that they could stretch for 2011 (that is, go more toward $160 million in payroll) before getting back to a more "normal" payroll for 2012 and beyond.

Except. . .

Jimmy Rollins' and Cole Hamels' deals are up after the 2011 season, too. They'll want more money, and Hamels might not be affordable if he returns to form this year and next. Rollins is part of what Baseball Prospectus calls the "Core Four" (Howard, Utley, Halladay and Rollins). So, the monies going to them will push the payroll upward, more towards $140 million (plus, I believe that Howard's, Halladay's and Utley's contracts are back-loaded and will escalate the payroll too). Atop that, you cannot have a team where the average age is 33 and expect to win, and you cannot have a team where most of the players are around the same age. You have to find some youth, and, as GM Ruben Amaro said earlier this year, not every player can make over $10 million. Plus, Werth might get Jason Bay-type money and 6 years, and that would put him under contract until he's 37. Given that Raul Ibanez started to show his age in the first year of the three-year, $36 million that he signed when he was 37, the Phillies most assuredly will tread carefully. And, I doubt that Werth might be interested in giving the Phillies too big of a discount for agreeing to stay with his buddies.

Now, the Phillies have a few promising prospects. Scott Mathieson, a re-tread coming off two Tommy John surgeries, is looking sharp as a closer at AAA Lehigh Valley. If the Phillies cannot find a replacement for Ryan Madson or if Madson falters, look for Mathieson to join the 'pen, and, yes, he's a future closer. More importantly, top prospect Domonic Brown is tearing it up at AA Reading, so look for a mid-season promotion to Lehigh Valley to help get him ready to join the big club. My guess is that Brown will be the starting right fielder for the Phillies next year, and that the club will use the $15 million in savings (Moyer's expiring contract and what Werth made in his last year) to give Rollins and longer deal and add some competition for Kyle Kendrick at the fifth starter's position (assuming that Kendrick proves to be little more than a .500 innings eater).

It's hard to see the Phillies keep Werth for several reasons. First, the money. How many players can they have making $10 million or more? Second, the age. How many players can they have who are in their early 30's and who will age together? Then again, it's worked out okay for the Yankees with their group, hasn't it? Third, the need to get younger and work some younger players into the mix. The logic isn't totally consistent or 100% sound or foolproof, but the conclusion seems to be inescapable -- Werth goes.

And hopefully not to the Braves, Mets, Nationals or Marlins (little worry as to the latter).


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