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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Would You Want Your Team to Sign This Free Agent?

He's in the prime of his career (say 30-31 years old).

He's a 5-tool player. Good defender, throws well, runs well, hits for average and hits for power. Atop that, he's got a good on-base percentage. This year, he's hitting close to .300 and his OBP is close to .400.

He bats fifth in the lineup for a very good team.

He has a World Series ring, too.

One more detail: he's 1 for his last 43 with runners in scoring position.

His name: Jayson Werth.

My guess is that the Phillies would like him back -- at the right price. After the past two seasons, you could have argued that he was worth "Jason Bay"-like money, say 5 or 6 years at say $17 million per year. But here's the thing -- is he really a #1 or #2 player in your lineup, is he a leader, can he help carry your team? Or, is he an outstanding complement to a core group, each member of which you could afford to lose less than you could Werth?

The core on the Phillies right now is comprised of the following players: Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley among position players, and Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels among the pitchers. Yes, Carlos Ruiz has been terrific, as has reliever Ryan Madson. And, by the way, Werth has been terrific in many spots. But the thing of it is that the Phillies cannot afford him, especially in light of what they're paying everyone else. Truth be told, they need to get a little younger, and with uber-prospect Domonic Brown waiting in the wings, Werth probably will end up elsewhere. Lots of teams need good hitting in the middle of the lineup, and they'll get that with Werth.

But they need to make sure that it's at the right price. Teams that are hungry for talent are likely to overpay in terms of dollars and years (see Aaron Rowand's and Barry Zito's contracts with the Giants). Werth's play merits a very good multi-year deal, probably in the low 8 figures a year, but you're talking 3 or 4 years in this economy at say $12-$13 million per. That's great compared to the rest of us mere mortals, but it's telling, perhaps, as to the finite differences between the top elite players and the very good ones.


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