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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ruben Amaro Compares Raul Ibanez as in the Same Stratosphere as Jayson Werth

And it's just not true no matter how many times you say it.

True, Ibanez rallied in the second half of last season.

True, Werth hit terribly with men on base for most of 2010 (until September).

True, both men were the only Phillies' regulars not to get hurt.

But. . .

Ibanez looked awful at the plate during much of the season (he seems to be raising up and then swinging down and pounding the ball into the ground). He also didn't hit well in the post-season. Yes, he is no Pat Burrell (who is now 1-26 in the World Series, but Burrell has two WS rings to Ibanez's none). He's also a lefty, and it's not as though the Phillies don't have enough of them.

Werth is a five-tool player. He can do it all and more, because he can play centerfield too. True, his numbers don't tell the whole story. For example, his superstar-like numbers don't make him a leader or a transcendant player (in the latter sense, like Manny Ramirez in his prime). So, the buyers have to beware as to whether they're getting the outfielder to end all outfielders or Carlos Beltran or Jason Bay, and, at a hefty price, to boot. Still, the numbers don't lie, and no one would take Ibanez, who is 39, over Werth, who is 31. For the Phillies to suggest anything close to parity is silly, especially because Werth is a righty, a great counterbalance to a lineup full of lefties and switch hitters.

It sounds like GM Ruben Amaro is trying to soften the blow. Deep down, while he's saying all the right things, the Phillies either cannot afford to re-sign Werth or don't want to. I think, as Amaro has said before, that they can, assuming that they'll permit a 1-season bulge in their payroll until they shed the eight-figure contracts of Brad Lidge and Ibanez after this season, but they might not want to, as Amaro is also on record as saying a) the team has to get younger and b) the team cannot afford a lineup where every starter makes an eight-figure salary. Atop that, they'll have to deal with arbitration-eligible players or expiring contracts over the next two seasons, both of which are sure to swell the payroll.

Werth is a terrific player, and he'll be a great missing piece for a team with good leadership who needs a stellar bat to hit 3, 4 or 5 in the lineup, and to complement another great player or two. I'm not sure that he can be the leader or put in the role of a team's "best player" and carry it off, as the spotlight hasn't been on him the way it's been on some of his better-known teammates. Still, he'll command more than the Phillies can pay for him, and instead of trying to draw favorable comparisons for guys who remain, the Phillies would be wise to move on, improve their outfield and bullpen, and, in the process, get a little younger and build a little more depth for the future. Losing Werth is the price that you have to pay for success, as your free agents will be in demand, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a Plan B other than trying to tell your (very knolwedgeable) fans that a 39 year-old holdover who has hit inconsistently in the past season and a half somehow becomes the palliative to cure all ills.

The fans won't buy it, so the Phillies shouldn't try to sell it.


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