Inside the Phillies: Werth may go, but team will go on

Jayson Werth will bea free agent whenthe season ends.
Jayson Werth will bea free agent whenthe season ends.
Posted: September 26, 2010

The divorce is coming.

It figures to be amicable because Jayson Werth knows his marriage to the Phillies is the reason he's about to stash millions and millions of dollars into his bank account, and he gets to keep all the fine jewelry he collected here, too.

Fan reaction will be predictable:

"How could you let this guy go? He's a terrific outfielder who can play all three positions, he hustles, he cares and he plays with an edge. With all those sellouts, they couldn't afford to pay him?"

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. knows the drill.

"You make decisions based on what's best for the organization," Amaro said. "We did it with Pat Burrell. Those are difficult because you have ties to guys you really like and have really contributed to the organization. But in a business sense, it's not tough because you try to do what's best for the organization."

In the long run, all that really matters is how the business decision unfolds.

Since joining baseball's elite by winning the National League East for the first time in 2007, the Phillies have had to make a few of these decisions, and so far they have a high batting average.

Former general manager Pat Gillick watched Aaron Rowand sign with the San Francisco Giants as a free agent after the 2007 season and replaced him with Shane Victorino in center field. In the three seasons since that move, Victorino has been a superior player to Rowand, hitting for a higher average with more extra-base hits and stolen bases while also collecting two Gold Gloves.

That move also opened right field for Werth, and he pounced on the opportunity to the point where he figures to get a far better long-term contract than the five-year, $60 million deal Rowand signed with the Giants.

After the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, they let Burrell walk as a free agent and replaced him by signing Raul Ibanez to a three-year, $31.5 million deal. The argument against the move was that it was too long a contract for a 36-year-old outfielder and that it made the Phillies' lineup too lefthanded.

Ibanez has hit 49 home runs and driven in 162 since coming to Philadelphia. Burrell has hit 32 home runs and driven in 120 since leaving Philadelphia and was released by Tampa Bay before signing with San Francisco earlier this season.

Last off-season, third baseman Pedro Feliz left as a free agent, and Amaro made that little trade that sent staff ace Cliff Lee to Seattle. Feliz was replaced by free agent Placido Polanco and everyone would agree it was an upgrade.

The Lee trade drew mass criticism for eight months, but has been silenced by the acquisition and subsequent brilliance of Roy Oswalt.

Letting Brett Myers walk as a free agent goes on the negative side of the ledger, but the Phillies thought it was time to part ways with their combustible former first-round pick.

Now, the next big departure that will be critiqued is Werth's, unless the Phillies shock us all and decide to give agent Scott Boras the money he'll be seeking for his client. There's a better chance of Kevin Kolb's starting at quarterback in Jacksonville.

The Phillies' future rightfielder has been sitting in the dugout since late July, but there now seems to be some question about whether the future for Domonic Brown will begin in 2011. The likely answer is yes, but Amaro and others in the organization have admitted they're not positive that Brown is ready for that role even after a sensational minor-league season that earned him the Paul Owens Award.

"Clearly we would have liked to send him back and get him more at-bats and development time, but when you're in a pennant race, you want to try to keep your best 25 players, especially late in the season," Amaro said.

As it turned out, Brown had no impact once Victorino returned from a stint on the disabled list and Werth went back to right field. He has just three hits in his last 21 at-bats and has not played at all since Sept. 6 because of a strained right quadriceps injury.

"We know what we have as far as his talent is concerned," Amaro said. "We don't know what we have as far as his development is concerned. There are some things he needs to work on in the outfield, there are some things he needs to work on baserunning. He's not a ready-made product and he may still need some development time.

"We'll find out more about that when he goes to the Dominican Republic, where he's scheduled to play, and then hopefully we'll find out more in spring training."

When Rowand departed, Victorino and Werth had shown they were ready to play more expanded roles in the big leagues. Brown has not.

Werth has said that he believes Ben Francisco could be productive if given more of a chance. Francisco hit .266 with 32 doubles and 15 home runs in 447 at-bats with Cleveland in 2008, so it is possible he'll get better with more playing time.

The most likely scenario for 2011 is a platoon in right field with Brown and Francisco. They would be under the same microscope Werth and Victorino were after Rowand left for San Francisco.

Amaro and the Phillies have to hope that the petri dish reveals two more championship-caliber players.

Inside the Phillies:

Read The Inquirer's Phillies blog, "The Phillies Zone," by Bob Brookover and Matt Gelb, at

Blog response of the week

Subject: Jayson Werth replaces agent Jeff Borris from the Beverly Hills Sports Council with agent Scott Boras.

Response from P Even at 1:40 p.m. Monday:

"Whether it is Borris or Boras, Werth is gone."

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577


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