A big Phillies postseason would be Werth plenty

Jayson Werth, waiting to take batting practice yesterday, had some big hits late in the season.
Jayson Werth, waiting to take batting practice yesterday, had some big hits late in the season.
Posted: October 06, 2010

SELFISHLY, Ruben Amaro wishes Jayson Werth the best.

Werth finds himself in the position that Carlos Beltran found himself in as an Astro in 2004: the free-agent hammer in a deadly playoff lineup.

Werth will cash in this offseason, probably somewhere besides Philadelphia given the Phillies' projected payroll and Werth's expected payday. With a big playoff run like the one Beltran had, Werth's payday could be similar, too.

"It helped [Beltran] a lot," said Amaro, then the Phillies' assistant general manager and now the GM. "I hope the same thing happens for Jayson Werth. It would be great for him. It would be great for us."

Historically great.

Beltran hit .435, and, in just 12 games, he hit eight homers, drove in 14 runs and scored 21 times. The eight homers tied Barry Bonds' postseason record.

An October like that and maybe Werth moves from the neighborhood of Jason Bay, whom the Mets signed after last season for 4 years and $66 million, and into Beltran's zip code.

After 2004, Beltran landed with the Mets for 7 years and $119 million, then a coup for agent Scott Boras.

Maybe, somehow, Werth gets even more. It is a scenario he has considered.

"Probably more than I'm ready to talk about. Or think about. Obviously, I'm aware of what the situation is," Werth said.

It's a situation he hardly could have anticipated 4 years ago, or even 2 years ago.

Entering 2008, Werth was coming off a comeback season. A first-round pick of Baltimore in 1997 and a top Dodgers prospect until 2005, a baffling wrist injury dogged Werth and cost him 2006.

Finally, as he considered quitting baseball for a college football career (really), Werth visited a specialist at the Mayo Clinic, and that revealed the problem.

His wrist repaired, Werth landed with the Phillies in 2007, where Pat Gillick was the GM. Gillick had drafted Werth in Baltimore. Werth scraped out 255 at-bats that season. He became a regular for 2008's World Series title run. He was a full-time starter in 2009.

This year he hit .296 with 27 homers and 85 RBI, all second best among Phillies regulars with at least 400 at-bats. He led the team with 106 runs, a .388 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage.

His 46 doubles led the National League, just ahead of Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday, another Boras client who, after last season, signed a deal nearly identical to Beltran's. Boras already has compared Werth with Holliday.

Werth this season batted fifth and served as Ryan Howard's righthanded protection. Facing a Reds staff loaded with lefthanders out of the bullpen, the catchiest story on a team thin on new story lines, Werth will serve as Howard's protection on the biggest stage of his career.

Not that everything has gone perfectly this year. His .186 with runners in scoring position drops to .139 with RISP and two outs, both worst among everyday players.

However, Werth has come through masterfully late this season. His three-run homer against the Braves on Sept. 21 gave the Phillies a lead they never relinquished, and his single later in that game led to two more insurance runs.

His three hits in the shutout clincher at Washington 6 days later included a leadoff homer in the second and a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.

His walkoff, two-run homer that beat the Nationals on Sept. 19 and kept the Phillies three games ahead of the heating Braves resonates most . . . though it might have meant little if not for his two-out, RBI single in the fifth.

Those were exclamation points during Werth's second-half run. In the Phillies' 45-17 stretch from July 22 to the clincher, Werth hit .314 with 13 homers, 33 RBI and 50 runs scored.

In the 11-2 stretch to the clincher, he hit .354 with six homers, 17 RBI, scored 14 runs and walked nine times.

In 2004 for the Astros, Beltran hit .317 in the 9-1 stretch run that ended with a clinching win in the season finale.

That was Beltran's sixth season, after which he was 27. He hit 38 homers and drove in 104 runs, but hit .267, well below Werth's level. This is Werth's sixth season, and he's 31, but he has played less than three seasons as a full-time player, so there's less wear and tear.

He has value. It could dramatically escalate - especially since now, he, too, has hired Boras.

Werth realizes that even Boras, a magician at presenting a client's attributes, might have trouble minimizing those overall clutch numbers.

"That's what everyone will talk about, right?" Werth said.

Maybe not in light of his September and, possibly, his October.

Werth, who made $7.5 million this season, embraces the opportunity.

"Personally, I'm in a good place, however you want to look at it. A good position," he said, reclining in a locker that is unlikely to be his next season. "It's kind of allowed me to just go out there and play. Everybody, no matter where they work or what they do, on some level they've got to be concerned about where they're going, their job, their career.

"Right now, I'm in a place where I don't have any of that."

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