Werth aside, expect most of core to stay

Jayson Werth was arguably the Phillies' best offensive player in 2010, but it's unlikely the team has the money to keep him.
Jayson Werth was arguably the Phillies' best offensive player in 2010, but it's unlikely the team has the money to keep him.
Posted: October 25, 2010

Ruben Amaro Jr. passed through the solemn clubhouse, stopping at lockers for brief hugs and few words. There was little for the general manager to say after the Phillies' season had ended in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, two wins short of history and six wins shy of the team's ultimate goal, becoming a dynasty.

When Ryan Howard took strike three at 11:38 p.m. Saturday, the off-season began. And with it comes a great deal of questions for the four-time defending NL East champions.

Yes, much of the core will return. The Phillies have about $145 million already committed to 16 players under contract for 2011. A handful of others are under control, with offers to come.

"We're going to be around for a few years," Shane Victorino said.

For sure, when the Phillies have their three aces - Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels - back for another season, they expect to be competitive.

"Best pitching that we've had, and we've got a bright future for us," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I see a big future. I think we're right in the period of two or three years, we definitely should compete and always have a chance to go where we want to go."

But the bullpen could look completely different in 2011, and there is one giant unknown in the outfield.

It certainly was troubling to see how the Phillies were eliminated. Their offense, which defined Manuel's teams of the past, was maddeningly inconsistent all season. Then, in the brightest spotlight, the Phillies were 8 for 45 (.178) with runners in scoring position against San Francisco in the NLCS. In Game 6, they were 2 for 11.

Now the Phillies likely face the departure of arguably their best offensive player this season, Jayson Werth, as the rest of the core becomes a year older. It would have been easier for the two sides to part amicably if this season had ended in a pennant or world championship.

Werth is due money on the free-agent market that the Phillies probably cannot match. Both sides would like to reach an accord, but realistically it would take a great deal of concessions from Werth.

The rightfielder did not speak to reporters after the loss Saturday but will do so this week. He was one of the final players to emerge in the clubhouse and left silently.

The rest of the room contained plenty of questions. In one corner, J.C. Romero already had a clubhouse attendant procure a cardboard box, and the lefthander stuffed it with his belongings.

The Phillies hold a $4.5 million club option on Romero for 2011, with a $250,000 buyout. It's unlikely that Romero, who walked more batters than he struck out in 2010 (a cardinal sin for a lefthanded specialist), will return.

"I'm blank right now," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen. That's the part of this game that I hate the most, the business side. It's not up to me. I had a great ride over here for four years. I hope it doesn't end."

The rest of the bullpen is uncertain, too. Jose Contreras, who signed for $1.5 million last off-season, emerged as a reliable arm during his first season as a full-time reliever and could seek a raise elsewhere.

An interesting decision will come regarding righthander Chad Durbin, one of Manuel's most trusted relievers. Durbin is a free agent.

"I want to be a Phillie," he said. "It's out of my control. I'm sure we'll talk here in the next couple of weeks. There's no place I'd rather play, but baseball is baseball."

Because of the payroll crunch, the Phillies could decide Durbin's role could be filled cheaper from within the organization, where a few candidates emerged at double-A and triple-A this season.

Across the room, a tearful Mike Sweeney spoke of not wanting to remove his white uniform for fear it would be the final time he wore one as a major-league player. The 38-year-old first baseman is a free agent and could retire. Another bench player, Greg Dobbs, is arbitration-eligible but probably will not be offered a contract.

Other arbitration-eligible players are outfielder Ben Francisco and righthander Kyle Kendrick. Wilson Valdez, who was signed as a minor-league free agent last off-season and became an integral part of the team because of injuries, is under the Phillies' control but not arbitration-eligible because of his low service time. He will almost certainly return.

Lefthander Jamie Moyer will turn 48 next month and is a free agent. He is headed to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball to prove his worth for potential suitors. Actually, he'll play for Escogido, on the same team with Domonic Brown, 24 years his younger and possibly the Phillies' next starting rightfielder.

Romero was asked if it's strange going into an off-season with so much undecided.

"Not really," he said. "You don't know anything in life."

The entire Phillies team can attest to that right now.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928

or mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter @magelb

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