Until now, Werth had his head down, playing for all of the years he lost to injury and marginalization as a young professional player. When he came to the Phillies in 2007, he met with then-general manager Pat Gillick, his assistant Ruben Amaro Jr., and manager Charlie Manuel in spring training. Gillick, who revived Werth's career with a chance in Philadelphia, asked him what his goals were.
"I told him," Werth recalled, "my goal is to earn an everyday job and hit in the middle of your order."
"Really, that's your goal?" Werth remembers Gillick asking.
"Four years later," Werth said, "I've accomplished my goals."
So what are the goals now?
"We'll have to see," he said.
No, Monday was not a funeral, but it definitely felt like one. Sure, both sides said the right things. The Phillies, Amaro said, would like Werth back. This city and this team, Werth said, have provided the best years of his baseball life.
But there were caveats, and so many of them.
"I've seen quite a transformation here," Werth, 31, said. "But going forward, Philly will be one of the teams in consideration."
In consideration - nothing more, nothing less. This winter, Werth is due a handsome compensation for his last three seasons, in which he has become an everyday player and a very good one at that. The Phillies have approximately $145 million already committed to just 16 players for 2011 and barely negotiated with Werth on a possible extension during the season. To make a potential deal work, both years and money will be a concern, Amaro said.
"It becomes difficult [to re-sign Werth] if you don't move other pieces," the GM said. "We might have to make other adjustments."
No one said this likely divorce would be easy.
On Monday, Werth spoke in the past tense when describing his time with the Phillies. ("I definitely had a good time playing here in Philadelphia.") Amaro spoke highly of his rightfielder but attempted to downplay him when possible.
Losing the only righthanded power bat wouldn't be a concern, Amaro said. Balance is important, but some of the lefthanded batters hit lefties. Werth was arguably the team's best hitter in 2010 for an offense that was maddeningly inconsistent. But, Amaro said, he expects the rest of the core to be healthy and return to productivity even if Werth isn't around.
"Jayson had a good year," Amaro said. "It wasn't an extraordinary year. He had a tough time with men on in scoring position. It wasn't as productive a year as he's had in the past. But I think if he's not with us, there are players we can either acquire or are in our own organization that can help us."
That's a far cry from how Scott Boras, the superagent Werth hired in late September, described Werth's 2010. "He's having a franchise season," Boras told The Inquirer in September.
Amaro said he has yet to begin discussions with Boras, but said he planned to in the next 48 hours. The Phillies hold exclusive negotiating rights on Werth for five days following the end of the World Series. Then, he goes on the open market.
Werth issued his warning shot toward management.
"Since coming here, the club has done an unbelievable job," he said. "The owners have expanded the payroll. They've done the necessary steps to create a winning atmosphere. Hopefully, they'll continue to do that.
"We know business is good here in Philadelphia. The fans are happy. We have the most loyal fans in the game, they sell out every night. The economic side of the club, I would think they're in good shape. They could probably sign whoever they want. Whether or not that's me, we'll have to wait and see."
Werth will seek a multiyear deal. He could fetch $15 million annually as the top position player on the market beside Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford. When asked if he would accept a shorter deal to stay in Philadelphia, Werth did not answer.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or email@example.com.
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