Mr. Werth Goes to Washington

In a surprising turn of events, former Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth agreed to a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals. The Boston Red Sox were believed to be the favorites to sign Werth, but the Nationals committed a lot of money over a long period of time for the free agent outfielder’s services.

Although the Phillies made repeated efforts to sign Werth, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the 2011 outfield in Philadelphia would include Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Domonic Brown and a right-handed platoon partner while Werth took his services to a new address.

Werth has been among the most productive players in baseball since becoming a regular part of the Phillies’ lineup. Over the past three years, only Ryan Braun and Matt Holliday compiled a higher wOBA among NL outfielders. Along with elite offensive contributions Werth ran the bases extremely well, stealing 60 bases in 68 attempts (88%) and played a great outfield, racking up 30 outfield assists in four years as a Phillie. The Nationals are getting a multi-talented player, for sure.

The Phillies’ brass will continue to deliberate on what to do in right field. Throughout the off-season, GM Ruben Amaro hinted that the team was searching for a right-handed platoon partner to team with Domonic Brown. There is now a possibility that Brown starts the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley while a different platoon (perhaps Ben Francisco and Ross Gload) handles right field. However, Todd Zolecki notes that right-handed bats on the Phillies’ radar include Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur, Carlos Quentin, and Scott Hairston.

Matt Gelb pointed out that the Phillies will not receive a first round draft pick as compensation as expected because the Nationals’ first round pick is protected.

Werth averaged 5 WAR per season with regular playing time in the last three seasons. Matt Klaassen crunched the numbers and found that, assuming 10 percent inflation, the Nationals will be paying Werth as if he is a 4.5 WAR player in 2011 with a 0.5 WAR decline each year. Werth will turn 32 on May 20, so that presumption by the Nationals may be a bit too rosy. However, the signing may be just the thing Washington needs to attract fans and prepare to build a winning franchise. With a core that includes veteran Ryan Zimmerman and future hope in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the Nationals’ reign on fifth place in the NL East may come to an end.

Meanwhile, the Phillies will be banking on the emergence on the top prospect they repeatedly refused to trade in Dom Brown. Reports of his demise in the Dominican Winter League may be greatly exaggerated. Although Brown did struggle, he did only play in nine games — an extremely small sample size to say the least. Furthermore, pairing Brown with a platoon partner will greatly stunt his development. Since the Phillies made such valiant efforts to keep him in red pinstripes, it makes no sense to refuse to let him hit against left-handed pitching. How do you learn how to hit lefties other than by facing them in real game situations?

In the wake of the Werth news, the Phillies actually walk away looking good from a PR perspective. Some fans were upset that the organization wasn’t willing to break open the vault to keep the right fielder in town, but even the staunchest Werth fans will agree that a seven-year, $126 million deal for a soon-to-be 32-year-old is, at the very least, risky and short-sighted. The Phillies don’t need to do anything drastic to maintain credibility as Nationals fans embrace their new star player.

2011 is the year we see why Brown was a coveted asset, or why it was a mistake to plan around him.

The Phillies have to go all-in with Brown.

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37 comments

  1. Danny

    December 05, 2010 06:00 PM

    i’m a blogging free agent. what can you offer me?

  2. Danny

    December 05, 2010 06:04 PM

    can i at least get ripple-style chips?

  3. John K

    December 05, 2010 06:31 PM

    One of my favorite Phillies – I hate to see him go, but this was his one chance to get a big payday so I am really happy for him.

    Kills the value of my best fantasy keeper though!

  4. hk

    December 05, 2010 06:48 PM

    As much as I like Werth and generally dislike the Phillies’ front office, I surely can’t blame them for not matching the deal.

  5. Steve

    December 05, 2010 08:00 PM

    Wow. Surprising move for both the Nationals and Werth. I think the 7 years is the killer part of the deal, but this does send the message to Nationals fans they are trying. For Werth, this is another example of a professional athlete caring more about money than winning in my opinion. I’m sure some will disagree though.

  6. Moose

    December 05, 2010 08:24 PM

    This has nothing to do with the Werth signing, but I just want to say it. I’m beginning to lose faith in the Phillies system for talent evaluation. Talk of platooning Brown, signing Dennys Reyes, Jeff Franceour, etc. These are bad baseball decisions, and Ruben seems to make more of them than he doesn’t. It’s kind of concerning and I’m getting nervous for future Phillies teams. That being said, it was a smart move not to offer Werth anything near even close to this deal.

  7. Bill Baer

    December 05, 2010 08:40 PM

    The key cogs responsible for the Phillies’ great draft classes of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and critical FA scrap heap findings have moved on. Not to mention the scouts and analysts we never heard about.

  8. mike

    December 05, 2010 08:44 PM

    Moose, i’m curious to know what “bad baseball decisions” RAJ has made. i don’t think any of the “decisions” you mentioned have actually happened. RAJ would be foolish not to consider all of his options, even though i agree that bringing in Franceour would be a terrible decision.

  9. Scott G

    December 05, 2010 09:49 PM

    Signing Raul Ibanez at age 36 to a 3 year deal worth more than they offered Burrell (32 years old). Another bad baseball decision.

    I wonder how close of a deal the Phillies would have had to have made to keep Werth. They were definitely not willing to come close, but I wonder how much playing here would have brought the price/years down.

  10. Chris S

    December 05, 2010 10:33 PM

    Another bad baseball decision, trading Lee for the prospects we got. I have no problem refilling the farm, but if you’re going to trade Cliff Lee you better get some great prospects for him. So far, not looking so good.

  11. yikes

    December 06, 2010 01:29 AM

    I gotta admit i dont like the phillies chances this year, or any years after this, the whole infield is in their 30s and our out field has ibanez another aging vet. I think its safe to say the dynasty is over, it will be about 2 or 3 years till we see the old phillies back to failing again.

  12. yikes

    December 06, 2010 01:33 AM

    Oh another thing, ruben amaro and ed wade remember those 2 geniuses that ran the phillies in the early 2000s and later 90s? Lol the only reason the phillies won in 08 was because of pat gillick that man is a genius, ever since he left amaro has restarted the job that wade never got to finish, by just completely tearing the whole team down to nothing. Remember the days of david bell and mike lieberthal just pop up after pop up? LOL get ready phillies fans

  13. Steve-O-

    December 06, 2010 03:42 AM

    Yikes: You need more sleep. Oh and use capital letters. I didn’t much care for Ed Wade however, he managed to sign and develop Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels.

    And how is RAJ ‘tearing the whole team down’? By not signing Werth? By not keeping Lee? Remember how many years the Phillies under Gillick and now RAJ will go on pitchers, 3 and an option (see Halliday, Roy).

    In hindsight Raul was a mistake and Howard will be a millstone on the organization for way too long. But for now the Phillies are a great team. Try to enjoy them.

  14. Dan

    December 06, 2010 04:27 AM

    @yikes,

    What exactly are you smoking? Oh noes! The Phillies stars are in their early 30s… oh wait, that’s when players are generally in their peak.

    Also, we lost a right-handed bat with pop, as well as a speedy fielder. I’m not ready to write off Dom yet, and Ibanez is off the books after this year (although there’s been some speculation that a team or two would be interested in acquiring him). After Ibanez is gone, I’d love to see an OF consisting of Victorino, Brown, and Francisco.

    I’d also like to see what our opening day roster is before I jump the gun in such an insane way and abandon ship on the Phillies (not that I’d ever do that, even if they traded away all their players for nothing).

  15. Cutter

    December 06, 2010 09:14 AM

    @Bill

    I’m not sure how the Howard extension can be called a bad baseball deal yet. Shouldn’t we wait until the extension kicks in and see how he performs those seasons before we judge?

    And if anything, this Werth deal makes the Howard extension look better. Everyone said that there was no need to give Howard the extension so early.

    But the Phillies pretty much said they didn’t want Howard to reach the open market where it would have cost who knows what to re-sign him.

    People countered that nobody would give him that kind of deal. But as the Nationals showed, all it takes is one team with some money looking to make an impact.

    And it seems like the Howard deal really didn’t seem to affect the Phillies’ ability to re-sign Werth. With or without the Howard deal, I don’t think the Phillies would have given Werth as much money and years as he received.

    This Werth deal also makes the Cliff Lee trade look a little better. If people are flipping out about losing Werth, how would they have felt about losing both Werth and Lee this offseason?

  16. Richard

    December 06, 2010 09:24 AM

    I hardly think signing some guys to minor league contracts and kicking the tires on some Diaz or Francoeur types for possible platoon roles is worth getting all down on Amaro. For me, the Howard contract is the big mistake (though, who knows, with the Tulo and Werth deals perhaps indicators of the direction the market will take, it may not be so bad in the long run); the Lee deal was perhaps iffy, not that we yet have much of a way of deciding on that.. the Ibanez deal certainly looked bad, but hasn’t turned out badly at all. (If it once seemed that the Ibanez contract was in the way of re-signing Werth, it seems clear to me, now, that it was not.)

    Also, I again fail to understand remarks like Steve’s, that the Werth deal represents “another example of a professional athlete caring more about money”. The professional athlete aims to be good and lucky enough to play a sport for their living. That is their reason for playing! And the window of opportunity is very narrow. Jayson Werth’s career is such that he effectively missed out on not so much the big contract but years of the typical rising contracts. My point is, of course pro athletes care more about money than winning. Judging them negatively for something we’d likely do in a heartbeat is remarkably uncharitable.

  17. css228

    December 06, 2010 11:44 AM

    @Richard We won’t know whether the Lee trade is bad our not until we see how good the prospects we got are any good. But I think Cliff Lee was worth 4 sure thing prospects, the kind we gave up to get him in the first place. I mean Jason Donald is already in the majors, Knapp has a lot of talent and Marson’s a great trading chip (can’t see him as more than that with Santana behind the plate in Cleveland). However, only Aumont has shown anything in our farm. The returns are very early. Also it just sucks a hell of a lot that Werth had to sign somewhere where we’re only getting a 2nd round pick.

  18. Richard

    December 06, 2010 12:17 PM

    Fair enough on the Lee deal, css228. I don’t have much of a horse in that one.

  19. CH Phan

    December 06, 2010 12:24 PM

    I’m not so happy today. I feel like I’ve been slugged (by a GM & a slugger). This deal makes me feel bad b/c I really thought it was best for both sides for him to stay. I think the Phillies “efforts to sign Werth” were lame at best. I think RAJ was behind it. It seems obvious Werth wanted yrs, not so much the money; the same 5 yrs Howard got.

    I don’t understand posts against Werth. He tried to stay & when he couldn’t, he signed for as much money & as many yrs as he could get – where he could get them. That’s all. Why should fans be pissy at him for doing exactly what they’d do in his place?

    And he really didn’t ‘take the money’. This deal amounts to exactly 1.5 mil/yr more than the alleged deal the Phillies offered. There’s no way Werth jumped ship for 1.5mil/yr more. Based on this deal, the only logical reason he looked elsewhere to begin with was b/c the Phillies didn’t sign him when they could’ve back in May. On top of that, they spent the entire summer not speaking to his (now ex) agent Jeff Borris.

    From radio interviews w/Werth these past 4 yrs & esp recently (Apr, May, Oct) w/Eskin, & from watching him the past 4 yrs I feel like he said & did what he could as the athlete in this situation to stay where he wanted – in Phila.

    Amaro was behind this, perhaps purposely. The strategy? Guess we’ll never know. But he made it obvious he didn’t want Werth: the way treated his agent; the things he said about Werth at the last press conf. Other GMs don’t talk about a player like that who is in the next rm, esp one they’re hoping to sign. It’s one thing to be a hard-nosed business man, w/the team in mind. It’s completely another to be classless.

    I can’t see how the Werth deal makes the Howard deal look better – doesn’t make sense. Werth’s deal is far less money, he’s 5 tools, he’s always been in better shape, he has a better body type (w/a baseball DNA lineage, all of whom have aged well), he has a lack of injuries in the past 4 yrs, position versatility, and he has always had a solid work ethic which should carry him through.

    I’ve lived in DC & Phila. They don’t know how to be fans in DC & they don’t understand baseball. Werth will be in hell there, & I don’t wish that on anyone. As we all saw this past summer; the Phillies sell more tickets at Nationals Park than the Gnats do. And as much as I love Jayson Werth, I don’t know that he’s a player you build a team around. But I do know from watching him for 4 yrs that he tends to rise to the occasion; he likes the challenge. So maybe we’re about to see his most amazing highlight reel in coming yrs. Hey, I hope for him that all the best things come true. I don’t see why not.

    I’m a little worried about the delicacy of a ‘team balance’ for the Phillies w/o him on it; the injuries this team has had & their seeming inability to bounce back; & the fact that the rest of MLB seems to be gunning for us all the time. Also the 4 yrs Werth’s been here have been the ones we’ve gone to the playoffs. Of course we find someone to fill in for a couple yrs whose decent. But we’ll prob pay something for him. And we could’ve kept Werth who belonged here, had a place here, fans in RF, and a history here.

  20. bill

    December 06, 2010 02:53 PM

    It was pretty clear the Phillies weren’t going to resign Werth, partially due to how horrible that Howard deal is.

    Let’s just hope Dom Brown can inject some youth in the Phillies over the next few years and become a player as good as Werth was.

  21. Scott G

    December 06, 2010 04:12 PM

    Jayson Werth is almost definitely more valuable to any team than Ryan Howard is. You need to look past the whole verbal argument of “he’s the preeminent slugger of his time” argument.

    Werth > Howard

    Werth had the 10th highest OPS last year of all players in MLB. He plays a very good RF (and is capable of playing above average CF). He’s worth more to the Phillies than Howard is.

    It’s indefensible to give the contract to Howard instead of Werth. IMO and I think Bill’s as well, it’s absurd to say that Howard has been more valuable to the Phillies over the last few years.

    Not that I think baseball player is worth nearly as much as they make, but Werth and Tulo SHOULD receive higher contacts than Howard because they’re better and more valuable. I’m not so sure that the size of the contract is a sign of things to come as much as it is a sign of these players having been elite over the last few years. Werth’s probably not worth that much money over 7 seasons, but right now, he probably is.

    Players are not at their peaks in their 30s, sorry Dan.

    And, whoever wants an outfield of Victorino, Francisco, and Brown is crazy or maybe a fan of the Braves. It leaves much to be desired.

  22. css228

    December 06, 2010 04:58 PM

    @Scott G I’d prefer not to start Francisco, but a lineup that includes a 39 year old Ibanez is flawed. I’d prefer to take a flier on a Francoeur or a Hairston and platoon them with Francisco or Gload in left. Let Brown get 600 PAs. The only way he’s gonna develop is by playing. He has the potential to be better than Werth so why put him in a platoon that will only arrest his development?

  23. Dan

    December 06, 2010 05:04 PM

    Scott, when would players play their best ball if not in their early 30s? They are usually always in almost exactly the same shape they were in when in their 20s, and they also have experience on their side. Late twenties and early 30s is the ideal time to have a player.

    Also, you’re writing off an OF of Victorino, Francisco and Brown. Why exactly? Because they “haven’t shown anything?” Because I severely disagree. We all know what Vic brings us. Maybe not the best CF int he game, but we could certainly do much worse. As for Francisco, he’s got some speed, and he’s got some power. If we would let him play, I think we’d see some very good things from him. And as for Brown, we all know he’s got tools. He needs refining, but what rookie doesn’t? Maybe that outfield would turn out to be a bust, but it has just as good of a chance to be successful. Plus it would be cheap.

    Would I like Werth in RF for us next year? Certainly, but not for that kind of money. I think you are letting your anger at the FO and your fondness of Werth get in the way of your ability to make a rational argument on these points. You certainly had no reason to call me crazy for a desire to see some players who have potential get significant time. Let alone calling me a Braves fan.

  24. Bill Baer

    December 06, 2010 07:01 PM

    Re: aging/peaks, here’s something from MGL at The Book Blog.

    We will find that this group of players, like almost all types or classes of players (who are not selectively sampled based on performance and then that performance is used to determine their aging curve), improve as they age, peak at 27-30, and then decline thereafter.

  25. Scott G

    December 06, 2010 07:47 PM

    Victorino’s offense from the left side is below average. Ben Francisco’s career OBP is .329. Where do you (css) base your argument that Brown has the potential to be better than Werth. Just because he hasn’t reached his potential? Every player has the potential to be better than Werth. However, the odds are steeply against Dom Brown out-producing what Werth has produce over the last 2-3 years offensively. He is a top tier batter.

    I am making a very rational argument. Francisco is a career bench player for a reason. He’s not very good. Ibanez is pretty bad defensively, and probably average offensively. Victorino is slightly above average defensively and average offensively. Brown is a question mark. I don’t think I ever argued today that the Phillies should have tried to get Werth because it seems like Jayson didn’t care about anything other than money. I’d say he’s probably worth 17-18 over the next 2-3 years.. Definitely not for 7 more years.

    Saying Werth and Tulo are worth more than Howard is not absurd look at their WARs. I don’t know what irrational arguments I’m making.

    BTW, saying “you’d LOVE to see and outfield of Victorino, Brown, and Francisco” is crazy. Would I be crushed if they were our OFs? No (maybe considering the high quality baseball the Phillies have churned out over the last 3 years). However, wishing for that is nearly as bad as wishing for an OF consisting of Doug Glanville, Ron Gant, and Gregg Jefferies.

    No offense to Glanville or Gant.

  26. Steve

    December 06, 2010 09:49 PM

    The Phils could have had Werth for a lot less if they had signed him at the beginning of the season, but they chose not to and here we are.

    I actually think Werth is making a move to an up and coming team. Look at the draft picks, and youth on the Nats and I think they may be finishing ahead of the Phils three yrs from now. That’s less than halfway through his contract, and they will be improving as the years go on, which is a much more enjoyable ride than declining, which at least for the moment is where the Phils seem to be heading.

    I love the Phils but the FO moves over the last couple years have not been good for their future.

  27. Moose

    December 06, 2010 10:17 PM

    To whoever asked me what bad GM moves Rube has made:

    -Signing a 36 year old Ibanez to a 30+ million 3 year contract

    -Signing a 34(?) year old Polanco to play 3rd base for 18 million over 3 years when there were no indications any other team was even willing to go 2 years or anywhere near 6 million per.

    -Signing a 38 year old Contreras to a two year deal after his first full season as a reliever

    -Signing Danys Baez to a 2 year deal when numerous things pointed to him being a mediocre pitcher

    -Howard’s insane contract

    -Blanton’s (and partially Victorino’s) contract

    -Putting serious thought into stunting the organization’s number one prospect’s development

    -Considering Jeff Franceour for any real baseball team

  28. Moose

    December 06, 2010 10:17 PM

    Those are off the top of my head

  29. Scott G

    December 06, 2010 11:53 PM

    If Jeff Francoeur dons a Phils uniform it will be the worst day in Phillies history.

  30. Dan

    December 07, 2010 01:46 AM

    Scott, really the only thing I want to point out to you is that Francisco is NOT a “career bench player.” He was a starter before we acquired him. It is in no way his fault that he was blocked by Victorino, Werth, and Ibanez (when he was raking).

    Other than that, I can’t honestly say I feel like having this conversation anymore. I’m not feeling too well, and besides that I’ve already had to argue this point, and I don’t feel like talking with it about a person who brings outside factors into the conversation (“anyone who would want that OF must be crazy”).

    So good day, and fare thee well.

  31. Bill Baer

    December 07, 2010 03:20 AM

    Ben Francisco is underrated. He’d be a starter on a lot of teams and is a great option for what the Phillies are trying to accomplish in right field.

    I’ll be posting an article comparing the suggested RH platoon options. Unless the Phillies want to swing for the fences and acquire Josh Willingham or Cody Ross, Ben Francisco is actually the most logical option.

  32. Scott G

    December 07, 2010 07:00 AM

    Bill,

    I like Ben Francisco, but if my starting RF or LF has a career wOBA of 0.338, I think I have a right to be upset. Since the defensive demands of the corner outfield positions are less than most of the other positions on the team, shouldn’t it be expected that these players have a little more to bring to the table than that?

  33. Scott G

    December 07, 2010 07:02 AM

    a platoon split of 0.352 wOBA is slightly better, but I’m merely addressing the comments of him being desired as a starting outfielder once Ibanez leaves.

  34. hk

    December 07, 2010 05:08 PM

    I’m probably in the minority, but I’d like to see the Phils take a shot on the recently non-tendered Lastings Milledge to platoon with Raul in LF. He’ll only be 26 on Opening Day, he’s (according to UZR) played a decent LF and his lifetime wOBA vs. LHP’s is .350. Maybe some time in the Phillies clubhouse will help him mature and fulfill some of his potential.

  35. dave

    December 10, 2010 11:35 PM

    hk: With you on Milledege, terrible as that sounds. If the Pirates let you go, generally you are a half decent player — look at Matt Capps and Adam Laroche, and Freddy Sanchez.

    And screw trying to get Milledge to grow up. Have him change his number off of 85 and tell him he’s no longer player football, that’s the only change that’s needed.

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