By John Russo
Yes you read the headline right: Jayson Werth is not worth the Jayson Bay-like money he could be receiving in the off season. That isn’t saying he won’t get it and I’m willing to bet he won’t be on a team that isn’t willing to give him that money.
Now before you think, “I’m not going to read this garbage. He’s unfairly going to rip on Jayson Werth! He’s the best player the Phillies have!” let me tell you what I think of Werth. He’s very talented but he doesn’t have the ability to handle being a super star. He isn’t clutch but isn’t showing signs of being able to handle the role that comes with being a top player. You can have all the talent in the world but when the pressure is on, he is not.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH HIM?:
Now this could just be an extended slump that he’s in. Or he is showing us fans and the Phillies brass that he just isn’t that he is all cracked up to be. He’s still putting up good numbers, just not the Bay numbers that landed the now Mets outfielder a huge contract. He’s still a damn good outfielder, just not the fielder the Phillies want him to be.
You know who he reminds me of a little? And I know it’s an insult but he’s starting to remind me of Bobby Abreu. Yes, the 30 homers, 30 stolen bases guy who was afraid of walls. Werth’s gritty fielding has vanished this year and his ability to go after the ball at the plate has as well.
The best example I can give you is the Braves game I attended on July 6. With the score tied at three and Ryan Howard standing on third with no outs in the seventh inning I believe, Werth barely lifted the bat off his shoulder as he struck out looking. The next two batters got out, a sample of the offense’s overall display of inadequacy.
If the personal experience isn’t enough for you, look at his numbers with runners in scoring position. He’s batting .169 with RISP in 77 AB’s while driving in 32 RBIs and hitting three homers. He’s batting .119 with RISP and two outs with 13 RBIs and .133 in a late and close game. His season numbers are also down. With an inflated .279 average, 13 homers, and 50 RBIs, Werth is off his pace for last year’s numbers when he clouted 36 homers and 99 RBIs. Through May 21 (41 games), he had nine homers and 35 RBIs. Since then (46 games): four homers, 15 RBIs. His season numbers are inflated from the hot start (stats courtesy of Baseball Reference).
Werth is in his contract year, a year where he should be swinging away and trying to raise his value for his next contract. Instead he stands at the plate, barely lifting the bat off his shoulder. He’s struck out 90 times, leading the Phillies. He also has been caught looking at the third strike 25 times, a sickening amount when 13 of them have come within the past few weeks. He’s a hole in the line up and being in the fifth spot, that decimates Ryan Howard.
WHAT TO DO WITH HIM?:
Werth is valuable to the Phillies, just not the way we all wish he was. This team will be in need of another good starting pitcher when the post season comes around. They are indeed in an offensive rut but signs have pointed towards this team working out of it. As players get healthy, the line up re-balances itself. But the Phillies only have two pitchers they can be confident in going out every five days and be confident that they can give the Phillies seven good innings.
This is where Werth comes in. The likelihood of trading him for a pitcher straight-up is slim. They will need a third team who they can ship Werth to, who will send prospects to the team with the pitcher, and that pitcher will come to Philly.
See, fellow staff writer Chris kept questioning me and I kept giving him straight answers. “But John, what about bull pen help or another bat on the bench?” Have no fear, Mr. Bengel but we have that covered. The addition of said pitcher, hopefully Roy Oswalt (imagine a Roy-Roy combo) or Dan Haren, will force Kyle Kendrick into the bull pen for an instant upgrade. And with J.A. Happ’s hopeful return, throw him in the pen as well as he won’t be in full-time starters shape as the season heads into the final month.
But I didn’t answer the bench bat. When the roster expands to 40 men, one of those extra 15 guys will be Domonic Brown (at least he should be). It won’t cost the Phillies a few prospects to land Ty Wigginton or Miguel Tejada of the Orioles because the solution will come from the organization. This kid could make his 2011 tryout and ever 2010 post season tryout as he may be that clutch bat off the bench. By then, he’ll be in right field next season in a lefty-heavy line up where the line up could work.
Here’s a possible line up:
See that wasn’t that crazy at all in my opinion. Though Shane Victorino hasn’t been a great lead-off option, neither has Jimmy Rollins and the Phillies won a World Series with him in that spot. You could even flip-flop J-Roll and Vic and still have a very balanced line up.
He’s a unique talent. With his body size, long arms, smooth home-run swing, and ability to run, throw, and field are what makes him such a special player, a player that could potentially be better than Jason Bay. But potential is a fancy word for, “haven’t done jack.”
But Werth has done jack. His numbers last year were exceptional (couldn’t get that pesky 100th RBI though). He really gave fans a sampling of what he can do when not in a contract year, not playing to get paid. In fact, Werth is a clutch player in the World Series, batting .351 in 11 games with three homers, six RBIs, and an OPS of 1.176. His OPS this year is a .872, around pace with his past two years.
Werth isn’t necessarily a one-of-a-kind player but he’s a right-handed power hitter that teams tend to covet. His value to the Phillies, again, may not be his playing for the team but his price in a trade.
Werth is expendable and can bring this team a pitcher that could put them over the top. Unless the Phillies truly will be able to sign him in the offseason for no more than $10 million (will not happen), they should be able to get some proven help for him and not the compensatory draft picks that will come when he signs with another team.
The Phillies can still win using the pitching-heavy formula. We saw what happened to them in the World Series when the bats went cold and the pitching didn’t hold up. A rotation with Roy Halladay, Oswalt/Haren, and Cole Hamels would certainly be a great trio to ride the playoffs with.