Phils Could Deal Werth and Stay Competitive

It wasn’t that long ago that trading Jayson Werth would have seemed like
something that the Phillies would never consider. There are no definitive signs
that they’re even considering it now, but things have changed enough that they
can at least consider dealing him and actually, they could consider dealing him
and still potentially keep themselves in contention in the NL East / NL
wild-card race.

While it seems like Werth isn’t putting up the same numbers that he was at
this point last season, that perception isn’t reality. The truth is that one
year ago, Werth was hitting .263 with 17 home runs and 50 RBI, which compares
favorably to his mark of 13-48-.286 that he’s put together at this point in the
2010 season. The biggest difference that would affect his value is his contract
status; instead of having a season-and-a-half left on his contract, Werth is
down to just the remainder of this season on his deal. While more time on his
contract would have obviously made him more valuable, the fact that he is a free
agent at the end of the season wouldn’t necessarily deter a club from acquiring
him if they thought he was the piece that would put them over the top this season.
After all, they could also use the time to show Werth just how wonderful it
would be to stay in their particular city.

If the Phillies were to deal Werth, just how would they replace his
production? The obvious choice would be super-prospect Domonic Brown. The
Phillies top prospect was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on June 25, Brown
has been phenomenal, hitting safely in eleven straight games and 12 of the 13
that he has played in with the IronPigs. Since arriving, Brown is hitting
.404/.431/.723 with four home runs and 12 RBI. The Phillies have insisted that
they wouldn’t bring Brown to the majors before they were absolutely sure that he
would be ready enough for the competition that he could stick there. Brown
appears to be pretty much major league ready based on his performance both at
Lehigh Valley and Reading. Plus, the Phillies could conceivably play Ben Francisco against some of the tougher left-handers in the league to give Brown
an opportunity to get more comfortable, although he’s hitting .338 against
left-handed pitching in the minors this season. The only problem with
subtracting Werth and inserting Brown is that you add to the already heavily
left-handed laden lineup that the Phillies run out on the field every night.
Considering that the same issue could potentially exist next season if Werth
were to leave via free agency, it’s something that can be dealt with. Right now,
the Phillies left-handed starting position players – Ryan Howard, Chase Utley
and Raul Ibanez – are hitting a combined .257 against lefties with 13 home runs
and 39 RBI.

So, just where would be a proper landing spot for Werth? At the top of the
list would be San Francisco. The Giants are on their annual search for offense,
which has taken them to the waiver wire where they found former Phillie Pat Burrell, who has been a somewhat pleasant surprise for the Giants. The 33
year-old Burrell is hitting 5-11-.316 in 27 games with the Giants and has played
adequately in left field. Aaron Rowand (7-26-.277) has center field somewhat
anchored for San Francisco, but right field could stand an upgrade. In right
field, San Francisco has depended on Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres, who are
hitting a combined 6-35-.265 for the Giants. Adding Werth to that lineup could
give the Giants a much needed boost in both power and on-base percentage and
help to make them the team to beat in the NL West.

There were reports that the Giants would consider giving up pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain for Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder. Fielder is
arbitration eligible for the final time following this season and will then
become a free agent following the 2011 season, which contractually, gives a club
that would acquire him a full season over what they would be guaranteed if they
were to deal for Werth. If the Phillies were to ask for either of those pitchers
in a deal, it would be interesting to see what the Giants response would be. At
the very least, it would be a starting point for some serious discussions
between the two clubs. The Giants currently sit two games above .500 and seven
games out of first in the NL West.

Right now, the Padres are leading the NL West, but they’ve had to do it based
primarily on good, young pitching, since their offense is currently 14th in the
National League with a .245 average. Their outfield hasn’t provided much offense
though, which would make acquiring some offense a priority for the Padres as
they head toward their first pennant race in years. The tandem of Scott Hairston, Tony Gwynn and Will Venable are now hitting a combined .235 with 16
home runs and 84 RBI. To add injury to their offensive insult in the outfield,
Venable is on the DL, which has further hit the Padres lineup. Adding Werth
would instantly double their outfield production immediately and give the club a
much needed injection of offense. Of course, the perfect addition from the
Padres would be closer Heath Bell, but that’s not going to happen; it would
completely defeat the purpose and almost certainly doom the Padres for any
pennant run. While the Padres have used strong pitching to get where they are
this season, they don’t have a lot of excess pitching to deal, so the Phillies
would likely need to depend on getting young minor league talent in exchange for
Werth, which isn’t likely the type of trade that they would be looking to make.

One final destination in the National League might be St. Louis. Even with
Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, the Cardinals are missing a big
bat to help out their productive tandem. Right now, Ryan Ludwick is on the DL,
but with his return after the All-Star break, the Cardinals offense will get
back to normal, but with a .259 average, putting them right in the middle of the
National League’s offenses, ‘normal’ could be much better. Again, the Cardinals
may not be able to offer the proven pitcher that the Phillies would likely be
looking for in exchange for Werth.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had a hurting offense ever since
Kendry Morales wound up on the DL. Putting Jayson Werth into the lineup where
Juan Rivera (10-34-.239) is right now would make a difference for the Angels,
but Werth would need to move to left field to fit into the Angels plans. Werth
has played over 200 games in left during his career, including 68 during his
time with the Phillies, so the move would work in theory. Tampa Bay and the
Chicago White Sox would also be possible destinations if the Phillies were to
look to trade Werth and potentially find major league talent in exchange.

Of course, if things continue on a downward spiral in Philadelphia, getting
prospects in exchange for Werth might wind up being acceptable for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. The Phillies need to determine whether they have a shot at re-signing
Werth or whether he’s definitely going to be too expensive for the Phillies
payroll, which they insist is pretty much tapped at its current level. If Werth
were to leave, there would be some money freed up to pursue help, but it would
obviously be too late for any help this season. There is also the question of
offering arbitration to Werth and whether he might accept and throw the fragile
payroll into complete disarray, but without the offer of arbitration, the added
compensation that the Phillies would get for losing Werth would disappear.

Simply put, there is no easy answer to whether dealing Werth and remaining in
contention is a possibility, but it may be a move well worth exploring. There is
also plenty of time between now and the deadline where a lot of things – good or
bad – could happen. For Amaro, how he deals with Werth could potentially go down
as just as important of a move as the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay moves. Injuries
and other moves made around baseball could also play into the decision for the
Phillies. Stay tuned, because the next three weeks could be very interesting for
Philadelphia baseball fans.


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