Werth's contract is up after this season and unless something horribly foreseen happens, he's going to make big money. The likes of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday may find themselves a little envious of what Werth may be able to get if he hits the open market as a free agent nine months from now. If Werth can put up the type of numbers that Phillies fans have come to expect from him during his time in Philadelphia, the sky is the limit, but the Philadelphia Phillies may be priced out of re-signing their all-star right fielder.
As things stand now, the Phillies have 15 players signed through the 2011 season and their contracts for next season combine to cost the Phillies approximately $130 million. That's not including needing a bunch more players to fill out a roster and it also doesn't include those annoying little things like arbitration and incentives clauses that can push up the value of a contract. And most notably, it doesn't include Jayson Werth.
If the Phillies are to re-sign Werth, even at a hometown discount, it's surely going to push their commitments right to or over their self-imposed $140 million payroll that they have for this season and next. When you look at the sheer numbers, it looks like there is no way that Jayson Werth is back in Philadelphia for 2011 or beyond. But if you get creative, maybe there are some options for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to explore and nobody has ever accused the sophomore GM of not thinking outside the box.
First, there is the ever-popular back-loaded contract. In a deal like this, Werth might get something like seven million in 2011 and then balloon that up to something like $17 million for each of his following years. Actually, the Mets did something like this with Jason Bay, giving him $6.5 million in 2010 and then pushing it up to the $16 and $17 million ranges in the following years, but the catch is that the Mets also gave Bay an $8.5 million signing bonus, which for accounting terms doesn't show up on the payroll numbers and comes out of a different pocket. Problem is, there's no way of knowing if the Phillies have one of those other pockets that are deep enough for something like that.
Another possibility would be the deferred money deal. Werth might sign something like a four or five-year deal, but be paid by the Phillies for the next seven or eight years, to spread out the annual payment. It's kind of like when the Phillies traded Jim Thome and still had to pay him a hefty amount for a number of years. Deals like that are ultimately more expensive for the club, because the player collects interest on the amount of money that's deferred.
The other possibility is to cut somewhere else. Yes, trade one of the other parts of the club to be able to fit Werth on the payroll.
Perhaps, young pitchers start to blossom and the Phillies decide that they can deal away Joe Blanton, who is owed $8.5 million in both 2011 and 2012. That's a decent enough contract for another club to pick up if Blanton continues to pitch the way that he has and it dumps a decent amount of money from the Phillies payroll, while bringing back a couple of prospects to keep restocking that farm system. Another potential cut from the pitching staff would be in not picking up J.C. Romero's $4.75 million deal for 2011; it doesn't get you all the way toward affording Werth, but it puts you within shooting range.
One very nice option would be if Raul Ibanez were to have a big enough season in 2010 that the Phillies could deal away at least a chunk of his $11.5 million deal for 2011. Possibly, the Phillies could agree to pick up say four or five-million of the deal to free up room for Werth. That move would also open an outfield spot for youngster Domonic Brown, who figures to be one-hundred percent major league ready for the 2011 season (if not, before).
And for those who want wild options, here's one - be prepared, because you may not like it; trade Ryan Howard.
There, it's said; trade Ryan Howard. It's something that the Phillies explored a number of years ago when Howard wasn't a household name and it's a very good thing that they didn't make a move then, because the players that they would have gotten in exchange wouldn't have come close to filling Howard's shoes or legacy in Philadelphia.
The big boy is guaranteed a cool $20 million for 2011 and that could inflate by a couple of million if he hits certain numbers and achievements in 2010. It also increases by $1 million if he's dealt prior to November 1 of this year, so by all means, wait until after that. With that kind of money, you'd have to look to the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers as a trading partner. The Yankees have Mark Teixeira at first, but they also have the benefit of the DH in the American League. The Dodgers will be rid of Manny Ramirez and his contract and the Red Sox will also have some money to spend.
Here is the upside to a Ryan Howard trade. The Phillies would like eventually to move Chase Utley to first base, because he simply endures too much wear-and-tear on his body playing at second. The move hasn't been discussed much, because Howard is still around and is a fan favorite, but the idea is there and would provide the Phillies with another potential move; putting Placido Polanco back at second base, where he is more comfortable. That leaves an opening at third base and the Phillies don't have any third base prospects who would be in line to take over for 2011. Dodgers third base prospect Russ Mitchell is an up-and-comer and might be ready for 2011, so he would likely have to be a part of any deal with the Dodgers, unless the Phillies look elsewhere - a different trade or free agent - for third base help. By the way, it's worth mentioning that Jorge Cantu is a potential free agent following the 2010 season and might be available.
The downside to trading Ryan Howard, is that you're trading Ryan Howard. That's a lot of power to be giving up, not to mention a fan favorite and a huge part of the Phillies character. Dealing Howard would be a huge gamble for GM Amaro, but at some point, the issue of Ryan Howard is going to have to be dealt with, because he's a potential free agent following the 2011 season and he won't be easy to re-sign.
Above all, the Phillies have to avoid having Werth's contract situation become anything near a distraction this season. Rest assured that Werth is going to be pressing hard to put up all the big numbers that he can to get the largest deal that he can. For now, he's saying all the right things; talking about how he loves his teammates and the Phillies fans. How he just figures it will work itself all out and he's focused only on baseball and bringing another World Series to Philadelphia. We can only hope that one day, there's a press conference where he's saying the right things about how he always knew a deal would get done with the Phillies. And how he never thought about going elsewhere and it's not all about the money, because he loves the city of Philadelphia. We can only hope.
Just for fun, let's take a look at Werth's vital numbers compared to those of Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, the two premier outfielders who were on the free agent market over the winter.
Age going into free agency: Holliday (29), Bay (31), Werth (31)
Jason Bay - Signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the New York Mets
Matt Holliday - Signed a seven-year, $120 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals
Jayson Werth will be eligible for free agency following the 2010 season. He's coming off of a two-year, $10 million deal with the Phillies.
Philly Baseball News 2010 Projection for Jayson Werth...
Which would give him the following career stats going into free agency.