Yeah, leave it to me to be a buzz kill. Seeing as we’re in the midst of one of the two greatest eras in Phillies baseball history, it makes sense to want to sit back and enjoy the ride. After all, baring a major catastrophe the Phillies are going back to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row this October. That’s significant considering the franchise has more losses than any pro team in this hemisphere.
But citing that progressive, forward thinking and general manager who views his job as one in which he has to keep the team competitive even after the stars of this bunch have moved on (and the fact that he traded Cliff Lee in order to rebuild the farm), it just might be the time to do something extreme.
And by extreme I mean trade Jayson Werth.
Look, I know he’s a popular player, who very well might be coming into his prime and slated for a big season. Then again, Werth also has completed just one season where he didn’t have to share playing time with anyone, or spend time recovering from an injury. Of course he bashed 36 homers, had 99 RBIs and went to the All-Star Game in that one season, but that’s kind of beside the point.
There are a few interesting variables that make trading Werth now seem not so foolish. The biggest reason to do, of course, is his contract. Werth is in the final year of his contract and will be paid a salary of $7 million this season. This year, if he posts numbers even remotely close to the stats he produced in 2009 then he could command a pretty hefty deal as a free agent. Considering that Werth already has a World Series ring and had to wait until he was 29 until he played more than 102 games in a season, he might want to cash in.
One of the topics that were most on the minds of the fans and the scribes last winter was Werth’s potential affordability. Working under an obvious salary cap, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will have to get very creative in order to re-sign Werth to a deal greater than the $7 million he’s getting in 2010.
But Amaro has options. In fact, he has a 22-year-old star in the making that was just sent back to the minors after going 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs in a Grapefruit League game against star Justin Verlander and the Tigers. Oh yes, Domonic Brown has the type of talent that can make folks forget about Jayson Werth very quickly.
Though he hit .417 in his first big league camp, Brown was slated to spend the season at Triple-A in 2010. The guy needs to get his at-bats more than he needs to be sitting on the bench watching Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Werth play. Still, if there is an injury or a slump expect the Phillies to get a police escort to get Brown down the Turnpike from Allentown.
Of course the fear is rushing the kid, who very well could match the speed and power numbers of a young Darryl Strawberry or Reggie Jackson. Hey, there was a reason why the Phillies didn’t get Roy Halladay in July at the deadline and that reason was Dom Brown.
Conversely, the Phillies are notorious for making their top prospects sit in the minors longer than they should. Chase Utley didn’t stop looking over his shoulder until Placido Polanco was traded in 2005 and manager Larry Bowa, against his will, was forced to send him back to Triple-A in 2004 so Doug Glanville could take the last bench spot.
When he wasn’t being mentioned in trade talks with whatever pitcher Pittsburgh felt like trading away at the moment, Ryan Howard had to wait for Jim Thome to get injured before he got a legit shot in the big leagues. Yet when that day finally came, Howard was closing in on his 26th birthday.
There’s no way Brown is going to be in the minors when he’s 25. Shoot, there’s probably not much chance that he’ll be in the minors when he’s 24, either. I imagine if Brown was in any other organization that hadn’t been to the World Series two years in a row or had three outfielders in last summer’s All-Star Game, he might already be playing in the Majors.
So here’s the idea: since Amaro said he traded Cliff Lee was to replenish the minor league system that saw seven of its top 10 players traded, maybe Werth could be dealt for a prospect or two. Of course if he leaves via free agency and is labeled as Type A, the Phillies will get a compensatory draft pick(s), which will help. If Werth is gone for 2011 and Ibanez is headed for his last year on his deal, the Phillies are going to need some reinforcements in order to remain competitive.
At least in the meantime, Brown is nearly ready to take over and he’ll cost perhaps $10 million less than Werth.