Werth loves Philly, but may test waters
Impending free agent focused on playing, not contract
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right fielder Jayson Werth did not show up Monday at Bright House Field to talk about his Grizzly Adams beard or impending free agency.
The questions were coming, anyway.
Werth, 30, is in the final season of a two-year, $10 million contract extension, and will become a free agent after the season. He hit .268 with 36 home runs, 99 RBIs and 20 stolen bases last season, his first as an everyday player. If he puts up another season like that -- or plays even better -- he sets up for a major payday in line with recent contracts signed by outfielders Matt Holliday (seven years, $120 million) and Jason Bay (four years, $66 million).
"I think everybody knows the situation," Werth said. "It's no secret. But really, I'm focused on playing baseball and being part of another championship season."
But the interest in Werth's future is understandable. He is a big part of a team that won the World Series in 2008 and National League championship in '09. He is the big right-handed bat in a lineup with three big left-handed hitters in Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez.
Werth provides Phillies manager Charlie Manuel balance.
He also runs and plays good defense. He does a lot of things very well.
But can the Phillies keep him? They already have at least $130.35 million committed in 2011 to Roy Halladay ($20 million), Howard ($20 million), Utley ($15 million), Brad Lidge ($11.5 million), Raul Ibanez ($11.5 million), Cole Hamels ($9.5 million), Jimmy Rollins ($8.5 million), Joe Blanton ($8.5 million), Shane Victorino ($7.5 million), Placido Polanco ($5.25 million), Ryan Madson ($4.5 million), Carlos Ruiz ($2.75 million), Danys Baez ($2.75 million), Ross Gload ($1.6 million) and Brian Schneider ($1.5 million).
Is there going to be enough money left to sign Werth to an extension and sign other players they need to remain a contender in 2011?
"Clearly, we're trying to keep this group of guys together as long as we can, as long as we feel they'll continue to be productive players," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "As far as Werth is concerned, we'd love to keep him long term. Whether we're able to do that or not will depend on a variety of factors. As they continue to perform and play well their compensation is going to go up, and that's OK. It's kind of our job to get all the pieces of the puzzle together, you know? It's a tricky puzzle, but I guess that's what we get paid to do."
|"It's an interesting situation, for me to be in, for me to describe, for you to describe what I'm trying to say. I don't want to be sitting here blowing smoke or anything like that. I love the Phillies, I love Philadelphia, I love playing here, I love my teammates."|
|-- Jayson Werth|
Werth is aware of the puzzle Amaro must work, too.
"I know that how much they are spending is an issue, and I think it's always an issue, no matter what the situation is," he said. "I definitely think that will play a part of it going forward. But again, that's something that my agent and the team will work out, and hopefully it will work out, and I'll be in Philadelphia for a long time and continue to play with these guys. A lot of these guys are signed up for a few more years at least.
"The game of baseball is weird like that. Guys come and go, but our situation here, we've had a lot of guys stay and a lot of guys sign up for a long time. I'm already a part of something special and have been the past few years. To continue that would be awesome. Just going forward, we'll have to see what works."
Werth, who would not rule out contract talks during the season, said the Phils and his agents have had preliminary talks about an extension.
"More conversations than anything," he said. "Nothing really."
Asked if he would like to remain in Philadelphia or if he is curious about what could be on the open market, Werth said, "That's a loaded question. I think at this point, I'm not really prepared to answer that question, nor have I even thought about [it]."
Asked if he feels any allegiance to the Phillies because they took a chance on him before the 2007 season, he said, "I'm going to answer that one very carefully. I'm not going to get into a situation where -- it's tough to say right now. Spring Training starts tomorrow, and yes I am very, very grateful for what they've done for me. Pat Gillick and Charlie Manuel and even Ruben. It's an interesting situation, for me to be in, for me to describe, for you to describe what I'm trying to say. I don't want to be sitting here blowing smoke or anything like that. I love the Phillies, I love Philadelphia, I love playing here, I love my teammates."
Werth would like to remain in Philadelphia. But he also sounds like a man who wants to be treated fairly.
That is understandable.
It will play itself out, which left one question Monday: What's up with his beard? Werth wasn't talking. He wouldn't even say if he would trim it before the season starts.
It appears that also will play itself out.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.