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Billy Vargus thinks Jayson is Werth The Price

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V FOR VICTORY WITH BILLY VARGUSBilly Vargus

I wanted to write this article in May. But it would’ve been too easy then. Jayson Werth was off to a great start, hitting .325 as the month of May began, and I could’ve just joined the chorus of voices saying, “The Phillies have to re-sign this guy, regardless of what it costs.” The article would’ve practically written itself, complete with the obvious puns-- “Jayson’s Werth it.”

But then the Phillies went into a collective slump, and Werth was right in the thick of it. His average dropped all the way down to .271 by the end of May, a decrease of more than 50 points in one month. And although he raised his average 15 points in June, there are still a lot of reports that the Phillies have been having serious trade talks in July. And many fans seem to now be okay with the idea of Werth being traded, or at least resigned to it.

Which makes this an ideal time to say—Don’t do it.

OK, you can never say never. If the Phils were somehow able to get another good right handed hitter in the deal, and get a good starting pitcher, too—well, okay. But what are the odds?

A pitcher alone doesn’t cut it. The Phils offense is still a problem right now, scoring a grand total of 2 runs in the last 2 games. They won both, of course, because of great pitching. Cole Hamels won one of those games by pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings ,which seems to be the only way he can get a win. The run support has been so bad for Cole that at one point he allowed just 7 runs over three games—and lost all three.

So the idea of trading a good hitter for more pitching makes no sense to me. Still, if I’m going to be a realist, it looks like Werth is as good as gone. How often do players reach free agency, then return to the same team? Not very. Usually, if it’s going to happen, they agree to extend the contract before it expires. We just saw it with LeBron James and Cleveland, despite the attempts of Jayson Werth photo: Joseph Vallee Sr.: JosephV985@aol.comthe city and its team to persuade LeBron to stay. Then again, in basketball, the home team gets a salary cap exception, so LeBron knew the entire time that the Cavaliers could pay him the most money. The fact that he didn’t take it in advance, and listened to other offers, made it clear that he would be willing to play somewhere else for less.

Baseball is a little different, but if the Phillies wanted to keep Jayson Werth badly enough, they could pay him enough to make it worth it (pardon the pun) for him to give up his right to become a free agent. And why exactly aren’t the Phillies willing to do that? They just had their 84th straight sellout at Citizens Bank Park. That kind of fan support makes it possible to pay the best players, and also makes it necessary to pay them. You can’t take that kind of money from the fans and then cry poor and play cheap. Not that the Phillies have done that lately. They deserve credit for coming out of the “cheap ages” and putting quality teams on the field the last few years.

If you take Werth out of the lineup you’re in really big trouble. Many people are thinking Domonic Brown, the Phils top prospect, can step in. Problem number one: Brown is a left-handed hitter. The Phillies’ core lineup is already predominantly left-handed (when healthy). Charlie Manuel has gambled at times with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez hitting back to back to back, and it’s not a good idea. Throwing Brown into that mix won’t work now or in the future without a solid right handed bat in between.

Traditionally, Werth has been that lefty-crushing right-handed hitter the Phillies need, but ironically, he’s hit only one homer this season against a southpaw. I’m sure however, that this will change in the second half, just as I’m sure there aren’t too many managers thinking,”OK, I’ll leave my lefty in to face Werth because he has only one homer off them this year.” Werth still has a higher batting average against lefties (.293), as compared to .279 versus righties. A smart manager is still going to replace the lefty that just faced Howard when Jayson Werth comes up. Which means the next hitter, Ibanez, gets to face a righty, or else the manager has to bring back another lefty, using up three pitchers for three batters.

And to really replace Werth you need more than just a guy who bats from the right side. You need a hitter with power, a good fielder with a strong arm, and a smart base runner.

Those kinds of players aren’t easy to find. In fact, whenever a young prospect possesses all of those qualities—the ability to hit for average, hit for power, field well, throw well and steal bases—he’s referred to as a “Five Tool Player" and everyone gets real excited about him. Lots of these “tools guys” never last, mainly because of an inability to hit major league pitching. Werth on the other hand, has proven his skills in all of these areas, although it would be nice if he could hit for a higher average. (He’s never had a season in which he hit .300).

He’s never going to lead the league in stolen bases, but he will lead the league in stolen base percentage. Over the last 3 seasons, he ‘s successfully stolen 45 bases in 50 attempts. That’s literally 9 times out of every 10 tries.

Werth, Victorino and Brown would be an ideal outfield for years to come. The problem is, could the Phillies ever find a taker for Ibanez, who’s now 38 years old, and hitting just .243 this season?

If they could somehow trade Ibanez, that would significantly lower the payroll and make it possible to sign Werth. All I know is, when the July 31st deadline passes, I hope we still have Jason Werth playing in Philly.

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Billy Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country.He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

 

Billy V can be contacted at billv@philly2philly.com