Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth? Phillies' Outfield Dilemma

Steve SherianCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2010

DENVER - OCTOBER 11:  Shane Victorino #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies gestures 'hang loose' to teammate Jayson Werth #28 after Victorino scored in the top of the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies in Game Three of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Coors Field on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies have a problem, and while it's a great problem to have now, it's a huge dilemma down the road. The Phillies have loads of talent in the outfield, an issue many teams wish they had.  But decisions need to be made on who is going to stick around to wander the grass at Citizens Bank Park.

Who do the Phillies choose to keep, Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth?

The decision is inevitable. The Phillies two top offensive prospects, Dominic Brown, and Tyson Gilles, are both outfielders. With their current payroll, and the upcoming free agency of Ryan Howard after 2011, one will most likely sign elsewhere, but who? And who should the Phillies be more willing to part with?

My vote is for Werth to stay and for Victorino to go. With a team built around the long ball, Werth is the better long-term option. Not sure if "long-term" is the right choice of words, since neither are in their mid-20's anymore, but let's look at the big picture.

Raul Ibanez is getting a little long in the tooth. While he is signed through 2011, he will not be around after that. So assuming that the two aforementioned prospects are actually major league caliber outfielders, one will replace Ibanez and the other will probably replace Werth or Victorino.

Looking into the future, that leaves us with an outfield of either Werth, Brown, and Gilles, or Victorino, Brown, and Gilles. None of them are true center fielders, but Shane has done a nice job out there. But let's forget about who plays where in the outfield for now.

Rollins is signed through 2011. After that, it's 50/50 whether he'll be a Phillie or not. If he is, I'm not sold he'll hold the leadoff spot by then, let alone, thereafter. Tyson Gilles projects as a young, more athletic Juan Pierre. He's a true burner on the base paths and some say that he's the fastest in professional baseball. That may or may not lead to success in the majors, but let's say that it does, and the Phillies have a leadoff hitter.

Then we have Brown, a highly touted outfield prospect, even more so than Gilles. He is by all reports a great defensive player, whose OPS has improved dramatically in the past few years. He's a great talent, but he's not projected to be a huge power guy.

So, assuming these two guys are two-thirds of the Phillies future outfield, would we not want more of a power hitter to complement them? I say, yes. Speed is great and every team must have the table setters to set up the sluggers. But to what expense? In this day and age of baseball, especially in a stadium like "The Bank," we must have some power from our outfielders.

I love what Shane has brought to the table for the Phillies since his arrival. His hard-nosed, gritty, gutty, crashing into walls style is something any team would want. But let's not forget that Jayson Werth plays the same style, with albeit less speed, but a heck of a lot more pop.

Granted, Werth will demand a HUGE contract after this season. He will undoubtedly be offered overpriced contracts by teams starving for guys like him, most notably the Yankees and Red Sox, and he will be highly pursued coming off of a year when there were only two decent free agent outfielders, Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Along with Carl Crawford, Werth will be one of the two marquee free agent outfielders on the market next season.

This leads to a major decision on the part of the Phillies. If they feel that Werth's recent success will lead to further improvement and consistency, they should re-sign him as long as it doesn't turn into a bidding war. Whether it's next year with Werth, or the year after with Victorino, a decision has to be made, and they will both get numerous, generous offers elsewhere.

What to do?

What would you do?