Jayson Werth: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IFebruary 26, 2010

So what is Jayson Werth...worth? While his beard may have you asking 'what is Jayson Werth?', the purpose of this article is not to try and get inside Jayson's head (or beard); rather, it's to examine how much the Phillies right fielder would be worth on the open market and what is the most likely outcome.

I admit this analysis may be somewhat premature, as a second consecutive season similar to 2009 would certainly do wonders to enhance the man's value. Prior to his fine 2009 season, Werth wasn't exactly the model of consistency, nor the picture of health.

Still, Werth is eligible for free agency following this season, so we'll examine the question with the assumption that he will enjoy another solid season, at the plate and in the field, in 2010.

Signing him to an extension right now might make the most financial sense, with Werth hopefully being willing to trade a few extra dollars and years on the open market for the additional security and protection against poor performance and injury.

Not to mention the ability to play in a place that he seemingly loves. All the risk would fall on the shoulders of the Phillies.

Recognizing that, at least in theory, they should be able to get a discount by signing him now.

But does Jayson and his agent want to negotiate at this time, and are Ruben Amaro and the Phillies ready to engage in talks?

It doesn't seem that it is likely. While both have said all the right things, i.e., how they would love to keep this marriage intact, a divorce may be inevitable.

For one thing, they would have to clear payroll space. And while Bill Baer make a strong case for trading Ryan Howard in "Why A Ryan Howard Trade Makes Sense" on Crashburn Alley.com , that seems unlikely to happen. 

For argument sake, let's use Baer's projections of what it would cost to re-sign Jayson Werth. "A three-year, $50 million deal that is backloaded, paying him $13 million in ‘11 and $18.5 million each in ‘12 and ‘13." is what Baer suggests. 

The Phils have already indicated that their payroll won't be able to accommodate that kind of growth, given the money that will be owed to players like Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, and Howard going forward. 

And, if they wait until Werth is a free agent, his value will only go up exponentially, assumign good health and a productive 2010 season.

He is most often compared with Jason Bay, who signed a four year, $69 million dollar contract (including a $3 million dollar buyout) with the Mets this winter. His 2014 option is easily guaranteed, taking the total value of the deal to $83 million.

While Bay had a longer track record, Werth is the much better defensive player at a time when teams are placing a greater emphasis on defense.   

Speaking of track record, another reason an extension may not happen is Werth's lack of a long-term track record, relatively speaking. 

Prior to 2008, Werth had never appeared in more than 102 games. That's why man feel the Phillies will wait to see if he has another season like 2009 before deciding his worth.

But that may be too late.  

Werth has a 2010 WAR projection of 4.7, according to CHONE.  Baseball Prospectus rates Werth at a 42.8 VORP. And he is an above average defensive outfielder who runs the bases well for a big man.

Along with Carl Crawford, Werth would be one of the top two outfielders on the market after the season.  

He turns 31 in May, so a long-term deal (four or five years), which he would command as a free agent, shouldn't be a concern for most teams that could afford one, like the Yankees.

Still another reason the Phils may not re-sign Werth is that their Minor League system has a potential star in waiting in outfielder Domonic Brown.

However, that could be a risky proposition for a team that will still have the window of WS opportunity open to it in 2011. For while Brown projects to be a real nice prospect, it’s no sure thing he’ll be ready for the start of 2011.

Further, it is very unlikely that he will immediately start producing at Werth’s level, plus his outfield defense is currently suspect.

So, if you can't sign him to an extension now, do the Phillies trade him and avoid receiving only draft picks if you let him walk? Well, no, since the championship window doesn't usually remain open for too long, the Phillies must take advantage and go for it all.

And "going for it all" doesn't equal trading Werth at this time. In the very unlikely event the Phils fall out of the race, then maybe. But not now.

So where does that leave this discussion? The most likely scenario appears to be that they enjoy the fruits of Werth's labor one more season then watch him wave goodbye. That is, unless they are willing to increase the payroll.

Given that they weren't willing to do so for one more year of Cliff Lee, it is unlikely they will do so for Werth. Barring a trade of a big money player, Phillies phans should enjoy Werth while they have him and go for the gold in 2010.

I bet Dominic Brown won't ever have a beard like this, however.