If there is anything we've learned from recent baseball history, it is that the good teams make the obvious moves when the time comes to make them, but the great teams make the right moves when no one else sees them.
To my mind, the best recent example of the difference between obvious moves and good moves comes from the Ken Williams Era in Chicago. After the 2004 season, Williams traded Carlos Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers for Scott Podsednik and allowed Magglio Ordonez to sign with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent.
With two moves, Williams had gotten rid of two of his team's best power hitters. He also made his team leaner, faster, and better defensively, and the White Sox ended up winning the World Series with pitching and defense instead of home runs and strikeouts.
Then, just as quickly as he had assembled his team, Williams dismantled it, trading away Aaron Rowand, the best defensive center fielder in the American League, for big lumbering power hitter Jim Thome. He also traded away Orlando Hernandez and Chris Young to the Arizona Diamondbacks for flashy but home run prone Javier Vazquez.
The White Sox haven't been to the ALCS since.
After having made excellent moves to get to the World Series twice—including cutting ties with Thome as well as Bobby Abreu; bringing in guys like Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino on the cheap; sending Michael Bourn to the Astros for Brad Lidge; signing defense-specialist Pedro Feliz—the Phillies have started making the obvious moves, and haven't necessarily benefitted from them.
Acquiring Cliff Lee at the trade deadline last season was necessary, and it was a good deal, but the Phillies gave up prospects to do it. To turn around and give up even more prospects in order to acquire Roy Halladay but toss Lee to the Mariners was a questionable decision.
Giving Raul Ibanez a three-year deal at 37 to come play in the DH-less National League was a stretch. Giving Ryan Howard a $25 million-per-year extension 18 months before his current contract expires was both questionable in terms of both timing and amount.
And now it appears as though the Philadelphia Phillies have come to a crossroads with another one of their players, and Amaro has a chance to once again make either the obvious move or the right move.
We're talking, of course, about Jayson Werth.
Make no mistake about it: Werth has been one of the guys that have gotten the Phillies to the World Series twice, and he's been a good contributor at the plate and in the field. The Phillies initially envisioned Werth as a platoon outfielder with Geoff Jenkins of all people, but he proved himself worthy of an everyday spot in the order.
Since taking over right field on an everyday basis in 2008, Werth has hit 60 home runs, driven in 166 RBI, and scored 171 runs in two seasons. In 2010, Werth already has 26 doubles—tying a career high in just 80 games—along with 51 runs, 48 RBI, and 13 home runs.
Werth is, of course, a free agent after this season. Regarding Werth's presence on the open market, his agent had this to say:
"It's apparent that Jayson is going to be the No. 1, premier position player available. He'll be the only true five-tool player, and I expect if he does not sign back with the Phillies there would be many suitors for him. In a true free market, there should be many suitors. And he's also the same age as Ryan Howard."
Look, I like Jayson Werth, but let's not get carried away. Werth is a good player, but he has also benefited greatly from playing for the Phillies.
For one thing, Werth has been a bit of a hometown hero during his stay at Citizens Bank Park. In 2009, 21 of his 36 home runs came at home, as did 54 of his 98 runs and 53 of his 99 RBI. His OPS at home was .902 while his OPS on the road was .857.
Those numbers are even more startling in 2010. Werth has collected 10 of 13 home runs, 31 of his 48 RBI, and 29 of his 51 runs at home. He is hitting .296 at home but just .262 on the road, and his .984 OPS at Citizens' Bank is almost 200 points higher than his road .788 OPS.
Not only does Werth do his best work at home; he also does his best work with no one on base. In 2009, Werth had 300 plate appearances with men on base, and 376 plate appearances with the bases empty. With men on base, Werth hit .265 with 15 home runs and 10 doubles. With the bases empty, he hit .270 with 21 home runs and 16 doubles.
Among Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Werth, and Shane Victorino, Werth is the only one who did not perform better with men on base than he did with the bases empty in 2009.
In 2010, it has been more of the same: Werth is hitting .306 with a .912 OPS with the bases empty, and he is hitting .242 with an .843 OPS with men on. With runners in scoring position, he is hitting .173 with a .676 OPS!
Consider also that the Philadelphia Phillies are a left-handing hitting team and they see lots of matchups against left-handed pitchers to counter that. This plays right into Werth's wheelhouse, and in 2009 14 of his 36 home runs came against left-handed pitchers in just 188 plate appearances.
Fact is, Werth is replaceable. For one thing, the Phillies have Werth's replacement in Triple-A right now in the form of Domonic Brown. After hitting very well in Double-A, Brown is simply shredding Triple-A to the tune of a .392 batting average and a 1.104 OPS with four home runs, 12 RBI, and nine runs scored in 14 games.
Brown, of course, is a left-handed hitter, and much has been made of Werth's value as a right-handed hitter. But when did right-handed hitting become scarce? General Managers foam at the mouth at the idea of left-handed hitter; right-handed hitters are a dime-a-dozen.
At the end of the day, the Phillies cannot seriously be entertaining the idea of giving Werth a big-time contract to prevent him from hitting free agency. With the amount of money being dedicated to the Phillies' top players, and with the Phillies needs in the starting rotation and bullpen, giving big money to a right fielder would just be reckless.
But trading him wouldn't be.
Obviously trade deadline deals are usually undertaken between contending teams and rebuilding teams, but trades between contending teams are not unheard of.
Maybe the pitching heavy Tampa Bay Rays might need another bat to make their run in the AL East. Or perhaps the Minnesota Twins would be willing to part with some bullpen help in exchange for Michael Cuddyer's replacement.
And then, of course, there are the non-contending teams. I think Werth would be a great next step in Kansas City in exchange for Joakim Soria, or in Chicago in exchange for Carlos Marmol, or in Arizona in exchange for Edwin Jackson.
Or, perhaps, in Seattle, in exchange for Cliff Lee.
I don't know where the best fit for Jayson Werth will be come trade deadline time, but I know this: The Phillies can't afford to re-sign him, and really shouldn't let him go without getting anything in return.
It isn't the obvious move to make, but it is the smart one.
And the right one.
Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .
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