With former Philadelphia Phillie Jayson Werth signing with the division rival Washington Nationals for $126 MM for seven-years, it allowed GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. to have a play at the former Phillie and much longed for Cliff Lee. Amazingly, that deal shocked baseball as Cliff Lee left millions of dollars on the table to return to a team that he was comfortable with and enjoyed. As a Phillies fan, I am extremely excited to have Lee back on the team, especially since I spent twelve months criticizing Amaro for getting rid of Lee to begin with. Werth, being 32-years-old, would not be worth the money that the Nationals are paying him once he gets a few years older, and it is certainly worthwhile to bring Lee back at the cost of Werth, as many Phillies fans agree. As much as the team improves with the addition of Lee, there has been a lot of discussion about how to fill the whole that Jayson Werth left.
Jayson Werth was certainly a productive player for the Phillies and has helped them to their four consecutive NL East championships. He did not solely help the Phillies to this achievement however, since baseball is, after all, a team sport. Werth will be 39-years-old at the end of his contract. He may still be a productive player, but it is unlikely that he will be as productive in the latter years of the contract that he has been in the past few years, especially if he became injured again or as he becomes slower with age.
With Werth no longer in the Phillies lineup, there has been a lot of discussing about how to and who will replace Werth in right field and as a right-handed hitter. There has been a lot of discussion about a platoon in right field consisting of Ben Francisco and Ross Gload or Dominic Brown. However, I think that splitting right field with either Gload or Brown leaves much to be desired since they both are left-handed hitters, and Brown also had very disappointing numbers at the plate in the winter league. The Phillies, having picked up Lee, do not have a great deal of expenses that they could use to acquire a new right fielder, plus the pickings are thin by now.
So why not just use Ben Francisco as the starter? He may not be as productive as Jayson Werth, but there is not a huge gap between their numbers from the stats for 2010, and Francisco was largely used as a pinch hitter and not a starter. If he had chances to start everyday, he could find a rhythm and become more productive than an off the bench player.
Comparing Francisco’s stats to Werth’s stats for 2010, we can see there is not a big difference, excepting the number of games played and at bats. In 554 at bats for 2010, Werth batted for an average of .296 with 27 home runs and 85 RBIs. Werth’s on base percentage was .388 with a slugging average of .532. Werth did lead the league in doubles with 46 and had 13 stolen bases, but he did have 147 strikeouts. Doing the math, that means that almost 27-percent of the time that Werth was batting, he struck out.
Francisco had 179 at bats in 2010, which is just shy of a third of the at bats that Werth had. During those 179 at bats, Francisco batted for .268 with 6 home runs and 28 RBIs. Francisco had an on base percentage of .327 with a slugging average of .441, which is not much less than Werth’s relative numbers. He also had 13 doubles and 8 stolen bases. If we multiply his numbers by 3 to make it comparative to having played a full season, that would equal 18 home runs, 84 RBIs, 39 doubles, and 24 stolen bases, assuming everything was directly proportionate through the season. If those numbers proved to be the true production of Ben Francisco over a whole season, he would be a perfect replacement for Jayson Werth. Cliff was certainly Werth the loss, and Ben Francisco can be a great replacement for Jayson Werth if he is given a chance to prove himself.