For Phils, keeping Werth possible, but unlikely

For Phils, keeping Werth possible, but unlikely

PHILADELPHIA -- The feeling in Philadelphia is that Jayson Werth will be in another team's lineup in 2011.

But Scott Boras, who is Werth's agent, said on Friday that it doesn't have to be that way. Werth -- and every other free agent -- hits the open market at midnight on Saturday. The Phillies have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents until then, although it is not expected they will re-sign anybody in the next day.

Especially Werth.

"We have, in my mind, probably the most coveted offensive player in the free-agent market," Boras said. "Carl Crawford is a really great player, but the truth of the matter is, Werth scores as many runs, and his on-base percentage is the same. Werth is a guy that can play center field and has played center field recently. He's a Gold Glove-type outfielder. Crawford is, too. But the big difference is that Werth has 87 home runs over the last three years and Crawford has 42. Werth is really a middle-of-the-lineup guy. I think when he bats third, he'll be a 110-to-120-runs-scored guy and a 100-RBI guy. And I think teams that are looking for a right-handed bat view Werth as a middle-of-the-lineup guy."

The Phillies have spoken with Boras about a potential contract, although neither side will discuss specifics. But the belief is that Werth could seek a deal similar to the seven-year, $120 million contract the Cardinals awarded Matt Holliday last offseason. If Werth can't land a Holliday-type deal, the four-year, $66 million contract Jason Bay received from the Mets seems like a good measuring stick.

Could the Phillies afford that?

The Phillies have $146.85 million committed to 16 players next season, although the Astros sent the Phillies $11 million in July to help pay the remaining $23 million on Roy Oswalt's contract. It is unclear how much of the $11 million will offset Oswalt's $16 million next season, but the Phillies have said that they cannot have a roster full of $15 million players, which Werth seems destined to be.

"The Yankees are a Goliath," Boras said. "George [Steinbrenner] built them with the idea of the word best. The Phillies are now Goliaths. The reality of it is, they have the ability to do what they need to do to retain their players. It's merely a matter of choice. It's not a matter of good business, because I think everybody would agree they've made some really good business decisions. They've all proven to be fruitful economically as far as franchise value increase, future television negotiations, fans. Everything is going well. Somebody asked me if they can have a $200 million payroll. Of course they could. It would be good business to do so.

"This is really a matter of choice for them. Tip your cap to them. It's nice to be in a position to have those choices."

Though general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a text message on Friday that "we do not discuss negotiations with free agents," he did say recently, "Do we have enough money to do it? And would we like to bring him back? I think the answers to both questions are yes. However, that will depend on what the ask is and ultimately how that will affect us with other possible moves we would have to make to do that."

But indications are that a contract is unlikely.

One of the reasons the Phillies might feel they can part with Werth is that they have Domonic Brown -- also a Boras client -- waiting in the wings. There is a chance that the Phillies could enter the season with Brown and Ben Francisco platooning in right field, much the way Werth and Geoff Jenkins did in 2008 before Werth won the everyday job.

"Dominic Brown is going to step in no matter what, only because of the athleticism," Boras said. "He is going to be a big player in the Phillies' future. He's athletic. He's very gifted. He's young. He's going to be a brilliant player. To suggest that Werth signing or whatever is going to in any way limit that ... If Domonic is playing well, Domonic will play.

"I think the Phillies make good business decisions. They've done it in the past. Certainly, Ruben already has contacted me. It's just the process of discussing the levels of interest they have. Not if they have interest."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.