CLEARWATER, Fla. - The numbers are clear.
Jayson Werth is coming off a season in which he hit a career-high 36 home runs, stole 20 bases, and made his first All-Star team.
The Phillies are coming off an offseason in which they signed Shane Victorino, Roy Halladay, Joe Blanton, Danys Baez, Placido Polanco, Brian Schneider, Carlos Ruiz and Ross Gload to multiyear deals, pushing their 2011 payroll to $130.85 million.
Werth, who arrived yesterday sporting a bushy beard and shaggy hair, will be a 31-year-old free agent after this season.
The Phillies will be less than $10 million away from the $140 million threshold that they targeted this season, with 15 open roster spots. What happens next is anybody's guess.
"I haven't really thought about it," said Werth, who will earn $7 million in the last year of the 2-year contract he signed before last season. "I know that how much they are spending is an issue, and I think it's always an issue, no matter what the situation is. I definitely think that will play a part of it going forward. But again, that's something that my agent and the team will work out, and hopefully it will work out and I'll be in Philadelphia for a long time and continue to play with these guys."
Werth's situation is a curious one because of the circuitous path he took to stardom. A first-round draft pick of the Orioles in 1997 out of college, he switched from catcher to pitcher in the minor leagues, was traded twice and suffered a near-career-ending wrist injury in what was supposed to be the year he established himself as an everyday outfielder for the Dodgers. He missed the entire 2006 season, recovering from surgery.
Last season was his first as an everyday outfielder and just his second with more than 400 plate appearances. Compare that to the situations of the top two free-agent corner outfielders this offseason. Matt Holliday, who signed a 7-year, $120 million extension with the Cardinals, is a year younger than Werth but has recorded at least 500 plate appearances in each of the last five seasons. So has Jason Bay, who signed a 4-year, $66 million free-agent deal with the Mets; he is 8 months older than Werth.
While Werth's numbers compare favorably to Bay's over the last three seasons - a higher average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base percentage plus slugging, more stolen bases, and 20 fewer home runs in 402 fewer at-bats - Bay's consistent performance over the last 5 years played a role in his contract.
Another year like last year, though, and Werth would have three straight seasons of at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases (not to mention the .276 batting average, .376 OBP and .870 OPS he has posted since signing with the Phillies in 2007).
But Werth is doing his best to avoid such talk.
"I think their situation is a little bit different from mine," Werth said. "I think I'm a season away from something like that, so really I'm just focused on having a good season and being part of something special here again. Really, these guys in here, I've been with them, this is my fourth year here, so it will be interesting to see how it goes, but these guys are great guys. And just coming to work everyday with my teammates and my friends, that's what it's all about - coming in, working hard and playing the game of baseball. That's what I'm focused on."
The two sides have not engaged in substantive negotiations. Earlier this offseason, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. admitted that money will play a role in the team's decision-making. The status of top prospect Domonic Brown, a corner outfielder, could also factor in.
"Jayson is under contract through this year," Amaro said. "We've had very, very preliminary discussions about what his future might be like here. There will be some difficult decisions down the road. We'll have to weigh where we want to fit in all the dollars and how we want to fit the puzzle together. We can not operate with nothing but $15 to $20 million players. And if there's any indication, how much the Holliday and Bay signings have a direct impact on where Werth may be at the end of this year, we're going to have to sift through it and figure out what's best for the organization."
For now, though, Werth and the Phillies are in a holding pattern, which his comments reflected. In many ways, the questions do not have answers because of how much can happen between March and November.
"It's always a situation I thought I would be in one day," Werth said. "I think I always knew I had the type of season I put up last year - I always knew I had that in me. Going forward, I think I've got many years like that. Right now I'm in Philadelphia for 2010 and we've got an unbelievable team, unbelievable clubhouse, and to come to the park and play baseball every day with these guys, there's nothing better."
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese.