Conventional wisdom holds that the only way Jayson Werth will take the field at Citizens Bank Park next season is in the uniform of the Red Sox or the White Sox or any of a number of teams that could be in the market for an outfielder who has more tools than The Home Depot.
Take one look at the Phillies' payroll for next season (at least $135 million committed to 16 players) and another look at the contract their rightfielder could be in line to receive (at least $16 million per season if Jason Bay's signing with the Mets is any indication), and it is easy to conclude that the only player with less of a shot at returning to Philadelphia is J.D. Drew.
But easy conclusions aren't always correct. And while Werth is well aware of the perception that his play over the past few years has put him outside of the Phillies' price range, he also thinks there is another way to look at the situation.
"It seems to be like it would be good business going forward to continue the formula that management has started and continued over the past few years," Werth said in an interview with the Daily News before last night's 3-2 win over the Mets. "We've got a chance to do something here that not too many places have done."
That formula has seen the Phillies' payroll rise from about $94.6 million in 2006, the year before Werth's arrival, to around $140 million at the start of this season, an increase of nearly 48 percent. That's a lot of money going out. But it has been accompanied by a surge in attendance, from about 2.702 million in 2006 to a projected total of roughly 3.646 million this season, an increase of nearly 35 percent. And that's before you factor in the 17 home playoff games the Phillies hosted during that span, a number that seems sure to grow by at least two this year.
Over the past few seasons, club president David Montgomery and general managers Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro Jr. have achieved what a decade ago might have seemed impossible: turning the Philadelphia skyline from midnight green to red. But the line between glory and anonymity in baseball is remarkably thin.
Maintaining attendance and market exposure requires maintaining success. And the biggest question the Phillies will face this offseason is whether they can remain successful without Werth's potent righthanded bat in the middle of their lineup. The organization considers rookie corner outfielder Domonic Brown to be a star in the making. Still, Brown is only 23, and he bats lefthanded. Besides, the Phillies likely will need somebody to replace leftfielder Raul Ibanez when his contract expires after next season.
Certainly, there are cheaper options. Reserve outfielder Ben Francisco hits righthanded and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason. Potential righthanded-hitting free-agent outfielders include Manny Ramirez, Marcus Thames, Willie Bloomquist, Jose Guillen and the switch-hitting Coco Crisp. But with the possible exception of the aging - and unpredictable - Ramirez, the track records of all of them pale in comparison with that of Werth, 31, who ranks eighth among major league righties at any position in the last three seasons in home runs (85), 11th in on-base plus slugging percentage (.885) and 10th in on-base percentage (.375). And that is before you take into consideration his defense and baserunning ability.
"Ownership has done a great job of increasing revenues over the past few years," Werth said. "I got here in '07 and we won the division. I don't know exactly what the payroll was, but I know they've steadily increased it. That formula has turned out to be a winning formula. They've done a good job of bringing in the key parts, keeping guys here, locking up the guys that we have. It seems like it would be good business going forward to continue to keep that type of formula, a winning formula - strategically, keeping us together to continue to win and create a dynasty-type situation. I mean, we all know each other, we play good together, we feed off one another. We have unbelievable chemistry.
"This is an unbelievable place to come to work every day. To not be able to continue that would be a disappointment. But, at the same time, this is a business and for that to happen, I think we all know what will have to transpire."
In other words, the Phillies face two questions:
With the amount of money they already have spent to maintain a championship-caliber team, can they afford to re-sign Werth?
With the amount of money they already have spent to maintain a championship-caliber team, can they afford not to? *
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese. Follow him on Twitter at