Phillies fan Joe Munley sent me the following question:
With the Phils season now over I’m trying to evaluate where we stand for next year. Jayson Werth, the only power, right handed hitter in the lineup is a free agent and has hired Scott Boras as his agent. The word on the street up here is that the Phils won’t be brining him back since he’s 31 and they have Dominick Brown waiting in the wings. Based on your model for valuing players what do think Werth’s true value really is and would it actually make sense for the Phillies to re-sign him?
Jayson Werth is a great example of how unique player careers can be. He was first-round draft pick who struggled upon entering the league and was plagued by a wrist injury. He’s been traded multiple times and was released by the Dodgers after the 2006 season. In Philadelphia, he played his way from an outfield sub, to a platoon player, to an everyday player and All-Star. He just had his best season at age 31, in a walk year.
I’m not sure whether the injury caused Werth to reevaluate his commitment to the game, he got better coaching, or he just finally figured things out; but, whatever he did, he has become a much better ballplayer in Philly. With the Blue Jays and Dodgers, he posted a .245/.333/.420 (AVG/OBP/SLG) line. With the Phillies, he’s batted .282/.380/.506. So, when projecting Werth going forward, I believe his Philadelphia performance is most relevant. Werth is also an above average defender and can steal bases.
If Werth was younger, a six- to eight-year deal might be feasible, but at age 32, I think five years is about as long as any team will be willing to go with him. And just because he’s baseball-old doesn’t mean he’s getting ready to head to the bench. Aging tends to be gradual. I’ve estimated that hitters tend to peak around 29-30. If Werth signed a five-year deal, by my estimates he’d be expected to decline by an average of 1.25% per year over the contract term. This lost value from aging will be counterbalanced some by the expected growth in league revenue. Even though his performance will still be diminishing, that diminished performance will be worth more in the future than it is today.
After combining all these factors, I estimate that Werth’s play would be worth approximately $80 — $85 million ($16 — $17 million per year) over a five-year contract to an average team, and worth even more to a contender. Is this something the Phillies are willing to shell out? I doubt it considering all the chatter seems to indicate that he is gone. But someone is going to give Werth a lot of money, possibly paying him more next year than he has received in his entire career up to now.