Werth’s Wor– Uh, Trade Value (Hypothetical)

Last week, a rumor circulated that the Philadelphia Phillies were exploring the trade market for right fielder Jayson Werth. I have no idea how much truth there is to this, and just to make things clear from the start, as long as the Phillies are in contention, I don’t think they should trade Werth. For a good take on the credibility of the rumor and the mess the Phillies have made for themselves in the outfield, see Rob Neyer’s blog post from last week. Hypothetically, though, how valuable would Werth be if the Phillies were to shop him?

Werth’s journey from Toronto to Los Angeles to Philadelphia makes for an interesting story, but I’m more interested in the present, in which Werth remains a somewhat under-appreciated star. Werth’s wOBA is over .380 for the fourth season in a row, and ZiPS rest-of-season projections projects a .384 wOBA (.276/.371/.500) over the rest of the season (CHONE’s July Update projects a very similar .273/.368/.491). In the 2010 run environment, that’s about a +30 hitter. Although Werth’s UZR numbers have gone down in 2009 and 2010, I still estimate him to be about a +10 right fielder over a full season. Taken together, +30 offense +10 fielding -7.5 position + 20 NL replacement level = about a 5 WAR player over a full season. Assuming he was traded now, with about half a season left, that’s 2.5 wins. Moreover, Werth is only being paid seven million dollars this season. Assuming four million dollars per marginal win, that’s about $6.5 million dollars in surplus value over the rest of the season. That could fetch a very good major league rental (depending on how much money does or doesn’t get thrown in by each team), or a solid (non-elite) prospect in a trade.

But wait, there’s more! Werth’s contract is up after the season, and he will almost certainly be a Type A free agent, meaning that if whichever team has him after the season offers him arbitration (which they should) and he turns it down (also likely) and signs with another team, the first team would get the signing team’s next first round draft pick plus supplemental pick. Victor Wang’s research on prospect and draft pick trade valuation (summarized by Sky Kalkman here) shows that the average value of Type A compensation is about $5.5 million. Whichever team has Werth at the end of the season (likely) gets that value as well, which nearly doubles Werth’s projected surplus value from the $6.5 million to $12 million. Prospects aside, this draft pick compensation boosts Werth’s value beyond his current performance and salary, and perhaps the Phillies could conduct a fair trade in which they add a player that helps their team even more than Werth over the remainder of the season, given that Werth’s value extends beyond his performance. This is an intriguing possibility… in principle.

Still, as I wrote at the beginning, barring an insanely favorable offer or an unforeseeable collapse that puts them out of contention, the Phillies should not go out of their way looking to trade Werth. For one thing, despite their current injury problems, Philadelphia is an old team built to win now, so unless they are willing to abandon that, they are not in a position to be looking to give up an outstanding player like Werth for prospects. More importantly, though hypothetically they might actually get a better “win now” player than Werth, in reality, it is hard to see it happening. The reason is obvious: only contending teams are looking to acquire a half-season rental like Werth, and although he has value beyond his projected performance/salary, in a fair trade, a contending team is not going to give up more current value for less current value plus a draft pick.

Jayson Werth is a very valuable player. For the Phillies, that value is best spent by keeping him around.




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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


30 Responses to “Werth’s Wor– Uh, Trade Value (Hypothetical)”

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  1. Kyle says:

    Perhaps the Phillies brain trust is thinking they can ship Werth off to a team to acquire a blue chip prospect, then swap that blue chip prospect (plus a few lesser prospects from the Phillies system) to the Mariners for Cliff Lee. After both trades are made, they promote Domonic Brown from the minors to play right field.

    - They lose a small amount on offense going from Werth to Brown.
    - They get a huge boost on pitching going from Kendrick to Lee.
    - Team payroll for 2010 increases only a few hundred thousand.
    - They either re-sign Lee in the offseason or get the draft picks they would have received from Werth anyways by offering Lee arbitration (both are Type A)

    That set of moves would [in my opinion] significantly increases their chances in 2010 as a “Win Now” team, while doing minimal damage to their future.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Or maybe the Phillies could jump in a DeLorean and untrade Cliff Lee.

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      • Kyle says:

        Or the Phillies could jump in a DeLorean and get an actual return on their ace starting pitcher. Either suggestion would be much better than Amaro’s decision, which was to ship him away for peanuts because he doesn’t want to spend 9 million dollars.

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    • PL says:

      “They lose a small amount on offense going from Werth to Brown.”

      You realize Werth’s OPS is 901 right now? Are you expecting Brown to come up and immediately go for 800-850? I dont see it. OPSing over 850 is incredibly difficult, Brown doesnt seem to have that in him to go “Pujols” on the league right from the start.

      The Lee trade was a dismal failure, although it came from a path of logic that you cant really argue. These things happen.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        You can completely argue that path of logic. If they couldn’t afford that much salary, they should have traded/non-tendered Blanton. If it really was about “re-loading for the future,” then Amaro doesn’t have a clue about evaluating where his team sits right now. The Phillies should have pushed all in, but Ruben decided to keep $10 in his stack with $500 in the pot. The Phillies are a title contend with a fairly bare farm system and will likely crash down in a couple of years. They are less of a contender without Lee, much less, but what they received doesn’t come close to preventing the flameout, a flameout that’s going to be even worse because of the dumb Howard extension. Making sure you have something for the future is nice… but Amaro gave up one of the absolute best pitchers in baseball without securing much help for that future. There is absolutely nothing defensible about that trade.

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      • Kyle says:

        Brown is a very special talent. I think an .800 OPS, hitting in that lineup and in that park, is more than attainable. Is there a difference between a .900 OPS and an .800-ish OPS? For sure, but it’s nowhere close to the difference between Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick. The Phillies would come out well ahead overall by moving Werth, promoting Brown, and attaining Lee; atleast in my opinion.

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      • Steve says:

        I don’t think anyone is saying that Brown isn’t capable of putting up those types of numbers. What they are saying is that he might not put them up RIGHT AWAY. It’s likely he will struggle at first, and really, “at first” is most of the window where this decision will play out. There is less than half a season left, and even if Brown only struggles for a month then puts it together (pretty reasonable for a rookie), that could make a pretty big difference.

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    • Frank says:

      Werth isnt going anywhere unless one of two things happen.

      The Phils drop out of playoff contention
      Or they get another RH bat in return that can play this year.

      Brown is another LH bat that wont be up till Ibanez is gone.

      Rollins S
      Polanco RH
      Utley LH
      Howard LH
      Ibanez LH
      Brown LH
      Victorino S
      Ruiz RH

      Is to LH heavy they already have problems Vs LH pitching.

      If they make any big move it would most likely be for Dan Haren

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  2. The A Team says:

    I agree with your analysis, but it’s also worth noting that there are plenty of observed instances where clubs have been willing to pay considerably more than what our models predict. While his expected surplus value is 12 mil +/- maybe a mil, there may be clubs that value the draft picks and/or the WAR more than we predict they are worth and think Werth is a 18 mil surplus player.

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  3. yikes says:

    I like the analysis, but your assumption is he is replacing a replacement level player and the DELTA is 2.5 wins for a team getting him

    For a contender it is probably just as likely that he is replacing someone above a 0.0 WAR so the benefit of adding Werth may be slightly less than what you are calculating.

    I’ve seen this a few times recently with analysis on impact of injuries – you have to look at the WAR delta not just the WAR of the specific player.

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  4. Agreed.
    Very few players can perform at Werth’s level

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  5. number 5 says:

    Heres a thought: not every win is equally valuable. Going from 70 wins to 71 wins is meaningless, but going from 89 to 90 wins is very important, if it gets you in the playoffs.

    Perhaps, instead of WAR, we should look at this in terms of better chances of making the playoffs, of winning the pennant, and thw WS. We can attach a dollar amount to getting to each round based on TV revenue and ticket sales.

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  6. bender says:

    Wins are more valuable than 4 million at this stage, I’d say perhaps 5 million or more (that’s just out of a hat though)

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  7. CircleChange11 says:

    @Frank

    I noticed that last post-season when the Phils were facing LAD (Wolf and Kershaw) and NYY (Sabathia and Pettitte) … He’s one of the few Phils that hits ledties well.

    Utley had good vL split last year and continued it in the playoff. His value as a RHB vL may not be as important in the regular season, but might in a short series when they could be facing 4 games (out of 7) versus LHPs.

    I think it would make more sense to sign Werth and trade Ibanez while eating some of the salary, although my wife tells me something about “money not growing on trees” or something.

    I think Werth is worth keeping, even with a pay raise. If I were PHL I wouldn’t panic if they drop out of the 2010 race. They would certainly be the favs in 2011, unless their non-Halladay pitchers fall off the map.

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    • The A Team says:

      The problem with dealing Ibanez is that he has a full no trade clause (Ruben didn’t learn a thing from Pat Gillick it would seem…). To get him to waive that, the Phillies would probably have to pay him an additional 3 mil or so. Bobby Abreu made the Phillies pay him to go to the friggin Yankees…

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    If Philly does get rid of Werth and Brown takes his place, they could right a big wrong by signing Lee. If though it will cost big money, the value is ‘worth’ it. They would essentially have a better Dynamic Duo than Carp and Wain with a better offense to boot (except for the craziness going on this year).

    They should make as many runs at the title while Howard, Utley, and Halladay are in their “prime”. Atlanta is going to be good in the next few years, and the Mets aren’t going to be cursed forever, and Washington will certainly be on the upswing over the next few years. Philly should just go “all in” for the next 3 years and then decide on “rebuild v reload”.

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  9. jason says:

    why dont you suck off werth more? have you watched the guys outfield play, he gets lazier and lazier with every game. he looks like bobby abreu being scared of the fence, not wanting to get hurt for that big signing year. he’s playin games with the phillies organization. he won’t get howard money. i say ship him off for a pitcher…if the mariners are looking for hitters, then give them Werth and prospects for LEE…he will come back here, he just wants to win and is a class-act guy. werth on the other hand, i feel just wants that big payday now

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  10. James says:

    Hey clown…of course he wants his big payday now. Where were you when this talent had wrist surgery and missed almost two seasons! That was missed opportunities to collect ALOT sooner, and the man should be admired for the effort and drive he has internally to overcome long odds of recovery. He is definitely one of my most admired players…the man suffered long enough and has finally showed MLB over the last two seasons some exceptional talent. How would you like to go out with another major surgery when you are this close to collecting back what you’ve contributed. Werth finally gets recognition he deserves!

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    Am I the only one here that would NOT turn down a raise?

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    • Kevin S. says:

      I love how players are supposedly greedy for maximizing their earning potential.

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      • NickFromGermantown says:

        Of course they are greedy. How much is enough? Take a player like Howard. Him taking the contract he signed as the ability to cripple the Phillies as well as hurt their competitiveness in the near-future. If he took “only” $20M/year, then that extra $5M/year could be spent on upgrading another position so the overall team is better.

        You have to love when people defend these kinds of actions. Last time I checked, we pay these guys salaries with ticket sales, concessions revenue, merchandise, and media.

        All I have to say is that Roy Halladay took a pay cut to come to Philadelphia so he had a chance to win it all because some things are more important than money. After he did that, Howard took this massive contract with just about every favorable term in the world. It’s a bit disappointing to say the least.

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      • Steve says:

        This is an insane argument. The Phillies simply should have offered $5M/year less. He still would have signed it, b/c well, no one else was going to come close to that.

        Why do we have to “defend” someone taking what was offered to them. If anyone needs to be defended, it’s the Philly Front Office.

        And Roy Halladay didn’t “take a pay cut”. He makes $13M this year, his last year on his old contract, and will make $20M next year. A 53% raise cannot be classified as a “pay cut”. Could he have waited until free agency and gotten more money? Probably. But that also carries the risk of getting injured. He also “cost” the Phillies several prospects that would “make the team better”, and prompted them to trade Cliff Lee. Gotta factor all that in as well.

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  12. don says:

    I think whichever team signs Werth in FA will overpay. He hasn’t been on most people’s radar long because he missed so much time early in his career to injury, but he is 31. He’s an athletic guy but I don’t think he’s going to put up a string of 4-5 win seasons over the next 5 years and I think someone will pay him to. Of course Amaro is always on the short list for that sort of behavior but he might be running out of money.

    At the same time, 4 games out of the division with half a season to play is too early to mail it in.

    I agree with the premise of the article; unless the Phillies go 5-15 over the next 20 games or something I think the best bet is to offer arbitration which he will surely decline and take the picks.

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  13. no werth trade says:

    Werth spent apprx 18 mos injured – no fault of his own. He was hit by a pitch, which broke his wrist. There was an underlying torn ligament the Dodgers’ doctors failed to diagnose and failed to treat. Not only did it cost him time, numbers/stats, and therefore money, but it also cost him a reputation which dogs him to this day. He is 100% now only through his own tenacity. On his own he found a doctor who recognized & treated the problem. I don’t understand why quite suddenly everyone gets so hard-nosed with regard to paying Werth. They’d ante up all the money in the world to Cliff Lee (who btw spent much of the early part of this season injured), and were fine giving the nat’l debt to Ryan Howard who is essentially a 1-tool player. Werth is arguably a 4 or 5 tool player and he has to fight for respect. Contrary to an earlier post he doesn’t shy from the RF walls and 9 of 10 OF plays are terrific (great arm, he’s fast, and he has a plan before he throws). Check out the number of errors attributed to the Phila infield ‘God’ Chase Utley this season (and Utley’s been collecting $15mil for many yrs). And btw, exactly how would “righting a wrong” by getting Cliff Lee back through trading Werth be A RIGHT? Werth is incredibly well liked in Phila. So well liked that he routinely gets standing ovations in RF, there are t-shirts lauding him (& his beard), and the way he eats his cheesteaks is a matter of public knowledge. If Werth is traded, I can’t wait to hear the FO’s PR machine behind this one.

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