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.