PHILADELPHIA—Jayson Werth stood in the on-deck circle as the Philadelphia Phillies' season ended on Saturday. The question now is what's on deck for the free agent to be.
Speaking at Citizens Bank Park two days after the San Francisco Giants eliminated his team from the playoffs, Werth said he would consider returning to the Phillies in 2011 and beyond, but is also willing to go through the free agency process.
"I've had the best time the last four years playing baseball with these guys, with these fans," he said. "The team has taken the necessary steps to create a winning atmosphere, and hopefully they'll continue to do that. Obviously, we know business is good in Philadelphia. They could probably sign whoever they want. Whether or not that's me, we'll have to wait and see."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team would like to keep their middle-of-the-order hitter. And he has room in the budget, depending on the cost.
"I haven't had any discussions with Scott (Boras) yet," Amaro said. "Over the next 48 hours or so, we'll make contact. I guess the follow-up question is, 'Do we have enough money to do it, and would we like to bring him back?' The answer to both questions is yes. However, that'll all kind of depend on what the ask is, and ultimately how that will affect us with other possible moves we would have to make to do that."
Werth, who earned $7.5 million in 2010, hired Boras during the season, and the super agent has a reputation for taking a hard-line in negotiations. Part of Werth's decision may be the seven-year, $120-million contract Boras struck with the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Matt Holliday -- a similar player to Werth -- last winter.
Under former general manager Pat Gillick and now Amaro, the Phillies have resisted giving players longer-term contracts, and would prefer to pay a player more per season as a tradeoff. They had a payroll of more than $138 million last season, and expect to bring back much of the team's high-salaried personnel, including Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez.
"(Length of contract) is always an issue," Amaro said. "It's probably the most poignant issue, always. Pat Gillick said this to me, and it rings true, any time you get these extraordinarily long contracts, you have to weigh not only that person's production on the field, but off the field. We'll do the same with Jayson."
On the field, Werth has been a highly productive player since becoming the team's starting right fielder during the 2008 season. He batted .296 with 27 home runs, 46 doubles and a .532 slugging percentage in 554 at-bats, a strong follow-up to his 36-homer campaign in 2009. His arrival has coincided with Philadelphia's run of four straight National League East division titles, including two trips to the World Series and one championship.
Batting mostly fifth, Werth's right-handed bat broke up a lefty dominant crew of Utley, Howard and Ibanez, plus switch hitters Rollins and Victorino. If Werth leaves, the Phillies could opt for lefty Dominic Brown and Ben Francisco as a platoon.
Werth said he was "all ears" regarding the potential to sign with the Phillies within the five-day window after the conclusion of the World Series, when the team has exclusive negotiating rights. But Boras typically steers players toward the open market.
Werth understands the business side as he enters free agency for the first time.
"This is definitely not the same game I played in my grandparents' backyard as a kid," he said. "This is a business. Philly will be one of the teams in consideration. Realistically speaking, it doesn't really matter what I think right now. What matters is what happens after the World Series. There's no reason to rush into this."
Though he'll eventually decide where to spend the next three-to-six years of his career, Werth admitted that he was still trying to digest an unexpected loss to the Giants.
"What just happened is so fresh and so devastating, it's hard to look past that right now," Werth said. "It was emotional and so unexpected. We definitely didn't see ourselves in that position. On my drive in today, I noticed all the leaves are changing, the leaves are falling. It was the first time I noticed that. I had tunnel vision the whole time."