So how is Philadelphia reacting to the loss of Jayson Werth?
Former Phillies standout John Kruk was on ESPN talking about the team’s signing of Cliff Lee.
He told the story of when he woke up his son with the news, “Guess who the Phillies signed?” His son answered, “Did they get Jayson Werth back?!” It gives you an idea of the impact of Werth had on the Phillies and their fans.
Matt Gelb covers the Phillies for the Philadelphia Inquirer. I asked Gelb to go back to the first time the Phillies decided to take a chance on Jayson Werth.
“Obviously, when he came to the Phillies, he was a reclamation project by definition of the word,” Gelb said. “He suffered numerous injuries that kept him out for awhile. He was a favorite of Pat Gillick, who was the Phillies general manager at that point when they signed him. They brought him to spring training really as a chance to be a backup and two and a half years after that, he became one of the best hitters on the team and he parlayed it into a huge contract in free agency.”
Gelb says Werth can be that guy, but has had some times were not everything was going perfectly in a long season.
“He is a guy who can be streaky,” Gelb said. “For the first two months of the season, he was the best hitter on the Phillies. He really carried the team.Then, during the summer, there was a lot made of his struggles with runners in scoring position. For most of summer, he was dead last in the majors with (runners in scoring position), which you don’t want your four or five hitter really to have that kind of characteristic.”
Gelb said at the end of the year, Werth had the best statistics of his career.
“He is up and down,” Gelb said. “He is a late bloomer. Injuries cost him a couple of years in his prime. That will be the big question moving forward: What happens to his prime? Is it pushed back? How many good years does he have left? Obviously, the Nationals are banking on quite a few.”
Gelb feels the biggest question mark is what kind of a leader with Werth play out to be with the Nats now that he is “the man.”
“With the Phillies, he was able to grow into being a star player because he had the Jimmy Rollinses, Ryan Howards and the Chase Utleys around him,” Gelb said. “He didn’t have to be the guy in Philly.That really was huge for him. He was able to grow into the role. He was a platoon player, then became an everyday player and then became a star player.”
Will Werth’s personality and his style lead him to be the guy in Washington? Maybe so.
“He is a quiet guy at times, he is private,” Gelb said. “He is very smart guy and very intelligent, but doesn’t necessarily want other people to know that. He is going to have a lot people looking at him. Other than Ryan Zimmerman, he is the guy on the Nationals. How he handles the situation is the most interesting part about this deal. You know what kind of production you are going to get from him the next few years. (The) question is, how does he handle this contract and this attention?”
Gelb feels Werth is in great baseball shape and may have more years left than others might expect.
“He definitely takes care of himself,” Gelb said. “That is something the Lerners had mentioned when discussing with the agent. Scott Boras. He had little things that popped up here and there and he took himself out of games. They ended up not being big deals. It is something to watch. There are questions because of those injuries he suffered earlier in his career whether or not he can be durable.”
Gelb says the lack of stacked up years of 162 may work in the Nationals’ favor.
“The counter argument to that is he suffered those injuries because he had a later start to his peak he has got more years left right now,” reasons Gelb. “He hasn’t had that much strain on his body with all that down time. So there are two different ways to look at it. When you are asking a guy to finish a contract at age 39 or 40 years old, that is rare and that doesn’t happen too often. Guys don’t play that deep into their careers most of the time. It is an interesting proposition because of his career arc and we will see what happens with it.”
So what can Nationals fans look forward to in Werth, the baseball player? Besides home runs, Werth can start rallies with aggressive baserunning and kill rallies with big defensive plays.
“I think he is one of the better pure base runners in the league,” Gelb said. “We are not talking about stolen bases, but he can take the extra base almost every time he is given the chance. When you can go first to third that is something that is really overlooked at times.
“He is a very good defender in right field. He has got a fantastic arm in right field. Boras tried to sell that he could play center field. He has played some center field this year. As for being an every day center fielder, I think that might be a stretch. Definitely a fine right fielder with a plus arm, smart base runner and he plays the game hard.”
Gelb also says that Werth goes after every hit ball like he is going to catch it, so you had better not get in his way.
“He has a ton of passion on the field,” Gelb said. “There was a time earlier this year when a fan reached over into the field of play and grabbed a ball that Werth might have been able to catch. In the heat of the moment, Werth kind of cursed him out and he took a little bit of flak for that.”
But Gelb says that is the exact reason why D.C. fans will love watching Werth man right field at Nationals Park.
“He is kind of player Washington fans are going to like,” Gelb said. “He was beloved here in Philadelphia because of his style and his passion. We will see now if that changes now that he is getting paid. It will be interesting to see how his personality translates being the guy now.”