A Future LF Alternative

 Feb, 26 - 2010   no comments   Uncategorized

Earlier this week, Moshe asked readers what kind of a deal they’d give to Carl Crawford. Obviously, it’s a fair question. He plays left field and, unless Brett Gardner totally blossoms this year, the Yankees may need a stronger left fielder next season. Extension talks between Crawford and the Rays have apparently stalled, so the likelihood of Crawford hitting free agency seems bigger now than it did even just a few days ago.

Let’s turn our heads from Crawford, though, and shift them to a somewhat familiar foe: Jayson Werth.

I briefly profiled Jayson before the World Series when I was back at Bronx Baseball Daily and he, like Crawford, is in the final year of his contract.

The definition of a late bloomer, Werth has flourished in his age 28-30 seasons with the Phillies. Since arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, Werth has been a .276/.376/.494/.870 hitter. His power is impressive, as marked by his .218 IsoP for the Phillies, and his speed is great too. In his time with the Phils, Werth has stolen 47 bases while being caught only five times (90% success rate). He’s played all three outfield positions (mostly right field) and has been worth 13.6 WAR over the last three seasons, which is a mark 2.3 wins higher than Crawford over the same time.

When thinking of Jayson Werth’s style of play, think of Nick Swisher. He’s not going to hit for a very high average (career: .265, last three years: .276) but he’s going to walk a lot (12.2% career walk rate) and hit for a lot of power (see the aforementioned .218 IsoP). Like Swisher, though, he does tend to strike out a lot: 29.5% for his career (Swisher: 25.5%).

On paper (spreadsheets perhaps?), Werth would be a perfect fit for the Yankees. He fits their power and patience scheme well and can play both corner outfield spots very well.

There are, however, some caveats.

The first is Werth’s age. Jayson will turn 31 in May, so he’s exiting the age-based prime for players. Secondly, Werth is likely to look for a big deal. While he’s been underrated for the past few years, his stock is rising and his star is shining a little more brightly these days. He’s going to make $7MM this season and if he has another strong season, he’ll definitely want a big raise. The third caveat really doesn’t even depend on Werth. If the Yankees do indeed change things up and put Brett Gardner in center and Curtis Granderson in left (however unlikely) and they’re both successful in their new roles, there will be no need for the Yankees to sign a left fielder.

As with most potential free agent signings, my concern is not with the money (the Yankees will likely not have much trouble in terms of being able to afford a player), but with the years. For Crawford, I’d like a short term deal because I’m not sure how the legs of a speed/defense guy are going to hold up. For Werth, I’d like a short deal because he’s older. His age doesn’t mean he will decline, but it is more likely than it is in a younger player.

We should keep a close eye on Crawford and Werth this year. If they hit free agency, they’re likely to be targets for the Yankees. Both players would be great additions and if Crawford becomes too pricey, Werth could be a good alternative.

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