Should the Giants Trade for Jayson Werth?
The short answer? Yes, if the price is right. If you want the long answer, keep reading.
The Giants are currently sitting at 56-43, three games behind the San Diego Padres. We’re 61% of the way through the season, and the Giants’ offense has actually been respectable up to this point in time (their 4.44 R/G is higher than the league average 4.39 R/G). This is largely due to the brilliant production by surprise performers Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres, and the emergence of Buster Posey as a formidable hitter at the Major League level (honestly, who didn’t see that coming?). The projections at The Hardball Times have the Giants finishing at 94-68, two games ahead of the Padres and the sixth-best record in Baseball. Granted, projections certainly aren’t a sure thing- players over perform and under perform, people get injured, and so on and so forth. The fact that the Giants are projected to finish first, however, means that they have a promising chance at making the postseason- and adding another piece would certainly help increase their chances, if not propel them into the playoffs altogether. And even if they don’t finish first, they seem well-positioned to make the playoffs as the Wild Card Champions. This could very well be the first time they make the playoffs since 2003, and it is imperative for Brian Sabean to do all that he can to ensure their postseason chances. Rather than making one of his patented low-risk, low-reward moves (Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez, I’m looking at you), wouldn’t it make sense for him to push for a player that would not only benefit the organization now, but for the next few years?
No, I’m not talking about Prince Fielder. That is a topic that has been beaten to death on other sites, and I’ve expressed my distaste for acquiring him before. I honestly just don’t see much upside in acquiring a player that will require a lot in terms of prospects and money, especially if the player should be a designated hitter at the age of 26. That just has “disaster” written in thick Sharpie ink all over it. I’m talking about an impact player that will require a modest package, whom the Giants will receive compensatory draft picks for should he leave via free agency- a player that not only hits well, but runs well and plays solid defense. I’m talking about (and if you read the title, which I’m assuming you have) Jayson Werth of the Phillies. That’s right; that Jayson Werth. The former Dodger who’s not particularly savvy with a razor blade.
Giants right fielders are hitting .232/.310/.391 with a wOBA of .309, six runs below the Major League average. That’s terrible, especially considering that position is typically reserved for good hitters. The only thing that makes them respectable is their defense, with an estimated solid 7 runs above average according to UZR, and 10 runs by Plus/Minus. All in all, though, we shouldn’t have to deal with all-glove, no-bat players in a team that could use a nice boost offensively.
In comes Werth. Werth, who currently sports a wOBA of .384 and has been +18 runs above average (park-adjusted), represents a 24 run upgrade over the Giants’ right fielders thus far, which equals roughly two and a half wins. It’s tough to get a gauge on his defense, as UZR rates him a -3 and Plus/Minus a +7. TotalZone has him as a +5 right now, though, so we’ll be a bit more optimistic about his defense this year (and for what it’s worth, all three metrics rate him as a good defender in years’ past). It’s tougher to get a gauge on his baserunning and situational hitting compared to San Francisco’s, as I don’t have the Giants’ RF figures readily available. In any case, he’s a plus baserunner- usually around +3 runs above average in any given year, and his situational hitting is right around average (bad with productive outs; good at avoiding the double play). In other words…we’re looking at a good all-around ballplayer. ZiPS projects Werth to hit .279/.372/.503 with 12 doubles, 9 home runs and a wOBA of .387 for the rest of the season; Oliver projects Werth to hit .264/.361/.481 with 12 doubles, 12 home runs, and a wOBA of .360. Averaging the two gives us a projected rest-of-year wOBA of .372 and his translated line (using RH PF for Citizen’s Bank and AT&T) suggest he’d be a +7 hitter in his projected remaining 245 plate appearances. If we assume the Giants’ RF to continue hitting at their current pace, then we’re looking at a difference of 10 runs; a win over our incumbent options. I know this might seem rather small, but keep in mind that over a full season, we’re looking at about +3-4 wins with the bat alone. That’s pretty darn big, if you ask me. Werth provides an immediate offensive upgrade that could very well represent a larger difference than my estimates, given how his presence in the lineup may positively affect other hitters. And if you’re big on Postseason performance (personally, I prefer to neglect them- but I’m doing my best annoying car salesman impression here), Werth has a career .440 wOBA in the Postseason amongst 145 plate appearances (and I estimate his Postseason “talent” to be somewhere between a wOBA .359 and .521, although anything can happen in smaller samples). Pretty darn good.
How about that asking price, though? I’m glad you asked. That’s really the issue at hand, here- what would the Phillies want in return for Werth? We’ve been getting mixed reports, but I can imagine that Ruben Amaro would be interested in pieces that he could flip to Houston in return for Roy Oswalt. Besides, the Phils have this kid named Domonic Brown- who’s quite possibly the best prospect in baseball right now- pretty much ready to take over. The Astros’ farm system isn’t particularly good, the last time I checked- and the Giants might have some pieces that they would be interested in. Thomas Neal is one such prospect. I would certainly be willing to part with the youngster as part of a deal for Werth, in addition to a few more prospects- although I’m not entirely sure who that might entail. The only prospects I’d strongly stay away from moving would be Zack Wheeler and Brandon Belt.
I’m not worried about losing Werth at the end of the season- there is that stigma about AT&T being a poor hitter’s park, but Werth may find it well to his liking, in addition to being reunited with former teammate Aaron Rowand. But if we were to lose him to free agency, we’d undoubtedly get two compensatory draft picks to help restock the farm for the players we lost in the deal. I know Sabean isn’t keen on rental players- at least, that’s what he’s said- but to me, Werth would seem to be an exception to the rule. He’d make the Giants a practical lock for the Postseason (barring any unforeseen injuries, etc.) and might improve the Giants’ chances of retaining him after the season. At the very least, it’d show the “lunatic fringe” that he’s not afraid to pull the trigger to acquire that big bat we’ve been looking for for so long.