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December 19 2006

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the Phillies have reached an agreement with 27-year-old right-handed outfielder Jayson Werth.

Werth was a first-round draft pick of the Orioles in 1997.  In December, 2000, he was traded to the Blue Jays for John Bale.  In March, 2004, he went from the Blue Jays to the Dodgers for Jason Frasor.

Werth never got more than 50 at-bats in a season with the Blue Jays but shined in 2004 with the Dodgers, hitting 262/338/486 with 16 home runs in just 290 at-bats.  In the 2004 NLDS, Werth went 4-for-14 with two home runs as the Dodgers fell to the Cardinals in four games.  Since 2004 his career has been a story of a major injury.

Werth was hit by a pitch during Spring Training of 2005, breaking his left wrist.  The injury has plagued his career ever since.  He would go on to get 337 at-bats in '05 after suffering the injury and struggled mightily, hitting 234/338/374.  This article suggests Werth is still having some soreness in his wrist and makes it sounds as if he may be a ways from being back to '04 form.

Werth is a player with a tremendous upside and a lot of ifs.  But a healthy Werth would be a big addition to the Phillies, who are in need of another right-handed bat.  To hit 16 home runs in 290 at-bats in Dodger Stadium at age 25 is impressive.  He is, however, going to have to demonstrate to a lot of people that he is healthy.

The addition of a healthy Werth would give the Phillies five outfielders.  During the 2005 season, Werth played 30 games in center field for the Dodgers, although you would have to believe he can't bring nearly the defense that Victorino or Rowand would offer.  I still would not be surprised to see the Phillies trade Rowand and give the full-time center field job to Victorino.  It seems that Victorino would do a better job as a full-time right fielder than Conine, but much less clear he would be a better option than a Werth with his wrist problems finally behind him.  The addition of a right-handed bat like Werth might make a trade of the right-handed Rowand more likely for the lefty-heavy Phils.

That said, it would be a mistake to pencil Werth in anywhere until he demonstrates he's healthy.  And it's not clear at all how long that might take. 

It's arguable, however, that if he signs he'll become the second-best offensive outfielder in the Phillies' organization.

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