Jul 122010

July 12 Todd Zolecki’s ZoZone

Cliff Lee’s impending free agency and Jayson Werth‘s impending free agency seem like two totally separate issues, and in most respects they are. But it is evident the Phillies think Werth will be difficult to resign, which is why they have explored trading him – although I don’t see it happening if the Phillies remain in contention in the NL East.

So what happens if the Phillies keep Werth and they can’t resign him after the season? (Werth could be looking for more than $100 million on the open market.) The Phillies could use the money earmarked for Werth to make a run at Lee, although that will be difficult for a couple reasons: First, one of the reasons the Phillies traded Lee in December is because they felt he would be tough to sign to an extension. That probably has not changed. Second, the Phillies will be competing with the Yankees, Red Sox, etc., on the open market.

But Lee said today the trade that sent him to Seattle has not soured him on the Phillies.

“I’m not soured by that at all,” he said. “It’s a business. They decided that the best thing for the Phillies was to trade me to replenish the farm system. They felt like that was the best move. You can’t knock them for that. They didn’t have to trade for me to come there in the first place. Yeah, I’m not opposed to coming back to the Phillies in the future at all. I’m not opposed to playing for any team. If 29 other teams don’t want me and the Phillies are the only team that wants me, I’ll be a Phillie.”

Lee stumbled when asked if he would pursue the Phillies in the offseason.

“That’s down the road,” he said. “Right now I’m a Mariner … or a, uh … right now I’m a Ranger. Right now I’m a Ranger. I was so used to saying that, so, I’m a Ranger and I’m going to be a Ranger until hopefully we win the World Series. And when that’s over I’ll weight all of my options and see what happens. It’s really that simple.”

Lee is aware Phillies fans remain upset that he is not in the same rotation with Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels.

Lee gets it.

“They’ve been struggling,” Lee said. “They’re underperforming. When they’re doing that it’s easy to look back and say they should have done this or they should have done that. Anyone can do that. When you have to make those kinds of decisions it’s tough when everyone critiques you, especially when the team is underperforming. All that kind of stuff is magnified. If they were in first place by eight games nobody would say a word about it. I think their struggles are mostly due to injuries. Not because they traded me away. If everybody in their lineup stayed healthy all year they would be in a lot better spot. There’s no doubt about it.”

Werth’s agent, Jeff Borris, did not want to comment today on contract negotiations with the Phillies, although it still sounds like nothing will happen until after the season. Borris said the fact the Phillies are talking about trading Werth does not impact his willingness to resign with the Phillies.

“No,” Borris said. “Teams have to do what’s in their best interest all the time.”

Werth is having a solid season. He ranks 15th in the National League with an .881 OPS. But here is what makes him especially attractive to teams: He is a rare right-handed power bat. He has hit 49 homers since the beginning of 2009, which ranks fourth in baseball. He can run. He can play defense. He has a good arm.

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