Phillies face decisions on Werth, others

Phillies face decisions on Werth, others

PHILADELPHIA -- Chad Durbin embraced every moment he could during the final few months of the 2010 season.

He has enjoyed his time in Philadelphia.

He wants to come back.

But Durbin knows he might not be back in 2011. He is a free agent, and he is not the only one. The Phillies have six potential free agents this offseason: Jose Contreras, Durbin, Jamie Moyer, J.C. Romero (if the 2011 club option is not exercised), Mike Sweeney and Jayson Werth.

"I've really taken my time with the guys," said Durbin, who has been with Philadelphia since 2008. "I gave my wife some crap on the plane the last couple times: 'I'm not going to hang out with you. I'll hang out with you the whole offseason. I'm going to hang out with the guys, and talk with them and visit with them -- because you just never know.' Baseball is baseball. This is a special clubhouse."

Hot Stove
Hot Stove preview coverage
Open season about to begin
Hot Stove to come to a fast boil
No shortage of catchers on market
Beltre heads class at third base
At first, plenty of slugging options
Crawford, Werth top outfielders
Veterans available for DH help
Free-agent duo could be second to none
Movement at short remains to be seen
Lee tops thin market of starters
Plenty of relief available
Hot Stove blog | Hot Stove Tracker
Play Free Agent Frenzy

Werth leads the group of free agents. The Phillies and Werth are expected to say the right things in the coming weeks. The club is going to say it would love to bring back Werth, which is true. And Werth is going to say he wants to come back, which also is true.

But the reality is different. The Phils already have more than $145 million committed to 16 players in 2011, and Werth is going to be one of the top free agents on the market.

Outfielder Jason Bay received a four-year, $66 million contract from the New York Mets last winter. Werth should command more.

Bay hit .267 with a .362 on-base percentage and a .493 slugging percentage in the three seasons leading up to free agency. Werth hit .279 with a .376 on-base percentage and a .513 slugging percentage. The numbers show Werth is a better hitter than Bay. He is also a better fielder and baserunner. And there seems to be little doubt Scott Boras, who is Werth's agent, will be seeking the big-time deal Werth has waited his entire career for.

Werth's absence would create a huge hole in Philadelphia's lineup. Werth's .921 OPS ranked best on the team. Ryan Howard (.859) and Carlos Ruiz (.847) finished second and third, respectively.

Werth hit just .150 (17-for-113) with runners in scoring position through the first five-plus months of the season. But it is probably not a coincidence that once he switched agents and relaxed a little bit, he hit .333 (9-for-27) with runners in scoring position from Sept. 6 through the end of the regular season.

Werth is the guy every Phillies fan will follow in the coming weeks, although the end result seems certain. But there are others worth watching, too.

Durbin, Contreras and Romero have been important pieces in the bullpen: Romero since 2007, Durbin since 2008 and Contreras this season. It is unlikely Philadelphia will pick up Romero's $4.5 million club option, because they are expected to rely next season on left-hander Antonio Bastardo. Romero went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA the last two seasons, but he also has missed time with injuries and has walked more hitters (42) than he has struck out (40).

The Phillies would like to bring back Contreras, but he has raised his stock. He went 6-4 with a 3.34 ERA and four saves this season. Philadelphia could find itself in a similar situation as last offseason with Chan Ho Park. Park pitched well in 2009 and tried to get a bigger contract than the Phils wanted to pay. Park ended up signing with the New York Yankees for less money than Philadelphia offered, but the point is, Contreras could be a tough sign. One thing that could help the Phillies? Contreras' relationship with Danys Baez, who is signed for next season. Contreras and Baez are Cuban and very good friends.

Durbin is an interesting case. He went 4-1 with a 3.80 ERA this season. He has been steady and reliable, and the Phils could use him. But this could be his only opportunity to land a multiyear contract as an established reliever.

How much will Philadelphia want to spend on Durbin?

Would Durbin take less money from the Phillies to stay?

"My gut says it's 50-50," Durbin said.

Moyer, who will turn 48 next month, is unlikely to return, unless Philadelphia brings him back on a Minor League deal. He is coming off a left elbow injury that forced him to miss the final two months of the season and the entire postseason. It is also fair to wonder if the relationship between Moyer and management is strained after he criticized Phillies president David Montgomery and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in 2009, when the club moved him into the bullpen to make room for Pedro Martinez.

Sweeney was a nice clubhouse addition, but he seems unlikely to return. The Phils like bench players with versatility -- and with Howard expected to play almost every day at first base, Sweeney would only be able to pinch-hit.

Philadelphia also has three players eligible for salary arbitration: Greg Dobbs, Ben Francisco and Kyle Kendrick.

It seems unlikely the Phillies would tender Dobbs a contract. His production has dropped considerably the past two seasons. Francisco is very likely to return and could see considerable playing time in right field next season -- especially if Philadelphia decides to stay in-house and use him and perhaps rookie outfielder Domonic Brown in a platoon situation.

Kendrick went 11-10 with a 4.73 ERA in 33 appearances (31 starts) this season. He is due a significant raise, if offered arbitration. If the Phillies do not want to take the risk of paying Kendrick more money than they feel is appropriate, they could non-tender him and sign him back at a lesser salary.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.