No one has officially linked the Tigers to Jayson Werth, so all the talk of him in a Tigers uniform may be nothing more than pure armchair hypothesizing. Some things we know: It doesn’t look like the Phillies have any chance of retaining him and he’s got to go somewhere… so where? The Tigers need some pop in their lineup, that much is generally agreed. Dombrowski might have Victor Martinez, Carl Crawford and Adam Dunn higher on his list, but there is still a distinct chance that all three will wind up elsewhere. What does he do then? Presumably start pursuit of the next best hitter on the market, who in the eyes of many if not all observers is Jayson Werth.
Let’s start with the positives about Jayson Werth: Over his 4 years in Philly he’s given them 13.8 oWAR and 1.6 dWAR. Over that time he’s also got 60 steals in only 68 attempts. Last year he led the NL in doubles in his best year yet at the plate, with a .921 OPS and 5.2 oWAR. So… should we Tigers fans start drooling over Werth and banging the drum to get him signed?
First, Werth is a Type-A free agent. That means that signing him requires a sacrifice above and beyond Illitch’s green. Second, Werth is going to be 32 next May. He’s showing no real signs of decline yet, aside from defensive numbers that were below average in 2009-2010 – as opposed to significantly above average from 2004-2008. With the bat he has topped his career best oWAR 4 seasons running. He’s also a player with just enough mass, but quickness to spare. Those guys have a tendency to age a lot more gracefully than those with just enough quickness but excess mass. Think Kenny Lofton or Lou Whitaker as compared to Mo Vaughn or Cecil Fielder. Still, he’ll be looking to sign at least a 5-year deal and nobody knows what Werth will look like at 37 – any more than we could know what Carlos Guillen’s body would look like at 34.
Those two aren’t deal-breakers by any means. I’d be more than happy to give up a first rounder, and take the risk that he wouldn’t earn his keep in 2016 to get a .921 OPS hitting behind Cabrera next year. Wouldn’t you? For the record – that’s better than Adam Dunn.