On a slow news day, and with no games, perhaps we can return to the heady days of winter when cries of "Werth!" and "CLIFFLEE!!!!" rang out across the countryside. Also, at a time when some are wringing their hands over a lack of offense from the Phillies, maybe it would be fun to revisit the eternal question once more. There's nothing that is so fun as beating a dead horse, after all.
There's no reason that you and I should miss out on the fun! Least of all because it's only 73 games into the deals and lots of things can happen by the end of each. Still, why not pounce on the Nats right now while it's still fun from the perspective of a Phillies fan? After all, it could be much worse someday.
So -- should the Phillies have signed Werth's bat rather than Lee's arm this winter? Utimately, there could be only one. Which one, though?
In review: Cliff Lee was signed by the Phillies through 2015 at $24 million per year. Jayson Werth was signed by the Nationals through 2017 at $18 million per year. Clickit the jump to see the money shot...
YTD, each player has produced the following WAR:
At current WAR rates of $5 million per free agent WAR (for the 2010 - 2011 offseason), Lee needs to produce a hair under 5 WAR for the season to justify his contract. Werth needs to cook up a bit under 4 WAR. Here's an annualized pace:
Lee: 6.44 ($32.18 million at $24 million cost = $8.18 million "surplus")
Werth: 2.44 ($12.21 million at $18 million cost = $5.79 million "shortfall")
Werth's WAR is broken down into .9 from offense and .2 from defense, so the "light up the scoreboard" numbers are equivalent to adding a little less than another "Placido Polanco bat" to the lineup. Cliff Lee, for what it is worth, has an oWAR of 0.4. Really. At least according to B-R (and it's in a really volatile 36 plate appearances -- IT'S JUST GOOFY FUN). I ignored that for this analysis, though.
What else is there? Risk. Lee's deal is for more money, but it's shorter. It's also for a pitcher. Mixed signals there, but it's something to think about. Marketability. Werth was getting progressively less warm and fuzzy, at least in his public perception. Everyone lurrrrves CLIFFLEE!!!!, at least right now. Mostly everyone, anyway.
Bottom line? Werth is a good player. Even with a sub-par start to the year, he adds game-wins value to his team, albeit not in a financially efficient manner. Lee, on the other hand, has been fabulous this year and has added far more WAR to the Phillies than Werth has to the Nats, and Lee's WAR came in a more efficient (for free agency) manner. Young, arbitration talent could be better, but I don't see any farmhands likely to add 6 - 7 WAR for the Phillies in a season anytime soon.
Werth has other benefits for the Nationals, aside from WAR -- he shows to the Nats fans that the team is ready to start paying for better talent. He generated buzz in DC. The Lee signing did the same for Philadelphia, of course, but DC baseball was, after the Strasburg injury last year, a pretty depressed community. The FOURACES!!!! hype has admittedly been pretty valuable marketing fodder for the Phillies, too.
Still, while the Werth deal is not necessarily "bad" for the Nats, signing Lee appears, at least early on, to have been the right move for the Phillies. And that is despite the reduction in offense (excluding Werth's dWAR from his WAR), since Lee's pitching has been literally 300% more valuable at only 33% more in cost.