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What to do with Myers? (Offseason edition)

With the news that Brett Myers will undergo hip surgery likely to keep him out for the remainder of the 2009 season, the Phillies face the potential end of the road with their longest-tenured pitcher. Myers was the team's first-round draft choice ten years ago, and has been with the Phils long enough that his first career start came in a lineup that included Scott Rolen, Travis Lee, and Marlon Anderson.

With a career record of 73-63 and key contributions--albeit in very different roles--to both the 2007 and 2008 division titles as well as last year's World F. Championship, Myers can point with pride to his accomplishments as a Phillie. His off-field problems, disgraceful as they were, seem to be behind him, and he's never indicated otherwise than that he wants to remain with the club beyond this season. Should the Phillies feel the same way?

Before the 2007 season, Myers signed a three-year contract worth $25.75 million that took him through what would have been his first season of free agency. He's earning $12 million this season, the most of any pitcher on the club and second overall to Ryan Howard ($15 million). It's difficult to make a guess about his market value as a free agent next winter; other pitchers who might be on the market include Erik Bedard, Doug Davis, Kelvim Escobar, Rich Harden, John Lackey, Andy Pettitte and Joel Pineiro, while higher-profile arms like Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee and Brandon Webb are likely to see their team options picked up. Also unclear is whether teams will feel they have more money to spend as the economy begins to recover. But it seems like a reasonable assumption that if the Phils offered Myers arbitration, and he accepted, his 2010 salary would be in the neighborhood of what he's making this year.

Will he be worth that investment, or even a multi-year deal at around the same annual salary? Myers will be 29 next season, and there's a chance, as Ken Rosenthal writes, that he'll come back as strong or stronger than ever, with his fastball velocity closer to the mid-90s he worked at from 2005-2007 to the high-80s range of the last couple seasons.

Were that the case, the adjustments Myers has made--more effectively using his curve and cutter to compensate for the velocity drop--could finally elevate him to the ace-level performance he's never quite achieved. Given the other question marks in the rotation going forward beyond Cole Hamels--Jamie Moyer at 47? J.A. Happ and Joe Blanton as your #2 and #3? the development of Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo and Vance Worley?--it's not hard to imagine the Phils looking to extend their relationship with the young veteran right-hander.