Friday, November 05, 2010

How Would Werth Fit with the Tigers?

Slugging outfielder Jayson Werth will be one of the most highly sought after free agents this off-season.  He'll be expensive though, especially since he just hired Scott Boras as his free agent last month.  He's 31years old and will probably look for a deal of at least four years.

What could Werth bring to a team like the Tigers?  Detroit needs a middle of the order hitter and right field is open with the departure of Magglio Ordonez.  So, he would be a good fit on that basis.  In the past three years, the six-foot-five inch 222 pound Werth has batted .279/.376/.513 and has been second among major league right fielders with 91.2 Batting Runs.

Defensively, he has a strong arm and decent range for a big guy.  Table 1 shows his fielding statistics for 2008-2010.  It includes

DRS = Defensive Runs Saved (John Dewan)
UZR = Ultimate Zone Rating (Mitchel Lichtman)
TZ = Total Zone (Sean Smith)
FSR = Fan Survey Runs (Tom Tango)
Avg = Average of the four statistics

Table 1: Jayson Werth Fielding Runs Saved, 2008-2010

There is a general consensus among the statistics (including fan observations) that he has been slightly above average for the last three years.  The final estimate is 6 runs better than the average right fielder.  There is some suggestion that he is on the decline (10 in 2008, 6 in 2009 and 1 in 2010) but single year outfield fielding runs statistics are not reliable enough to say that with great confidence.  For the time being anyway, he seems better than adequate defensively.  In other words, better than Ordonez.

One drawback for the Tigers is that Werth bats right-handed and they would prefer a left-handed batter.  For that reason, they may pursue Carl Crawford, Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn or even someone like Jim Thome.  However, they would probably take Werth if the price is right.

A bigger issue might be moving from hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia to the more neutral Comerica Park.  Over the past three years, the bearded right fielder has a .920 OPS at home and .859 on the road.  So, we probably wouldn't get quite the same hitter in Detroit, although he'd still be good.  There is some thought the switch in leagues could be a problem, but his .919 OPS in 314 career plate appearances in interleague play does not appear to indicate trouble.   

Because he is right-handed and would be moving to a more difficult hitting environment, he might not be worth the Matt Holliday type contract Boras is rumored to want.  However, he would be an excellent addition to the Tigers line-up if they could get him.  It's hard to guess what will happen with a Boras client except that he'll probably make his decision later rather than sooner.  So, expect him to be one of the last big-name free agents inked to a contract.

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