Phillies

Phillies

The next couple of days at Citizens Bank Park will be interesting as the Baltimore Orioles and Manny Machado come to town for a quick, two-game interleague series.

You know all about Machado. The slugging left-side infielder's time with the Orioles is coming to an end. He will likely be traded this month so the O's can get something back before he walks off to free agency.

The Phillies want Machado.

Badly.

They would be interested in trading for him now — provided he would forego free agency and sign a contract extension with them. That seems like a long shot with Machado being six months away from a free-agent mega-deal, but you never know. Either way, the Phillies are deep in the Machado thing and hope to get him this month or in the offseason, so these next two days will be interesting, to say the least, with Machado getting a feel for his possible future home.

But this story isn't about Machado as much as it is about great teams and building great teams. Matt Klentak and his lieutenants are trying to build the next championship Phillies team — halfway through this season, things are moving in a positive direction — and it will take more than just a Machado to do that. It will take a blend. There will need to be some homegrown talent (there already is), a trade pickup or two, a big-time free agent pickup. There will need to be stars, rock-solid regulars and role players. There will need to be someone who seemingly comes out of nowhere and shines.

 

There will need to be a Jayson Werth.

I got to thinking about Werth today, just a few days after he announced his retirement after a very nice 15-year career that included four seasons and a World Series title with the Phillies.

Werth was one of those contributors who seemingly came out of nowhere and helped put the 2008 Phillies over the top. Shane Victorino was another one of those players. Both players were castoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ed Wade and his staff took a chance on Victorino as a Rule 5 player and he paid huge dividends. Pat Gillick took a chance on Werth and he, too, paid huge dividends, giving the Phillies a big right-handed bat in the middle of the batting order and a lot of personality.

Werth left Philadelphia for a huge seven-year, $126 million contract with the Washington Nationals after the 2010 season. That type of a deal makes it easy to forget that he was almost done as a player when the Phillies gambled on him.

Werth was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1997 draft, when Gillick was the O's general manager. Ten years later, after a serious wrist injury put his career in jeopardy, Werth was released by the Dodgers.

Getting released was traumatic for Werth, who had grown up in a baseball family — his grandfather (Dick Schofield), uncle (Dick Jr.) and stepdad (Dennis Werth) all played in the majors. After getting the news that he had been let go by the Dodgers in December 2006, Werth sat dejectedly on the couch at his home in Illinois all night. He eventually fell asleep. The next morning, at 7 a.m., Central time, 8 a.m., in the East, the phone rang. Werth was in no mood to pick up the phone so he let the answering machine handle it. After the beep, he heard an unmistakable, familiar voice.

"Jayson ... Pat Gillick ... 215 ... give me a call."

Ten years after drafting Werth, Gillick still believed in the talent, still believed Werth had something to offer as a complement to an existing nucleus. Gillick had a great knack for finding those types of players and sprinkling them in much like a great chef knows how to enhance a recipe with just the right seasoning. The rest is history. Werth signed with the Phillies as a fairly nondescript player who was not offered a contract by his old team. He got healthy. He got a chance to play. He helped the Phillies win a division in 2007, a World Series in 2008, an NL pennant in 2009 and another division in 2010.

Werth hit .285 with a .885 OPS, 95 homers and 300 RBIs with the Phillies over four seasons.

He wasn't Chase Utley, though they were the best of pals. He wasn't Jimmy Rollins or Ryan Howard. He was not as big a pickup as Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee in subsequent years.

But that's just the point. It takes a blend. Sometimes it's the marginal pickup that helps put a team over the top. And make no mistake, Werth helped put that 2008 team over the top. Just like Utley, Rollins, Howard, Hamels and Lidge. He had his place and it was significant, just like another role guy, Victorino, and reliever Ryan Madson, who found his fastball and an assassin's mentality in August of that year.

 

So, a hat tip to Werth as he heads home with a box full of baseball memories, including some great ones that were forged after his career took a fortuitous turn to Philadelphia.

And a reminder that, as great as a big-time difference-maker like Machado would look in red pinstripes, the unheralded pickup can be important, too.

Who's the next Jayson Werth around here?

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