Phillies' Werth shakes off trade talk
Outfielder focused on Philly; source says rumor to Yanks untrue
PHILADELPHIA -- Whether or not he was simply playing coy with reporters, Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth said he had not heard any trade rumors involving his name, and his focus remains solely on playing for Philadelphia.
"What rumors?" Werth asked before Friday's game. "I haven't really heard anything. I don't read those sites."
Baseball sources told MLB.com that a rumor circulating early on Friday that Werth may be headed to the Yankees for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez was untrue.
Speculation is nothing new for Werth, a 31-year-old right fielder who will be a free agent after this season. And while Friday's proposed move doesn't appear to have teeth, rumors are not likely to die down anytime soon as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches.
"It's definitely part of the game," Werth said. "If something like that happens, I'll find out about it and I'll deal with it then. But right now, my focus is playing baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies and my teammates here and winning ballgames."
Werth is hitting .278 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs in his fourth season with the Phillies. His season has already seen considerable peaks and valleys. His average has dropped from .336 on May 17, and he has only one RBI since June 24.
In the clubhouse before Friday's game, players were harping on the topic of where former teammate Cliff Lee may be headed, seemingly enjoying the rampant speculation as much as fans might. Lee was one player rumored to be a candidate to return to Philadelphia, though he ended up being dealt to the Rangers on Friday.
It's the kind of gossip Werth said he tries hard not to get caught up in.
"I'm not going to concern myself with anything other than that," he said. "If something comes up, I'll deal with it."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said dealing with distractions like that are part of the game, and particularly a challenge every year around this time. Manuel wouldn't mention anybody specifically, but he said some players handle those things better than others.
"I guess it depends on who you are," Manuel said. "And I guess it depends on your makeup and character. I think a good player's a good player."
Manuel got in some hot water earlier this season for saying Werth's contract situation may have been affecting his output offensively. He was careful not to go in that direction on Friday.
"This is a mentally tough game, but you've got to stay focused," Manuel said. "You've got to stay on what you want to achieve and don't be distracted."
Earlier in the week, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. did not rule out trading a player currently on the team's 25-man roster if the right deal came up. Manuel, too, said he would be OK with the team exploring different scenarios.
"Who we get would play a big role, of course," Manuel said. "There's things we could do, probably. We could try. I'm always open for trying."
In the meantime, Werth remains batting fifth for the third-place Phillies, worrying solely about the issues he can control.
"Honestly, I'm not really too concerned," Werth said. "We're two games back of the [National League] Wild Card. We're 5 1/2 [games behind Atlanta] in the division. I think it's a winnable division, and we've got a team right now that can do it."
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.