Werth's teammates hope he'll return in 2011
Outfielder will be one of most coveted free agents in offseason
PHILADELPHIA -- Nearly an hour after the Phillies were eliminated from the postseason with Saturday night's loss to the Giants in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, Jayson Werth returned to his locker, put his black hat on backwards and began walking toward an uncertain future.
Standing with Carl Crawford as the two most attractive outfielders in this coming offseason's free-agent market, Werth is expected to garner a contract that will include annual salaries of at least $15 million.
While the Phillies have come to treasure Werth since he signed an $850,000 contract with them before the start of the 2007 season, they simply might not have the resources to re-sign him. Having strengthened their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, they are already committed to paying more than $145 million to 16 players for the 2011 season.
"He means a ton to this team," closer Brad Lidge said. "He's obviously a leader with what he does on the field, and he's also a presence with what he does in the clubhouse, too. Hopefully, he's back. We're all going to miss him if he's not."
Still dealing with the reality that he and his teammates will not be competing in a third consecutive World Series, Werth exited Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night with the intention to address his future soon.
When Phils general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. addresses the media Monday morning, he'll obviously be asked about the possibility of re-signing Werth, who hit .279 with 87 homers and an .889 OPS over the course of the past three regular seasons.
"He's meant a lot to this team," first baseman Ryan Howard said. "He's come up with a lot of big hits this year, a lot of big plays. The fans -- especially the ones in right field -- love him. He's been a big part of this team, on the field and just in the clubhouse. His personality in the clubhouse is one that helps make this team what it is. We hope he'll be able to reach a deal and come back next year."
If this was Werth's last game with the Phillies, his final at-bat -- an eighth-inning strikeout -- wasn't a fitting conclusion for a man who has greatly influenced the euphoria that has surrounded Philadelphia during recent Octobers.
Werth's sacrifice fly that capped Saturday night's two-run first inning was more indicative of how he's spent the past four Octobers with the Phillies. He holds the club's postseason record for homers (11), extra-base hits (21) and total bases (82).
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins is among those who aren't willing to concede that Werth will be playing elsewhere next year.
"There's a good chance he will [be back]," Rollins said. "It's 50-50 if he is or he isn't. ... He's been big. He's had big hit after big hit, defensive plays. He's been a great guy in the clubhouse and a great team person. On top of that, he's a good guy. Those are the kind of guys this club is built on -- good guys who can go play baseball."
Werth's closest friend on the club, Chase Utley, said that he's not sure what the future holds for the veteran outfielder. The second baseman confirmed he hasn't given up hope of Werth returning, and Utley will certainly spend the next couple weeks and months lobbying for Werth's return.
"Jayson's a very good friend of mine, and he's also a pretty good player," Utley said. "I don't know what's in his future, but I'd like him to come back here, that's for sure."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.