How the Phillies Can Keep Jayson Werth

Would you pay $5 extra per ticket to keep him in town?

This week, the Flyers were in a death struggle to survive in the Stanley Cup playoffs, DeSean Jackson ripped into Donovan McNabb and the quarterback ripped back, but all folks wanted to talk about was the methodology of how the Phillies can re-sign star Jayson Werth.

The Werth issue is a twisty dilemma, and a blinding reflection off the pool of riches in which Phils fans find themselves swimming. The Phillies are now amongst the elite teams in all of baseball. That feels really good. And we’d all like to keep it that way. [SIGNUP]

For his part, Werth has helped intensify the heat of this debate. The slugging outfielder has gotten off to a sizzling start, hitting for power and hitting for average, and tracking balls down in right field with aplomb while using his cannon arm. He is a player coming into perhaps the prime years of his baseball career, the so-called “five tool” player who can hit for average, hit for power, run, field and throw.

Fans are so desperate to keep Werth that they have racked their brain figuring out ways the Phils can pull this thing off financially. On Tuesday, it was announced that the Phils three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays in late June, scheduled to be played in Toronto, would be moved to Philadelphia because of security concerns surrounding the G20 Conference, slated for Toronto at the same time. With ticket sales, parking fees and concession sales, the Phils are likely to generate some $8 million in that three-game series. Put it all toward the Werth contract, the people say. (I didn’t have the heart to remind them that, as per league regulations, the Blue Jays will likely get about half of that financial cut.)

Ah, how to keep Werth.

The arithmetic says that unless the Phils outfielder has a total meltdown over the rest of the season, he will get a contract that pays him the same outlay as current outfielders Jason Bay of the Mets (who’s getting $16 million a year) and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals (who gets $17 mill a year). Werth’s a better all-around player than both of those gentlemen, which means his price could even be higher. The Phillies next season have a total of $133 million committed to 16 players, not counting Werth. Success and the flowing revenue of Citizens Bank Park have enabled Phils management to expand their payroll considerably from the old days, but they have said publicly that a payroll of about $140 million is about as high as they’d like to go. You don’t have to be a Harvard professor to figure out that you can’t sign Werth and eight other players to fill out a roster of 25, and not go way past $140 million.

But what’s the real story here? Is it that Phils owners would lose money if they go past a $140 million payroll? Or is that they would just take less profit at the end of the year? There’s a big difference between those two premises. And if it’s the latter, then why can’t fans expect that perhaps for just one year, the Phils could expand their payroll to past $150 million in order to keep Jayson Werth and keep one of the best lineups in baseball intact?

After the 2011 season, the Philes will be able to pare off the $11 million salary of Raul Ibanez, who’s contract expires then. By then, Jamie Moyer and his $8 million will be off the books. The Phillies will have to bump up the total a little bit to re-sign Jimmy Rollins after the 2011 season, But they will also have the benefit of a new television contract with Comcast Sports Net, and the rights fees to televise the Phillies will cost considerably more for a perennial World Series contender. Cut a little here, snip a little there, and you’re back in the $140 million range. Your outfield will then be Werth, Shane Victorino, and the exciting youngster Dominic Brown, who will only make about $400,000.

Phils fans are crazy about this Werth thing. So crazy, that on my radio show, several suggested that they’d be willing to pay a $5 increase for their tickets to help the owners afford Werth.

Now think about that for a second. The Phillies are so captivating, that poor people are willing to help rich people fund their entity. These are weird times in Philadelphia, no?

Listen to MIKE MISSANELLI weekday afternoons on 97.5 The Fanatic.