Phillies' rightfielder Jayson Werth will be one of the hottest commodities on the free agent market next year, and the Yankees might have an ace in the hole if they choose to pursue him. As if they need any more help, Joel Sherman of The New York Post notes that Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson – a special advisor for the Yanks – has a longstanding relationship with Werth's family.
Jackson became good friends with Werth's stepfather Dennis when the two patrolled the Yankees' outfield in the late-70's/early-80's, and he also played with Dick Schofield during his Angels years, who is Jayson's uncle (his mother's brother, to be specific). Sherman says that Jackson and Werth had lunch together before the two teams played yesterday, and then were spotted on the field chatting before first pitch. The commissioner's office frowns upon members of different organizations interacting like that, but Sherman says it happens all the time and the league would have to be able to illustrate tampering to act in any way.
GM Brian Cashman said he didn't know of the meeting and was unaware of Jackson's relationship with Werth's family, but history has shown that he's not above bringing the heat to recruit big free agents. Last offseason he brought Jackson along to a key meeting during their courtship of CC Sabathia.
Werth, 31 in May, finally started to deliver on some of the promise that landed him on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects List four times from 1999 to 2003. A career .265/.360/.467 hitter in close to 2,300 big league plate appearances, Werth has hit .276/.376/.494 since arriving in Philadelphia during the 2007 season. His power has improved every year since then, topping out at 36 bombs last year, and he's a top notch defender in all three outfield spots according to UZR. Werth will earn $7MM this season as part of the two-year deal he signed last January.