Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Jayson Werth; is he worth it?

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I'd be smoking a cigar too, if I was Jayson Werth tonight. Photo: fanshots.com

I avoided the obvious pun in the title, but clearly the 7yr $126M dollar deal we just signed with Jayson Werth is going to stir some serious blog “ink” over the next couple days.  In fact, reading some quick twitter comments from the leading reporters at the winter meetings seem to indicate that this deal has completely “shaken up” the meetings, that other teams are stunned, that rival execs are “pissed” and that this could be a game changer contract in the league.

The good:

- Jayson Werth’s numbers over the past few years are definitely strong.  He finished up last year with a 145 OPS+ figure, putting him 5th in the NL.

- Despite having clearly better numbers in his walk year, he has been a rather consistent performer when looking at his WAR figures over the past few years.  5.1, 4.9 and 5.0 over the past three seasons.  Consistent.

- He plays RF, where we’re desperately in need of a slugger.  He can also play center and left (though his UZR/150 numbers for center are god-awful).  His LF defensive value is quite good though.

- Fangraphs.com just posted analysis that essentially validates his salary as compared to the typical value of WAR on the FA market, and says that it isn’t really that bad of a contract.  For now any way; we’ll see what happens as he ages and if/when he tails off.

The immediate bad:

- 7 years guaranteed for a guy who just turned 31.  $18M (average contract value) per year for a guy in his age 37 and 38 years.  Scary.  This contract immediately becomes more or less untradable.

- We commit 7 years to a right fielder, when we have the best hitting prospect (and dedicated right fielder) in baseball in Bryce Harper slated to arrive mid-way through the contract.  I’ll guess Werth moves to LF naturally.

- Wouldn’t we have rather committed 56M on Adam Dunn instead of more than twice that for a lesser hitter?

- Intangibles: we now have an $18M/year player on the books, which is more than twice the Face of the Franchise’s 2011 number.  Problematic in the club house?  Or will the young leader recognize that his time to “get paid” is coming and that Werth’s contract is indicative of his body of work over the past few years?

- We lose a draft pick; but because our 1st rounder is protected we’ll only lose our 2nd round pick.  However, we picked up the White Sox’s pick in the Dunn deal so we still have essentially 3 first rounders in 2011′s deep draft.

I’ll say this; the addition of Werth plus the eventual addition of a first baseman (Carlos Pena or possibly Adam LaRoche) greatly greatly improves this lineup.  We’re now looking at something like this:

  1. (L) Morgan CF
  2. (R) Desmond SS/2b
  3. (R) Zimmerman 3b
  4. (L) Pena 1b
  5. (R) Werth rf
  6. (R) Willingham LF
  7. (S) Espinosa 2nd/ss
  8. (R) Pudge C
  9. pitcher

A little right-handed heavy right now.  Another potential future move could be to trade Willingham for a starter and put lefty-hitting Bernadina in left.  That’d be a nice balance of R-L-R-L in the heart of the order.  This move immediately marginalizes both Bernadina and Morse though; perhaps we’ll see them moved as part of a deal to get someone like Matt Garza.

Conclusion: The Nationals have proven several times in the past two offseasons that they need to overpay to get FAs to come here.  We offered Teixeira more money than New York, and reportedly we offered De La Rosa more money than he took to return to Colorado.  I think this is the Nationals essentially “buying” their way into the discussions for free agents, now and in the future.  It’s definitely a hitter we needed, and hopefully by the time his contract reaches albatross level it won’t matter because we’ll be winning and he’ll be a part of it.

Written by Todd Boss

December 5th, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Posted in Nats in General

2 Responses to 'Jayson Werth; is he worth it?'

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  1. Hmm $18 million a year. Remember, a million dollars doesn’t go as far as it used too. Besides, housing is more expensive in the DC area. Seriously, this contract is hard to understand, even taking into account all your analysis. He’s a career .272 hitter who might hit 30hr per year. Guess this is what has to be paid to get an everyday guy in DC where this is little hope for playoffs in near future.

    Gary Boss

    6 Dec 10 at 11:46 pm

  2. He’s better than the average player; he was 5th best NL offensive player by OPS+ last year, he gets SBs, he plays a decent right field. He fits Rizzo’s mold of good hitters who are also decent defensively.

    He’s not $18M/year though. I was expecting him maybe to get a 5yr/80M deal ($14M per). My interpretation of the contract is two fold:
    1. the nats realize they have to overspend to get guys to come here right now. The franchise is a joke around the industry and we have lost out on FAs who took less money to go with more successful teams.
    2. The owners have finally been convinced that they needed to spend money, ANY money, to gain back the fanbase.

    Todd Boss

    7 Dec 10 at 11:20 am

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