Despite spelling his own first name incorrectly for the past 31 years, Jayson Werth was awarded a seven-year/$126 million contract with the Nationals on Sunday. Reactions to this mammoth signing have generally been in one of three categories:
1. “If the Nationals have that kind of money, why does their pitching staff look like that?”
2. “Did Jayson Werth seriously just get signed through age 39?”
3. “I just saw a picture of Jayson Werth. Isn’t he the lead singer of Puddle of Mud?”
It sounds as if the Nats are willing to dish out some money for pitching as well–there are even rumors they’re preparing an offer for Cliff Lee–so we’ll toss number one aside. It’s question number two that I want to address (because I already know #3 to be fact).
Werth is a good player, yes. In looking at his stats, you could even say that for the past two seasons, he has been a great player. He was sixth in the league in OPS this past season, at .920. The year before, he clubbed 36 HRs and lead his team to the World Series. Do not misunderstand me, I’m not saying he’s not worthy (or Werthy, am I right?…No, no, I’m wrong) of a nice paycheck. But we’re talking about a guy who didn’t get regular playing time until the 2008 season–when he was 29 years old!
I know I’m repeating myself here, but in the last season of Werth’s contract with the Nationals, he will be 39 years old. Can you list the Outfielders that were still good when they were 39? When you get past names like Mays, Aaron, Bonds and Yastrzemski (thanks for the spelling, google) they’re pretty tough to find. Sure, there’s still some gas in the tank, but not $18 Mil/year gas. More like “I can still grow a goatee, so I have to keep playing baseball” kind of gas.
When Andre Dawson was 39 he hit .240. George Brett hit only 7 HRs in 592 At-Bats. Bernie Williams’ skills began to diminish at age 36, and at age 37 he retired to a music career heard by nobody.
Look, I know the Nationals are not a dream destination for free agents, and as a result they have to over pay. But reports around the league are saying that when the Nationals gave their offer, Werth’s agent Scott Boras didn’t even shop it around to other teams. The second he heard it, he knew it was the best. Sounds to me like a smaller offer would have finished the job.
Instead, in a few years, when they’re trying to sign Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg to long-term deals, the Nationals will look down the locker room and ask “why are we paying Jayson Werth $18 Million to grow his hair out?”
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