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Insanity in the Nation’s Capital: Is Jayson “Werth” $126 Million?

A lot of money was spent in Washington on Sunday, just not in the typical way. Admittedly, I haven’t done a great job on posting here in recent months. But sometimes a story will come along that screams out to me, and I feel obligated to write about it. The signing of Jayson Werth to a 7 year, $126 million contract by the Washington Nationals is one such story.

When I read about it on Twitter yesterday (follow me at @detroitdan1982), I almost fell off my chair. I don’t really hide the fact that I am a die hard Detroit Tigers fan, and I was hopeful that the club’s general manager, Dave Dombrowski, might make a play for Werth to solidify the middle of the lineup with Miguel Cabrera and the recently signed Victor Martinez. He would have also ben a defensive improvement in right field. But there was no way on God’s green earth that I thought the Tigers should pay $126 million for him. This looks like it could be the newest candidate for worst free agent contract in Major League Baseball history.

It seemed all along that the Boston Red Sox were the front runners for Werth. They reportedly had meetings with him, and all indications were that Werth would soon join the BoSox (who made their own splash on Sunday by trading for Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres). But seemingly out of nowhere, the Nats stepped forward and made the biggest free agent signing in franchise history.

Score another one for Scott Boras, though. He consistently squeezes the most out of teams for his clients. While I’m no expert, I guessed that when free agency began, Werth might be in line for a contract somewhere in the range of $70-$90 million for 6 or 7 years. I also thought the biggest fish on the market, Carl Crawford, would probably get upwards of $100 million for 6 or 7 years, but not significantly more than that. But now that Werth is getting $126 million, it seems as though Crawford is set to receive at least that much, and maybe as much as $180 million according to some sources. I really don’t think either of those guys are on par with Joe Mauer or Mark Teixeira, who have signed $180 million contracts in recent years.

As the title of the article suggests, I think this might be just a bit too much money for Werth. He turns 32 in May, and while he may improve, and it’s possible that he has a few good years ahead of him, he’s never finished a season with a batting average over .300 and he’s never had 100 RBIs. I know those aren’t the only stats that matter, but if I’m paying a guy over $100 million, I think I might want him to be able to do those things.

The contract is the same in years and dollars as the one that Vernon Wells signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in late 2006. While that one hasn’t quite worked out the way the Jays had hoped, Wells had just turned 28 at the time and seemed to have more upside at that point than Werth has now. Only time will tell, but I have a feeling that two or three years from now (or maybe even sooner), the Nationals will regret committing so much money to a player who seems unproven, at least in my eyes.

What do you think? Am I the only one who thinks that the Nationals will eventually end up regretting this deal? I’d love to know what you think!

2 replies on “Insanity in the Nation’s Capital: Is Jayson “Werth” $126 Million?”

While I do agree that the signing of Jason Werth to a 7 year $126 million deal is crazy, I think the Nats are on to something and that this is the first part of two moves they will make.

Is it smart to sign a guy to over $20 million per year until he is nearly 40? Never. Will Jason Werth even be a 30/100 guy in a couple years? Probably not. But with Stephen Strasburg (I know he’s a question mark coming off Tommy John surgery), Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Jason Werth, the Nationals have laid a nice foundation to build upon.

My guess: That building block is the most coveted pitcher in free agency: Cliff Lee
I think the Nats are going to make a serious push to get Cliff Lee, and don’t be surprised if they can muscle out the apparent 6/7 year deal, that the Yankees and Rangers seem hesitant to offer.

I mean hey, they just offered one 32 year old a 7 year deal, why not do it again?

Nice analysis, Dan. I think baseball may be headed in the same direction as the NBA with these crazy contracts for average players. Look at this past summer, with the Hawks paying Joe Johnson $119 million for six years, among a lot of other crazy new deals. All of that may be contributing to upcoming labor problems in the NBA, including a possible lockout. I hope the MLB doesn’t go down the same path.

I do hope the Nationals can start building a solid foundation for the future and get out of the basement, although I think they may be putting too many eggs in the Stephen Strasburg/Bryce Harper basket so early on in their careers.

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