Monday, December 06, 2010

Not Werth It

OK, I'll admit the headline is a bit cheesy, but I couldn't resist.

Readers of this space (the five of you know who you are) are well aware I have mixed feelings about Jayson Werth. He is a streaky hitter who can be productive but rarely in the clutch, a very good outfielder who can be erratic (especially his arm) and a fast base runner who can be caught napping (too often). Werth will never make Phi Beta Kappa, but, then, MLB isn't interested in college board scores.

Werth's so-far irreplaceable value to the Phils had to do as much with his handedness as anything else. Simply put, he was the only productive position player with power who batted from the right side. Will his bat and glove be missed? Depends entirely on who replaces him. For now, the bigger question is whether or not he is worth the seven-year $126 million contract he just signed with the Washington Nationals.

Of course, the answer remains to be seen but there is no time limit or restriction on speculating about the deal. Most observers who have one if not two feet planted in reality were stunned by the deal on every conceivable front. The Nationals don't appear to be the sort of team that can afford such a contract, but having offered it to Werth the only conclusions to draw are: 1)like most baseball teams, they have more money than they let on; or, 2)they are gambling.

For those who thought Werth would sign with the Red Sox or some other front runner, the clear message is he doesn't need another World Series ring. Good thing, too, because he isn't likely to get one in DC.

Seven years for a fellow who turns 32 at the beginning of next season seems like a long time but we have to remember salary and number-of-years inflation is the rule in most big league contracts today for type A as well as B players.

Washington is generally thought of as a team destined to continue losing, especially since they just lost their biggest power threat, Adam Dunn. Nevertheless, they do have some a pesky lineup. Where they seem most vulnerable is on the mound, especially with phenom Stephen Strasburg lost for all of next year recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Nats aren't as bad as some say nor as good as their ownership appears to least not now. They may be on the rise and the people who write the checks hope Werth will nudge them forward in that direction a little faster.

Is Jayson Werth the missing piece for the Nationals? Almost certainly not. He's going from the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park to a stadium where home runs are harder to come by. He isn't going to be surrounded by comparably talented players and isn't likely to have as many people on base in front of him, either.

But if Washington thinks he's worth all that money, Jayson isn't about to contradict them. You don't need a Phi Betta Kappa key to know that!

1 comment:

Matty said...

How can I respond to this when I agree with everyone you said. What surprises me about the deal is not the money, but the length of the contract. As you said, seven years and he turns 32 during next season. He'll be pushing 40 at the end of the contract! Either Nats know something we don't, or they're just plain crazy. Either way, Werth is laughing all the way to the bank.