WASHINGTON DC - DECEMBER 15: Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo introduces Jayson Werth #28 of the Washington Nationals to the media on December 15 2010 at Nationals Park in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
The Washington Nationals introduced their biggest free agent acquisition since their arrival in the nation's capital in 2005 this afternoon. In a press conference at Nationals Park, 31-year-old outfielder Jayson Werth, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo, Nats' Manager Jim Riggleman and his agent Scott Boras met with the D.C. press corps for the first time with Werth a member of the Nats' organization after four years playing for the Nats' divisional rivals in Philadelphia where the Springfield, Illinois born '97 Orioles' 1st Round pick hit 99 doubles, 9 triples, 95 HR's and drove in 300 RBI's while posting a .282/.380/.506 slash line in 542 games and 1798 at bats.
Suited up and clean-shaven for the occasion (except for a so-called "soul patch" which stretched across his bottom lip), the usually bearded Werth was presented with his new no. 28 Nats jersey and red curly-W cap by two local school children after a brief introduction by the Nats' General Manager who said it was his, "honor to express the happiness and the joy of the Washington Nationals' organization with the acquisition," of Werth. "He was a player that our front office and ownership identified early in the process as an impact elite type of free agent that we would like to acquire that would help us not only in the short term but in the long-term, not only in the clubhouse but in the community."
"Baseball's a funny thing," Werth said when asked how he would help turn things around in the nation's capital, "it has its ups and downs as many teams have in the past. One thing I saw with the Nationals teams over the past few seasons playing against them was just a grittiness that they had and a will to win."
"I've always been a big fan of an underdog," Werth continued, "and I think the situation here in Washington is one that going forward we're going to put something together that I think the city and fans will come accustomed to love and come out and see us on a nightly basis."
Werth said he's had quite a bit of contact with his new teammates, who are excited and supportive thus far, but he looks forward to getting down to Spring Training and getting to know his new teammates. Asked about the length of the deal which has been criticized around the baseball world, Werth said, "My grandfather played 19 years in the big leagues, my uncle played a long time. I feel like I'm real young in the game, I feel like I've got a lot of years ahead of me, I have no problem seeing myself, maybe not playing as long as Jamie Moyer has, but definitely into my 40's."
Asked about joining a last place team after having played in the playoffs the last few seasons, Werth said he believes, "The team's a lot better than people think...the last few years they've just been a little young, a little inexperienced. They've made some changes, got some guys in that I think are going to help, I'm on board with that and I think we're going to surprise a lot of people."
Werth joked when asked for his thoughts on Cliff Lee's return to Citizens Bank on a 5-year deal that he hadn't heard about the news, "I missed that in Philly, what happened?" The length of his own seven-year contract was the most important thing that drew Werth to Washington, allowing for stability for him and his family. The organization's commitment to winning as well, along with the talent they've assembled.
"This is the package that we were looking for going into the offseason," Rizzo said in reference to Werth. "We wanted to get better skilled players that play both sides of the ball." "He brings an edge to the ballclub...I've seen it oh too many times with the Phillies and that's the type of guy that we want and I think that's separated him as far as those elite free agent candidates that we were looking at."
Asked about now having to go against the defending NL East champion Phillies, Werth said "If you're going to be the best, you've gotta beat the best," quoting a wrestling legend, "...and they make their plays and we're going to make ours and I think over the course of time you're going to see and the people of the city are going to see that the Washington Nationals are for real and they're going to bring the type of style of baseball that is going to bring championships to the city."