Jayson Werth changed representation and hired Scott Boras as his agent in late September, just a few weeks before he was set to become one of the most sought-after free agent outfielders on the market this winter. On the eve of the Winter Meetings, after the Washington Nationals had announced that they'd signed the former Philadelphia Phillies' right fielder to a seven-year/$126M dollar deal, the second-biggest contract signed this winter behind only Carl Crawford's 7-year/$142M dollar deal with the Red Sox, Werth's new agent spoke to the press about why his 31-year-old client had decided to leave Philly after four years in a Phillies uniform in which he made four playoff appearances, for the NL East's worst team in five of six seasons (and the last three straight) since the move to the nation's capital in 2005.
"For Jayson," Boras said, "this was a decision where he certainly wanted to know that this was a place that was not only going to take every step possible to sign young players in the draft as they've exhibited but also take steps to develop a core system in the minor leagues and also take further steps in advancing the free agent process so that he would be surrounded by quality major league players in addition to those already present in the Nationals' organization."
The contract the Nats gave Werth was roundly criticized with the general sentiment expressed questioning who exactly the Nationals were bidding against since the one-time Baltimore Orioles' draft pick seemingly didn't have any suitors offering anything close to what Washington paid. MLB.com's Todd Zelecki's had written in a late November article entitled, "Inbox: What is the plan for right field in 2011?", that Werth and his new rep were, "...believed [to be] seeking something similar to the seven-year, $120 million contract Matt Holliday scored last winter." The Phillies, MLB.com's Mr. Zolecki wrote, were willing to go three or maybe four years but no more. CSNPhilly.com writer Jim Salisbury, in an article entitled, "Werth leaves Phillies for division rival Washington", said the Phillies offered a three-year deal with an option for a fourth, with, "The average annual value of the Phillies’ offer," according to Mr. Salisbury's source, "about $16 million."
A 1997 O's 1st Round pick, who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 for then 26-year-old left-handed reliever John Bale and then sent to the LA Dodgers in 2004 for another 26-year-old pitcher, one-time Tigers' prospect Jason Frasor, Werth signed with Philadelphia in December of 2006 after he'd missed the entire '06 season with wrist injuries which required arthroscopic surgery. Werth posted a .298/.404/.459 with eleven doubles and eight HR's in his first 94 games for Philadelphia in 2007. In his time with Philadelphia, Werth posted a combined .280/.380/.506 slash line with 99 doubles, 95 HR's and 300 RBI's in 4 seasons. Last year, Werth collected an NL-leading 46 doubles, 27 HR's and 85 RBI's in 156 games for the Phillies, finishing the season at +5.0 WAR, playing RF with a 985 fld%, 4 errors and a -2.9 UZR/150. Bill James' projections have the soon-to-be 32-year old outfielder putting up a .275/.375/.493 slash line with a .335 BABIP, 34 doubles, 28 HR's and 91 RBI's next season. Did Werth deserve $126M? An average of $18M a year for seven years?
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo described Werth as, "a two-way player, a guy who excels offensively, defensively, baserunning and exhibits five tools," during the outfielder's introductory press conference, and, "as of today," Mr. Rizzo continued, "I think we have him penciled in to hit in the middle of the lineup and to play right field." But $18M per? Rizzo refused to apologize when asked about the criticism he'd heard. During an interview Wednesday afternoon on the Sirius/XM MLB Network Radio show "Inside Pitch" with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, Scott Boras was asked about the deal he got for his client and the criticism that followed, with the former D.C. GM Mr. Bowden first saying, "Werth, I don't even want to go there. I just can't believe you pulled that off."
"Well, I think the point about market place," Mr. Boras explained, "is that when you go back historically, I can probably give you five signings from clubs that have taken players who have rooted themselves in the game as late bloomers. Players who have body types and certainly a physical platform that allows their chronological age to be viewed differently than their physicality as an athlete. So, that part I think is not as much the issue, but the other dynamic I think is, is that when we have players that are receiving contracts that performance-wise their track record isn't as advanced, remember also that we have a number of players who have advanced track records, particularly in pitchers, where they're signing and they pitch six, seven years, that they go out and sign contracts for another six or seven years based upon that past performance, but in reality, what is occurring?
"What is occurring is what I call the 'acquisition cost.' For every player that has extreme performance and extreme demand in the market place, there always is a quotient that goes not only to the value of the player on a year by year basis, but there's going to the value of an 'acquisition cost' that a club incurred in making sure that they beat their competitors to get that player. Cause if there is only three or four or five of them, and say you have one of the top three or four or five outfielders in major league baseball and that outfielder has the market to choose from, there's always going to be a percentage of acquisition cost that's going to be incurred in landing the player.
"So, in doing that, and evaluating that, you have to say, 'Is that player going to provide something to the franchise in addition to his performance?' And I think this is where we look at major free agent signings, particularly with franchises like Washington, that in addition to the performance the player brings, which would probably be 23 to 25 HR's, 90, 95 RBI's, in addition to that, we have someone now that allows Bryce Harper's arrival in the major leagues to be something that is more a function of his performance rather than a need to make sure the fanbase knows that we're taking the next step. We also know that from the standpoint of attracting free agent pitchers, or attracting a closer, or attracting any other free agents, that we have an ownership that is now embedded in the market place as someone who is a destination that they know the ownership is committed...
"So, in addition to growing for the player's performance, the brand in Washington is now a different brand. It is now an acknowledged brand. Their fans know it. Other players know it. And it provides a brand value to the franchise that did not exist prior to Jayson Werth signing."
Oh, this guy's good. The signing didn't necessarily help with the pitchers this year, but it might in the future. Adam LaRoche did mention the Werth signing when he decided on joining the Nats...but still, seven years? $126 million?