As the losses piled up this past August and it appeared less and less likely that the Washington Nationals would return to the postseason after bringing October baseball back to the nation's capital in 2012, Jayson Werth talked to reporters about how quickly things had changed since he signed a 7-year/$126M deal with the Nats on December 5, 2010.
"I read something the other day -- found some notes or whatever," the 34-year-old outfielder explained, "it was before I signed here -- and I had written some stuff down about the different teams I was going to potentially play for and I was just kind of reading over the stuff for the Nats. And one of the things it said was they would be -- 'we' would be -- good towards the end of my contract. So it kind of put things in perspective.
"With the success last year and really where we're at now with the guys and we're still in a building-type phase, if you will, I know with all the expectations it doesn't really seem like that, but we've got a lot of young players and the direction is still good, I think we've got a lot of talent and there's a lot of things to look forward to here in Washington."
Werth, at that point, was finally healthy, at full strength and producing after struggling offensively under big expectations in Washington in 2011, breaking his wrist early in 2012 and dealing with hamstring issues last season. He was in the midst of his best stretch since signing with the Nationals after four strong years in Philadelphia.
The general manager who signed him to the oft-criticized deal, Mike Rizzo, told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Bill Rohland late last summer that he was happy to see Werth back to playing like he did with the Phillies.
"I've seen it in the past," Rizzo told the show's hosts. "Not this up close and personal. We watched him and evaluated him very carefully when he was in the Philly system and when he was playing for the Phillies and he was a guy who always played well against us. But he's extremely locked in. He feels extremely good about himself and we're grateful that he's playing so well."
After missing a month on the DL in May, Werth returned to the Nationals' lineup and went on an impressive run that saw the right-handed hitting outfielder put up a .334/.421/.569 line with 22 doubles and 21 HRs over the final 102 games and 425 plate appearances of the season.
Werth's finished his third season in D.C. and 11th year in the majors with a .318/.398/.532 line, 24 doubles and 25 HRs in 129 games and 532 PAs over which he was worth +4.6 fWAR, which was the third-highest fWAR campaign of his career, behing his +4.9 fWAR seasons in 2008 and 2010 and his +4.8 fWAR year in 2009.
Shortly after Werth, who will turn 35 in May, signed his seven-year deal three years ago today on December 5, 2010, the outfielder's agent, Scott Boras, sold him as one of the the rare players, "...who have rooted themselves in the game as late bloomers."
Boras described Werth then in an MLB Network Radio interview with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, as one of a few late-bloomers, "...who have body types and certainly a physical platform that allows their chronological age to be viewed differently than their physicality as an athlete." Can Werth stay healthy and contribute as the Nationals enter the stage in their development as a team that the outfielder saw coming when he weighed his options in 2010?
It will be hard to maintain the pace he set last season, but if he and his agent were right, this could be the time the investment the Nationals made three years ago today really pays off.
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