Do you know who this man is? The Washington Nationals just gave him the 16th-largest contract in the history of professional sports – 7 years, $126 million.
He’s Jayson Werth, an outfielder most recently with the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s not clear who the Nationals were bidding against – the Phillies offered about half of what the Nats did & there’s no indication any other team had significantly raised that bar. Jayson Stark reports, “The Nationals offer on Werth was so far above everyone else that Boras didn’t even ask other interested teams if they wanted to match it.”
While Werth has been one of the best all-around players in baseball the last few years, he’s already 31 & will turn 39 early in the final year of this mammoth contract. Baseball Prospectus, trying to project Werth’s 30s by looking at what similar players have done in the past, predicts he’ll be merely an average outfielder by the 4th year of the contract & a payroll-hogging albatross in the 6th & 7th years.
With the ink barely dry, the deal is already being mocked by other teams:
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson seemed to think Werth got the better end of the deal. “It makes some of our contracts look pretty good,” Alderson said. “That’s a long time and a lot of money. I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.”
Nats GM Mike Rizzo says this move announces the team’s intention to contend for the playoffs next year. But considering the team just finished 28 games out of 1st place, is that remotely realistic? Even if we’re generous & say Werth is worth five extra wins, that means the Nats still lose 88 games next year. By the time Stephen Strasburg is healthy & top prospect Bryce Harper is in the majors, Werth could be on the downside of his career, injured, or both.
It looks like the Nats have wildly overpaid an aging star for his past performance on another team – a page right out of Dan Snyder’s playbook.
As a lifelong baseball fan who’d love nothing more than to see Washington’s baseball team go to the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, I sure hope I’m wrong.