SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 18: Jayson Werth #28 of the Philadephia Philles takes batting practice during a workout session for the NLCS at AT&T Park on October 18, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jayson Werth
The pain associated with the loss of Adam Dunn to free agency was quickly replaced Sunday with the joy that came with the following announcement: the Nationals have signed free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a reported seven-year, $126 million contract.
The announcement was made Sunday during the winter meetings in Florida, and it was a stunner.
The Nationals greatly improved their offense and changed the dynamics of a team that has struggled mightily on offense for years.
Werth, 31, has become one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball the past three seasons, helping Philadelphia become a yearly World Series threat with his mix of power at the plate, speed on the basepaths and arm in the outfield.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Werth will be a “centerpiece” for the team on the field and in the clubhouse.
“With a player of Werth’s ilk -- a two-way player who excels offensively and defensively -- that’s the type of player we’re looking for,” Rizzo said.
Werth clubbed 27 home runs last year and stole 13 bases to go along with a .296 average. One year prior, however, Werth blossomed at the plate, crushing 36 homers and stealing 20 bases.
Werth likely will hit behind Ryan Zimmerman in the Nats' lineup, giving the talented third baseman some protection in the lineup.
But at the age of 31, it’s hard to know if perhaps Werth’s best days are already behind him. Can a late-blooming player like Werth continue to improve in his 30s? The Nats, and their fans, certainly hope so.
No one will do more hoping than Rizzo, who may not yet realize he gave a seven-year deal to a 31-year-old outfielder.
The deal had at least one National League GM wondering what was going on in the nation's capital.
"It makes some of our contracts look pretty good," Mets GM Sandy Alderson told ESPN.com. "That's a long time and a lot of money. I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington."
Rizzo said the signing marks the second phase of the Nats’ rebuilding process. The first was to build up the farm system.
“Now’s the time to go to the second phase and really compete for division titles and championships,” Rizzo said.
The move to get Werth was quite stunning to many. While the Nats did free up money by not signing Dunn, who took his big bat to the White Sox, many rumors had Washington making a run at a big-name pitcher.
But it appears the Nats had their sights set on a big bat instead.
Werth's agent, Scott Boras, said the deal happened after the Lerner family recently spent a day with Werth at Boras’s office.
Boras specifically mentioned Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper by name as reasons why his client would want to sign with the Nats. Both, by the way, are also represented by Boras. (It’s good to be the king, eh?)
“For Jayson, in his experience in Philadelphia, and learning from many great players there and advancing his career, he would certainly come into the locker room and display a winning attitude and provide the Nationals with something that he learned during his career,” Boras said.
Rizzo said the Nationals may not be done just yet, stating that the team "has more work to do and more holes to fill."