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May 20, 2014

Painting the Black

The Werth-Case Outcome

by R.J. Anderson


When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth to a seven-year deal worth $126 million, back in winter 2010, the expectation was that they would come to regret the decision.

The reasons were obvious. Werth was a 31-year-old corner outfielder who was closer to good than elite. Moreover, the Nationals were closer to bad than average. Washington had gone five years since its most recent .500 effort, and in the previous season had won just 69 games. True, the Nats had an impressive array of young talent climbing the organizational depth chart, but it seemed Werth would be in his mid-30s and on the decline by the time those kids matured. All those variables factored into a rival general manager telling Ken Rosenthal that the deal was “Absolutely bat[flipping] crazy.”

Detroit's decision a few years earlier to ink Magglio Ordonez became the chic comparison in the following days (perhaps because the Nationals also had Ivan Rodriguez in tow). Signing Werth was less about the player, defenders of the deal said, and more about the implicit statement; this was a plant-your-flag deal that announced to the league the Nationals were serious about winning games—or, at the very least, shedding their loser label. Scott Boras even played that tune:

"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."

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